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Animals of the Amazon: Did You KNOW?

Continuing on with our theme this month “all about Amazon animals”, we bring you more fun facts about some of the incredible Amazon wildlife we encounter regularly on our Amazon River cruises

Cool Facts About Horned Screamers

Did you know that horned screamers are related to ducks, geese and swans, but have bills shaped more like game birds?

Horned Screamer

Horned screamers also have a modified feather looking like horn on top of their head and possess some other unusual anatomical features. Most of their bones are permeated with air sacs that also exist in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin. This construction results in rumbling or crackling noises when these birds take off, as the air sacs rapidly collapse after lift-off. These subcutaneous air sacs are also believed to facilitate pneumatic movement so that horned screamers use less muscle energy than most birds to remain airborne.

For food, these birds feed on several marsh and swamp plants. They lay three olive-brown eggs and when those hatch the young can run right away.

Cool Facts About Scarlet Macaws

Did you know that scarlet macaws outlive many humans? In captivity they are known to live up to 80 years; in the wild they live a still respectable 40-50 years.

Macaw

Scarlet macaws are said to have the intelligence of a 4-8 year old child with the emotional intelligence of a 2 year old. This means that they can be demanding and cranky. They will even throw temper tantrums if not given proper attention. With extremely powerful beaks, the Scarlet macaw can easily crush nuts and seeds to eat. They may also use the beak as a climbing aid and to crunch on branches just to keep busy.

Scarlet macaws are very loud birds that make a variety of low-pitched sounds including squawks, screeches and screams that can carry for several kilometers or miles. In the rainforest, these vocalizations help the scarlet macaws to make their presence known and call out to their groups. During breeding season, between October and April, these birds can become very territorial and even aggressive.

The scarlet macaw generally mates for life. They nest high up in the cavities of deciduous trees. The female usually lays 1 to 4 eggs, and both the male and female care for their young.

Cool Facts About Three Toed Sloths

Did you know that three-toed sloth’s metabolism system work so slowly that they only go to the bathroom once a week?

Three Toed Sloth with baby

Sloths’ muscles and limbs have evolved to help them climb tree trunks in search of food and to escape predators. They spend so much time in the trees in fact that the tree holds them in the balance, sometimes even after death. Thanks to their claws and muscles, the grip of a sloth is so strong that often when they die, the sloth is found still clinging to the branch they held onto so tightly in life.

The sloth’s hairy body has developed a deep groove that serves as the habitat for colonies of symbiotic algae that can even turn the sloth’s fur green during the rainy season. This helps to camouflage the sloth into the environment. Moths have also been found sloth fur, where they feed off of the algae and hide from predators.

Three Toed Sloth 2

Three-toed sloth can live more than 20 years in the wild and close to 50 years in captivity, according to the Smithsonian Museum.

Cool Facts About Great Egrets

Did you know that in the 19th century, the great egret’s beautiful white plumes were used to decorate ladies’ hats? Did you also know that at one point, these plumes were so popular that they were worth twice their weight in gold?

Great Egret

Great egrets are less than 1 meter long from bill to tail, about 1 meter tall, and have a wingspan of about 1.5 meters. They usually weigh between 912 and 1140 grams. Great egrets mate with one mate each season. Males are in charge of finding a home and attracting a female. Great egrets usually build their nests around other egrets, with both male and female aiding in hatching. Great egrets tend to lay 3 to 4 eggs. As predators great egrets affect the populations of their prey.

Cool Facts About Red Howler Monkeys

Did you know that the young male Red Howler Monkey will often kill all the offspring of the previous dominant male in their troop, to ensure that he does not waste time looking after another monkey’s young and so that only his genes get passed on?

Howler Monkey

Howler monkeys are very sociable by nature. They live in groups of at least 5 and up to 40 animals, always led by a dominant older male. They tend to move very slowly, covering only about 400m per day. Howler monkeys are most active in the morning and evening, spending the middle of the day at rest. At night, they sleep in trees. From dawn to dusk their roars reverberate throughout the forest. Reputed to be the loudest sounds made by any land animal, the roar of a howler monkey may be heard as far as 3km away in the forest and 5km in the open. This piercing noise is made when air is forced through a special bone in the monkey’s throat called the hyoid bone that amplifies sound. The calls are thought to announce the presence of a troop to any other troops in the area, so as to avoid confrontation, which would waste valuable energy.

Howler Monkey 2

Nuts, seeds, fruits and flowers are important supplements to the howler monkey’s diet, 40% of which is made up of green leaves.

We hope you enjoy learning about the fascinating animals of the Amazon as much as we do. Thanks to our Amazon naturalist guide George Davila for the many insights shared here!

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