Birding Kaieteur Falls

Kaieteur Falls, located in the heart of Guyana’s interior is the tallest single drop waterfall in the world.  Fed by the Potaro River, over 100,000 liters of tannin-stained water pour over the edge every second, crashing into a gorge 741 feet below. 

The majority of visitors to the falls arrive and leave by small plane, because an overland trek to and from the falls takes a few days and accommodations are scarce. This cuts down on the number of visitors, which helps to keep this natural wonder in its pristine state. I have been privileged to visit twice this year.

My Ride

On both occasions I have been rewarded with glimpses of the magnificent Guianan Cock of the Rock, specifically the male, which is a brilliant orange color with a large crescent-like crest. Both times this striking bird was hidden so far back in the thick scrub that I was unable get a quality photo. Fortunately, on my second trip out I was accompanied by my good friend, CJ Webber, a very talented photographer who was able to get some pretty good shots.

Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) – Photo by CJ Webber 
Another shot by CJ Webber – Check out more of his work here.

My first visit to the falls was in June, during the wet season. The volume of water pouring over the escarpment that time of year is overwhelming, and a mist rises up from the river bed below that attracts white-collared swifts. The day I visited there must have been three hundred of them zipping in and out of the mist and circling high up into the sky above. The second visit was in November, which is the dry season. The river spills over the edge, providing a much more scenic view. With no mist, however, there wasn’t a swift to be found.

White-collared Swifts spiraling up to the heavens. 
White-collared Swifts enjoying the mist.
White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris)

Both times out I found Tropical Kingbirds behind the small welcome center, so I assume they are year round residents. The tours of the falls stay on a pretty quick pace, which didn’t really work for bird and wildlife photography, but the experience is still second to none. If you ever get a chance to go, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)