The Lagoa do Peixe National Park protects one of South America's most outstanding refuges for long-distance migrants. Its habitats are unique, including open sea, salt, brackish and fresh water lagoons with associated wetlands, beaches, and dunes. Geological sediment formations are of Pre-Cambrian with Quaternary sediments, continental and marine sources, usually alluvial and marine depositions. It has a natural connection with the sea - when closed, the water level is high, mainly in the fall and winter, associated with south winds- Minuano and high tidal. This opening can be artificial, using agricultural tractors. When the bar is opened, its linkage with the sea waters enables an intense nutrient flux with an associated high primary and bottom invertebrate productivity. Typical salty and brackish marshes can be found deep inland, following the water movements caused by the winds inside the National Park.
However, such invertebrate richness is also responsible for one of its major threats, as shrimp (Pennaeus spp.) harvesting and (Mugil spp.) fishing attracts hundreds of seasonal fishermen, which affects the natural resources through poaching. There is rich diversity of vertebrates, but little information is available or published. In the open portions, the flora includes Spartina ciliata, Senecio crassiflorus, Irisine portulacoides and Paspalum vaginatum. On the west border at paleodunes, there are Rapanea umbellata, Guapira oposita, Lithraea brasiliensis and Daphnopsis racemosa.
The weather is temperate subtropical. The mean temperature is 20° C, maximum 40° C, and minimum 0° C; rainfall averages about 1,250 mm per year. The mean water depth is about 30 cm but can be up to 3 meters. The water is salty with variable salinity, and can also be briny or fresh. Depending on the rain and sea connection, salininty is around 33ppm in the summer.
Ecology & Conservation
Many conservation-oriented activities have been completed at Lagoa do Peixe National Park. The first WHSRN/Manomet shorebird workshop was organized at this site with CEMAVE - IBAMA (Brazilian Research Center for Conservation) and several Brazilian conservation groups. CEMAVE has organized various workshops in the lagoon. Susana Lara Resende chose Lagoa do Peixe for her research and conducted field work for her thesis during 1986-87. There are several shorebird papers relating to the site (see bibliography). The following is a list of the maximum numbers of shorebirds counted in the area, according to various sources.
Lesser Golden Plover - 10,000
American Oystercatcher - 3,000
Black-bellied Plover - 10,000 (flocks up to 400)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 200 (flocks of up to 200)
Collared Plover - 300
Common Snipe - 1
Greater Yellowlegs - 300
Hudsonian Godwit - 3,000
Least Sandpiper - 1
Lesser Yellowlegs - 100
Red Knot - 13,000
Ruddy Turnstone - 120
Rufous-chested Dotterel - 500 (flocks of up to 200)
Sanderling - 10,000 (flocks of up to 6,000)
Semipalmated Plover - 300
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 100
South American Painted Snipe - 2
South American Stilt - 1,000
Southern Lapwing - 500
Spotted Sandpiper - 10
Stilt Sandpiper - 200
Tawny-throated Dotterel - 50
Two-banded Plover - 3,000
Whimbrel - 12
White-rumped Sandpiper - 20,000
Willet - 1
Wilson's Phalarope - 27
Other birds include terns, Chilean Flamigo, Black-necked Swan, Coscroba Swan, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal, and Rosy-billed Pochard.
Lagoa do Peixe is visited by 19 neartic species during the austral spring and summer, 3 austral species during the winter and also by 5 local species. The area hosts several species of special concern, such as the Hudsonian Godwit, Red Knot, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Rufous-chested Dotterel. The 3,000 Hudsonian Godwits represent at least 10% of the Atlantic Coast population (counts do not take into account turnover). For the Red Knots, the 13,000 birds represents 10 - 21.6% of the American subspecies, Calidris canutus rufa. Brian Harrington estimates the population to be about 60,000 to 130,000 (+- 100,000) individuals (Harrington, pers.com). These figures do not take into account any turnover, which certainly occurs in the area, since there are Red Knots in Lagoa do Peixe from mid-March to the beginning of May.
The Atlas of Neartic Shorebirds in the Coast of South America lists Lagoa do Peixe as a potential WHSRN site. The 6,600 Sanderlings counted here represent 71% of the Atlantic coast total, and the 17,500 peeps, account for 24% of the Atlantic coast total.
The density of Litoridina spp. (snail) and Polychaeta in the lagoon tend to increase from January onwards. This coincides with the arrival of migrant shorebirds. According to Lara Resende, during the peak period for migratory birds in the lagoon, the food availability is sufficiently high in the barra region and/or the beach to supply energy for the birds to recover, molt and gain extra fat reserves to continue migration.
Other birds present in the area are Black-necked Swans, Coscoroba Swans, 15 species of ducks, 7 tern species, skimmers, Peregrine Falcons and Chilean Flamingos. The area also supports estuarine breeders such as shrimp and salt water fishes, otter, Lontra longicaudis, capibara, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris, dolphins, skunks, foxes and others animals. Vegetation is characterized by Scirpus spp., Potamogeton, Eichornia, Pontederia, Echinodorus, and others in the fresh water lakes and marshes. Sand dune vegetation to the east and grassland to the west are vegetated with plantations of pine in the northern areas, and native coastal scrub in the south.
Data show the importance of Lagoa do Peixe for thousands of migratory birds, namely nearartic species as Red Knot Calidris canutus, and Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica. Also, South American migratory shorebirds as the Two-banded Plover Charadrius falklandicus, and Rufous-chested Dottered Zonibyx modestus, along with large flocks of terns, make the National Park an outstanding area. In Brasil, the park is the only place where Chilean Famingo Phoenicopterus chilensis can be observed all year round. Its northern portion is heavily used by freshwater species such as Black-necked Swan Cygnus melancoryphus, and Coscroba Swan Coscoroba coscoroba, Fulvous Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor, White-faced Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna viduata, Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica, Speckled Teal Anas flavirostris, Rosy-billed Pochard Netta peposaca, among others. Over 150 bird species are on the National Park list, with 16 neartic shorebirds out of 26 listed species spending the boreal winter within its boundaries. From February on, the austral shorebirds start to arrive aiming to spend the winter there. Over 30% of the world's population of Limosa haemastica migrate through the area in both directions. Most of the migratory species stopping in the park use it as a stopover area to refuel for their next migratory path. The park's suitable habitat and abundant foods provide the resources necessary to birds to undergo feather molt.
Migratory species are natural resources shared among the various countries, in an international perspective. Their life cycle depends on the conservation of their critical areas of breeding, staging and wintering. Any damaged link of this chain may result in the extinction of a species or a population, and international cooperation to preserve such natural resources is essential.
In a hemispheric perspective, actions already made by the Brazilian government to properly answer such needs are the creation of the National Park and its includsion within WHSRN in April 1991. The National Park was included in the Ramsar Convention in 1993.
There is extensive cattle grazing, and farming (mostly onions, but some corn and rice). Fishermen harvest from the lake and sea, and commercial shrimp fishing also exists. Trawlers set nets along the coast.
The site was declared a National Park (Lagoa do Peixe National Park) in November of 1986, due mainly to its importance for shorebirds. Prior to this declaration, plans existed to develop the area for tourism and shrimp farming. The work conducted by CEMAVE-IBAMA, FZBRS, UNISINOS, WWF-US, CWS, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and others helped to protect the site.
No photos are available at the moment
Maria Tereza Queiroz Melo
Manager, Lagoa do Peixe National Park
Jordano Pires Lopes
Lagoa do Peixe National Park
Rodrigo Mesquita da Silva
Lagoa do Peixe National Park
Isaac Simão Neto
Antas, P.T.Z., I.L.S. Nascimento, and S.M. Azenedo Jr., 1989. Análise dos Datos de Anillemento de Calidris pusilla no Brasil. Resumos V. Encontro Nacional de Anilledores de Aves. Pontifcia Universidade Católica de Pelotas.
Harrington, B. H., P. Antas and F. Silva, 1986. Northward Shorebird Migration on the Atlantic coast of Southern Brazil. Vida Silvestre Neotropical, 1(1):45‑54.
Nascimento, I.L.S., P.T.Z. Antas, and S.M. Azevedo Jr., 1989. Análise dos Datos de Anillemento de Calidris alba no Brasil. Resumos V. Encontro Nacional de Anilledores
WHSRN general fact sheet is available in Portuguese:
Ficha geral do RHRAL (PDF, 1.3 MB)