30 Amazon Rainforest Animals to Spot in the Wild

The Amazon Rainforest is by far the most biodiverse area on the planet. Learn more about 30 of the most amazing Amazon Rainforest animals that call the jungle home!
A red howler monkey sits on a tree branch in the Amazon Rainforest. Lush greenery in the background.
A red howler monkey. Image: "Red Howler Monkey" by Jason Rothmeyer, used under CC BY 2.0 / Compressed from original.

Amazon Rainforest animals set the fashion curve for South America. Some blend in with their surroundings, while others show off a wildly eclectic palate of bright colors, spots, and patterns. The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon boasts incredible biodiversity unlike anywhere else. 

Folks from around the world travel to the Amazon with their long lens cameras and binoculars to see these unique critters. Below, we shine the spotlight on 30 of the most glorious residents of the Amazon jungle!

Table of Contents

Last updated by Melissa Dreffs in August 2020.

Amazon Rainforest Mammals

Some of the most incredible animals of the Amazon are felines, monkeys, and river critters. But that’s not all! The Amazon Rainforest is home to many incredible mammals: at least 430 different species!  

1. Jaguar 

Cheetah spots are to the plains of Africa as jaguar spots are to the jungle of South America. Many travelers count their lucky stars in eager anticipation of seeing this classic jungle icon. You will need to travel pretty deep into the jungle for a good chance at seeing a jaguar. The only lodge in the Tambopata Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, the Tambopata Research Center boasts a 35% chance of seeing a jaguar in their natural habitat.

A jaguar swimming in the Amazon Rainforest with sticks and branches in the background.

Jaguar. Photo by Lucas Bustamante for Rainforest Expeditions.

2. Giant River Otter 

The giant river otters found in the Amazon are the largest otters in the world. With some reaching up to 5.6 feet (1.7 meters), these otters swim through the Amazonian rivers and lakes using their strong tails and webbed feet. Giant river otters are very vocal, with at least 22 distinct sounds in their vocabulary.

Several river otters swimming in the rainforest. The otters have gray pelts with white markings on their throat.

Giant river otters. Photo by Lucas Bustamante for Rainforest Expeditions.

3. Red Howler Monkey

The red howler monkeys can be heard by most travelers visiting the Peruvian jungle. Their loud roars can be heard up to 3 miles (5 kilometers) away. There’s about a 50% chance to see these monkeys at our top Puerto Maldonado jungle lodges, with a greater chance the deeper you get into the jungle. Keep your eyes on the canopy!

A monkey with red fur sits on a green tree branch, surrounded by greenery.

Red howler monkey. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

4. Capybara

A rather docile rodent, capybaras look like giant guinea pigs. They live in the densely forested areas of South America near bodies of freshwater. Capybaras are surprisingly great swimmers and can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes underwater. These jungle animals are actually the largest rodent in the world today, about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall.

An adult capybara surrounded by seven babies resting along the river banks in the Amazon Rainforest.

Capybaras. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

5. Black-capped Squirrel Monkey

The black-capped squirrel monkey is found in the Peruvian, Brazilian, and Bolivian Amazon. They live in female-dominated groups with about 40 to 75 monkeys. Unlike many other monkeys that use their tail to climb, these squirrel monkeys typically use their tail for balance.

A black-capped squirrel monkey holds onto a branch with bright green leaves.

A black-capped squirrel monkey. Photo by Rainforest Expeditions.

6. Sloth

Sloths are known as perezosos locally, meaning “lazy” in Spanish. Both the two-toed and three-toed sloths live in the Amazon. If you are really lucky, there is a small chance of seeing them in the wild during excursions at our favorite Puerto Maldonado jungle lodges

A furry three-toed sloth sits on a tree branch holding onto another branch with its hand.

Three-toed sloth.

7. Collared Anteater

While several anteater species call the Americas home, the collared anteater is unique to South America. Much smaller than the giant anteaters, they are able to climb trees in search of ants, termites, or other food. With tongues about 15 inches (40 centimeters) long, these anteaters can catch insects easily.

A brown and black collared anteater walks along a slanted tree branch in the Amazon Rainforest.

Collared anteater. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

8. Pink River Dolphin

Pink river dolphins live in the Amazon River and its tributaries. While the babies are dark gray, the adult dolphins appear a light shade of pink. Native tribes around the Amazon have several legends dedicated to the pink dolphins. One of the most well known says the dolphins turn into handsome young men at night, heading to the shores to seduce young women. To see these incredible dolphins for yourself, consider a stay at an Iquitos jungle lodge or taking a luxury river cruise.

A dolphin with pink skin and a long nose peaks its head out of dark water.

A pink river dolphin.

9. Puma 

Behold a true jungle legend, the puma. With its sleek build and carnivorous ways, “fierce” is an appropriate adjective to characterize these rainforest cats. Consider yourself very, very lucky if you see a puma in the wild. The owner of Rainforest Expeditions hasn’t seen one in more than 20 years working in the Amazon!

A low angle of a puma, a native cat living in the Amazon Rainforest.

A puma. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

10. Bearded Emperor Tamarin

The bearded emperor tamarin gives new meaning to the phrase “monkeying around”. With their distinct white mustache and beard, this primate lives with a small, extended family of between 4 and 15 members. Bearded emperor tamarins see the world in only two colors, helping detect predators, even the ones with the best camouflage. Some females see a third color, which helps to detect the ripest fruits.

A small brown monkey with a thick white mustache rests on a branch in the Amazon.

Bearded emperor tamarin.

11. Amazonian Tapir

At first glance, you may think tapirs are some sort of wild pig or somehow related to anteaters. In reality, tapirs are most closely related to horses and rhinoceros! Baby Amazonian tapirs are born with white stripes and spots that fade over time. They are great swimmers and often run into the rivers to escape their predators.

A dark brown tapir, similar in build to a pig, walks along the Amazon Rainforest floor.

Amazonian tapir. Photo by Louis Guillot for Rainforest Expeditions.

Amazon Rainforest Birds 

These seven unique species are just a small percentage of the 1,300 bird species found in the Amazon. Feathers are all the rage whether blending in or standing out for these Amazon Rainforest animals.

12. Macaw 

Macaw feathers come in just about any color, with red, yellow, green, and blue being the most common. The scarlet macaw is the most well-known, with its distinct red, yellow, and blue feathers. It is common for macaws to gather at clay licks in search of salt. This allows many visitors to Puerto Maldonado the chance to see these majestic birds in the wild.

A scarlet macaw, with red, yellow, and blue feathers flies through the Amazon jungle.

A scarlet macaw. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

13. Harpy Eagle

The intense eyes and sharp beak are key features of the harpy eagle. A top predator in the jungle, the harpy eagle soaring through the Amazonian sky is a phenomenal sight. Harpy eagles have a gray head, white belly, and an intricate pattern of white, gray and black feathers on their wings.

A harpy eagle, with black, gray, and white feathers, flaps its wings while on the ground.

Harpy eagle. Image: “Harpy Eagle with wings lifted” by Jonathan Wilkins, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 / Compressed from original

14. Spangled Cotinga 

Male spangled cotinga birds are characterized by vibrant turquoise feathers covering their body with a patch of dark pink feathers on their throat. This Amazon Rainforest animal lives high in the canopy and, unlike the other birds on this list, does not have the ability to make sounds.

A spangled cotinga, a small bird in the Amazon Rainforest, rests standing on a green and red plant.

A spangled cotinga bird. Image: “Spangled Cotinga (male)” by Mathias Appel, used under CC0 1.0 / compressed from original

15. Royal Flycatcher

While the body of this bird is rather plain, it has an extremely beautiful crest it displays when threatened or trying to attract a mate. The bright feathers of its crest range from yellow to red and have purplish-blue tips and spots.

A brown Amazonian bird, the royal flycatcher, shows off its orange and indigo crest while standing on a branch.

A royal flycatcher. Image: “Royal Flycatcher” by Jorge Obando Nature Photo, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped and compressed from original

16. Potoo Bird

Potoo birds offer a new take on camouflage. These jungle birds blend in brilliantly as an extension of the bark or as a broken off stump. As nocturnal jungle dwellers, they are active at night. Also, they give eerie vocalizations that carry long distances to alert others of their presence.

A potoo bird, with brown and white feathers, blends in with the tree it is standing on.

Potoo bird. Photo by Fernando Ccoa for Rainforest Expeditions.

17. Toucan

The large, often colorful beaks are the most distinctive features of toucans. The Tambopata region in Peru is home to many toucan species, including the yellow-ridged toucan and green-feathered emerald toucanet.

A toucan with a black beak with a yellow ridge, and blue, white, black, and red plumage, rests on a branch.

A yellow-ridged toucan. Photo by Carlos Peña for GreenHouse Tambopata.

18. Paradise Tanager

This multicolored songbird is a common bird to spot in the Amazon. With bright green heads and sky blue underbellies, they generally stand out from their surroundings. This bird nests high in the canopy, far from predators that might go after their eggs.

A paradise tanager, a small Amazonian bird with black, turquoise, and lime green feathers, rests on a bench.

A paradise tanager. Image: “Paradise Tanager -Manu NP- Peru_7844” by Francesco Veronesi, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / compressed from original

Amazon Rainforest Reptiles and Amphibians

More than 400 amphibian species and over 375 reptile species call the Amazon home. Below are a few of the most famous, important, and unique Amazon Rainforest reptiles and amphibians. 

19. Poison Dart Frog

Some of the most colorful amphibians in the jungle are poison dart frogs. These small, poisonous jungle creatures typically have intricate patterns on their brightly colored bodies. Ranging from hues of red, blue, yellow, and everything in between, their bright colors are a key defense mechanism to ward off predators.

An orange, yellow, and blue poison dart frog with black striped and spots standing on a green leaf.

Poison dart frog. Image: “Posion Dart Frog Sitting on a Leaf” by GrrlScientist, used under CC BY 2.0 / Compressed from original

20. Side-Necked Turtle

Photoshop was not used to superimpose the swarm of butterflies in this photo. Different species of butterflies actually drink from the side-necked turtle’s tears, a natural occurrence in the Amazon. Many plant eaters in the Amazon do not get enough salt from their diet. They have come up with creative solutions, like drinking turtle tears, to increase their salt intake.

Two side-necked turtles with several orange and yellow butterflies swarming them to drink from their tears.

Side-necked turtle and butterflies. Photo by Marcelo Bonino & Jeff Cremer for Rainforest Expeditions.

21. Black Caiman

The largest predator of the Amazon ecosystem is the black caiman. Like its name suggests, this reptile has dark scales which helps to blend in with their surroundings. Most of the time, you are only able to see the eyes lurking above the water.

Scientists have discovered fossils of an extinct, giant caiman in the black caiman’s territory reaching upwards of 40 feet (12 meters). However, this crocodilian only grows to about 15 feet (4.5 meters) in length, almost as big as its relative: the American alligator.

A black caiman, an Amazonian reptile, lurks above the water with its large eyes.

Black caiman. Photo by Cesar Vasquez for Travel Buddies Peru.

22. Bicolored Tree Frog

The eyes on this frog are certainly its most notable feature. These giant leaf frogs are commonly found across the Amazon. These frogs have bright green backsides with a cream colored belly. The frogs spend most of their time in trees rather than the forest floor. They swing between trees like monkeys, giving them an alternate name: giant monkey frog.

A green frog with a white underbelly, the bicolored tree frog holds onto a branch in the Amazon Rainforest.

Bicolored tree frog. Photo by Lucas Bustamante for Rainforest Expeditions.

23. Green Anaconda 

The green anacondas are the heaviest and second longest snakes in the world. These water boas are rather clumsy on the land, but more sly in the swamps, marshes, and streams they hunt in. With their eyes and nose on top of their heads, they can hide most of their body underwater while keeping a look out for food.

A green anaconda, the largest snake by weight in the world, slithers on the forest floor of the Amazon.

Green anaconda. Photo by Rainforest Expeditions.

Amazon Rainforest Insects

The Amazon Rainforest is home to an incredible variety of insects. Over 90% of all Amazon Rainforest animals are insects! Researchers and scientists discover thousands of new insect species every year. Because of this, it is hard to know exactly how many insects might call the rainforest home. The following are some unique insects that live in the Amazon jungle.

24. Leafcutter Ant

The leafcutter ants live in large, complex colonies, with each ant playing a specific role based on its size. Leafcutter ants eat more vegetation than any other creature in the rainforest. In addition to vegetation, these ants cultivate fungus underground that turns poisonous plants into an edible mushroom.

A leafcutter ant holds onto the edges of a bright green leaf in the Amazon.

Leafcutter ant. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

25. Pink Toe Tarantulas 

Pink Toe Tarantulas have a solid black body, but show some personality at their toes. A rather docile tarantula, they have pink tips on each of their eight legs. Unlike most tarantulas, they are active during the day. In addition, the pink toes help them stick out from their surroundings, allowing travelers a better chance of spotting them.

A pink-toe tarantula nestled between two green leaves with its legs peaking out.

Pink-toe tarantula. Photo by Rainforest Expeditions.

26. Blue Morpho Butterfly 

The Amazon is home to at least 7,000 species of butterflies – 35% of the world’s known butterfly species. One of the most striking butterflies in the jungle is the blue morpho. With brilliant blue wings, you cannot miss them fluttering around the rainforest.

Three vibrant blue butterflies on green leaves in the Amazon Rainforest.

Blue morpho butterflies. Image: “Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm 2/21” by Kinon Berlin, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Compressed from original

27. Urodid Moth Cocoon 

The intricate design of this lattice cocoon was weaved with care by an urodid moth. This cocoon has an open structure, allowing air to flow over the pupa, preventing the growth of mold and fungus. The pupa will remain in its cocoon until it is full grown and then makes its jungle entry through the tubular escape hatch at the bottom.

An orange cocoon with a lattice pattern hangs with its pupa inside. A fingertip is placed for scale, with the size being about one knuckle.

Urodid moth cocoon. By Jeff Cremer for Rainforest Expeditions.

28. Amber Phantom Butterfly

This incredible butterfly with translucent wings lives in the deep, well-shaded parts of the jungle. It earned its name from the amber accents on their wings and from being semi transparent, like a phantom or ghost.

Two butterflies with translucent wings sit atop a green leaf. A green leaf from the background is seen through the butterfly's wings.

Two amber phantom butterflies. Photo by Rainforest Expeditions.

29. Brazilian Wandering Spider

This spider has the most toxic spider venom in the world. The Brazilian wandering spider lives not only in the Brazilian Amazon, but in certain areas across South America. This spider earned its name as it actively searches for prey. It wanders, compared to other spiders that build and wait in a web. This long-legged spider has a brown body and red fangs.

A large, brown, hairy spider from the Amazon Rainforest with red fangs and 4 black spots for eyes.

Brazilian wandering spider. Photo by Rainforest Expeditions.

30. Scorpions

While scorpions are often thought of as desert dwellers, the Amazon Rainforest is also home to several species. After scrolling through the previous Amazon Rainforest animal photos, you probably thought you had just about seen it all. Then you learn that scorpions glow under blacklight! Under the beam of an ultraviolet light, scorpions glow a neon blue, lighting up like beacons in the night.

A bright blue scorpion crawling on the ground. Scorpions glow a brilliant blut under an ultraviolet light.

Scorpion in the Amazon. Photo by Paul Bertner for Rainforest Expeditions.

The Amazon has it all: from cute and fuzzy to downright bizarre. The Amazon jungle is definitely a melting pot of animals with their own sense of style. If you’re heading on a jungle adventure soon, learn some cool travel photography tips before departing.

Want to see these incredible Amazon Rainforest animals for yourself? Learn more about planning your own trip to the Amazon and chat with a travel expert now.