Find here the top 7 unmissable birding spots in Risaralda, a department with more than 800 species of birds, almost the same quantity of bird species in all North America, and even more than all the birds of the European continent.
Risaralda has been a region developed from an agricultural coffee economy, in addition to livestock, industry and commerce. Due to its homogeneity between the cultural, social, and economic elements based on this coffee culture, this department of Colombia is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list as a Coffee Cultural Landscape.
Risaralda crosses the Andean region from the western slope of the Central Andes through the inter-Andean valley of the Cauca River to the Pacific slope of the Western Cordillera. It comprises four thermal floors from warm, medium, cold and paramo, contemplating the perpetual snows on the Nevado de Santa Isabel. All this plurality of sceneries, nurtures a suitable context to host a great diversity of species of fauna and flora.
Thus, despite being Risaralda such a small department with only 4,140 square kilometers, it has more than 800 species of birds, among them, 25 endemic and 54 almost endemic. This means that it possesses 42% of the birds of Colombia, 80% of the birds of the Coffee Triangle, and close to 8% of the birds of the world.
1. “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary
The first of the unmissable birding spots in Risaralda is “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. This place is characterized for being an easy observation point of two charismatic species: the Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax), an endangered endemic bird (EN), and the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus), a huge spectacular black-and-red cotinga with a strong, heavy bill, and a red throat and breast. These birds inhabit the cloud forests of the subtropical zone of the Cauca River Valley.
Other attractions of this place are the birds with striking songs like the Hooded Antpitta (Grallaricula cucullata), the Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni) and the Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Grallaria nuchalis), all almost endemic and vulnerable (VU), and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri). Also, wrens such as Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti) and the Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) can be found here.
2. Montezuma Road and National Natural Park Tatamá
Along the Montezuma road, there is a great variety of species due to the altitudinal gradient, ranging from 1300 to 2600 m above sea level. Recently the government of Risaralda has installed shelters, observation towers, and viewpoints in strategic places along the road to improve bird watching.
The route begins at the Cerro de Tatamá, in the Tatamá National Natural Park, at 2600 m. Here it rains a lot and you can only arrive in a 4WD car. To get to Cerro de Tatamá at 5 a.m. it is necessary to sleep at Pueblo Rico town, but the road makes you have to leave at 3 am to reach the top at dawn. As a second option, you can stay at the Montezuma Lodge, a rural family project dedicated to nature tourism, placed at the base of the hill, 1350 m above sea level. Know more about this birding spot in Risaralda in our post The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination.
Tatamá National Natural Park is located in the western mountain range, between the departments of Choco, Valle Del Cauca and Risaralda. The geographical location, the presence of a virgin paramo, and the excellent conservation status, make the Tatamá Park a protected area where many endemic species and species of the biogeographic Chocó can be found.
The Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) is the target of this route. It is an endemic and also endangered tanager of the Pacific slope in the department of Risaralda. It is local and rare in subtropical rainforests.
Among the highlights, you can find the Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Diglossa glorisissima), Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti), Grass-green tanager (Chlorornis riefferii), Orange-breasted fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda), the Crested ant tanager (Habia cristata), Parker’s Antbird (Cercomacroides parkeri), Choco Tapaculo (Scytalopus chocoensis), and the Golden-bellied Warbler (Choco Warbler) (Myiothlypis chrysogaster).
Apia is a municipality located 1 hour and 15 minutes from the city of Pereira. It is characterized by its very special record of birds. The easiest bird to observe on this route is the endemic and vulnerable (VU) Yellow-headed Manakin (Chloropipo flavicapilla).
This town has been the epicenter of many activities around birds, including the “Apia Tierra de Aves” Bird Festival. This festival has awakened in the people of the region the interest and respect for birds, as well as their protection and the conservation of their habitats.
From the town’s central square, you will have the opportunity to meet the most striking birds of this region, since all the candy stands have a bird painted on their walls.
Among the birds you can see, there are the endemic Turquoise Dacnis (Dacnis hartlaubi) (VU), the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) (VU), the Chestnut Wood Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus) (NT) and the Yellow-headed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes flaviceps) (EN).
4. Mistrató: Costa Rica y El Sutú
Mistrató is a town located one hour and a half from Pereira, on the road that leads to the Mampay trail. This municipality is characterized by a high concentration of endemic species (17). The emblematic bird of this route is the Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) (VU), a species endemic to Colombia, and also local, found in the Western Cordillera and north of the Central Andes.
There are two routes for birding in Mistrató, one on the Costa Rica road and the other called the Sutú.
Other birds that you can find on this route are the Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii), Sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma), Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), Toucan barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus), Club-winged manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus), Glistening-green tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis), Barred hawk (Morphnarchus princeps) and the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima), among others.
Reserva El Sutú
This is a growing destination where you can photograph some of the birds of the region. So far, with the help of feeders and drinkers, you can observe up to 3 species of birds, among them, the Black-and-gold Tanager.
5. Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia
Pueblo Rico is a municipality located on the eastern side of the western mountain range, in the northwest of Risaralda, 97 kilometers from Pereira, in Colombia. The municipality of Santa Cecilia is located 32 km northwest of the municipality of Pueblo Rico. It is a region with the presence of indigenous and Afro groups.
Santa Cecilia is a town situated on the border between the departments of Risaralda and Chocó. This town connects the road that leads from the heart of the Coffee Axis to the depths of the Choco rainforests.
Due to its location on the Pacific slope, the area is directly influenced by the intertropical confluence zone, which translates into high precipitation, and high relative humidity, with an average temperature of 28° C, and precipitation exceeding 4000 mm. Most of the region is pristine, with areas of very humid tropical forests. Many endemic species are found here.
Among the birds you can see there are the Pacific Antwren (Myrmotherula pacifica), the endemic Baudo Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini), the Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni), the Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia flavirostris), the Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata), Dusky-faced Tanager (Mitrospingus cassinii), and many others.
6. Santa Rosa de Cabal – Cortaderal
Santa Rosa de Cabal is a municipality 15 km northeast of Pereira, and the entrance to the National Natural Park Los Nevados from Risaralda. It is the capital of chorizo, a Colombian type of pork sausage. It is also part of the territory declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011: the Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape.
The observation site is in Cortaderal on the road that leads to the Otún lagoon, two and a half hours from Santa Rosa de Cabal. In this place, you will be able to observe the Fuerte’s Parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi). The Fuerte’s Parrot is a rare and local species of the temperate forests of the Central Andes. In the early 2000s, this species was thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered! The protection of its natural habitats is mandatory to avoid its extinction.
In this site you will also be able to observe the Andean Pygmy-owl (Glaicidium jardinii), the Hooded mountain tanager (Buthraupis montana), the Speckle-faced Parrot (Pionus tumultuosus), the Grey-breasted mountain toucan (Andigena hypoglauca), the Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum), also the Sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) and a jewel such as the Mountain Avocetbill (Opisthoprora euryptera), and other species of the Central Andes.
7. Belén de Umbría Lek Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Belén de Umbria is only an hour and a half from the city of Pereira. From there you take the route to the Santa Emilia village. This is one of the ideal places in Risaralda to observe the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), preferably in the afternoon.
Where to Stay When you go to Visit Birding Spots in Risaralda
There are many options in the city of Pereira, but I recommend the Hotel Sazagua for a luxury experience. Also, if you prefer a more authentic experience, since you are in the coffee region, I recommend Finca del Café Hotel which includes experiences with the coffee culture.
“Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary offers its own accomodation. For more information about it visit our entry Ecotourism at Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.
Finally, for more distant places, such as Apia, Montezuma, Mistrató and Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia you can stay at the hotels of each town. Generally, these are very basic accommodations, but comfortable enough for your stay and rest.
If you want to know more about your trip for birdwatching, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Indeed, Risaralda is a very rainy department, especially towards the western region. Thus, I recommend you, above all, to take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.
If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Risaralda for bird watching, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.
- Risaralda Bird Festival
- Mistrató Neblina Birds – Risaralda Local Guide Arnulfo Sanchez
About the author
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.