If you’ve heard that Colombia is a hummingbird’s paradise, or that hummingbird heaven is in Colombia, then you weren’t wrong. Colombia is the country with the most species of hummingbirds in the world, above Ecuador, Costa Rica or Peru. Of the 360 species of hummingbirds in the world, in Colombia you can find up to 165 species of hummingbirds. In other words, almost half of the world’s hummingbirds are here in Colombia (45.8%), and we encourage you to come and meet them. And some of them are unique. In this entry we will tell you which species of hummingbirds are endemic to Colombia and where you can find them. This is a list of the unique hummingbirds of Colombia
A molecular phylogenetic study about the diversification of hummingbirds recognize that the Trochilidae family, the hummingbird’s bird family, consists of nine main clades: Topazes, Hermits, Mangoes, Brilliants, Coquettes, Patagona, Mountain Gems, Bees, and Emeralds. In Colombia we have endemic emeralds, coquettes, brilliants and bees hummingbirds.
This is the group with the most endemic species in Colombia, with 5 genera and 7 species.
Santa Marta Blossomcrown – Anthocephala floriceps
This species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, commonly recorded towards the flanks facing the Caribbean Sea. It is found between 600 and 1700 meters above sea level. It is a species in a vulnerable conservation category according to the the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List category, henceforth IUCN, and the Colombian Red List of Birds.
This species is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi
This species is found on the western slope of the eastern mountain range of Colombia and the eastern slope of the central mountain range of Colombia, towards the Magdalena River Valley. Its distribution ranges between 1200 and 2300 meters above sea level- It is classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN and the Red List of Birds of Colombia.
There is a very special place in the department of Tolima, very close to its capital Ibagué, which is the canyon of the Combeima River. There you can visit Anni and Truman, two biologists who are passionate about conservation, bird watching and mountaineering. In their rural lodge Ukuku, the encounter with this small hummingbird is a great experience. They have adapted gardens with native plants and drinkers, specially arranged to attract birds. The Ukuku Rural Lodge is a highly recommended place if you are a bird photographer.
Chiribiquete Emerald – Chlorostilbon olivaresi
This hummingbird is found in the Colombian Amazon region adjacent to the Guyanese shield in the departments of Caquetá and Guaviare. Its distributions ranges between 300 and 600 meters above sea level.
Despite it is not under any serious threat category, there are very few records of this species in Colombia. It is found in remote places where, for a long time, there was no access because of the war. However, it is not free from threats to its habitat. Today you can visit the department of Caquetá and find this bird in the municipality of Solano, very close to the natural National Park Serranía de Chiribiquete, now recognized by UNESCO as a Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Santa Marta Sabrewing – Campylopterus phainopeplus
This hummingbird is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, towards the continental flanks facing east, in the department of Valledupar, and distributes between 1000 and 4800 meters above sea level.
It is an endangered species according to the IUCN, and vulnerable according to the Red List of Birds of Colombia. This is really a very difficult species to observe, and very little is known about it. It has only been reported once by the Selva Foundation near the Vista de Nieve sector, the coffee region in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, up from Minca. Watch our video about Birdwatching in Minca.
Chestnut-bellied hummingbird – Amazilia castaneiventris
This species is found in the San Lucas mountain range in the department of Bolívar, and on the western flank of the eastern cordillera in the department of Santander. It is known to occur between 200 and 2100 meters above sea level and has been declared as an endangered species according to the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds. This species has the distinction of not presenting a marked sexual dimorphism, that is, the male and the female are similar in their plumage.
Visiting the San Lucas Mountains can be a bit complicated, but visiting Santander is very easy and you can find this hummingbird in the municipalities of San Gil and Piedecuesta, very close to the capital Bucaramanga. You can also find it in the Bird Natural Reserve Cerulean Warbler in San Vicente de Chucuri. Even in the center of the town of San Vicente del Chucurí you can find it!
The municipality of Soatá in Boyacá is another destination to watch this bird, where conservation projects are advanced to protect it.
Indigo-capped hummingbird – Amazilia cyanifrons
This hummingbird is found throughout the western flank of the Colombian Andes and is distributed between 400 and 2600 meters above sea level. It is not under any threat and, like the Chestnut-bellied hummingbird, does not have a remarkable differentiation in plumage between male and female.
This is one of the easiest species of hummingbirds to see in Colombia since only half an hour from Bogotá you can see it in all its splendor in the municipality of San Francisco de Sales, in a place known as El Jardín Encantado. This place belongs to a family that destined the garden of their house to attract different types of birds. They have many native plants with flowers and numbered feeders, which facilitates the observation and photography of birds.
Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird – Lepidopyga liliae
This is one of the most controversial hummingbirds in Colombia. It shares its habitat with a species very similar to it, which is even of the same genus, L. coeruleogularis, known as Sapphire-throated Hummingbird. The distribution of these two species is the same, bordering the entire Caribbean coast of Colombia from the Magdalena to the Urabá region.
As if that were not enough, the two species are very similar and the only difference between them is the extension of the blue spot that extends from the neck to the belly in the male, being very complicated to differentiate, especially between young individuals. Most of the time the only way to differentiate them is through their song.
The Sapphire-bellied hummingbird has been consistently observed between the departments of Atlántico and Magdalena, in the Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca. It is declared critically endangered according to the IUCN and in a vulnerable state according to the Red Book of Birds of Colombia.
This group has 2 genera and 4 species.
Black-backed Thornbill – Ramphomicron dorsale
This hummingbird species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, between 2000 and 4500 meters above sea level. It is declared as an endangered species according to the IUCN. This species is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Natural Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii
This is one of the species with the smallest distribution in the world, which makes it even more unique, not only because of its beauty or its state of conservation. It is found in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes between 3200 and 4600 meters above sea level. It is a species in a vulnerable state according to the IUCN and in danger according to the Red List of Birds of Colombia.
Despite its small range this species is very easy to observe in Los Nevados National Natural Park a few hours from the city of Manizales in the department of Caldas. This park has installed in its Brisas station an observation platform for this species. You just have to arrive and have the luck of having a dry climate, a clear sky and a low cloudiness. It is also easy to observe in the gardens conditioned for the observation of birds in the hotel Termales del Ruiz.
Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – Oxypogon cyanolaemus
This is a very rare hummingbird, first found over 100 years ago in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and then disappeared until 2015 when it was first observed after a long time. It is found between 3200 and 4600 meters above sea level and is a species declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN and Endangered by the Red List of Birds of Colombia.
To observe this hummingbird you have to visit the Lagunas de Sevilla, in the municipality of El Placer, on the way up to the Cristóbal Colón peak in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, one of the highest peaks in Colombia. This paramo region is the habitat of this endemic species of the highest zone of the Sierra Nevada. As well as the other species of this genus, you can observe it fluttering around the frailejones of the páramos. To get there you have to book a special tour service, since it is not a common route for tourists.
Green-bearded helmetcrest – Oxypogon guerinii
This hummingbird species has the widest range within the genus Oxypogon. In Colombia it extends over much of the northern part of the eastern mountain range of the Andes, on its eastern flank. Like the other two species, it is only possible to observe it after 3000 meters and up to 4400 meters above sea level. Unlike its close relatives, this species is not endangered.
You can observe this bird very easily in two places very close to the city of Bogotá. One is the Chingaza National Natural Park and the other is the Páramo del Sumapaz National Nature Park in the Chisacá Lagoon. The Páramo de Sumapaz is located within the district of the city of Bogotá, so you can go there very early in the morning and return with time to enjoy a wonderful Santafereño lunch in Bogotá.
This group has 2 genera and 5 species.
Gorgeted puffleg – Eriocnemis isabellae
This is a truly unique and special hummingbird that was recognized by science as a new species for Colombia in 2007. It was recorded in the department of Cauca, and its distribution is apparently as small as that of Buffy helmetcrest. It was first recorded in the cloud forests of the Serranía del Pinche (Department of Cauca), in the West Andes.
This species has been declared critically endangered according to the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds. Unfortunately, this bird has only been registered by scientists and has never been seen by a tourist or an amateur birder, mainly because the Department of Cauca is one of the departments with the most difficult access in Colombia, due to public order and security problems. Its habitat is seriously threatened by the deforestation of the forest to plant coca crops.
Colorful puffleg – Eriocnemis mirabilis
This beautiful hummingbird distributes at the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes, between 2100 and 2800 meters above sea level. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds.
You can get to know this hummingbird at the Munchique National Natural Park in the department of Cauca, at the municipality of El Tambo, 61 km west of Popayán. This park is a hummingbird paradise, as it is home not only to this species, but also to 36 other species of hummingbirds. There are about 500 species of birds in this park, and bird watching is done in the park through a special trail called the Bird and Tanager Trail.
Black Inca – Coeligena prunellei
This hummingbird is distributed on the western flank of the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes, in the departments of Santander and Boyacá. It is found between 1400 and 2600 meters above sea level and has been declared as vulnerable by the IUCN and as almost threatened in the Red List of Birds of Colombia.
This hummingbird can be easily observed if you visit the Rogitama Civil Society Nature Reserve located in the Corredor Andino de Roble, in Arcabuco, Boyacá, only 3 hours from Bogotá.
White-tailed Starfrontlet – Coeligena phalerata
This species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and is distributed between 1200 and 3300 meters above sea level. It is not under any category of threat. It is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Natural Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Dusky Starfrontlet – Coeligena urine
This hummingbird has one of the most beautiful iridescences among hummingbirds, for it shines as if it were made of gold, so much so that in Colombia it is known as the Sun Hummingbird. It is found on the western flank of the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes, in the department of Antioquia. It is a hummingbird that is distributed in highlands, between 3000 and 3500 meters above sea level. It is critically endangered according to the IUCN and as a threatened species according to the Colombian Red List of Birds.
You can observe this hummingbird in the reserve created especially for its conservation, known as Dusky Starfrontlet Bird Reserve de Proaves. It is located in the Vereda El Chuscal, about 17 km north of the municipality of Urrao, Antioquia.
This group has 1 genus and 1 species.
Santa Marta woodstar – Chaetocercus astreans
This hummingbird inspires a lot of tenderness because of its size and shape. You will not believe how much beauty this tiny creature carries as it flits among the flowers it pollinates and feeds on. This hummingbird is unique to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is found between 300 and 2800 meters above sea level. Fortunately it is not under any threat category. It is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Bird Nature Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Now you know what the rarest and most unique hummingbirds in Colombia are. Do not hesitate to contact us to plan your trip to Colombia and meet these wonderful birds!
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.