Wetlands of Bogotá are the Best Spots for Birdwatching in the City

The accelerated and unplanned urban expansion of Bogotá in the last 50 years has been the most preponderant factor in the notable reduction and deterioration of its wetlands. Global warming, pollution, the disposal of garbage, rubble and household waste are a great threat to the wetlands of Bogota, putting at risk the species that inhabit these ecosystems.

Unfortunately, the species most affected by the deterioration of the wetlands are birds, especially migratory birds. At the moment, one species endemic to Colombia and the Bogotá savannah is already extinct, and another three are in serious danger of disappearing. For this reason, the protection and adequate management of Bogota’s wetlands is a priority for the conservation of endemic and associated threatened species. Also for the migratory birds whose survival depends on the health of this ecosystem.

Ecological tours are one of the conservation strategies for people to enjoy and visit these ecosystems.

Bogota Natural Areas. Wetlands Represented in Blue. Image by Bogotá City Hall.

Ramsar category Wetlands of Bogotá

Bogotá is the first city in Colombia to have an urban wetlands complex with the highest environmental certification in the world, and is also the only city in Latin America with ecosystems in this category. These are 11 of the 14 Wetland District Ecological Parks, PEDH, which with a total of 667.38 hectares, meet the criteria of the International Ramsar Convention.

The Ramsar category urban wetlands complex is integrated by the wetlands: Tibanica, la Vaca Norte, El Burro, El Tunjo, Capellanía, Santa María del Lago, Córdoba, Jaboque, Juan Amarillo, La Conejera and Torca-Guaymaral.

This recognition also highlights the ecological value of these urban ecosystems as permanent and transitional habitat for a significant number of plant species, mammals and water and migratory birds ─ Many migratory birds have the urban wetlands of Bogotá as strategic points for recovering energy and finding food, shelter and rest.

Wetlands Birds of Bogotá

Bogotá’s wetlands are home to more than 200 species of birds, including three endemic, two of which are endangered: the Bogotá Rail (EN) (Rallus semiplumbeus), the Apolinar’s Wren (EN) (Cistothorus apolinari) and the Silvery-throated Spinetail (Synallaxis subpudica). It can also be found the almost endemic and endangered bird, the Rufous-browed Conebill (Conirostrum rufum).

In addition, nine locally endemic subspecies can be found in Bogotá’s wetlands:

  • Spot-flanked Gallinule (Porphyriops melanops bogotensis)

  • Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis andina)

  • American Coot (Fulica americana columbiana)

  • Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus bogotensis)

  • Grassland Yellow-Finch (Montane) (Sicalis luteola bogotensis)

  • Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis bogotensis)

  • Spot-billed Ground Tyrant (Muscisaxicola maculirostris niceforoi)

  • Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris peregrina)

  • Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus bogotensis)

Migratory birds in Bogotá

The Bogotá wetlands and their forest edges provide suitable habitats for many of the migratory birds recorded in Colombia. However, the number of species that may be present in the wetlands depends on the quality of the habitats and their geographical location, mainly distance from the coast and height above sea level. It is possible that the remaining wetlands in Bogotá have become a unique and fundamental refuge within urban landscapes that are inhospitable to migratory birds.

The richness of migratory bird life in the Bogotá wetlands can be attributed to two factors: (1) the presence of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats that attract diverse species and (2) the geographic location of Bogotá, on the main migration route of the species that enter South America through the Darien and continue to the Amazon, the foothills of the Andes or Patagonia.

Of the almost 650 species that breed in North America, about 200 species are Neotropical migrants and approximately 125 of them frequently arrive in Colombia. Of these, about 65 arrive in the wetlands of Bogotá. Migratory birds require quality habitats in their non-breeding areas and depend on them year after year. The Bogotá savannah is an important stopover site before and after the birds cross the high parts of the Eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes.

Birds in colombia

Most Neotropical migratory birds recorded in Colombia arrive mainly in the months of September and October. After six to nine months in the country, they head north again between April and May. Some of these species are only in transit, passing through Colombia on their way to non-breeding areas further south, stopping only for rest or to increase their energy reserves.

Generally speaking, the migratory species that arrive in Colombia are divided into two main groups, represented by a similar number of species: aquatic and terrestrial. Thirteen are classified as species of concern in North America, due to population declines, and are therefore listed as priorities for conservation. Sixty species are Boreal migrants and five are Southern migrants. The new world warblers (Parulidae) is the most represented family, with 12 species, followed by the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae), and shorebirds, sandpipers and snipes (Scolopacidae) are also well represented.

It is important to highlight the presence of the Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea), categorized by BirdLife (2013) as Vulnerable (VU) at a global level, due to habitat degradation. Another important bird is the as well as the Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), a species considered almost threatened (NT) globally. Other species that do not qualify as globally threatened, but are listed as of greater concern in North America, and are relatively abundant in the wetlands of Bogotá, include the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) and the Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis).

Endangered bird species of Bogota’s wetlands

Colombian grebe – Podiceps andinus – Agencia de Noticias UNAL

Locally, the Colombian grebe (Podiceps andinus), was a endemic species that inhabited the wetlands. It has already become extinct due to pressure on these ecosystems. The last time this grebe was seen was in 1977 in Lake Tota, near Bogotá. It frequented the lagoons of the Cundinamarca-Boyacá savannah, but it seems that erosion, contamination, drainage and the deterioration of water quality were putting an end to it. Its disappearance is also attributed to the change in vegetation in the habitats it frequented.

Similarly, Apolinar’s Wren and Subtropical Doradito (Pseudocolopteryx acutipennis) are found along the same path. In the wetlands and lagoons of the Eastern Cordillera, especially in the Cundinamarca-Boyacá highlands, some individuals of the Apolinar’s Wren can still be seen. But the contamination of the wetlands and possibly the action of global climate change seem to be affecting its populations. The Apolinar’s Wren can be seen in the La Florida wetland in Bogotá, and in Sumapaz National Park.

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari E – Sumapaz

The Subtropical Doradito, on the other hand, is in a similar situation to the Apolinar’s Wren. Its records are scarce in the wetlands of the Sabana de Bogotá. It travels by short flights between the reeds of the wetlands. The Subtropical Doradito can be seen in the wetlands of Bogotá Jaboque or La Florida.

Bogotá Wetlands you can visit

Paradoxically, not all the Ramsar Wetlands in Bogotá can be visited. Of the 14 wetlands, only three of them are suitable to be visited. However, only two of them have the highest environmental certification worldwide Ramsar: Santa Maria del Lago and Córdoba.

La Florida Park Wetland

La Florida Park is the most important Regional Park in Bogota. It is located in the district of Engativá, at kilometer 4, via Engativá – Cota. It is a spot for ecotourism in Bogotá.

It has 267 green hectares and a lake that was enabled as an area for bird watching, with a modern bird observatory with strict bio-construction standards. It is a place very visited by nationals and foreigners. There you can find more than 75 species of birds, including those that live in the neighboring Jaboque wetland, among them the Bogotá Rail and the Apolinar’s Wren.

Santa Maria del Lago Wetland

Located in the district of Engativá, near Calle 80. You can get there using Transmilenio, getting off at the station Minuto de Dios. In the Santa María del Lago wetland there is a bird watching tower, and a path that borders the entire wetland area, with green areas where the American Coot (Fulica americana) can be seen.

Córdoba Wetland

The Cordoba Wetland District Ecological Park, located in the north of Bogota, in the middle of the noblest neighborhoods, has 40.4 hectares. It connects with the Cordoba and Molinos canals, to the west with the lake of the Choquenza Club, Los Lagartos Club and the Juan Amarillo Wetland, forming the Córdoba-Juan Amarillo system. The Córdoba wetland has three sectors:

  • Sector one: Located on 127th Street to the north, it borders the Monaco, Prado Veraniego Sur and Canódromo neighborhoods, and is the smallest and least visited of the three in the city.
  • Sector two: Located between Cordoba Avenue and Suba Avenue, it borders the Batan, Potosi, Puente Largo, Santa Rosa neighborhoods and a series of residential areas such as Córdoba Parks and Solis del Restrepo. Recently, works were carried out in this sector with paths, viewpoints and a bridge that allow greater comfort for visitors. In addition, seven small islands were adapted, where several species of reeds and trees were planted in order to restore the vegetation that serves as food and shelter for the fauna of the site.
  • Sector Three: It is the lower part of the wetland. The extension of this sector is 21.4 hectares It extends between Suba and Boyacá Avenues. It borders the neighborhoods Pontevedra, San Nicolas, Julio Florez and Niza Sur.

About 85 species of birds have been detected here, distributed in 62 genera and 32 families.

Other animals you can find in the Bogotá wetlands.

Bogotá grass mouse – Neomicroxus bogotensis. Picture by iNaturalist

According to the iNaturalist platform, around 767 species of living beings have been found in the wetlands of Bogotá, including all animal, plant and fungi groups.

Among them we can highlight: the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) which was introduced, the endemic Green dotted treefrog (Dendropsophus molitor), the endemic Thickhead ground snake (Atractus crassicaudatus), the quase endemic guinea pig (Cavia aperea anolaimae), the Andean white-eared opossum (Didelphis pernigra), the Long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), the endemic Bogotá grass mouse or Bogotá akodont (Neomicroxus bogotensis), the Bogotá yellow-shouldered bat (Sturnira bogotensis), the Hoary bat (Aeorestes cinereus), the Red-tailed squirrel (Notosciurus granatensis), the Highland yellow-shouldered bat (Sturnira ludovici), the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and the Desert red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii), among others.


References

  • iNaturalist Website
  • Bogota Ornithological Association (ABO)
  • Bogotá Wetlands Foundation
  • News Agency Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Aves de la Sabana de Bogotá, guía de campo. Primera edición. Bogotá; ABO, CAR. Bogotá, Colombia. Asociación Bogotana de Ornitología.
  • Chaparro-Herrera, S., & Ochoa, D. (2015). Aves de los Humedales de Bogotá, Aportes para su Conservación. Asociación Bogotana de Ornitología-ABO-. Bogotá DC.
  • Rappole, J. H. 1995. The ecology of migrant birds: A Neotropical perspective. Wash., DC: Smithsonian Inst. Press.

About the author

Sara Colmenares

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.