The Gateway to the Colombian Amazon: Putumayo

Putumayo is one of the most beautiful and promising post-conflict scenarios to enjoy nature tourism.  has a perfect harmony between the rainforest and the Andes mountain range. In the south of the department is the city of Villagarzon where rivers begin to take the shape of a snake along with flat green landscapes; in the west of the capital, Mocoa, is the Sibundoy Valley.

Putumayo has an incredibly high biodiversity, it offers you the opportunity to meet species such as parrots, toucans, monkeys, tapirs, capivaras, tigers, panthers, spectacled bear and a great variety of birds. This is because its territory occupies a Andean – Amazon Piedmont, and numerous rivers.

Mocoa

Mocoa is Putumayo’s Capital City. It is a city that offers a combination of jungle walks, waterfalls, ecotourism, adventure sports, ancestral wellness, bird watching and Amazonian fauna.

What to visit staying in Mocoa?

Fin del Mundo Waterfall

It is one of the main tourist attractions in Mocoa. The waterfall is located in the Dantayaco stream and has a drop height of 70 meters forming two beautiful natural pools.

To get there you must hike up the mountain for 1.5 – hours, and when you are at this point apart from taking beautiful pictures you can do water activities such as canyoning.

Mandiyaco Cañon

Located at km 25 of the road that leads from Mocoa to Pitalito very close to the Caqueta river. This natural wonder is a rock formation of volcanic origin, called “Mandiyaco” in the Inga language.

The rock formations that can be observed are possible to see different faces like the lion, the tiger’s claws, the nose of the bear, among other figures, in this wonderful place full of positive energy where you can take a boat ride.

Suruma Park

This reserve and preservation center of the Amazonian flora and fauna is located 8.3 km from Mocoa, has an area of 131.6 hectares of which 90% is forest.

There you will be able to take tours to learn more about the flora and fauna found in the Amazon as well as gain knowledge of the species that are endangered and those that are already in recovery.

Paway Butterfly Farm

If you want to learn about the evolutionary process of butterflies, this place is ideal for you. It is located 7.7 km from Mocoa; there you will be surrounded by nature and many species of butterflies.

In addition the butterfly farm offers you the opportunity to stay in a cabin built in a Ceiba “sacred tree”, you can spend a night surrounded by nature and wake up with the original sounds of the Amazon rainforest.

Hornoyaco Waterfall

To get to this beautiful waterfall of 55 m of fall you must make a 2 hour walk from the center of Mocoa. It is known because its inhabitants say that the guardian of this waterfall is the rainbow, since most of the time when the rainbow appears you can see how it surrounds the waterfall. It is a place of tranquility and peace where you can spend a wonderful afternoon.

Licamancha Caves

In Putumayo it is also possible to do caving activities, in the limits between the departments of Putumayo and Cauca on the banks of the Caqueta River is the access point to the caverns; it is advisable not to visit in rainy seasons due to the risks that can be run by the increase of the current of the river.

During the one hour tour it is possible to appreciate paleontological vestiges of more than millions of years old, besides walking through internal halls inside the cavern of 15 meters high.

At the moment it is an area that is in constant investigation for the discovery of more caverns or internal tours inside the already known ones.

El Salto del Indio

In the Kuriyaku ravine (in the indigenous language of the sector means “golden water”) just 19 km from Mocoa it is possible to find this natural wonder. It is formed by 2 waterfalls where a natural pool of emerald green water is generated.

Thanks to the fact that the inhabitants of the cabildo Tigre Playa offer the service of canoe to cross the river, the hiking time was reduced from 1 hour to 20 minutes, so now you will have more time to enjoy this natural wonder.

Donde se Oculta el Sol waterfalls (where the sun hides)

Located 22 km from Mocoa, when you arrive at the indicated point you will hike 2 km to reach the waterfalls that are formed in the Sardinas Creek; the waterfall “Mohano” (in indigenous language “Jaguar Man”) has 18 m of fall and the waterfall “Wakana” (in indigenous language “Llanto de la Mona”) has 17 m of fall.

Between the two waterfalls it is necessary to cross a stone bridge and a stone tunnel that connects the two waterfalls.

There you will be able to go bird watching, there is a camping area or if you prefer rural lodging.

How to arrive to Mocoa?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Where to stay in Mocoa?

In Mocoa you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • Posada Turistica Dantayaco

Orito

It is located in the Amazonian foothills, there you will be able to meet and have contact with the Kofan indigenous community, you can acquire knowledge of the ancestral wisdom of the hand of them, also you will be able to know the Pijili River, noted for its emerald green waters.

What to visit in Orito?

Isla Escondida Nature Reserve

There are about 25 kms of walking trails in and around the reserve. Apart from the trails there are many tracks for walking and exploring!

The reserve has more than 350 bird species, with many range-restricted species. Among the main targets are the  Nocturnal Curassow (Nothocrax urumutum), Salvin’s Curassow, Chestnut-headed Crake, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Napo Screech-owl, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Pavonine Quetzal, Collared Puffbird, Spot-winged and Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Fulvous Antshrike, Hairy-crested Antbird, Spectacled Bristle-tyrant, Foothill Elaenia, Black-&-white and Golden-winged Tody-flycatcher, Grey-tailed Piha, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Foothill Schiffornis, Musician Wren and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager.

There are registers of  jaguar, margay, trumpeters, deer, opossums, nocturnal curassows, kinkajous (Potus flavus), olingos (Bassaricyon alleni), pacas (Cuniculus paca), night monkeys (Aotus), band-bellied Owls (Pulsatrix melanota), etc.

Maloka Oso Kofan

It is a meeting center of the Kofan indigenous community, the name of this Maloka is due to the fact that the Taita Oso Kofan is located there; also if you visit the department in January you can have the opportunity to participate in the annual camp where the indigenous community offers visitors the Amazonian ancestral knowledge along with the Yage ceremony supervised by members of the indigenous community.

Ma&Ju Ecotourism Center

In Ma&Ju you will learn about the agricultural processes of planting and harvesting of pepper and cocoa that takes place in the department. You can also do activities such as Canopy and walk on Tibetan bridges over the jungle.

If you wish to spend the night in this center there is a camping area or private cabins in the middle of the jungle.

Corunta Ecotourism Center

In the center you will be able to enjoy a private waterfall, La Silvania, you can also go horseback riding in the middle of the jungle, enjoy a natural pool and take tours in rural areas and have contact with the farmers of the sector.

Pijili Stone

It is a huge stone located in the flow of the Pijili River, is one of the most visited resorts for the majesty of the stone along with the tranquility and beautiful scenery offered by this river.

How to get to Orito?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3-hours ride (118 Km) to Orito.

Puerto Asis

It is the municipality with the largest population of the department, besides being known as the commercial capital of Putumayo due to the development of commercial activities of great importance for the economic development of the department.

Moreover, Puerto Asis was the national center in the development of the Colombian-Peruvian war or known as “the conflict of Leticia” between 1932-1933.

What to visit in Puerto Isis?

La Esmeralda Pier

This important dock is the place where all the boats connect with Puerto Leguizamo, being one of the most important fluvial connection points of the department. You can also take a tour through the Putumayo River where you will be able to appreciate the immensity and enjoy the scenery during the tour.

Playa Rica Village

During your journey through the Putumayo River you can enter this magical trail where you can do bird watching, appreciate various species of the jungle in this part of the country and learn about Amazonian fruits.

How to get to Puerto Asis?

Bogota – Mocoa – Puerto Asis

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 2-hours ride (87 Km) to Puerto Asís.

Bogotá- Puerto Asís

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Tres de Mayo Airport (PUU) at Puerto Asís city. Keep in mind that the airlines that fly to Puerto Asis are: EasyFly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and Satena (Sunday through Friday).

Puerto Leguizamo

It is called the exotic garden of the universe, as it is surrounded by the Amazon jungle, the Putumayo River and has borders with Ecuador and Peru. Formerly known as Caucayá, since it was the name it received when it was founded in 1920 and in 1950 it received its current name.

What to visit in Puerto Leguizamo?

El Guardian de la Selva (The Guardian of the Forest)

A magical ceiba tree 60 meters high and 40 centimeters in diameter. The inhabitants of the sector consider it to be the grandfather tree, being the sacred tree that is full of positive energy and is raising requests to heaven.

Caucayá River

It is located at the entrance to the Amazon, from here you will be able to observe the pink dolphin, river otters, different species of birds and Amazonian monkeys.

Laguna Azul

It is a body of water located in the deepest point of Puerto Leguizamo, it is said that its waters are healing, also rituals of cleansing and purification of the body and spirit are performed there.

La Argelia Fish Farming Station

In this station you will meet and feed the Amazonian fish Pirarocu, one of the largest freshwater fish and can measure up to 3 meters, this experience is possible with the support of the inhabitants of the sector.

How to get to Puerto Leguizamo?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Caucayá Airport (LQM) at Puerto Leguizamo city.

Keep in mind that the only airline that operates to this airport is Satena on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Villagarzon

It is part of the Amazonian Piedemonte region, surrounded by the rivers San Juan, Conejo, San Vicente and Guineo, is 15 minutes from Mocoa; it is also known as the heart of Putumayo for being one of the most diverse areas of the department.

What to visit in Villagarzon?

El Escondite Natural Reserve

It is a Private Natural Reserve, which has a protected area of approximately 124 hectares, of which 70% is in natural regeneration or in a state of conservation located in the village of La Joya. Here you can go bird watching, as it has a record of 299 species of birds, you can also observe frogs and insects and primates.

Kayaking on the Guineo River

You can do this activity surrounded by a landscape of Amazon jungle and pure waters that invite us to have fun and connect with mother earth.

Rio Vides Archaeological Park

In the park you can observe stones with petroglyphs that show motifs of stars, plants and animals and other classified carved by indigenous ancestors.

How to get to Villagarzon?

Bogota – Mocoa – Villagarzon

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 30 – minutes ride (17 Km) to Villagarzón.

Where to stay in Villagarzon?

In Villagarzón you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • El Escondite.

Sibundoy Valley

It is one of the cultural epicenters of Putumayo, with the presence of the indigenous cultures Kamentsá (men from here) and Ingas (close), unique in the world.

The inhabitants of the sector say that the missionaries arrived there during the colonial period, leaving numerous educational centers of great importance for the region.

What to visit in Sibundoy Valley?

The Interculturality Park

Known as the meeting point for the inhabitants of the municipality, it is adorned with eight sculptures made of wood by the indigenous communities, being an ideal place to spend the afternoon and visit the headquarters of the Municipal Administration.

Ambiaku Tourist Center / Colón Hot Springs Center

Termas Colón is a place where you can visit during the day or at night; you can experience shock therapies between hot and cold water, you can also have an outdoor mud therapy.

Ayen Botanical Garden

The place is ideal to learn about medicinal plants; you can also participate in harmonization or cleansing activities through the taita Juan, you can also participate in a yage ceremony with a previous reservation.

Villa Beatriz Viewpoint

From this wonderful viewpoint you will be able to watch birds and hummingbirds, besides having a panoramic view of the immense and magical valley of Sibundoy.

How to get to Sibundoy?

Bogota – Mocoa – Sibundoy

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride (81 Km) to Sibunday.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

References
About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Did you Know that the Oilbirds have their own National Park in Colombia?

The Southern part of the department of Huila holds the oldest and one of the best-preserved protected areas in Colombia-. It is an amazing place where various endangered species are still preserved and protected, such as the Oilbird. We are talking about the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park (Oilbirds Cave).

The Oilbirds, or Guácharos

For reference, Oilbirds (Steatornis caripensis) are birds that spend all day in the depths of the caves and go out at night to hunt food, usually insects, fruits, and aromatic plants.

Same as bats, Oilbirds also use a quite precise natural echo localization system. Hence, they make a series of short and squealing sounds that serve as waves that are used for their localization.

According to the American Bird Conservancy about the Oilbird:

“it is named for the young birds, which are so fat that indigenous people and early settlers once collected and rendered them down to oil for lighting and cooking”.

The Oilbird, Steatornis caripensis, or Guácharo in Spanish. ©BirdsColombia

Discovering the Cueva de Los Guácharos Natural National Park

Cueva de Los Guácharos NNP was named after the Oilbird, which is called Guácharo in Spanish.

The Cueva de Los Guácharos NNP was created in 1960 and belongs to the “Biósfera Cinturón Andino”, Andean Belt Reserve declared by UNESCO in 1979.

Find out more about Colombian Biosphere Reserves in our entry Next Travel Ideas? Visit the Biosphere Reserves of Colombia.

It totals an area of 90 square kilometers and is located at the western flank of the Cordillera Oriental, between the departments of Huila and Caquetá. Also, the Cave of the Guácharos is very close to the Magdalena River.

Lastly, Cueva de Los Guácharos is considered part of “Andean Amazonian” transition ecosystems, having a great role as a water regulator, among other ecosystem services. Due to its unique characteristics, it is a nest and transitory refugee stop for a large number of migratory birds.

Weather

Cueva de Los Guácharos Park is between 1200 meters and 3800 meters above sea level and its temperatures vary between 19 °C and 26 °C, with very humid climatic characteristics.

How to get to the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

From Bogotá

Take a 1.5-hour flight from Bogotá to El Contador Airport (PTX) at Pitalito city. From Pitalito, take a 1-hour ride to Palestina, and an additional 1-hour car ride to La Mesura.

Once at Mesura, look for Cedar where the National Natural Parks access point to Cueva de Los Guácharos is located.

At this point, you can choose to take an 8.5 km hike (3.5 to 5 hours long) or take the transport service available to the accommodation area.

Bear in mind that Satena (Colombian national public airline) is the only one flying to Pitalito Saturdays and Mondays.

What to do in the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

Cueva de Los Guácharos National Natural Park has community-based ecotourism operators that provide lodging services in cabins and shared bathrooms for up to 50 people, a camping area for up to 24 people, restaurant service, horse rental, and guiding.

You must know that it is not possible to access or hanging around the park without the accompaniment of a local guide.

Hiking and Trekking

Within the area of the park, there are many canyons and labyrinths. The Cueva de Los Guácharos has caves formed by the chemical and mechanical action of the Sauza River and its tributaries.

Hiking is the most exciting activity in Cueva de Los Guácharos Park. You can hike only until the glacier edge along 4 trails:

  • Black Oak Trail with a 4-hour round trip (3.9 km) and high difficulty.
  • Giant’s Way Trail with a 2-hour round trip (2.7 km) and medium difficulty.
  • Rain of Crystals Trail with a 2-hour round trip (1.7 km) and medium difficulty
  • Waterfall of colors Trail with a 5-hour round trip (3.1 km) and high difficulty.

This activity allows you to admire the 2 caves of Oilbirds, the caves of calcareous formations, and the 2 natural bridges over the Rio Suaza. Also, the Cristales waterfalls, and the Lindosa waterfall.

Cueva de los Guacharos National Park. ©David Páez, Parques Nacionales Archives

Wildlife observation

Along the trails, you may spot the wonders of Cueva de Los Guácharos, among which stand out native species such as the Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistopheles), the cougar (Puma concolor), the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), and the mountain tapir, also known as the Andean tapir or woolly tapir (Tapirus pinchaque).

Regarding flora, you will be able to appreciate almost extinct species in their natural state such as black oak (endemic), white oak, copper, black cedar, cumin, hayuelo pine, and the Colombian pine.

Birdwatching, and the Oilbirds Caves

Cueva de Los Guácharos is a permanent habitat for more than 300 species of birds including the Oilbird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), and the Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata colombiana).

The Oilbird, Steatornis caripensis., or Guacharo in Spanish. ©BirdsColombia

Do not forget that depending on the season different migratory birds that inhabit this territory may be observed.

Where to stay in the Cueva de Los Guácharos National park

The park has a Visitor Center called Andakí. The community-based ecotourism operator, Fundación Cerca Viva, provides lodging for 50 people in multiple accommodations (cabins), distributed in 5 bedrooms with bathrooms.

Additionally, the park also offers a VIP cabin with accommodation for 8 people and a private bathroom.

There is also a classroom for environmental education activities.

Best time to visit Cueva de Los Guácharos

The dry season (December to late February) is climate-wise the most preferable choice, however, it is also a peak season for national tourists so be prepared.

Worth noting is that usually between March and April Oilbirds’ offspring begin to hatch, which is considered a very attractive natural phenomenon.

Entrance fees

The entrance fee to Cueva de Los Guácharos varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 15,000
  • Colombians, foreigners holding a residence permit, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 51,500
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider when visiting the Cueva de Los Guácharos National Park

  • Book reservation in advance with an authorized ecotourism operator.
  • Wear suitable clothing for cold and humid weather.
  • Take reusable water bottles along.
  • Keep away from making any marks on trees, stones, or infrastructure available.
  • Noises or sounds that disturb the environment are not allowed.
  • Return ALL garbage and dispose of it at the waste disposal sites.
  • Admission of children under 5 years old, pregnant women, people with heart or respiratory conditions is not recommended.
  • Tours inside the park must be taken with registered and authorized guides.
  • Avoid taking night walks on the trails.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, littering, pets, horses alcoholic drinks and drugs, making bonfires, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

References
  • National Parks Website
  • Local guides
About the authors

Luisa Martin
Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Vaupes, a Must to Visit Birding Destination in the Colombian Amazon

Vaupés, with its capital Mitú, is the gateway to the Amazonian trapezoid in Colombia. Its rich biodiversity is evident everywhere, and it is a must to visit birdwatching destinations in Colombia.

This wealth is not only biological, in Vaupés we have a wide diversity of indigenous cultures represented in 26 ethnic groups that share traditional knowledge about the management of the forest, and about their culture.

Miguel Portura, one of the best birding guides in Vaupes.

Vaupés has more than 570 bird species. Most of the species are widely distributed in the Amazon, but there are several subspecies associated with the Guyanese shield. The avifauna of this region is very special, which fully justifies its protection and study.

Birdwatching tourism has grown in the region as a good strategy for bird conservation and sustainability. Thanks to the organized work of indigenous communities in conjunction with SENA, the national learning institute, many locals found profit on this business.

In 2018, the local community, SENA, and the ACO organized the most important ornithological meeting in Colombia, the National Meeting of Ornithology (ENO), making its successful opening as a well-organized birdwatching destination.

ENO 2018, Mitú – Vaupés – Colombia

Today, Vaupes has a very good supply of local guides prepared to receive all visitors. They know the stories about the origin of the birds, their songs, their habitat, their signs, and the important role that their plumages play in the culture.

The great diversity of indigenous cultures, and their oral and sung tradition about birds make Mitú the ideal place to marvel at the great cultural and natural richness of our country. It is a unique destination in Colombia for Ethno-Ornithology. In addition, Vaupes is a territory of peace, recovering as a post-conflict destination.

Where is Vaupes?

The department of Vaupés is located in the southeast of Colombia, in the region of the Amazon known as the Guiana Shield. This region covers an extensive area of northern South America.

Find out more about the Guiana Shield in our entry Why Chiribiquete is called the Sistine Chapel of Colombia?

In Vaupes you will find one of the least populated, best conserved, and most heterogeneous regions in the world. There the Guiana and Amazonia ecosystems converge, and you will find in one place the famous tepuis of the Guiana shield, and the dry land forests, whitewater, and blackwater flooded forests, largest patches of white sand forests and savannas of the Amazon.

How to get to Vaupes

It can be reached by air, the commercial passenger company SATENA has direct flights of approximately 50 minutes.

Bear in mind that flights are limited, and they only depart on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from Bogota; and, Thursdays and Saturdays from Villavicencio.

There are also other companies that may eventually, make passenger charter flights.

Best time to visit

The best time to go for a birdwatching trip to Vaupes is after the rainy season, specially the months between November to April.

Birds of Vaupes

Given the great diversity of ecosystems in Vaupes, it is possible to find a great variety of birds. The checklist of the department of Vaupés includes 579 species distributed in 360 genera, 63 families, and 24 orders.

You can download a very complete checklist of the birds of Vaupes at the SINCHI institute website.

Highlighted birds

Discover near-endemic birds such as Chestnut-crested Antbird (Rhegmatorhina cristata) and Orinoco Piculet (Picumnus pumilus), and endangered birds such as Crestless curassow (Mitu tomentosum), and Grey-winged trumpeter (Psophia crepitans).

Among the birds found only in the department are Brown-banded Puffbird (Notharchus ordii), Tawny-tufted toucanet (Selenidera nattereri), Yellow-throated Antwren (Myrmotherula ambigua), among others.

Other interesting birds you can find are:

  • Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin
  • Screaming Piha
  • Citron-bellied Attila
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Brown-banded Puffbird
  • Azure-naped Jay
  • Pompadour Cotinga
  • Fiery Topaz
  • White-plumed Antbird
  • Black Bushbird
  • White-fronted Nunbird
  • Spotted Puffbird
  • White-plumed Antbird

Birding Routes in Vaupes

All birding routes are immersed in the indigenous communities surrounding the capital of Vaupés. You need permission to visit them, and also you must be accompanied by a local guide. But don’t worry, if you plan your trip ahead before your arrival everything will be ready.

Mituseño – Urania

This indigenous settlement belongs mostly to the Kubeo (Pamiwa) ethnic group and is located on the banks of the Vaupés river to the northeast of Vaupés. There are rock formations and Varzeas that are flood plains of the Vaupés River.

Golden-headed Mankin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala), Mitu, Vaupes, Colombia

Highlights

  • Swallow-winged Puffbird
  • Bronzy Jacamar
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • White-crowned Manakin
  • Amazonian Umbrellabird
  • Azure-naped Jay

Mitu Cachivera

This community is located just five minutes from the town of Mitú, on the banks of the Vaupés River. This place offers about four trails that include white-sand forests, rivers with red water, and rocky outcrops.

Birdwatching at the Colombian Amazon, Mitú, Vaupés

Highlights

  • Fiery Topaz
  • Pavonine Quetzal
  • Black-tailed Trogon
  • Amazonian Trogon
  • Blue-crowned Trogon
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Brown-banded Puffbird
  • Rusty-breasted Nunlet

Cerrito Verde

This birding spot is located 45 minutes from the urban center of Mitu, it has well-preserved mature terra-firme forests. It has a mosaic of landscapes ranging from primary forests to savannas and rocky outcrops within the Amazon jungle.

Red-fan Parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus), Mitú, Vaupés

Highlights

  • Guianan Cock-of-the-rock
  • Black-eared Fairy
  • Pavonine Quetzal
  • Amazonian Trogon
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Maroon-tailed Parakeet
  • Chestnut-crested Antbird
Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), Mitú, Vaupés

La Libertad

This indigenous settlement is located across the Vaupés River from the town of Mitú. You will find trails of white sands, flooded forests, and dry land. In one of the trails, you will have to take a canoe at some point to continue.

Birdwatching at the Amazon Forest, Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

Highlights

  • Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
  • White-bearded Hermit
  • Black-throated Hermit
  • Swallow-winged Puffbird
  • Orange-cheeked Parrot
  • Yellow-crowned Parrot
  • White-crowned Manakin
  • Green-tailed Goldenthroat
  • Amazonian Umbrellabird
Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), La libertad, Mitú, Vaupés

Santa Marta – Puerto Golondrina

It is located 12 kilometers downriver from the governor’s port on the Vaupés River and entering through the Cuduyarí River. This is the land of the community of Kubeos. Its main trail connects with the community of Puerto Golondrina. It has terra-firme forest and white sands.

Highlights

  • Straight-billed Hermit
  • Green-tailed Goldenthroat
  • Ivory-billed Aracari
  • Pompadour Cotinga
  • Amazonian Tyrannulet
  • Amazonian Grosbeak
  • Coraya Wren
White-bearded Manakin – Manacus manacus – Cerro Guacamaya, Mitú, Vaupés

Pueblo Nuevo

Located on kilometer 20, this community has well-preserved mature terra firme forests and a mosaic of landscapes that range from mosaic of landscapes ranging from primary forests to savannas and rocky outcrops.

Swallow-winged Puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa), Mitú, Vaupés, Colombia

Highlights

  • Gilded Barbet
  • Tawny-tufted Toucanet
  • Ringed Antpipit
  • Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet
  • Chestnut-crested Antbird
  • Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher

Santa Cruz

Located 32 kilometers from the urban center, the community is located past the Vaupés River and the trail is near the Vaupés Micro Hydroelectric Plant MCH. This site is of great cultural interest because it is the site of the great cachivera of Iparare, where most of the cultures of Vaupés were born.

It has well-preserved terra firme forests and rocky elevations where the flora and fauna of the place converge such as quetzals, trogons, and antbirds.

Highlights

  • Opal-crowned Tanager
  • White-fronted Nunbird
  • Black Bushbird
  • Musician Wren
  • Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin
Vaupés Micro Hydroelectric Plant MCH ©laotraopinion.net

Recommendations for your visit

  • Take yellow fever and tetanus vaccines before arrival.
  • Do not forget the mosquito repellent, it is highly recommended.
  • Rubber boots, raincoat, long-sleeved shirts, sunscreen.
  • Leave no trace.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • Colombia Travel
  • Stiles, F. G. : La avifauna de la parte media del río Apaporis, departamentos de Vaupés y Amazonas, Colombia. Rev. Acad. Colomb. Cienc. 34 (132): 381-390, 2010. ISSN 0370-3908.
  • SINCHI – Institute of Scientific Reseach of the Amazon.
  • Etno-birding Vaupes.
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The 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.

Tolima Birding Routes: from the Andean Snows to the Magdalena Valley

Birdwatching in Tolima is recognized as a new sustainable opportunity to develop local economies, while important ecosystems and bird species of the region are conserved. Find here the Tolima Birding Routes created for your visit, and why you should go there.

Conservation Efforts

In February 2021 Tolima department recognized 10 emblematic bird species, which are expected to contribute to promote birding tourism industry and bird conservation. The official administration announced the Draft Ordinance No 004 of 2021 by which:

“the emblematic birds of Tolima are declared as a symbol of ecological and cultural heritage, and their protection and conservation is promoted”

This resolution is part of the efforts made to know and protect Tolima’s birds and ecosystems. This set of special birds will be an object of conservation in the region.

Thus, public institutions, professionals and the local community will work together to develop activities to promote the knowledge, protection and conservation of the birds of the department of Tolima.

Among the programs, environmental education, citizen science and nature tourism have an essential role. Moreover, programs related to community based and birdwatching tourism are sustainable opportunities wich will contribute to the socio-economic growth of the region.

Tolima Ecosystems

Nevado del Ruiz view from the Tolima’s side

Tolima stands out among the most biodiverse destinations in the country. Its wide range of natural environments ranges from the snow-capped mountains of Tolima, Santa Isabel, Ruiz and Huila, to the dry and humid forests of the upper and middle basin of the Magdalena River. This allows the presence of a richness of bird species close to 800 species.

In the territory of Tolima, 22 endemic and 49 near-endemic species have been recorded. It is the winter habitat of 67 species of migratory birds.

On the other hand, 28 species of birds are threatened with extinction, and there is an urgency to preserve them.

Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

Tolima Birding Routes

Tropical Dry Forest

It is distributed in the lower areas of the upper basin of the Magdalena Valley, and has a diversity of habitats for birds such as forest fragments, scrublands, grasslands and wetlands.

Destinations: Venadillo, Armero Guayabal, Coello, Ibagué, Prado, Lérida, Alvarado, San Luis, Piedras, Honda, Melgar, and Mariquita.

Tropical Rainforest

These forests go up to 1,000 m in elevation and have species representative of the Magdalena Valley.

Destinations: Honda, Falan, Mariquita, and Fresno.

Montane Forests

They are the best represented ecosystem in Tolima and occupy 20% of the department’s surface. They are located on the Andean slopes of the central and eastern mountain ranges, between 1000 and 2000 m above sea level. These forests are the habitat of most of Tolima’s emblematic endemic bird species.

Destinations: Juntas, Cajamarca, Chaparral, Planadas, Líbano, San Antonio, Villarrica, Cunday, Casablanca, and Ibagué.

High Andean forests and Páramo

These are strategic high mountain ecosystems, located between 2500 – 4000 meters above sea level, bordering the beginning of the glaciers of the department’s snow-capped volcanoes.

Destinations: Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, Ibagué (Toche), and Roncesvalles.

Emblematic Birds of Tolima

Tolima Blossomcrown

Anthocephala berlepschi

Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi) visiting a Mermelada plant (Streptosolen jamesonii) at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Why it is important

This is an endemic hummingbird of Colombia. It distributes along the Colombia’s central Andes, and the eastern Andes, in the southern part of the country.

Where to find it

Ukuku Rural Lodge. Ukuku is a small rural ecolodge located in the beautiful Combeima River Canyon, in the municipality of Ibagué – Colombia.

It is a place surrounded by fauna and flora of the high Andean ecosystem. In fact, its name comes from a Quechua word meaning Spectacled Bear, a unique species of bear in the Andes.

This ecolodge reflects the life philosophy of its creators, a nice couple of biologists and mountaineers. They created a rural alternative for rest, adventure, relaxation and coexistence with nature.

The Tolima Blossomcrown visists their gardens every day in the mornig and in the afternoon. Their favorite plant is the Mermelada, Streptosolen jamesonii.

Yellow-headed Brushfinch

Atlapetes flaviceps 

Why it is important

This brushfinch is another endemic species of Colombia. It has a limited range of distrubution in the central and western Andes of Colombia.

Where to find it

In Tolima, you will find this bird when visiting the Combeima Canyon and the Ukuku Lodge, in the montane forests.

The Combeima Canyon is a buffer zone of Los Nevados National Park. It locates on the eastern side of the Central Andes between 1400 and 4200 meters above sea level.

The route to the Combeima Canyon is 18 km long from the Plaza de Bolivar, in the center of Ibagué, to the village of Juntas. The road runs along the banks of the Combeima River.

Rufous-fronted Parakeet

Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons

Why it is important

This is a parakeet you will find only at very high elevations in Colombia’s central Andes. And, as if that were not enough, it is also a very scarce and difficult bird to watch.

Where to find it

In Tolima, the Rufous-fronted Parakeet can be observed in Los Nevados National Park, going up through the municipality of Murillo towards the Nevado del Ruiz snow-capped mountain.

Murillo is the highest municipality in the department of Tolima with 3,000 meters above sea level. Because of its proximity, it is very easy to appreciate the Nevado del Ruiz.

Velvet-fronted Euphonia

Euphonia concinna

Why it is important

This is a bird endemic to the Tropical Dry Forest in the Magdalena Valley in central Colombia. It is found from around 200 to 1,000 meters above sea level.

It is a difficult bird to observe, as it is uncommon within its range. In addition, it is commonly mistaken for Orange-bellied Euphonia.

Where to find it

It is possible to observe the Velvet-fronted Euphonia in the municipalities of Tolima placed around the Tropical Dry Forest of the Magdalena Valley such as Venadillo, Armero Guayabal, Coello, Ibagué, Prado, Lérida, Alvarado, San Luis, Piedras, Honda, Melgar, and Mariquita.

There are other interseting birds that can be observed in the tropical dry forests of Tolima, such as:

  • Apical Flycatcher (Myiarchus apicalis)
  • Colombian Chachalaca (Ortalis columbiana)
  • Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia tolimae)
  • Agami Heron (Agamia agami)
  • Whistling Heron (Syrigma sibilatrix)
  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
  • Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus)
  • Red-Billed Esmerald (Chlorostilbon gibsoni)
  • Shining-green Hummingbird (Lepidopyga goudoti)

Brown-banded Antpitta

Grallaria milleri 

Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri

Why it is important

This is an antpitta restricted to cloud forest in Colombia’s central Andes. As many other antpittas, it spends most of the time on the forest floor, which makes it difficult to see.

If you like antpittas I recommend you to visit our entry 5 New Reasons to Come to Colombia to Watch Birds.

Where to find it

This bird is easy to see in the feeders of the Rio Blanco Ecological Reserve near Manizales. Yet, Tolima is working hard to become a destination to watch the Brown-banded Antpitta.

You can find it in the montane forests of Tolima, between 1000 to 2000 meters above sea level. Places with these kind of forests are: Cajamarca, Chaparral, Planadas, Líbano, San Antonio, Villarrica, Cunday, Casablanca, and Ibagué.

Other species you can find in the montane forests of Tolima are:

  • Tolima Dove (Leptotila conoveri)
  • Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi)
  • Indigo capped Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanifrons)
  • Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni)
  • Crecent-faced Antpitta (Grallaricula lineifrons)
  • Yellow-headed Manakin (Choloropipo flavicapilla)
  • Yellow-headed BrushFinch (Atlapetes flaviceps)
  • Dusky-headed Brush Finch (Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus)
  • Masked Saltator (Saltator cinctus)
  • Red-bellied Grackle (Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster)
  • Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)
  • Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius eximius)

Sooty Ant-Tanager

Habia gutturalis

Why it is important

This bird is also endemic to northwestern Colombia. Occurs in lowlands up to about 1,100 m. Typically seen in pairs or small groups in the forest understory, often near water.

Where to find it

It is found in the humid forests of Tolima. This life zone is represented in the municipalities of Mariquita, Honda, Fresno and Falan in the beginning of the middle Magdalena Valley. These forests protect a large percentage of the country’s biodiversity.

Other species you can find in the humid forests of Tolima are:

  • Parker’s ant bird (Cercomacra parkeri)
  • Beautiful woodpecker (Melanerpes pulcher)
  • Yelow-tufted Dacnis (Dacnis egregia)
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds  (Myrmeciza exsul)
  • White-mantled Barbet (Capito hypoleucus)
  • Sooty-headed Wren (Pheugopedius spadix)
  • Barred Puffbird (Nystalus radiatus)
  • Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratropipa erytrocephala)
  • White-bibbed Manakin (Corapipo leucorrhoa)

Indigo-winged Parrot

Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

Why it is important

This is a rare and endangered parrot restricted to high elevations in the central Andes of Colombia.

Where to find it

The Indigo-winged Parrot is difficult to watch, yet recently it has been observed in Santa Rosa de Cabal in Risaralda department. Find out more about Risarald in our entry Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle.

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the high andean forests, between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level, in the areas of Los Nevados and Las Hermosas National Parks, and Nevado del Huila, in the municipalities of Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, and Toche.

Yellow-eared Parrot

Ognorhynchus icterotis

Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis

Why it is important

This bird has lost much of its habitat, becoming confined to the small remnants of wax palm forests in Colombia. If you want to know more about the wax palm forests of Colombia visit our entries The Unique Wax Palm Forests Landscape Destinations in Colombia and The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

Where to find it

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the high andean forests, between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level, in the areas of Los Nevados and Las Hermosas National Parks, and Nevado del Huila, in the municipalities of Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, and Toche.

Wax Palm at Toche, Tolima

Roncesvalles was also a good place to watch this bird, but saddly this year one of the rangers Colombian conservationist of the area was killed. So, tourism is closed since then in this area. Know more about this story in the Audubon’s post Remembering Gonzalo Cardona, Protector of the Yellow-eared Parrot.

Buffy Helmetcrest

Oxypogon stuebelii

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii

Why it is important

This is an endemic bird of the paramos of the Central Andes of Colombia. It is one of the 17 species of hummingbirds unique to Colombia. Know them all in our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Where to find it

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the paramo Los Nevados.

Another species that can be seen in the paramos and high andean forests of Tolima are:

  • Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii)
  • Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum)
  • Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
  • Carunculated Caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus)
  • Black- Chested Buzzard – Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus)
  • Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori)
  • Andean Tit-Spinetail (Leptasthenura andicola)
  • Black-backed Bush Tanager (Urothraupis stolzmanni)

Tolima Dove

Leptotila conoveri

Tolima Dove – Leptotila conoveri

Why it is important

This is another unique species of the Andean cloud forest in the central Andes of Colombia. At the national and international level, it is listed as an Endangered species.

Where to find it

This bird is easy to see in the gardens of Ukuku Lodge, near to the Combeyma Canyon.

Now that you know about the wonderful birds of Tolima, you understand that this is an unmissable destination on your birding trip to Colombia, especially if you want to record some of the endemic species of our country.

Find more information about Tolima nature destinations in our entry Tolima, a Little Known Destination in Colombia with a Lot to Offer!

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia, visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!

References
  • Tolima Regional Autonomous Corporation – cortolima.gov.co
  • Anthocephala, Ornithology Association of Tolima.
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.

Tolima, a Little Known Destination in Colombia with a Lot to Offer!

Tolima is a department in Colombia where music is its distinctive expression… until now. In recent times, nature tourism has drawn the attention as a new attraction.

Birdwatching and nature tourism are new there, and emerged after the signing of the peace process. With it, people began to see bird watching and nature tourism as an economic opportunity.

Where is Tolima?

Tolima is located in the center-west of Colombia, in the Andean region. Its capital city is Ibagué, and it locates on the eastern flank of the Central Andes, in the center of the department. It is known as the Musical Capital of Colombia.

Tolima department borders to the north with Caldas, to the east with Cundinamarca, to the south with Huila and to the west with Valle del Cauca, Quindío and Risaralda departments.

So, if you are in the coffee region, or in Bogota or Cali, it will be very easy for you to visit this region by car, or by plane.

Perales National Airport is located in the east of the city of Ibagué and is the main airport in Tolima. It is in the process of becoming an international airport.

Rare food alert: One of the most famous meals in Colombia is the lechona. The lechona borned in Tolima. This is a dish based on pork meat, stuffed with peas and rice, and mixed inside the pork itself.

Lechona dish served in a Bijao leaf, with lemon and arepa.

It is baked in the oven, leaving the pork skin browned and toasted. It is served with a portion of the skin, in a Bijao leaf, previously passed through the fire, as a plate. This leaf is similar to the banana leaf, but it is not edible.

What does it mean Tolima?

The are several stories about the name Tolima. One of them tells that the word comes from the Panche term tolima, tulima or dulima, which means river of snow or cloud.

Another story refers to an indigenous woman called Tulima, or Yulima. Yulima was an indigenous queen and priestess who protected a religious sanctuary. This place was very rich in gold deposits, near Machín Volcano and Nevado del Tolima.

The Spaniards assaulted her and took her as a prisoner. They led her in chains to Ibagué, in whose main square the conquerors burned her alive.

While she was dying she received blessings from Father Cobos to help her soul elevates to heaven. The department preserved her legendary name as a perennial tribute to her martyrdom.

Tolima as a Nature Destination

Tolima covers an area of 149,800 hectares. It extends from the upper Magdalena valley in the east to the Tolima snow-capped mountain in the northwest.

Thus, the department of Tolima has a huge variety of ecosystems and life zones. There you will find tropical dry forests at 2800 meters above sea level, to the paramo life zone, at approximately 5280 meters above sea level.

Machín Volcano, Toche, Tolima, COlombia

This broad altitudinal variation arises into a great variety of climates and topographic aspects. This variation, in turn, results in a high number of habitats for a wide diversity of species, birds among them.

Additionally, the mountainous landscapes of Tolima makes it a very good region to visit for hiking.

Los Nevados Natural National Park in Tolima.

Also, the Magdalena River, the most important river of Colombia, crosses Tolima from south to north enriching the landscape. The city of Honda was one of its main ports in the colonial past (watch the video below).

The natural wealth of Tolima has allowed the development of several important tourist activities. Furthermore, several national natural parks belong to the department of Tolima and are reserves of water, flora and fauna: Los Nevados National Natural Park, Las Hermosas National Natural Park, and Nevado del Huila National Natural Park.

Aquatic Tourism

There are several aquatic parks in the lowland areas of Tolima you can visit with your family.  Also, you can do rafting on the Sumapaz river in Melgar, Carmen de Apicalá, Coello, Flandes and Suárez.

 

In the north, at Mariquita, Honda, Ambalema and Falan towns, you can combine historical colonial tourism with water parks.

Sport Fishing and Water Sports

To the south is the Prado reservoir focused on sport fishing and water sports. This region also has a lot of indigenous history. There you will find Amerindian expressions in ceramics made by the Pijao communities.

Prado reservoir, Tolima, Colombia

The area also has incredible landscapes such as the Pacandé Mountain and the northern side of the Tatacoa Desert.

Hiking and Trekking

In the center of the department, Ibagué, Murillo and Líbano towns are close to Los Nevados National Park. There, mountaineering is the main attraction.

Snow-capped mountain of Tolima

Check our tour to Nevado del Tolima here.

Birdwatching in Tolima

More and more people is discovering the biodiversity of birdlife in Tolima. Today, Tolima is 14 in the eBird’ species list of departments of Colombia, with 809 bird species reported.

Besides this, it is 8th in the Top 10 departments with more checklists, with around 14300.

5th Tolima Bird Festival – La Rivera Route ©Cortolima

In Tolima, a Bird Festival is also held every year. The most recent version was in 2019, being the fifth one. This festival features cultural and academic activities, as well as bird watching tours.

Tolima Birdwatching Routes

Private and public entities work together to protect and conserve the birds biodiversity of Tolima. Thus, since 2018, the Chamber of Commerce, the Ornithological Association Anthocephala, and Cortolima developed a total of 33 birdwatching routes in Tolima.

13 of these birding routes are near to Ibagué and the Río Viejo wetland in San Luis.

The main routes established in Tolima include:

  • Toche Canyon,
  • Combeima Canyon,
  • The northern route (Honda, Mariquita, Fresno and Falán),
  • Las Hermosas in Chaparral,
  • San Antonio,
  • Planadas,
  • Galilea forest,
  • Murillo – Armero route,
  • Roncesvalles,
  • Falán – Mariquita,
  • Clarita Botero en Ibagué
  • “Raúl Echeverry” Botanical Garden in Líbano, and
  • San Jorge Botanical Garden, among others.

One of the most important routes that you should not miss is the Toche Canyon Route. The Toche Canyon locates between the cities of Cajamarca and Ibagué.

Wax Palm at Toche, Tolima

There there are ten species of parrots, among them the Indigo-winged Parrot, the Yellow-eared Parrot and the Golden-plumed Parakeet. These species live in the ecosystem offered by the most conserved forest of wax palm in the country.

Top Birds of Tolima

Here’s a taste of what’s to come in a future post. The most representative bird species in Tolima are:

  1. Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi 
  2. Tolima Dove – Leptotila conoveri
  3. Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi
  4. Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis
  5. Velvet-fronted Euphonia – Euphonia concinna
  6. Crested Ant-Tanager – Habia cristata
  7. Yellow-headed Brushfinch – Atlapetes flaviceps
  8. Rufous-fronted Parakeet – Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons
  9. Indigo-capped Hummingbird – Amazilia cyanifrons
  10. Apical Flycatcher – Myiarchus apicalis
  11. Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri
  12. Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii
Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Find the Tolima birding routes and highlights in our entry Tolima Birding Routes: from the Andean Snows to the Magdalena Valley.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Tolima! In future posts we will tell you how we did during our visit.

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia, visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

If you want to know more about the most incredible natural destinations in Colombia, plan your trip with us!

References
  • Tolima Regional Autonomous Corporation – cortolima.gov.co
  • Anthocephala, Ornithology Association of Tolima.
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.

5 New Reasons to Come to Colombia to Watch Birds

Colombia has 4 new bird species to add to its already large list. This is great news not only to encourage you to come to Colombia, but to visit the Neotropics for bird watching! Update your records, notebooks, and wishlists with the new Colombian Antpittas!

What is an Antpitta?

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri)

Antpittas are walker, vocal, small, round, stubby, long-legged, pale and grayish birds that live in the rainforests of the Andes. They look more like an egg with legs (and feathers)… This is a very particular group of species, and they are known as the ghosts of the forest, since you can hear them loud and clear, even feel that they are singing at your feet, but you can hardly ever see them.

As they are birds that move around on the forest floor looking for worms, their favourite food, they have plumages that are very difficult to differentiate from fallen leaves and trunks. Despite this, they are very docile animals that can be easily conditioned to visit “artificial” feeding grounds. However, a lot of commitment and punctuality is needed, as these birds are very regular in their daily journeys and always arrive at the same time to the visiting points.

So much so that when you go on a birding tour that includes a visit to a place with specialized feeding grounds for Grallarias, you have to be the most punctual in life! Because if you miss it, the bird doesn’t come back until the next day. And on these tours there is no next day in the same place, unless you want to. It is usual to see birders settling in up to an hour before the Grallarias cross the feeding points, making sure to have all their equipment ready for when the bird appears.

First it announces itself with its song, then it appears like a ballerina on stage, jumping through the foliage, until it reaches the point where its food has been placed. Sometimes, if there is a lot of noise, it appears in the biggest of silences, eats its worm and leaves without being noticed.

How many Colombian Antpittas are?

So far in Colombia, up to 27 species have been recorded within the family Grallariidae, with 4 endemic species and 16 endemic subspecies. But all that changed in July 2020, when two studies on the taxonomy and phylogenetic diversity of the Grallaria rufula complex changed everything (to the regret of many birders, once again the scientists messing things up!)

The Grallaria rufula blakei complex

The Grallaria rufula blakei complex was considered to consist of 2 species and 7 subspecies distributed from southern Peru to the Colombian Caribbean: the Rufous Antpitta, Grallaria rufula (Lafresnaye, 1843), and the Chestnut Antpitta, Grallaria blakei (Graves, 1987).

Plumage in the G. rufula blakei complex contributed heavily to the traditional classification and description of species and subspecies. Among plumage characteristics, the only characters that show appreciable variation are (1) color of the back, head, and breast, which ranges from olive-gray brown; (2) color or patterning of the belly, including the extent of white coloration; (3) in some cases a contrasting light feather tips and the presence of indistinct barring on the lower and (4) presence or absence of a dull whitish eye-ring.

New Discoverings

Studies on genetics and vocalization led to split this Grallaria rufula complex from two, G. rufula (Rufous Antpitta) and G. blakei (Chestnut Antpitta), to sixteen established species distributed along the Andean Mountain Range from southern Peru to the Colombian Caribbean. Seven of them had no name! Leaving Peru with 10 new species, 8 of which are endemic, and Colombia with 5 species, of which 4 are new species and two of them are endemic!

Approximate geographic ranges of all taxa in the Rufula-rufocinerea-blakei Complex as a reference to update your records, notebooks, and wishlists. From the two sister papers: Isler et al. Zootaxa 2020; Chesser et al. Auk 2020 @amcuervo

So, now Colombia has 32 species within the family Grallariidae, with 7 endemic species and 12 endemic subspecies, and more are coming!

Five New Reasons to come to Colombia!

The Rufous Antpitta was distributed throughout the three Andean mountain ranges of Colombia and in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía del Perijá. With this study, it was found that practically every population in each mountain range and mountain system corresponded to a different species for the Colombian Antpittas group:

Maps with the approximate geographic ranges of the new Colombian Antpittas. From the two sister papers: Isler et al. Zootaxa 2020; Chesser et al. Auk 2020 @amcuervo

1. Perijá Antpitta – G. saltuensis.

481Perijá Antpitta – Grallaria saltuensis. Photo by @amcuervo

Almost endemic species which is only found in the Departments of La Guajira and Cesar in Colombia, and Zulia in Venezuela. It is found between 2500 and 3250 masl.

  • Where to find it? This species can be found in the sector of Manaure Balcón del Cesar, in the department of Cesar, in the Serranía del Perijá (watch our video). There are several places where you can stay there: Centro Turístico y Ecológico Villa Adelaida, in the lower part of the Serranía, or in the Perijá Thistletail natural bird reserve, towards the higher part.

2. Sierra Nevada Antpitta – G. spatiator

Sierra Nevada Antpitta – Grallaria Spatiator. Picture by @amcuervo

Endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Magdalena, La Guajira and Cesar Departments of Colombia. It is found between 2200 and 2900 masl.

  • Where to find it? After the town of Minca, in Magdalena, arriving to the sector of the San Lorenzo Ridge. There are several lodging options in the region including a coffee farm Vista de Nieve, the nature reserve El Dorado, and even rural lodging closest to the San Lorenzo Ridge.

3. Muisca Antpitta – G. rufula

Muisca Antpitta – Grallaria rufula. Picture by @amcuervo

It is endemic to the Eastern Cordillera and with a distribution almost parallel to that of the indigenous people of the Muiscas. Its new english name honors this indigenous people of the Cundinamarca-Boyacá highlands.  It is found between 1850 and 3800 masl.

  • Where to find it? In Colombia it distributes from the Eastern Andes in Norte de Santander, and south to Cundinamarca and western Meta. This species can be found very close to Bogotá, in the national natural park Chingaza. And very probably in the surroundings of Bogotá in private Nature Reserves like El Encenillo.

4. Equatorial Antpitta – G. saturata

Equatorial Antpitta – Grallaria saturata. Picture by @amcuervo

Subspecies resurrected and elevated to species. It includes the population of the Iguaque Massif in Boyacá and the Central Cordillera from Caldas, through Ecuador, to northern Peru. It is found between 2550 to 3650 masl.

  • Where to find it? In Colombia you can find this species at the Coffee Axes. You can find it on the Jardín-Riosucio road, or on the road to the Nevado del Ruiz in Caldas. You have many lodging options in these regions, in addition to a large number of other bird species that you can observe there.  There is a very special place, where spaces have been adapted for the photography of this bird. It is called Hacienda el Bosque, a dairy farm that has also bet on conservation through ecotourism, just 30 minutes from the city of Manizales. The grallaria that arrives at its feeders is called Juliana.

5. Chamí Antpitta – G. alvarezi

Chamí Antpitta – Grallaria alvarezi Cuervo, Cadena, Isler & ChesserPicture by Eddie Williams @Eddiewilliams09 @amcuervo

It is the new endemic to the Western Cordillera of Colombia, from Paramillo, northwestern Antioquia, south to northwestern Cauca. It is distributed between 2350 to 3650 m.

  • Where to find it? It is distributed from Paramillo Natural National Park, through Urrao, Jardín-Riosucio road, and Tatamá, Farallones de Cali and Munchique Natural National Parks, in Risaralda, Valle del Cauca and Cauca respectively. You have many lodging options in these regions, in addition to a large number of other bird species that you can observe there. There is a very nice rural tourism initiative for bird watching in the town of Riosucio, department of Caldas, where you can observe these birds, it is called Bird Watching Mirador El Roble. There, some farmers installed feeders and receive an infinity of birds, including the Chamí Antpitta. Contact us if you want to know the details.

The Importance of Species Names

The Chamí Antpitta had no name, and the scientists took the opportunity to honor two very important people. The scientific name of the Chamí Antpitta honors Colombian ornithologist Mauricio Alvarez Rebolledo, leader of many biological expeditions during Colombia’s worst period of political instability in the 1990s and early 2000s. His role has been very important in the areas of conservation and education. Mauricio Alvarez pioneered bird song recording in the country and founded the Environmental Sounds Collection at the Alexander Von Humboldt Institute.

The english name, Chamí Antpitta, was also given to honor “the people of the mountains”, the indigenous community of the Emberá-Chamí that inhabits the foothills of the northwestern Andes in Colombia. Chamí means “mountain” in the Emberá language.

Ornithologist Andres Cuervo, one of the authors of the study, said that the English name assigned to these species (Muisca and Chamí) is intended to appropriate the species in the country. Also to associate them directly with its geographical location and with the cultural context of the region where they are distributed. It is very special that these indigenous communities still exist in Colombia and it is also important to recognize them in academic and tourism spaces.

Current list of endemic and near-endemic Colombian Antpittas

Endemic species of Colombian Antpittas

  1. Santa Marta Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria bangsi
  2. Cundinamarca Antpitta (Eastern Andes) Grallaria kaestneri
  3. Sierra Nevada Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria spatiator
  4. Muisca Antpitta (Eastern Andes)  Grallaria rufula
  5. Chamí Antpitta (Western Andes)  Grallaria alvarezi
  6. Urrao Antpitta (Western Andes) Grallaria urraoensis
  7. Brown-banded Antpitta (Central Andes) Grallaria milleri 

Endemic subspecies of Colombian Antpittas

  1. Ruffous-crowned Antpitta (Pacific Region) Pittasoma rufopileatum rosenbergi  Pittasoma rufopileatum harterti
  2. Giant Antpitta (Southern Central Andes) Grallaria gigantea lehmanni
  3. Moustached Antpitta (Western and Central Andes) Grallaria alleni alleni 
  4. Bicolored Antpitta (Central Andes) Grallaria rufocinerea rufocinerea
  5. Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Colombian Andes) Grallaria nuchalis ruficeps
  6. White-bellied Antpitta (Central and Eastern Andes) Grallaria hypoleuca hypoleuca
  7. Streak-chested Antpitta (Northern Andes) Hylopezus perspicillatus pallidior
  8. White-lored Antpitta (South Colombia Andes – Amazon foothills) Hylopezus fulviventris caquetae
  9. Thrush-like Antpitta (Eastern Andes and Serranía de la Macarena Foothills) Myrmothera campanisona modesta
  10. Ochre-breasted Antpitta (Western Andes west side and Northern Central Andes) Grallaricula flavirostris ochraceiventris
  11. Hooded Antpitta (Colombian Andes) Grallaricula cucullata cucullata
  12. Slate-crowned Antpitta (Eastern Andes) Grallaricula nana nana Grallaricula nana hallsi

Now, all that remains is to focus on getting to know these new species in depth, and developing effective conservation strategies for their habitats. There are rumors that there may be more splits and new species in this group. So we have to be prepared!

Nature tourism, once again, appears as a way to keep these species alive, which paradoxically are found in areas that require a high commitment to conservation. So don’t wait and come to Colombia to meet these Andean forest singers! 

References

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.

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.

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.

The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation

Colombia Birdwatching guide! All about birding in Colombia.

Bird watching in Colombia is considered one of the priority products in peacebuilding, especially because of the possibility of generating more employment opportunities in the territories that were affected by the armed conflict and that are abundant in flora and fauna. With 20% of bird species in the world, the advantages that Colombia offers in the birdwatching segment are incredible.

1. Best spots for birdwatching in Colombia

1.1. Andean Region

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

This is a very special place for bird watching in the department of Caldas, and it has become one of the top destinations for photography in Colombia.

Tinamú Birding Located in the village of San Peregrino, the reserve is composed of a 15-ha fragment of dry forest at 1,225 m a.s.l. (4019 FAMSL). It is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and a variety of ancient plants and trees.

To share this natural wealth, facilities have been adapted for bird-seekers, ornithologists, and bird and nature lovers from around the world to provide unforgettable experiences.

The area is well known throughout the country for its high-class bird product and surreal opportunities for photography, research, and good old-fashioned bird watching.

Tatamá National Natural Park and Montezuma road

Tatamá National Park is situated on the borders of the department of Chocó, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca along the western Colombian Andean mountain range. Currently, the park is closed to public, but it can be accessed by following the road connecting the Montezuma Lodge and a military base at the top of the Montezuma Mountain.

Montezuma is an area of confluence between the Biogeographic Pacific and the Coffee Axis. The area houses a rich array of ecosystems, including the Andean Forest, the High Andean Forest, and the Paramos that are all extremely well preserved.

This ideal geographical location and its status as a protected area have transformed Tatamá Natural Park into a natural refuge in Colombia for a large variety of plant and animal species. Many of Colombia’s endemic and near-endemic species are found here.

Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Otún Quimbaya Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is an important ecotourism destination in Colombia. Found in the coffee region at the upper basin of the Otún river in the department of Risaralda, the area houses some incredible flora, most notable of which are its trees.

Here you can find the Cauca guan (Penelope perspicax), Mustached antpitta (Grallaria alleni), Chestnut wood Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus), Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii), Wattled Guan (Aburria aburri), Multicolored tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus). This wide variety attracts a rich array of birds and other fauna to observe.

Río Blanco Reserve and Quebrada Olivares

Located along the Central Andean Mountain range in the department of Caldas, the Protective Forest Reserve of Río Blanco and Quebrada Olivares has one of the highest rates of biodiversity in Colombia.

This place is known for its photography facilities primarily focused on antpittas, tanagers and hummingbirds.

Jardín, Antioquia

Jardín is a beautiful patrimonial town in the department of Antioquia. The town is surrounded by Paramos so that it is also surrounded by pristine cloud forests. During your visit, you can stop by the Jardín de Rocas Natural Park, which is a Natural Park dedicated to the conservation, research and sighting of the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus).

There is also the road Jardin – Riosucio, where the altitudinal variation lets you enjoy birds from different thermal floors. The Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve is on this road, all of which makes this area one of Colombia’s top 10 bird destinations.

1.2. Caribbean Region

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Sierra Nevada contains a high concentration of endemic species in Colombia, making it a must visit place for birders in Colombia. One of the main attractions is the ability to observe on different thermal floors since altitude variation ranges from zero to 5,700 meters above sea level (18700 FAMSL).

Serranía del Perijá

Serranía del Perijá is located in the department of Valledupar, which shares a border with Venezuela. The area has acquired a significant biological importance for the country and humanity, as there are high rates of endemism along with other important natural sites.

Here you can find birds like the Perijá Metaltail (Metallura iracunda), Perijá Thistletail (Asthenes perijana), Perijá Brushfinch (Arremon perijanus) and the newly described Perijá Tapaculo (Scytalopus perijanus). The area also includes the Balcón del Cesar where you can find birds in mid-level altitudes.

La Guajira

Birding in La Guajira is relatively easy since most of the species of interest can be easily found during a long morning session. The region consists of a well conserved dry forest ecosystem inside the indigenous territory of the Wayuu tribe.

The birding session begins in Camarones downtown area, where you will find the Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) followed by a trip to the surrounding indigenous villages in the dry forest. These areas house endemic, almost endemic and restricted habitat bird specialties.

The flag species is the Cardinal Guajiro or Vermilio Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus). The session concludes with a birding tour in lagunar and the surrounding coastal ecosystems, where the flagship species is the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).

Camarones

At the center of this little town, you can find the Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) and the Trinidad Euphonia (Euphonia trinitatis).

Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Very close to Riohacha and Camarones lies this national sanctuary devoted to the preservation of the Caribbean dry forest and marshes that contain over 250 bird species. This area is specialized in the conservation of migratory and threatened birds, such as the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber).

The area also protects the other typical species, including the Vermilion cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus), Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) and Anteado Hummingbird (Leucippus falax), found in the dry ecosystems of La Guajira.

1.3. Pacific Region

Old way to Buenaventura: Anchicayá

This is another hotspot for birdwatching in Colombia. Situated in the department of Valle del Cauca, Buenaventura is surrounded by forests that house both Andean and Pacific fauna.

Housing over 350 species of birds, the rich geography of Buenaventura makes it an ideal spot for any avid birdwatcher. The old road leading to Buenaventura is named after the river seen at the end of this great canyon that follows the road.

La Planada Natural Reserve – Nariño

La Planada Natural Reserve is managed by the AWÁ indigenous community who form part of the Indigenous town council of Pialapí Pueblo Viejo. It is located on the Pacific slope of the western mountain range in the department of Nariño and conserves about 3,200 ha of cloud and rainforest.

The altitude varies anywhere between 200 and 2,100 meters above sea level (3930 to 6890 FAMSL), and the region receives upwards of 4,800 mm of precipitation per year.

Endemic species of fauna and flora are protected, among which includes a large variety of orchids, 243 species of birds and the only bear of South America: The Spectacled Bear.

Río Ñambí Reserve – Nariño

Río Ñambí reserve is located on the Pacific slope of the “Knot of the Pastos”, better known as the “Massif of Huaca”, in the Andean mountain range. The area forms part of the department of Nariño and sits along a road that leads to the Pacific sea from the city of Pasto.

It has 1,400 ha of a well preserved rainforests that receive 7000 mm of precipitation per year. The altitude ranges from 1100 to 1900 meters above sea level (3600 to 6230 FAMSL) and houses a large variety of flora and fauna.

There are approximately 350 species of birds, including 31 species of hummingbirds and a recently discovered species, The Chocó Vireo (Vireo masteri). The reserve is also a refuge for a variety of orchids and butterflies in Colombia.

Lodging is still very basic and the area is only accessible through a 3 km trail in the forest. The community has improved the trail with birding facilities for photography and birdwatching.

1.4. Orinoquia Region

Mururito Farm Hotel Natural Reserve

The Mururito Farm Hotel is an ecological lodge & natural reserve of sits in the Department of Meta, which is located in the Colombian plains about 1h30m from Puerto Gaitán. The reserve spans 2,000 ha along the Manacacías River.

There is a variety of scenic views showing off the region’s rich natural diversity. From the pristine forests and creeks to the well maintained estuaries, marshes, lagoons, savannas and hills, the region houses an incredible array of flora, birds, mammals and reptiles that cannot be missed!

El Encanto de Guanapalo – Altagracia – Casanare

El Encanto de Guanapalo is a natural reserve in Colombia consisting of almost 9 thousand ha located 110 km from Yopal. Since 1908 the owners have worked to  conserve the area, which supports the Llanera tradition and culture in Casanare Colombia.

Today, Hato Mata de Palma, Hato Altamira and Hato Montana make up the El Encanto de Guanapalo. Here, you can find beautiful floodplains and gallery forests of the Colombian eastern plains, enjoy regional food, and participate in unforgettable experiences of adventure and tradition, such as the Llanero Safari.

1.5. Amazon Region

Mitu

Mitú is the capital of the department of Vaupés in the Amazon region of Colombia so that it shares a border with Brazil. Mitu is the closest and thus easiest city to enter the Amazon Forest in Colombia.

Here, you will find White-sand forest, Terra firme and Várzea. Birding trails are located inside of indigenous communities that provide guidance and food.

In recent years, tourism has become a way to make a living as well as maintain the preservation of these ecosystems.

Isla Escondida Natural Reserve – Putumayo

The reserve is located in the department of Putumayo, Colombia – not far from the border with Ecuador. The reserve consists of106 ha of mainly primary forests nestled between the Andes and the Amazon at an altitude of 850 meters above sea level (2790 FAMSL).

The area houses typical species to both the Andean and Amazon regions, which is why it comes so highly recommended for birders. In comparison to other regions, however, the area is less developed and difficult to access. The area still offers relatively good lodging services though.

Proaves’ Bird Nature Reserves and Lodges

Proaves is an NGO that working to conserve the natural ecosystems and birds of Colombia through research, monitoring, communication, education and the establishment of nature reserves around the country.

Proaves has the largest private reserve system in Colombia oriented towards the protection of endangered bird species. The system is composed by 23 reserves, each one named after the bird they are meant to protect.

It is possible to visit the reserves, but only 35% of them are equipped with bird lodges and other accommodation services. Moreover, transportation on a 4×4 is required to access any of the reserves. The more secluded the reserve is, the higher the transportation and accommodation costs.

El Dorado Bird Nature Reserve 

Located in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, it is one of the best bird ecolodges in Colombia. Find out more below.

Tangaras Bird Reserve

Tangaras Bird Reserve protect the Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) and  the Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys). The reserve is located in Carmen de Atrato, near a variety of Afro-Colombian and indigenous community reserves in the department of Chocó.

Blue-billed Curassow Bird Reserve

Blue-billed Curassow Bird Reserve is located in the Sierra de las Quinchas, between the towns of Puerto Boyacá, Bolívar and Cimitarra. The reserve lies in the departments of Boyacá and Santander, respectively.

Chestnut-capped Piha Bird Reserve

This reserve is located in El Roble in the department of Antioquia.

Chamicero del Perijá Nature Reserve

Chamicero del Perjá is located in the villages of El Cinco and Altos de Perijá in the municipality of Manaure and the department of Cesar. The main attractions are the Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Brush-finch, and Perijá Antpitta.

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve

Located on the western slope of the Colombian Eastern mountain range in the town of San Vicente de Chucuri and the department of Santander, Cerulean Warbler Bird reserve is near the Serranía de los Yariguíes.

2. Interesting Birding Points in Colombia

Here you can find information about places of ornithological interest or value in Colombia.

2.1. Areas with high bird diversity in Colombia

The richness of birds in Colombia has attracted attention of scientists, travelers and ornithology enthusiasts around the world.

Colombia’s more than 1900 species represent about 20% of all species in the world and 60% of those identified in South America, all of which has made Colombia one of the most important places in terms of biodiversity.

Here is a list of the top ten sites for birdwatching in Colombia, based on species diversity.

Place Bird species* Location
Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve 544 San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander
National Natural Park Tatamá and Cerro Montezuma 534 Pueblo Rico, Risaralda
Chestnut-capped Piha Bird Reserve 519 Anorí, Antioquia
Río Claro Canyon Natural Reserve 517 San Francisco, Antioquia
Fauna and Flora Sanctuary Otún Quimbaya 480 Vereda La Suiza, Risaralda
Old road to Buenaventura 478 Dagua, Valle del Cauca
Tangaras Bird Reserve 461 El Carmen de Atrato, Chocó
Río Blanco Ecological Reserve 455 Manizales, Caldas
Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve 443 Jardín, Antioquia
La Isla Escondida Reserve 433 Orito, Putumayo

Of course, this is just a top ten list, but there are more than 100 places in Colombia with more than 300 bird species to observe!

You can also explore the county by departments. Here are the top 10 departments with most bird species in Colombia:

Department Bird species* Region
Cauca 1167 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Antioquia 1052 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Meta 1047 Orinoquia and Andean Region.
Valle del Cauca 1026 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Nariño 995 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Putumayo 992 Amazon Region
Chocó 953 Pacific Region
Cundinamarca 918 Andean Region
Boyacá 909 Andean Region
Risaralda 894 Andean and Pacific Regions.

2.2. Areas with high bird endemism in Colombia

The endemic areas of Colombia are classified by their geographical position as follows:

Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela

Reaching altitudes of up to 1000m, this is a region characterized by a wide variety of ecosystems, including deserts (including cactus scrub), thorn scrubs, dry forests (deciduous and evergreen), riparian associations and mangroves (Sugden 1982, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993).

Here, you can find the following endemic species: Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Lepidopyga lilliae) CR, Chestnut Piculet (Picumnus cinnamomeus) LC, Black-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus melanonotus) LC, White-whiskered Spinetail (Synallaxis candei) LC, Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) LC, Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus) LC.

The region houses important birding areas like Tayrona National Park, Salamanca Island and Ciénaga Grande and Los Besotes EcoPark (first IBA of Colombia).

Central Andean paramo

The altitude of this region ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 m and supports humid elfin forest, Polylepis woodland and scrub, páramo scrub and grassland ecosystems. It is possible to visit important birding areas like Los Nevados National Park, Toche Water Basin and Puracé National Park.

The most remarkable birds of this regions are the Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stubelii)Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) and the Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii).

Chocó

This area is a pluvial forest with one of the world’s richest biotas. Here, you can visit places like the old road to Buenaventura, National Parks Ensenada de Utría and Tatamá, Yotoco Forest Reserve, Alto Calima, Reserva Natural Río Ñambí and La Planada Natural Reserve.

Colombian Eastern Andes

Here, it is possible to find a variety of habitats, ranging from upper tropical to temperate and páramo zones.

These habitats house species like the Bogotá Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus), Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari), Bronze-tailed Thornbill (Chalcostigma heteropogon), Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii), Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis andina), Spot-flanked Gallinule (Gallinula melanops bogotensis), Bearded Tachuri (Polystictus pectoralis bogotensis) and Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus).

There are also important IBAs like the Chingaza National Natural Park and surround, Wetlands of the Sabana de Bogotá, El Cocuy National Natural Park, Guatiquía River Canyon, Western Hills of Tabio and Tenjo.

Colombian inter-Andean slopes

The region houses subtropical evergreen forests of the Andean foothills at a altitudes ranging between 1,000-2,500 m.

The important birding areas present is this region are:

  1. Jardín, Antioquia.
  2. Yotoco Forest Reserve, Valle del Cauca.
  3. Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas. 
  4. the East Risaralda Forests, Barbas – Bremen basin, Quindío.
  5. Combeima River canyon, Tolima.
  6. Toche River Canyon, Tolima.
  7. aPuracé National Park, Cauca.
  8. Meremberg Natural Reserve, Huila.
  9. Cueva de los Guácharos National Park, Huila.
  10. Chicoral, Valle del Cauca.

This where you will find many endemic birds like the Tolima Dove (Leptotila conoveri), the Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi) and the critically endangered Yellow eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis).

Colombian inter-Andean Valleys

The valleys, which ranges anywhere from 200-1,700 m above sea-level, are made up of open woodlands, dry forests and arid scrub. A majority of the area has been converted for agricultural use, which has significantly reduced the presence of naturally occurring vegetation.

Here, you can find the White-chested Swift (Cypseloides lemosi), Greyish Piculet (Picumnus granadensis), Apical Flycatcher (Myiarchus apicalis) and the Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna).

The notable birding areas are the Reserva Natural Laguna de Sonso, Reserva Forestal Yotoco, Oriente de Risaralda, Tolima and Cundinamarca.

Macarena Mountains

This is an isolated mountain range located in the Meta department of Colombia. The national park is situated at the meeting point between the Amazon, Orinoco and Andes regions. The area contains rainforests, dry forests, shrublands and savanna ecosystems.

Conservationists have identified the Macarena Mountains as a key area for the preservation of the threatened Spot-winged Parrotlet (Touit stictoptera) and the Speckled Rail (Coturnicops notatus).

Orinoco-Negro white-sand forest

The forest is located in the departments of Guainía, Guaviare and Vaupés in the south-east of Colombia. The endemic birding areas lie within the Inírida Basin, El Tuparro and Chiribiquete National Parks, Bojonawi, and Estrella Fluvial Inírida.

Providence and San Andrés Islands

Here, you can find the Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris), San Andres Vireo (Vireo caribaeus) and Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx).

Santa Marta Mountains

This is an isolated mountain range separated from the Andes chain. Here, you can find several forested habitats depending on the altitude, which reaches up to 5,700 m.

There you can watch birds sucha as the Santa Marta Blossomcrown (Anthocephala floriceps), Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), Santa Marta Woodstar (Chaetocercus astreans), White-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus), Santa Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata), Santa Marta Antpitta (Grallaria bangsi), Santa Marta Tapaculo (Scytalopus sanctaemartae), Brown-rumped Tapaculo (Scytalopus latebricola), Streak-capped Spinetail (Cranioleuca hellmayri), Rusty-headed Spinetail (Synallaxis fuscorufa), Santa Marta Bush-tyrant (Myiotheretes pernix), Santa Marta Wren (Troglodytes monticola), Santa Marta Brush-finch (Atlapetes melanocephalus) LC, Santa Marta Warbler (Myiothlypis basilica), White-lored Warbler (Myiothlypis conspicillata), Yellow-crowned Whitestart (Myioborus flavivertex), Rufous-browed Conebill (Conirostrum rufum) and Santa Marta Mountain-tanager (Anisognathus melanogenys).

There are some other regions with high endemisms, like Darién, Sierra de Chiribiquete, Tumaco and Bocagrande Islands, and the Upper Amazon-Napo lowlands; however, these areas are not accessible to tourists.

2.3. Endemic birds of Colombia and where to find them

Endemic birds of Colombia (by families)

Endemic Cracids of Colombia

Penelope perspicaxOrtalis garrula Ortalis ColumbianaCrax alberti 

Endemic Quails of Colombia

Odontophorus hyperythrusOdontophorus strophium 

Endemic grebes of Colombia

Podiceps andinus Already extinct

Endemic Pigeons of Colombia

Leptotila conoveri 

Endemic Hummingbirds of Colombia

Anthocephala floriceps,  Anthocephala berlepschiRamphomicron dorsaleOxypogon stuebeliiOxypogon cyanolaemusOxypogon guerinii , Eriocnemis isabellae,  Eriocnemis mirabilisCoeligena prunelleiCoeligena phalerataCoeligena orinaChaetocercus astreansChlorostilbon olivaresiCampylopterus phainopeplusAmazilia castaneiventrisAmazilia cyanifronsLepidopyga liliae

Endemic Rails of Colombia

Rallus semiplumbeus 

Endemic Owls of Colombia

Megascops gilesi

Endemic Puffbirds of Colombia

Bucco noanamae 

Endemic Barbets of Colombia

Capito hypoleucus

Endemic Woodpeckers of Colombia

Picumnus granadensisMelanerpes pulcher 

Endemic Parrots of Colombia

Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons Hapalopsittaca fuertesi , Pyrrhura viridicata , Pyrrhura calliptera 

Endemic Antbirds of Colombia

Drymophila hellmayri , Drymophila caudata , Cercomacroides parkeri 

Endemic Antpittas of Colombia
  1. Santa Marta Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria bangsi
  2. Cundinamarca Antpitta (Eastern Andes) Grallaria kaestneri
  3. Sierra Nevada Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria spatiator
  4. Muisca Antpitta (Eastern Andes)  Grallaria rufula
  5. Chamí Antpitta (Western Andes)   Grallaria alvarezi
  6. Urrao Antpitta (Western Andes) Grallaria urraoensis
  7. Brown-banded Antpitta (Central Andes) Grallaria milleri
Endemic Tapaculos of Colombia

Scytalopus sanctaemartaeScytalopus rodrigueziScytalopus alvarezlopeziScytalopus stilesi Scytalopus latebricola Scytalopus canus

Endemic Foliage gleaners of Colombia

Clibanornis rufipectus

Endemic Spine-tails of Colombia

Synallaxis subpudicaSynallaxis fuscorufa

Endemic Tyrant flycatchers of Colombia
  • Endemic Bristle-Tyrant of Colombia

Phylloscartes lanyoni 

  • Endemic Bush-Tyrant of Colombia

Myiotheretes pernix 

Endemic Flycatchers of Colombia

Myiarchus apicalis

Endemic Contingas of Colombia

Lipaugus weberi 

Endemic Vireos of Colombia

Vireo approximansVireo caribaeus 

Endemic Wrens of Colombia

Troglodytes monticolaCistothorus apolinariThryophilus sernaiThryophilus nicefori Henicorhina anachoretaHenicorhina negreti 

Endemic Tanagers of Colombia
  • Endemic Flowerpiercers of Colombia

Diglossa gloriosissima 

  • Endemic Dacnis of Colombia

Dacnis hartlaubi 

  • Endemic Tanagers of Colombia

Chlorochrysa nitidissimaAnisognathus melanogenysBangsia melanochlamysBangsia aureocincta

Endemic Sparrows of Colombia
  • Endemic Brushfinch of Colombia

Arremon basilicus Atlapetes melanocephalusAtlapetes flavicepsAtlapetes fuscoolivaceusAtlapetes blancae 

Endemic Cardinals/grosbeaks of Colombia
  • Endemic Ant-tanagers of Colombia

Habia gutturalisHabia cristata 

Endemic Wood-Warblers of Colombia
  • Endemic Warblers of Colombia

Myiothlypis basilicaMyiothlypis conspicillata 

Endemic Redstarts of Colombia

Myioborus flavivertex 

Endemic Blackbirds of Colombia
  • Endemic Oropendolas of Colombia

Psarocolius cassini

  • Endemic Grackles of Colombia

Macroagelaius subalarisHypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster 

Endemic Finches of Colombia

Euphonia concinna

2.4. Endangered Bird Species of Colombia

Threatened species are interesting targets for birdwatchers. The combination of endemic and threatened status is becoming increasingly common, which has made these birds the targets of birders, tourism, and conservation strategists.

Responsible tourism is one avenue that may guarantee the preservation of these species. In Colombia there are around 124 globally threatened birds. The list below denotes which birds are critically endangered and where to find them according to the IUCN Red List.

The Global IUCN Red List Categories are: Data Deficient (DD), Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in The Wild (EW), Extinct (EX). Below you can find the most Critically Endangered bird species of Colombia.

Scientific name English name Where to find it*
Crax alberti Blue-billed Curassow N Colombia, S Antioquia and W Boyacá; currently survives only in a few remnant forests patches from La Guajira and Magdalena. El Paujil Bird Reserve, Boyacá, E Andes. Tayrona National Park, N, Magdalena. Los Besotes Ecopark Reserve, Cesar.
Oxypogon cyanolaemus Blue-bearded Helmetcrest N Colombia. Lagunas de Sevilla, Sierra nevada de Santa Marta.
Eriocnemis isabellae Gorgeted Puffleg W Andes of SW Colombia. Serranía del Pinche, Cauca.
Coeligena orina Glittering Starfrontlet NW Colombia. Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve, Antioquia, Colombia. Páramo de Frontino, Antioquia. Las Orquídeas Natural National Park, Antioquia–Chocó border. Farallones de Citará, on Antioquia–Chocó border. Jardín, Antioquia. Cerro Montezuma, Risaralda.
Lepidopyga lilliae Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Coastal N Colombia. Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca, Magdalena, Colombia. Bocas del Atrato, Antioquia
Hapalopsittaca fuertesi Indigo-winged Parrot W slope of C Andes of Colombia Cortaderal, Risaralda, Colombia.
Grallaria fenwickorum Urrao Antpitta SE slope of Páramo del Sol Massif, at N end of W Andes of Colombia. Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve, Antioquia, Colombia.
Lipaugus weberi Chestnut-capped Piha N & NE slopes of C Andes of Colombia. Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve, Antioquia.
Troglodytes monticola Santa Marta Wren Upper elevations in Santa Marta Massif, in N Colombia. Lagunas de Sevilla, Sierra nevada de Santa Marta.
Thryophilus nicefori Niceforo’s Wren W slope of E Andes from Serranía de los Yariguíes and San Gil area (Santander) E to Soatá (Boyacá). Cerulean Warbler Reserve, Lodge, Santander. Barichara, Santander.
Atlapetes blancae Antioquia Brushfinch C Andes of Antioquia. Vereda Alto de Medina, Bello, Antioquia. Vereda Cerezales, Antioquia.

*own registers, ebird.orghbw.com 

Find out more information about bird extinction in our entry Bird-watching Tourism Helps to Reduce Bird Extinction Risks in Colombia.

2.5. Top 5 charismatic bird species of Colombia

Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus)

In Colombia this species occurs as a subspecies known as R. p. sanguinolentus, Gould, 1859. These birds reside along the western Andes of Colombia and into the northwest corner of Ecuador.

Their feathers are a brilliant and unmistakable orange color, and the males have a distinctive crest created by two rows of fluffy feathers that take the shape of a semicircular casque. Females are dark chestnut-brown colored.

One of the most striking moments to observe these birds is during breeding season. The males form groups of up to 15 or more individuals to attract the attention of the females. They then compete with ritualized bowing and head-bobbing displays towards the other, which includes jumping, wing-flapping, bill-snapping and callings.

Helmetcrest Hummingbirds

These stunning hummingbirds are highly distinctive. There are three species variants in in Colombia: the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus), Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii) and Green-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii).

The males have a colored strip on the throat resembling a tie or bowtie and a spiky crest. These birds are found in solitary forages near flowering shrubs in the Páramos.

The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest are found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Blue-bearded Helmetcrest), near the town of Minca and Santa Marta city.

Los Nevados National Natural Park, which is close to Manizales City, houses the Buffy Helmetcrest, and Sumapaz National Natural Park near Bogotá is where you will find the Green-bearded Helmetcrest.

Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima)

This endemic but vulnerable of Colombia is found in the Colombian Inter-Andean Slopes and Chocó. The genus name Chlorochrysa refers to the green and yellow plumage, and the species name nitidissima means “very bright”.

The beauty of this bird comes from its electrified plumage. It is a difficult to see species in the field since it travels in mixed flocks at the top of the forest and moves quickly.

There are, however, some places where this bird has been enticed by the local fauna. La Minga Bird Lodge and Finca Alejandría, both of which are in the Valle del Cauca, have banana trees that attract these birds and allow for photography.

Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

Despite this species being extremely common throughout the Andes, it is always a great experience to see one live. The Torrent duck lives by fast-flowing rivers and streams in the mountains; they move around a mixture of rapids, rocks, ravines, waterfalls along with some calmer waters.

It is for this reason that the duck has been named the “torrent duck”, as it is fearless against the most dangerous currents of South America. The Torrent is extremely territorial and mates for life. This will surely interest you romantics out there!

They are, however, difficult to catch, despite their abundance; however, if you find one half of the pair, the other will surely be quick to follow. Some of the best places to find them are Otún Quimbaya in Risaralda and Combeima river canyon in Tolima.

Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)

Have you ever heard of a toucan living in the cold? The Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan lives in the higher altitudes of the Páramos, between 2,000 and 3,659 meters above sea level (6562 to 11975 FAMSL).

The birds have a stunning, blueish-greyish coat accented by cheerful and multicolored tones of red, yellow, green and pink. In Colombia you can find this beautiful bird in the areas of the coffee triangle, Valle del Cauca and Cauca and Nariño… but only if the dense fog clears up a bit.

2.6. Top 5 larger bird species of Colombia

Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria)

Height: 122–140 cm. Weight: male 6–8 kg, female 4–6 kg. Wingspan: 230–260 cm.

The Jabiru is the largest stork in the New World. Its name comes from the Guaraní language and means “swollen neck”. This size of this bird is not the only element that makes this bird particular; it is also mute and communicates by beating its beak.

In addition, these birds mate for life, meaning that if you find one half of the mate, the other half is not far behind. Upon your visit, you can see this voiceless bird in our photographic safari tour.

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

Height: 100–130 cm. Weight: female 8 – 11 kg, male 11 – 15 kg. Wingspan: 260–320 cm.

The Andean condor is the national bird of Colombia and has thus become highly symbolic. It is believed to be a symbol of power and health because of its size and longevity. The Andean condor is recognized as one of the largest flying birds on the planet, only second to the Wandering albatross or the Southern royal albatross.

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)

Height: 89–105 cm. Weight: male 4–5 kg, female 6–9 kg. Wingspan: 176–201 cm.

The presence of this bird indicates that the ecosystem is in total balance. It is a magnificent hunter of the forests. In Colombia, the Harpy Eagle can be found in the Chocó, Caquetá and Amazonas departments.

Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta)

Height: 80–94 cm. Weight: 3–3.5 kg. Wingspan: 170 cm.

With a spiny and cornified* structure attached to the skull, the Horned Screamer is the unicorn of birds, which grows continuously and gives this species its name.  Its call is a very loud echoing sound, and it also gives this species name.

* What does Cornified mean? cor·ni·fi·ca·tion. noun. The process by which squamous epithelial cells in vertebrate animals develop into tough protective layers or structures such as hair, hooves, and the outer layer of skin; the final stage of keratinization. Origin of cornification.

Black Curassow (Crax alector)

Height 85–95 cm. Weight: male 3–4 kg; female 2,4–3,4 kg.

Despite appearing in large numbers, the Black Curassow is threatened by habitat loss and has thus received a vulnerable conservation status due to excessive trapping and hunting.

In Colombia, this bird has been reported at Sierra de la Macarena in the Orinoquia Region.

2.7. Top 5 smaller bird species of Colombia

Gorgeted Woodstar (Chaetocercus heliodor)

Size: 5·8–6·4 cm

The smallest of the Woodstars, this little bird can be found 1h from Bogotá at a place called Jardín Encantado (Enchanted Garden) or at the Chingaza National Natural Park, which is about four hours from Bogotá.

Spangled Coquette (Lophornis stictolophus)

Size: 6·4–6·9 cm

Usually mistaken by a big bee, this hummingbird is usually observed foraging at the top of the trees. The male has a beautiful orange crest with black spots. In Colombia it is possible to observe it in the piedmont forests of the Casanare department in the Eastern Andes. If you want to know this bird, travel with us to Casanare!

Santa Marta Woodstar (Chaetocercus astreans)

Size: 6-7 cm

Little is known about this tiny woodstar hummingbird found only in the Santa Marta mountains. It is known that it lives around montane forest borders, woodlands and shaded coffee plantations; however, it is possible to find it feeding in the gardens of the high parts of Minca.

Little Woodstar (Chaetocercus bombus)

Size: 6–7 cm

This is a small, buzzer hummingbird considered among the smallest birds in the world. In Colombia it has only been registered at the Ñambí River Nature Reserve. Little is known about this bird, which is currently under threat.

Rufous-Crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei)

Size: 6·4–7 cm; c. 2,8 g.

The Rufous can be smaller than your own thumb! This bird looks like the Spangled Coquette; the males of this species have big and jazzy crests.

The clue to differentiating them is their location. While the Spangled Coquette is found in Casanare (east Andes piedmont at the Orinoquia region), the Rufous-crested Coquette is found in Antioquia and Santander lowland forests.

2.8. Top 5 rare or difficult to see species in Colombia

Barred Tinamou (Crypturellus casiquiare)

Located in a small area between eastern Colombia and southern Venezuela, the Barred Tinamou has been registered in the Vaupés river, near the Brazilian border and the east end of Guainía.

The Barred Tinamou was discovered in the 1920s, but because of its limited presence, it is of little interest to ornithologists and birdwatchers. Virtually nothing has been published about the species’ natural history!

Helmeted Curassow (Pauxi pauxi)

The Helmeted Curassow has a comparatively smaller presence in Colombia, as it is found primarily in the northeast. In May of 2007, the Proaves, and ONG for birds conservation mentioned above, established the Helmeted Curassow Bird Reserve to protect this endangered species and its habitat.  

Despite these and other conservation efforts, the population has been declining due to a combination of hunting and habitat destruction.

Tacarcuna Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus tacarcunae)

This little-known species is found in the northwest corner of Colombia and the southern tip of Panama. It has been reported in Los Katíos National Park; however, this park is closed to visitors.

Scarlet-Breasted Dacnis (Dacnis berlepschi)

Found along the border of Colombia and Ecuador, the Scarlet-Breasted Dacnis is a rare find, especially since its habitat is extremely fragmented and has been reduced over the years. All of this explains the limited information on its natural history.

Its habitat is extremely fragmented and has been reduced over the years. In Colombia this species can be found in protected areas, such as the Río Ñambí Community Nature Reserve in the department of Nariño.

Sharpbill (Oxyruncus cristatus)

Because this species is hard to observe, not much is known about its history and nuances. The specie’s distribution spans from Costa Rica to Argentina; however, its presence is highly fragmented.

The Sharpbill’s voice is exceptionally distinctive and extremely firm; many have compared it to the sound of a falling bomb. In Colombia this species can be found in the department of Antioquia.

2.9. Species with a rich cultural significance in Colombia

The Yellow-Eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis)

It is believed that touching the wings of this bird in flight will bring about good luck. This good luck, however, may run out, as the species is under threat by habitat destruction that has reduced the amount of wax palm trees (Ceroxylon spp.). The parrots use these trees for food, shelter and nesting.

During Holy Week, these trees are harvested for the religious celebration of Palm Sunday. In an effort to reduce the habitat destruction, people have begun to use little saplings of palms that are then planted after the festivities.

Cucarachero – (House wren – Troglodytes aedon)

This bird is well known for its particularly harmonious song. The bird is not shy of humans, and it can be seen with its tail erect while actively jumping along hedges or bushes, occasionally in tall trees. Its vocalizations consist of a melodic, bubbling twitter that occur throughout the year.

This song is so beloved by Colombians to the point that Garzón & Collazos, a Colombian vocal duo, composed a Bambuco (a traditional music genre from Colombia) about a love story based on the behavior of these birds. Listen to the original song in the video here.

Turpial montañero or Toche – (Yellow-backed Oriole – Icterus chrysater)

Unfortunately, the beautiful songs and colors of this bird make it a very attractive ornament in houses. Some subspecies are easy to tame and learn to speak like magpies.

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

In 1835 the Andean Condor was recognized as the national bird of the Republic of Colombia due to its great power. It is considered part of the National Heritage because it is a bird that represents the spiritual harmony of those who love the nation.

The symbolism of this bird precedes the birth of Colombia. The Andean Condor was recognized as a mystical bird responsible the earth’s sunrise. With its powerful wings, the condor carries the sun and provides it with the strength to ascend into the sky.

The Andean Condor is considered a bird of freedom and sovereignty. In the national shield of Colombia, it can be seen spreading its wings and showing its majesty.

2.10. High concentrations of birds in Colombia

National Natural Park Montezuma Hill 

This place is one of the most well preserved national parks in Colombia. The eBird system has noted around 590 bird species in the region while other reports have recorded roughly 51 families, 270 genera and 402 species.

The families with the greatest representation are: the Tyrannidae with 30 genera and 47 species; the Thraupidae with 19 genera and 43 species; and the Trochilidae with 28 genera and 36 species.

Eighteen of the one-hundred and sixty three species are considered to be vulnerable or threated either locally or globally, including one (1) endemism Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) and 11 endemisms of the Western Cordillera. Nine of these species are endemic to Colombia while 14 are considered almost endemic.

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve

This is a reserve dedicated to the conservation of the migratory Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea). Located on the western slope of the Colombian Eastern Andes in the department of Santander, the reserve houses around 540 birds. The  Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) has declared the reserve an official AZE site.

Cañón del Río Claro Reserve

The “Cañón del Río Claro” Reserve is located on the south eastern slope of the Central Andean Mountain range in the department of Antioquia. The biodiverse area contains humid forests that grow on limestone rocks, and these forests house a large variety of flora and fauna.

The reserve’s transparent waters running along a marble bed carved out over millions of years offers a unique view. With around 520 reporte bird species, the area is considered the most important biological reserve in the central region of the country.

Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

This reserve was created to protect the habitat of the Chestnut-capped Piha (Lipaugus weberi). Located in Anorí, Antioquia, the reserve contains around 506 bird species.

Los Flamencos Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna in La Guajira

Unlike other reserves known for their biodiversity, this reserve is known for its high density of one species: the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber). A slender bird with pink plumage, the pink flamingo is found along the Navío Quebrado lagoon and Laguna Grande.

The graceful flamingos and their vibrant coloring are the sanctuary’s main attraction, but the area also has relics of tropical dry, very dry tropical forest, mangrove ecosystems and estuaries with their own unique habitats and species. Despite its small size, the sanctuary is considered one of the richest protected areas in Colombia.

Altagracia Natural Reserve

This reserve is home to around 23% of the global population of the Orinoco Goose (Oressochen jubatus).

2.11. Species to see easily in Colombia

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana)

The Nature Reserve Jardín de Rocas is located beside the Serranias bridge and over the Volcanes river (400 m from the Jardin’s main square).

It is a place where people can enjoy watching these birds in their natural habitat because every morning and every afternoon, a lek of around 15 males comes to rest in the garden of this reserve. It is a unique experience in Colombia.

Hummingbirds in feeders

There are many places to observe hummingbirds in Colombia. Generally, there are species that are more confident than others in the face of humans.

Among these is the White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga melivora), Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzcatl), Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae), Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis), Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens), Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica), Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerottei) and Indigo-capped Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanifrons).

Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)

This is a difficult bird to detect due to its camouflage abilities. This means that pictures must be taken from very short distances. If you can spot the bird, you will appreciate the incredibleness of its camouflage abilities.

The bird is active at night, which is when it feeds on large insects. Its’ terrifying call is a sharp and descending scream that frightens many and fills the imaginations of unsuspecting people, especially late at night.

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)

This bird is similar to the Great Potoo; the difference is that it usually rests on cut branches. It is so confident in its camouflage that you can take selfies with it without it budging from its spot in the slightest.

With a big head and huge yellow eyes, it blends perfectly with its environment and becomes very difficult to detect. The bird is active at night and mainly hunts from an exposed hanger. The song has melancholic series of whistles that descend in tone: “POO, POO, Poo, poo, poo”.

Crescent-Faced Antpitta (Grallaricula lineifrons)

Also known as Lunita, the Crescent-Faced Antpitta is a tamed bird appearing every morning at 8 o’clock for breakfast in Hacienda El Bosque. Lunitas are small and live in the cloud forest at very high elevations in the Andes.

The bird is brown and gray with white half-moons on its face, striped bottoms and beige spots on the sides of its neck. Lunita remains in the undergrowth but not typically on the ground. It is usually located by its vocalizations; the typical song is a growing series of sweet whistles.

2.12. Bird species with prominent songs of Colombia

Musician Wren (Musician) (Cyphorhinus arada)

This bird has been registered in the departments of Vaupés and Putumayo, both in the Amazon region of Colombia.

Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus)

The Chestnut-Breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) is a bird species in the Troglodytidae family found in the Andes of Colombia. Its natural habitat is a subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

This bird is more easily heard than seen. Listen for repeated sets of 2–3 eerie whistled notes moving up in pitch.

Song Wren (Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus)

Like its chestnut counterpart, the Song Wren is more easily heard than seen. Listen for a unique combination of deep whistles and harsher clucking notes. It lives in the undergrowth of very humid forests and adjacent areas of high secondary growth.

Four subspecies are recognized in Colombia: C. p. lawrenciiC. p. propinquusC. p. chocoanus and C. p. phaeocephalus.

It is located south of the Serranía del Baudo (chocoanus), west of the Gulf of Urabá to the upper Atrato valley (lawrencii), in the headwaters of the San Juan River south to Nariño (phaeocephalus), in the Sinú east valley, through the humid lowlands of the north from the Andes to the middle valley of the southern Magdalena, and to the east of Antioquia.

Andean Solitaire (Myadestes ralloides)

The Andean Solitaire is a shy bird of the cloud forests, where it remains hidden above the trees most of the time. The bird can be detected through its melodious song.

What this bird it lacks in colors and markings, it makes up for with its gorgeous voice.  Listen for short, ethereal and flutelike phrases, usually appearing in a long and leisurely series.

3. What to expect when you come to Colombia for birding?

Despite the varying opportunities Colombia’s rich geography provides, it is still necessary to acknowledge that birding and other forms of ecotourism are relatively new industries, especially in comparison to countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador or Brazil.

Colombia is still lacking in high quality and standard infrastructure, especially in terms of transportation to reach many of these places. Other areas lack hot water, bilingual guides, and well groomed trails with hideouts and observation towers.

Nonetheless, the situation is highly recommendable. In terms of seeking out adventure and a unique experience, Colombia is certainly the most interesting choice, especially for those looking to disconnect for a bit.

3.1. Accommodation in Colombia

Currently, there are around 30 bird lodges in Colombia. While its numbers are far behind those of Peru, Costa Rica and Ecuador, Colombia’s faculties are rapidly improving.

Hotels

The country’s main cities, along with some of the surrounding area, have very nice hotels with the basic services included. However, the further away you move from the cities, the lower the quality of services.

For example, it is likely to find cold water showers in hot regions. Many of the locals would consider hot showers to be a nonsensical demand.

Bedroom sizes also become smaller, as well as the restroom size. Some hotels have several floors with no elevators, which can difficult for people with certain health conditions or who simply have a lot of baggage.

Breakfast included in the hotel price is rare, especially in small town hotels.

Rural accommodations

Some of Colombia’s most fantastic places for birding are quite difficult to reach.  One alternative is to stay with the local people in their own homes.

Many campesinos open up their home to tourists as a means of extra income. You can expect wood-made houses, small beds, shared rooms and shared bathrooms- all quite simple and rustic.

Everything, however, is very clean and includes farm to table food and attentive and kind hosts.

Services

Colombia is still working towards offering higher quality customer support and services for its clients.

3.2. Services and Facilities

Transportation in Colombia

Roads and specialized transportation services for birdwatchers in Colombia Main roads in Colombia are paved. In general, most secondary roads are in good conditions, but it depends on the region. Landslides and rockslides are the main reason for road closures in Colombia.

The primary regions affected by these occurrences are the route Bogotá – Villavicencio, which is the main connection to the eastern plains, and the route Ibagué – Armenia (known as La línea road), which connects Bogotá with the rest of the country.

Delays and closures are especially prevalent during the winter seasons when it rains a lot. As if this were not enough, the costs to travel by plane quadruple due to the low number of airlines covering these routes.

Thus, if you are planning to travel to Colombia, make sure you plan it with enough time to avoid high flight prices.

Nowadays, there are few companies offering specialized transportation for birdwatchers in Colombia. Big companies are used to paved roads and scheduled departure and arrival times, with little interest in waiting for a birder.

This is likely to change, as birdwatching and natural tourism continues to grow in the area. Natural parks, reserves, and birding routes in Colombia are far from accessible in terms of connectivity and infrastructure.

In general, you will find open, unregulated roads, and in some cases, there are no roads at all. Many operators offering services to birders will the traditional transportation mechanisms of the region, such as willys (jeeps),  chivas (traditional bus) or mulas (a hybrid between a horse and a donkey).

Travelling this way can be a good cultural experience; however, if you want your comfort and privacy, you will need a 4×4 truck. The most common 4×4 truck used in Colombia is a Duster because of the tradeoff quality and the price.

The problem with this car is its size, as many Europeans and North Americans will find it a tight squeeze to say the least. Additionally, poor road conditions and bad connectivity makes terrestrial transportation expensive.

In recent years, this factor has been the principal factor behind birding’s rising price in Colombia. Traffic accidents are can also cause delays, especially in rural areas. If you travel by land, do not panic (watch drivers video). As long as you or your driver follow the rules, there should be no problems.

Distances in Colombia

Colombia is a huge country, as it is the size of Germany and France or that of Texas and California combined. Besides this, the intricate mountain ranges increase distances and traveling times.

We recommend you travel by plane, but if you must or prefer to travel the country by car, use professional transportation services. 

For example, traveling from Bogotá to Cali takes 40 minutes by plane while it can take anywhere from 9 to 12 hours by car depending on the car and the traffic conditions! You will cross the Western Andean Mountain Range into the Central Mountain Range. This voyage is full of ups and downs, with winding roads and unexpected bends.

Food in Colombia

Despite Colombia’s plethora of fruits and veggies, traditional Colombian food is based on carbohydrates, meat and products derived from sugarcane, such as the panela, and maize, such as the arepa. Local food Depending on the region, your dose of carbohydrates will vary, LOL.

The most widespread recipe in Colombia is something called sancocho. The sancocho is a soup with potato, cassava or yucca, green banana or “platano” and a protein, ranging from cow, pigs, chicken or fish. Sometimes combinations of these proteins will appear. The soup is seasoned with onion, tomato and salt. Despite the sancocho’s popularity, there are typical dishes in each region.

Special requirements in Colombia

Since it is not common to find vegetarian or vegan offerings in the rural areas of Colombia, it is necessary to inform to your travel company about your food preferences well in advance. This guarantees that all your requests will be met during your trip.

You can also equip yourself with biscuits and candies at the supermarket before traveling to remote or isolated areas.

Drinking water is available only in the capital cities, such as Bogotá or Medellín; although, it is not always advisable to drink it directly, as some pipes may be old. We recommend that you use filtered water or buy bottled water.

Colombia Birdwatching Guides

In Colombia there are excellent birdwatching guides who are very knowledgeable about birds and the various services the regions provide.

Guides come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from indigenous communities and campesinos to engineers, biologists and passionate enthusiasts. Some of them work as freelancers while others work for a specific company.

The point is that they are still few, considering the size of the country, the diversity of regions and quantity of birds. English guides are especially hard to find in some of the more remote regions, so a translator, for whatever language you prefer, may be necessary.

4. Best Time to come to Colombia for birdwatching

Due to the variety of ecosystems in Colombia, is it possible to visit the country throughout the year; however, visitors should look into the best time to visit specific regions, as seasonality varies.

Colombia’s seasons are determined by the rain, which is influenced by the climatic phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña. This affects accessibility to some regions, and sometimes coincides with bird nesting times.

Besides this, considering bird migratory seasons is also an important consideration when planning a visit for birdwatching in Colombia. Migration occurs between September and April for  boreal species and between May and September for austral migratory bird species.

5. Urban birding in Colombia and Best cities to do it

Here you can find information about places of ornithological interest or value in Colombia.

5.1. Best spots for birdwatching in Bogotá

La Florida Park

Located on the western limits of Bogota, La Florida Park is a large reserve with 267 ha of forests and wetlands in the capital district. Here, it is possible to observe 3 endemic species to Bogota: the Silvery-Throated Spinetail, Apolinar´s Wren  and the Bogotá Rail.

Monserrate Sanctuary

The Monserrate Sanctuary is an iconic symbol of Bogotá.  Towering over the city at 3152 meters above sea level, the sanctuary is a religious pilgrimage site enclosed in exuberant and lush vegetation. The area contains three types of forest:  The High Andean Forests, Eucalyptus forests and Pine forests. 

The site offers the best view of the city while also offering birders a chance to observe various birds in the high-altitude gardens.

 Here are some of species you may find: Silvery-Throated Spinetail EN, Rufous-Browed Conebill, Pale-bellied Tapaculo, Golden-Fronted Whitestart, Andean Guan, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Shining Sunbeam, Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain Tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, Grey-Browed and Pale-Naped Brush Finches, Andean Siskin.

Botanical Garden José Celestino Mutis

The botanical garden of Bogota functions as a research center provides cultural and educational services for citizens. With 19 ha of land containing 300 plant families, the garden receives over 50,000 individuals during the year.

This is the main hub for biodiversity within the city limits of Bogotá. The following species can be found here: The Scrub Tanager, Rufous-browed Conebill, Mountain Elaenia, Rusty and Black Flowerpiercers, Yellow-backed Oriole, Andean Siskin, and several migratory birds During the migratory seasons occuring at the end of the year.

Quinta de Bolívar Museum

This museum is devoted to the legacy of Simon Bolivar. The entrance of the museum lies within Monserratte and includes several gardens that attract many birds, especially hummingbirds. Because this is a museum, this will not be your traditional birdwatching experience.

You can, however, kills two birds with one stone and get a history lesson on Colombia as well. Among the birds found here are the Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, among others.

Hummingbirds Observatory

The observatory is not actually located in Bogota but rather 30 minutes outside the city, via La Calera town. Here it is possible to observe around 30 Hummingbird species and montane birds.

You can either pay for a three hour pass or a full day pass, making it accessible to families as well as individuals.

5.2. Best spots for birdwatching in Cali

The Pance River Ecopark

The Pance River Eco Park is in the Department of Valle del Cauca, near the Municipality of Cali. The ecopark lies between 1,125 – 1,240 meters above sea level with an area of 59.9 ha that house a transition zone between the Tropical Dry Forest and Premontane Wet Forest.

Among the species it is possible to find the Colombian Chachalaca , Andean Motmot, Green Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Golden-collared Manakin, Green Hermit, and the Collared Trogon, Red-Headed Barbet. The area houses over 200 other bird species as well.

Eco Park Lake of the Garzas

The Eco Park Lake of the Garzas is framed by an artificial lake. The first conservation date back to 1995; however, the initiative really took off in 1996 after the American Airlines accident. With the support of the affected families and the DAGMA, over 400 trees were planted in memory of the people lost.

The ecopark is a public place and offers basic infrastructure for the development of educational programs, environmental research and passive recreation, including the observation of diverse fauna and flora. Here, it is possible to observe the endemic Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis, the Common Potoo – Nyctibius griseus, the Rufous-Breasted Hermit –Glaucis hirsutus, the Chestnut-Headed Oropendola – Psarocolius wagleri, among other 200 bird species.  

Farallones Country Club

This is a private country club dedicated to offering golf, tennis, soccer and swimming activities to its members. The club lies within a huge tree garden containing several lakes with large and small water mirrors in the landscapes that add difficulties for any golfer.

This place has been recognized as a hotspot for birds in the city of Cali, with around 180 species to observe. Here is a small list of what you might find: the Gray-Cowled Wood-Rail – Aramides cajaneus, Purple Gallinule – Porphyrio martinica, Colombian Chachalaca – Ortalis Columbiana and the Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis.  

Universidad del Valle

This is a public Colombian university located in the city of Cali in the department of Valle del Cauca. The city is one of the largest university campuses in Colombia with an area of 1,000,000 m², making it the second largest university campus in the country after the main campus of the National University in Bogotá.

Within the area’s gardens and green spaces, you can observe species like the Vermilion Flycatcher – Pyrocephalus rubinus, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper – Lepidocolaptes souleyetii, Baltimore Oriole – Icterus galbula, Tropical Parula – Setophaga pitiayumi, Yellow Warbler – Setophaga petechia and the Scrub Tanager – Stilpnia vitriolina, among the other 150 bird species.

5.3. Best spots for birdwatching in Medellín

Cerro El Volador

The Cerro El Volador is the largest natural park within an urban area of the city of Medellín. It is located in the northwest of the city, in carrera 65, in front of the headquarters of the National University in Medellín.

The park has important ecological, historical, archaeological and touristic value for the inhabitants of the Aburrá Valley.

It is a protected area with status as a Metropolitan Regional Natural Park due to its biodiversity and vegetation cover. The park is an important platform for environmental education and research.

Arví Park

Arví Park is the only park in Colombia with a Sustainable Tourism certification from the Rainforest Alliance. With 10 trails containing diverse flora, archeological sites, and blossoming orchids that attract birds from all over, the park has a lot to offer.

Among the bird species it is possible to observe the Golden-olive Woodpecker – Colaptes rubiginosus, the Azara’s Spinetail – Synallaxis azarae, the Green Jay – Cyanocorax yncas, the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta – Grallaria ruficapilla, and the Andean Solitaire – Myadestes ralloides, etc.

La Romera Natural Reserve

This reserve is located on the outskirts of Medellín in the municipality of Sabanetas. The Romera has an area of 235 hectares, the best way to get to the Park is walking, along the paths immersed in the vegetation of the area which corresponds to Andean wet forest at 2650 meter above sea level.

Here it is possible to observe the Colombian Chachalaca – Ortalis Columbiana, Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Spizaetus ornatus, Southern Emerald-Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus albivitta, Yellow-headed Manakin – Chloropipo flavicapilla, the endemic Red-bellied Grackle – Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster, among other 350 bird species.

5.4. Best spots for birdwatching in Manizales

Paraíso Verde Manizales

This place has a coffee-style house surrounded by forests, gardens and natural water sources, just three kilometers from the center of Manizales. It is possible to walk along the paths and surroundings of the house for bird watching.

They also have ideal feeders for bird photography. Around 200 species of birds can be found in this place, among them Squirrel Cuckoo – Piaya cayana, Southern Emerald-Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus albivitta, Crimson-rumped Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus haematopygus, Steely-vented Hummingbird – Amazilia saucerottei, Scaled Antpitta – Grallaria guatimalensis, etc.

Los Alcázares Arenillo EcoPark

Located in the municipality of Manizales, in the Los Alcázares neighborhood, 5 minutes from the city center with an extension of 33.43 ha at 2000 m.a.s.l. It is immersed in a very humid premontane forest life zone; its vegetation is characterized by trees of great importance for the fauna of the place.

The Alcázares Arenillo Ecopark becomes one of the main lungs within the urban area of the city of Manizales. Ecological tours and good environmental practices are the activities that tourists can develop in it.

Bird watching has easy access and easy roads, here you can meet more than 140 species of birds and among the most representative stand out, Scaled Antpitta – Grallaria guatimalensis, Scrub Tanager – Tangara vitriolina, Red-headed Barbet – Eubucco Bourcierii, Bar-crested Antshrike – Thamnophilus multistriatus, among other 300 bird species.

Recinto del Pensamiento

The Jaime Restrepo Mejía Recinto del Pensamiento has an area of 179 ha, which are mostly part of a protective and productive natural reserve. The “Recinto del Pensamiento” offers a path that presents different natural attractions such as: Orchard of aromas, Chairlift system, Ecological path, Bird’s eye view, Eastern path, Butterfly observatory, Orchid forest, Wooden pavilion and Coffee Ritual.

Here it is possible to observe around 260 species of birds among them the Lesser Violetear – Colibri cyanotus, White-naped Brushfinch – Atlapetes albinucha, Metallic-green Tanager – Tangara labradorides, Indigo Flowerpiercer – Diglossa indigotica, Collared Inca – Coeligena torquata, etc.

Los Yarumos Ecopark

The Los Yarumos Ecopark is really close to the city center. With its 53 hectares of cloud forest, the park hosts a large variety of fauna and flora while also providing the urban area of ​​Manizales with oxygen and water. Species of flora, such as bromeliads, anthuriums and orchids, adorn the ecological paths.

Arboloco (shrub) large tree ferns and palms can also be found in this forest reserve. Of course, the most notable site to see is the Yarumo, which paints the Andean jungles white. The trees attract many unique birds, such as the Mountain Carriqui – Cyanocorax yncas, and the Emerald Toucan – Aulacorhynchus prasinus. Guatines, opossums, foxes and even tigrillos are also quite abundant in this region.

5.5. Best spots for birdwatching in Armenia

Parque de La Vida

The Parque de la Vida in the city of Armenia is one of the largest green lungs of the Quindian capital. With a total area of about 8 ha, this ecotourist offers the inhabitants of the city a slice of paradise amid the concrete and chaos of daily life.

The park offers a variety of different tours revealing waterfalls, artificial lakes, and over 200 bird species, including: The Blue-Necked Tanager – Stilpnia cyanicollis, Bay-Headed Tanager – Tangara gyrola, Flame-Rumped Tanager – Ramphocelus flammigerus, Hepatic Tanager – Piranga flava, Turquoise Dacnis – Dacnis hartlaubi, etc.

Quindío Botanical Garden

The Quindío Botanical Garden fosters conservation projects, scientific research and environmental education. It is also an internationally recognized center for natural tourism in Colombia.

There are several plant collections and exhibitions including the National Collection of Palms. These collections brings together almost all the native species of Colombian palms.

The Botanical Graden also has a beautiful and famous butterfly garden, an insect zoo, three sites for bird watching, a geology and soil museum, the Line Tunnel Museum, an ethnobotanical palm museum and many other natural attractions.

There are around 200 bird species reported in this area, among them the Crimson-Rumped Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus haematopygus, Barred Antshrike – Thamnophilus doliatus, Blue-Necked Tanager –Stilpnia cyanicollis, the near endemic Western Emerald – Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus, and the endemic Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis.

5.6. Best spots for birdwatching in Villavicencio

Bosque Bavaria (Orange-Breasted Falcon Reserve)

The reserve is located at the base of the Eastern Andes in the foothills of the Colombian eastern plains, five minutes outside the capital city of Villavicencio in the department of Meta. The forest has around 30 ha of humid foothill forests located between 800 and 1.100 m above sea level.

The most notable birds here are the Gray-Chinned Hermit – Phaethornis griseogularis, Blue-Fronted Lancebill – Doryfera johannae, Amazonian Motmot – Momotus momota, Yellow-billed Nunbird – Monasa flavirostris, White-Chinned Jacamar – Galbula tombacea, Scaled Piculet – Picumnus squamulatus, White-Chested Puffbird – Malacoptila fusca and the Striolated Manakin – Machaeropterus striolatus among others.

5.7. Best spots for birdwatching in Santa Marta

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino Botanical Garden is one of the most important tourist attractions in the city of Santa Marta. The garden houses the largest representation of flora from the tropical dry forests of the Caribbean.

It is also the most important wildlife refuge in the urban environment of the Santa Marta district. This is a historical and cultural place that can also be great for bird watching activities in Santa Marta.

Among the 140 registered species, you will likely find the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl – Glaucidium brasilianum, Orange-Chinned Parakeet – Brotogeris jugularis, Yellow Warbler – Setophaga petechia, Whooping Motmot – Momotus subrufescens, Russet-Throated Puffbird – Hypnelus ruficollis, and the Trinidad Euphonia – Euphonia trinitatis.

5.8. Best spots for birdwatching in Popayán

Popayán downtown and Cerro de la Eme

The city of Popayán can be found in the Valley of Pubenza, between the Western and Central mountain ranges of Colombia in the southwest of the country.

Because of its white color, UNESCO has declared this city a world heritage site, which means you can combine bird watching with cultural exploration.

Your adventure begins with a departure from the Cerro de la Eme hill, which has multiple trails containing more than 100 recorded bird species, including the White-Naped Brushfinch – Atlapetes albinucha, Crested Oropendola – Psarocolius decumanus, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus, Golden-olive Woodpecker – Colaptes rubiginosus, Rusty Flowerpiercer – Diglossa sittoides, etc.

6. Best ecolodges and birdlodges in Colombia

An “ecolodge” is a type of tourist accommodation designed to have the least amount of impact on the natural environment in which it is located.

Beyond not harming the environment, ecolodges should positively impact the environment as well as the local community. Ecolodges can be classified depending on the quality of comfort and the number of facilities available.

In Colombia there is still a transition between basic, rural infrastructure and basic hospitality services to world-class lodges with good infrastructure, sustainable practices and high quality hospitality services.

There are around 35 lodges throughout country that offer hospitality to birdwatchers and other travelers. Here we have listed the top five places that meet our criteria for bot accessibility, comfort, and sustainability.

We have also factored in the potential benefits for birdwatchers, and thus have considered aspects like facilities for birdwatchers, and photographers as well as other attractions, such as trail quality, gardens, and balconies.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Hotel Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve is a special place in Manizales Caldas for photography and bird watching. Facilities were created to provide birdwatchers, ornithologists, and nature lovers from around the world with an unforgettable experience.

The area is nationally recognized as an ideal spot for photography and bird watching. It provides comfortable rooms with easy access for older adults, private bathroom, hot water and decorations allusive to birds.

It also provides an early breakfast, opportunities for bird watching day and night, night viewer and camera tripods, a library for consultation, a hummingbird garden, bird feeders, and hideouts for photographers.

Mururito Farm Hotel Natural Reserve

This ecological lodge & nature reserve is located in the Colombian plains in the department of Meta. Spanning 2,000 hectare along the Manacacias River, the reserve provides comfortable rooms with easy access for older adults, private bathrooms and decorum matching that of the Colombian Plains.

The area also has gardens attracting birds and butterflies along solar panels that provide electricity both day and night.

The lodge allows for walks in the forests or the savannas, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, farm activities and much more.

El Dorado Bird Natural Reserve

El Dorado is the flagship reserve of the ProAves foundation and one of the most important bird watching sites in South America. It has 10 rooms and five individual huts, inspired by the architecture of the indigenous Kogui tribe.

The huts offer wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The services include: the observation of endemic birds, feeders; different species of mammals and wildlife; trails, observation towers, terraces, a specialized library and resting areas; a restaurant that serves excellent meals and a bar. However, due to its remote location, access becomes increasingly difficult during the rainy season.

La Minga Ecolodge

The ecolodge is located within the Rio Bitaco Forest Reserve, which is a well-preserved cloud forest in the Valle del Cauca department.

The place has maintained bird feeders in the house and garden for several years, along with a floral garden, nectar and fruit feeding stations.

Over 17 species of hummingbirds and 30 species of colorful tanagers (including the multicolor tanager), flower piercers, and honeycreepers can be observed and easily photographed. In the surrounding forest, you can also observe Quetzals and Toucanets.

The house is small but offers cozy accommodations, including a specialized library and chimney.

Araucana Lodge

The lodge is located in the Chocó Bioregion of Colombia, about a 40 min. drive from Cali. It offers ten luxurious rooms with private balconies and complete services. It also provides facilities to birdwatch, take walks, and eat farm to table meals.

El Nido del Condor

El Nido del Condor offers a luxury, glamping experience at the top of the Andean Mountains in the department of Caldas. Here, it is possible to photograph the Andean Condor.

Find a complete guide to the best ecolodges and birdlodges in our entries Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia and Ultimate Guide to the Best Birding Lodges in Colombia.

7. Colombian Birding Trails

Colombian Birding Trails With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Minister of Commerce’s Tourism and Industry Fund (MINCIT),  the Tourism Promotion Fund (Fontur), The National Audubon Society, and Birdlife International, Calidris in Colombia has been promoting conservation initiatives based on science, bird-based tourism and the public awareness of birds and conservation in Colombia.

Currently, Audubon develops Birding Trails in Colombia to enhance community governance and improve local incomes while conserving the remarkable biodiversity of Colombia.

The program focuses on the conservation of birds and habitats through bird-focused tourism by training local birding guides, which includes English language skills.

The trained people become ambassadress for their local environments and aim to convince these communities to conserve habitats rather than degrade them.

The first results were released on 2016 with the Northern Colombia Birding Trail. Currently, they have been developing the Central, the Southwestern and the Eastern Andes Birding Trails.

PROCOLOMBIA and The Birders Documentary

PROCOLOMBIA is the entity in charge of promoting Tourism, Foreign Investment in Colombia, non-mining energy exports and the overall image of the country.

PROCOLOMBIA asked WhereNext to create a long-form documentary film and five short films about bird diversity in Colombia (learn know more here).

The documentary is called THE BIRDERS | A Melodic Journey through Northern Colombia. It is a magnificent promotional of Colombia that not only portrays the country as an ideal destination for bird watching but for nature and adventure more broadly.

The video demonstrates just how truly unique Colombia is as a country. We hope that the birdwatching industry will help preserve the nation’s natural beauty and promote the growth of ecotourism.

The Caribbean Region: THE BIRDERS | Bird tales from Colombia’s Caribbean.

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The Andean Region, THE BIRDERS | A family’s nest in the Colombian Andes.

The Pacific Region: THE BIRDERS | A photographer’s view of Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

The Eastern Plains or Orinoquia Region: THE BIRDERS | A winged safari through the grasslands of Colombia’s Orinoquia.

The Amazon Region: THE BIRDERS | A feathered adventure in the Colombian Amazon.

References
  • BirdLife International (2019) Endemic Bird http://www.birdlife.org on 22/10/2019
  • ebird.org