9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas

Find here why birdwatching in Caldas is a must! The greatest biodiversity of Colombia is concentrated on the slopes of the north of the Andes, between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level. In fact, it is so huge, that it can even surpass the biogeographic Chocó and the Amazon biodiversity. 

Then, the Andean region is one of the areas with the greatest biological diversity in Colombia, and it is here where the department of Caldas is placed. 

Caldas has 9.5% of the birds of the world 

Caldas has a high richness in birdlife and because of its area, it can be considered as a region with a high concentration of bird species per area, with around 870 bird species reported. 

In addition, 22 of the bird species found in Caldas are endemic and 34 are almost endemic, being one of the departments with higher endemism in the country. The importance of some species lies in both their endemic condition as well as in their threat level.  

The reason why the department of Caldas has such high biodiversity is its geographical location. To be specific, Caldas borders are found between the Cauca and Magdalena rivers, the two largest rivers of Colombia.

Besides this, it is placed on both sides of the Central Andean mountain range and also over the eastern flank of the western Andean mountain range.

As a result, the territory of Caldas has the particularity of featuring very varied ecosystems: from the perpetual snows and páramos to the dry forests of the lower areas of the basins.  

Birding at the heart of the Coffee Triangle  

Caldas region coincides with the optimal area for growing coffee, and many coffee farms can be found there! It is part of the famous Eje Cafetero (Coffee Triangle), with a coffee culture deeply rooted in its people.

Then, although birds are the main motivation for tourists, it also can be the coffee, the hospitality and the typical gastronomy of Caldas. 

Caldas – The Heart of the Coffee Triangle

Society of Ornithology of Caldas (SCO) and Birding Tourism Congress 

Given the great bird richness in the department, birdwatching has been consolidating for over 30 years with the presence of the Society of Ornithology of Caldas (SCO).

The SCO is one of the oldest and largest birding societies in the country. Find out more about SCO and other birding clubs in Colombia in our post Birders’ Clubs and Ornithological Associations in Colombia

Recently, birding tourism has been consolidated in the region with the Avitourism Congress, which in 2018 hosted the VIII South American Bird Fair, and it was attended by 850 participants from 25 countries around the world. 

SCO’s logo honoring the
Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

Best Places to go for Birdwatching in Caldas 

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve 

Among the most suitable places for birdwatching, you can find at first place the Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve. This is one of the best bird lodges in Colombia, located in San Peregrino village just 30 minutes from the city of Manizales.

Tinamú Reserve protects a dry forest of 15 ha. at 1.225. m.a.s.l., which is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and a variety of plants and trees.

Tinamu Birding offers great facilities for bird photography, read our entry The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve to know more about this place.  

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)

Río Blanco Forest Reserve 

Another very special place for birdwatching is just three kilometers far from Manizales. Among the cloud forest of the Andes, you will find the Río Blanco Forest Reserve.

At Rio Blanco Reserve you will find around 372 different bird species, of which 13 are endemic, 30 migratory and 13 are threatened. 

The highlight of this place is the facilities for photographing birds, especially drinkers to attract hummingbirds and tanagers, and feeders to attract antpittas.

Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri
Blue-capped Tanager – Thraupis cyanocephala
Buff-tailed Coronet – Boissonneaua flavescens
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus

Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm Hotel

Among the farms you can find Hacienda Venecia, a 100 years coffee farm where you can enjoy coffee and chocolate experiences bonded with birding activities.  Know more about Hacienda venecia in our entry Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia.

Birding at Hacienda Venecia

Finca Romelia Colors of Life  

Finca Romelia is a family tourism project where visitors can take pleasure in observing more than 840 species of orchids for an average of 8,000 orchid plants, an interesting variety of bonsai and around 216 species of birds, as well as citrus and avocado production crops.

Orchids at Finca Romelia

Cameguadua and La Esmeralda Reservoirs 

La Esmeralda is owned by the Caldas Hydroelectric Power Plant (CHEC) and has about 40 hectares of forest. It is considered the last remaining forest on the banks of the Cauca River, reported in Caldas, which corresponds to a semi-dry tropical forest with high biodiversity and influence of the river and the reservoir. With about 200 species of birds, it is a site of high ornithological interest. 

Birds of aquatic ecosystems can be found in Cameguadua and La Esmeralda Reservoirs. Cameguadua is located in the municipality of Chinchiná, 30 minutes from the city of Manizales, with two lakes, to the north is the tourist boardwalk and to the south the lake is for recovery. It has patches of forests and isolated trees that make it an attraction mainly for water birds, and there is a pier suitable for bird photography. 

Birding at Cameguadua

National Natural Park Los Nevados 

The best places for high mountain birds are in the National Natural Park Los Nevados, at Brisas-Tucurrumby-La Esperanza sector, where there is a platform, as a facility for the bird observation and photography. 

Besides Brisas, the thematic Park Laguna Negra is another attraction with an imposing lagoon of glacial origin, resting place for migratory species and wild ducks. 

Pale-naped Brushfinch – Atlapetes pallidinucha
Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii

Termales del Ruiz Hotel  

Termales del Ruiz Hotel is a private hidden hotel with amazing spaces for rest and enjoy the incredible Nevado del Ruiz, with ample space for rest and relaxation, meditation, reading and of course, birdwatching! 

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus igniventris
Shining Sunbeam – Aglaeactis cupripennis

Hacienda El Bosque 

Hacienda El Bosque is a traditional family dairy farm located 30 minutes from Manizales on the road to Bogotá. Its elevation gradient from 2,800 to 3,900 meters allows for varied ecosystems such as pastures for livestock and dairy production and large areas of high Andean forest and paramo.

The natural forest fragments have been protected for over 40 years, allowing the conservation of more than 25 water sources. It has an inventory of 127 species of birds. There you can find special facilities for bird photography.  

Grey-breasted Mountain-toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

Nido del Condor 

El Nido del Cóndor eco-hotel is located on the Condor Route to Los Nevados National Park via Santa Isabel. This place has an alternative, inclusive, and sustainable architecture.

The most special thing about this place is the presence of the nest of a beautiful couple of Andean Condors that fly over the 2 canyons that make up the plateau where this hotel is located. 

Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus

Paraíso Verde 

Paraiso Verde is a lodge near Manizales, inspired in the typical style of a coffee house, with large corridors and railings around it, with an extension of 7 hectares and located at an altitude of 1,950 meters. It presents fragments of very humid premontane forest and has a record of 192 species of birds.

With 200 species of birds and feeders which are ideal for bird photography, the ecohotel has specialized in offering facilities for bird watching and bird photography. It has about 4 km of ecological trails with several points for bird photography. 

Emerald Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus prasinus

Hacienda El Jardin 

Hacienda El Jardín is located 40 minutes from the city of Manizales.  This farm has 70 years of tradition and coffee activity at an altitude of 1,450 m and 100 ha of extension.

Also, the Hacienda has several habitats where birds can be observed including lakes, pastures, fragments of native forests, crops, and reforested areas with native trees, shrubs and flowers.   

Yellow-backed oriole – Icterus chrysater

La Juanita Ecohotel 

La Juanita Ecohotel is specialized in bird watching and has a total area of 4 ha at an altitude of approximately 2,000 m. It is immersed in a very humid premontane forest life zone, and it has trails in the middle of a secondary forest and areas suitable for bird watching.  ~127 species reported. 

Flame-rumped Tanager – Ramphocelus flammigerus

Urban Birding in Manizales 

You can also do urban bird watching in the city of Manizales. Just go to the Ecoparque Alcázares – Arenillo located in the neighborhood of Los Alcazares 5 minutes from downtown. This park has an extension of 33.43 hectares and is located at 2000 m.a.s.l.   

It is a little piece of very humid premontane jungle in the middle of the concrete jungle of Manizales. Its vegetation is characterized by trees of great importance for the fauna of the place like the black Yarumo, Balso panelero, Colombian Pine, Camargo, Arboloco, Espadero, Roble, Cariseco, Arrayán, Encenillo, Silvo Silvo and Manzanillo, mountain coffee bushes, Siete cueros, guayabos and palms of the gender Chamaedorea. There have been reported up to 167 species of birds.

Other places that you can visit in the city of Manizales for birding are the botanical garden of the University of Caldas, the viewpoint of Chipre, the Los Yarumos Ecopark, Kairi Reserve and the hotel Recinto del Pensamiento, among the most prominent. 

Recinto del Pensamiento

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Caldas for bird watching, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us


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. 

Most Colorful Birds of Colombia and Where to Find Them

Birds’ colors are, for many, one of its main attractions. In this post you will find the Most Colorful Birds of Colombia and where to find them.

Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan

Andigena hypoglauca

This is a colorful toucan of the high Andean cloud forest. You will find that its beak with coral, black and yellow stripes separates it from all others of its kind. It also has shades of yellow, red, rufous, brown and gray all over its plumage.

We recommend you to visit Hacienda el Bosque, located over 3000 m, and only 30 minutes by car from Manizales, in the department of Caldas. There you will be able to observe this high mountain toucan in all its splendor.

White-tipped Quetzal

Pharomachrus fulgidus festatus

This colorful bird is from the Colombian Caribbean. You can observe it in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the vicinity of the El Dorado Natural Bird Reserve, or in the famous Cuchilla de San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Ridge).

The word Pharomachrus comes from the Ancient Greek pharos, which means “mantle”, and makros which means “long”. It refers to the wing and tail coverts of the quetzal. On the other hand, the word fulgidus comes from Latin and means shining, glittering, radiant.

And as if that weren’t enough, the endemic subspecies of Colombia, has the name festatus, which means festive. So, you can imagine the beauty that this bird embodies.

Fiery Topaz

Topaza pyra

This hummingbird is one of the biggest and, probably, the most colorful in Colombia. The male is the one who wears this beautiful plumage, in a big body size of ~22 cm, including bill and tail.

Moreover, this is a bird that you can find throughout the Colombian Amazon region. However, we recommend you to visit Mitú, in the department of Vaupés, in Colombia, because there you can easily observe this bird.

Turquoise Dacnis

Dacnis hartlaubi

This is a tanager endemic to Colombia. It does not have many colors; however, the electric blue of the male attracts a lot of attention. It also has a black mask on its face, especially prominent, and a sharp yellow eye.

In Colombia you will be able to see the Turquoise Dacnis in the central and western mountain ranges, from 1,300 to 2,200 meters above sea level.

We recommend the department of Risaralda, where you can watch it in the rural areas and also in its capital city: Pereira. Near Bogotá you can watch it in the Pedro Palo Lagoon.

Keel-billed Toucan

Ramphastos sulfuratus

This toucan is found in northern Colombia and occupies various habitats. Two subspecies are currently recognized: Sulfuratus and brevicarinatus; the latter is found in Colombia.

It is a big and unmistakable bird, its beak is huge and with rainbow colors: red, green, blue, orange. Additionally, it has a green ring around its eyes that contrasts very well with its lemon-yellow neck, throat, and chest, edged with a fine red line.

It is a spectacle that you can see all over the Colombian Caribbean below 1600 m above sea level.

Keel-billed Toucan. Picture by Sara Colmenares

Red-fan Parrot

Deroptyus accipitrinus

This is a green parrot that seems to have nothing in particular. However, its throat and belly feathers are red with wide blue margins, its forehead is white, and the sides of its head and neck are striated with white.

When excited, this bird spreads the feathers of its nape, forming a crest like a crown around its head. It is very impressive and it is no wonder why the local indigenous people call it the Cacique parrot, Cacique means king.

In Colombia, you will find the subspecies accipitrinus, and you will be able to see it in the eastern end of the country, from Vichada to Vaupés departments, up to 400 m above sea level. We recommend you visit the Cerrito Verde trail in Mitú to watch this bird, in the company with the amazing local guides.

Toucan Barbet

Semnorinis ramphastinus

This is a spectacular bird and almost endemic to Colombia. Here we call it Compass. The Toucan Barbet has a gray throat, red chest and belly, black cap, a thick white stripe behind the eye, and a thick yellow beak with a black tip. These colors make them unique among the Barbets. They are also striking for their singing.

You will find this bird in the cloud forests of western Colombia, in the Pacific Region. We recommend you to visit Anchicayá, km 55 El Descanso, in the department of Valle del Cauca. There you will have the opportunity to see them, record them, photograph them, and listen to them in all their splendor.

Compas – Toucan Barbet – Semnornis ramphastinus

Red-headed Barbet

Eubucco bourcierii

This is a widely distributed bird, but that does not stop it from being eye-catching. The male is unmistakable with a bright red head, green back, yellow belly, and thick yellow beak.

It is a bird that you can easily see in the region of IBA/AICA “Bosque de Niebla San Antonio – Kilometro 18” in places like La Minga Ecolodge, or Finca Alejandría, in the department of Valle del Cauca.

Also in the Coffee Axis, for example, in the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Red-headed Barbet – Eubucco bourcierii, La Minga Ecolodge, Valle del Cauca

Wire-tailed Manakin

Pipra filicauda

This little bird is spectacular. It has very long caudal filaments and penetrating white eyes. The male is bright yellow from the face to the ventral region and bright red from the crown to the mantle, contrasting with the rest of his body which is deep black.

This is a bird that invites you to know the Colombian Orinoco. You can see it in the Hato la Aurora – Ecolodge Juan Solito, or in the Reserva Altagracia – Ecolodge Buenaventura in the department of Casanare.

You can even convince yourself to visit more remote regions in the departments of Guainía and Caquetá, with the excuse to follow the colors of this bird.

Saffron-headed Parrot

Pyrilia pyrilia

This parrot is widely distributed in Colombia, up to 1600 m above sea level.

It is mostly green, but its head is bright yellow and has a very prominent white eye ring. It also has shades of yellow, blue, red, and copper in its flight feathers.

You can observe this parrot in several highly recommended places such as the Rio Claro Reserve in Antioquia.

Orange-billed and Golden-winged Sparrows

Arremon aurantiirostris and Arremon schlegeli

Sparrows and brush finches are not the most colorful birds, we know, but there are two species that call special attention for the composition of their colors. These are the Orange-billed Sparrow – Arremon aurantiirostris and the Golden-winged sparrow – Arremon schlegeli.

The Orange-billed Sparrow, as its name suggests, has a strong orange peak, it practically glows in the dark. It also has a black and white head, black chest, and white throat. Although it is widely distributed in several countries, you will not find species similar to this bird. In Colombia you can find it all over the Andean region up to 1200 m above sea level.

On the other hand, the Golden-winged sparrow has a more restricted distribution. It looks very elegant, with a brilliant yellow beak and an open black ring around its neck.

Baudo Oropendola 

Psarocolius cassini 

This beautiful bird looks like it is wearing makeup. I can imagine it putting it on before going anywhere in the forest, rubbing a pink powder on its cheeks and a salmon-red lipstick on the tip of its beak. For the rest, it is a chestnut-colored bird adorned with bright yellow feathers on its tail.

It is an endemic bird of Colombia, which is distributed to the north of the Pacific region in the departments of Chocó, Risaralda, and Antioquia.

To get to know the Baudó Oropendola, you will have to visit Santa Cecilia in Risaralda, where it wanders around the town; or go to El Valle and the Utría National Natural Park in Chocó.

Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia

Chlorophonia pyrrhophrys

Yes, khlōros in Ancient Greek means “green”. But, unlike many Chlorophonias, this species is characterized by the striking brown belly, yellow sides, chest and face in different shades of green, and the blue crown of the male!

In Colombia, it is found in the cloud forests of the western and central mountain ranges. We recommend you visiting Hacienda El Bosque in Caldas, or the Montezuma Lodge in Risaralda to know this bird.

Orange-breasted Fruiteater

Pipreola jucunda

All the birds of the genus Pipreola are beautiful. Their colors make them almost invisible in the middle of cloud forests full of humidity, lichens, and mosses. It is difficult to choose among them the most striking, but I think the Orange-breasted Fruiteater is one of the most beautiful you can see in the western Andes of Colombia.

The orange chest and black head of the male make him easy to recognize.

You will see it when you visit Anchicayá in the Valle del Cauca, the town of Mistrató and the Montezuma Lodge in Risaralda, or Las Tangaras bird reserve in Chocó.

Striolated Manakin

Machaeropterus striolatus

This bird looks like candy! The male has a bright red crown and contrasting white stripes on its reddish belly.

It is widely distributed in Colombia until 1700 m above sea level.

Scarlet Ibis

Eudocimus ruber

You will never know exactly what color this bird is, for some it is fuchsia, for others it is orange, for others it is deep pink and some even say it is red. The truth is a red-orange color, with a black beak in the reproductive state.

It is a very common bird in aquatic marine and sweet habitats. In Colombia you can find it all over the Caribbean and in all swampy regions, wetlands, and marshes below 600 m above sea level.

To see this bird in all its splendor and, in addition, in great numbers, we recommend visiting the Los Flamengos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in La Guajira, or any of the reserves with lagoon habitats in the departments of Meta and Casanare.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock

Rupicola peruvianus

This bird needs no introduction. It is simply spectacular.

You can find a very large lek of this bird in the town of Jardin, in the department of Antioquia, in the Natural Reserve Jardin de Rocas.

Andean cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruvianus

Blue Cotinga

Cotinga nattererii

The male is deep sky blue with a dark purple throat and belly and mostly black wings.

It is distributed throughout the Pacific region of Colombia, and you can see it and even photograph it in the department of Valle del Cauca in Anchicayá and Alto Potedó. Also, in the department of Chocó, in the municipalities of Bahía Solano and in the National Natural Park Ensenada de Utria.

Spangled Cotinga

Cotinga cayana

The male is deep sky blue with a bright purple throat and mostly black wings. The plumage is spectacular with good light, but otherwise may appear gray.

It is distributed throughout the Colombian Orinoco and Amazon regions. To observe this bird, we recommend you visit the Natural Reserve La Isla Escondida in the department of Putumayo, the city of Mitú and surroundings in the department of Vaupés and Puerto Nariño and Tarapoto Lakes in the department of Amazonas.

Paradise Tanager

Tangara chilensis

This is possibly the most colorful tanager of all. Its head is bright green and contrasts with the red, black and blue body, the latter in different shades.

If you like tanagers, we have a post for you covering the Top 7 Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

The Paradise Tanager can be seen in the departments of Meta, Putumayo, Caquetá, Amazonas and Vaupés. We recommend you visit the town of Restrepo, in Meta department, stay at Rancho Camaná and visit the forests around, you will find not only this bird but many of the mentioned above! It is just a 20-minute drive from the Villavicencio airport.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


  • The Internet Bird Collection IBC
  • The Macaulay Library

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.

Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá

The Anchicayá is a Colombian river, in the department of Valle del Cauca, which originates west of Cali and flows into the Pacific Ocean, in the Buenaventura Bay. Like all rivers on the Pacific side, it has a high biodiversity. The Anchicayá basin is one of the richest places in Colombia for birding, and is considered the first in the world. This area is composed by a tropical rainforest that contains countless rivers and waterfalls of crystalline water and has a great variety of fauna and flora typical of the Pacific region and the Biogeographic Chocó. It is an area rich in primary forests that are characterized by their biodiversity in flora and fauna. The region is the third place with the highest rainfall in the world and the first in bird diversity. This is a very special area for birdwatching, with around 500 species recorded in several locations along the road, such as Agua Clara, the Danubio, Lower Anchicayá and Upper Anchicayá.

Since 1955, the company CELSIA, from the ARGOS Group, owns two hydroelectric power stations: The Alto Anchicayá hydroelectric plant, located 85 km west of Cali, and the Bajo Anchicayá plant located within the perimeter of the Los Farallones Natural Park. The reservoirs are located along the Anchicayá River. When you go birding on this road, the observation points are distributed and referenced around these two reservoirs, and they are known as Low Anchicayá and Upper Anchicayá. The upper Anchicayá is the nearest point from Cali.

Birding at Upper Anchicayá: El Descanso

El Descanso is a must for those who like bird photography. It is a unique place thanks to its location on the road that leads from Cali to Buenaventura through the Anchicayá River basin, in the Valle del Cauca department. As I mentioned before, it is one of the most important hotspots for bird watching, where the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes merges with the tropical rainforests of the biogeographic Chocó. On this road you will find a gradient that goes from the Andean cloud forest to the seashore in the Pacific sea.

In the area known as Alto Anchicayá, or upper Anchicayá, Dora Londoño offers tourist services for bird watching, together with her children, her grandchildren and her husband. She was a victim of the war in Colombia, who had to leave her place of origin to save her life. In Anchicayá she found refuge for her family, and has lived there for more than 20 years.  Initially, Doña Dora had a small cafeteria on her farm called El Descanso, next to the old road that leads from Cali to Buenaventura, at kilometer 55. In her cafeteria she offered lunches, cheese empanadas, coffee and her famous puff pastries. Her clients were the engineers and workers of the local reservoirs, who constantly went by. Doña Dora feels immense gratitude for that time, and for her first clients, who made it easier for her to settle in this place.

Doña Dora making her famous puff pastries at El Descanso

Over time, other types of customers began to arrive at their cafeteria. This family did not know that there were people willing to paid trips to come to Colombia to watch birds. They would never have thought of such a thing! For them, birds were part of their daily lives, and they did not pay much attention to them.

The Bird Photographers

Groups of people with very large cameras and binoculars, dressed in camouflage clothes began to arrive. Doña Dora asked the guides who were with them about who they were or what they were doing. She found out that they were birders. They used to sit and have a coffee at Doña Dora’s while they rested from their long journey along this road. One day, next to the house, one of the trees was bearing fruit, and a large number of birds began to arrive to eat from the tree. And it was that just at that moment there was a group of bird watchers in the cafeteria. They quickly got up from their chairs, leaving the coffee and the flakes, to follow and photograph these birds in the tree. And so the story began.

El Descanso farm is on the edge of a mountain covered by a dense cloud forest, in the tropical rainforest of the Biogeographic Choco. There is nothing but the mountain bordering the road and the house. One day, one of the guides suggested to Doña Dora that she give the birds food to attract them. Despite her incredulity, she began by putting bananas on a board, then papaya and sugary water. With this, not only did the birds arrive, but more tourists! In time, and by applying visitor’s recommendations, she set up a garden behind her house, with sticks and logs, drinking troughs and feeders, and began to make improvements with the money that tourism left her.

Attracting the Birds

She remembers that the first birds to arrive were the Mal-casados, or the badly married, common name of the White-lined tanagers. Then the Primaveras ones (Clay-colored Thrush), the Clarineros del Pacífico (Blue-winged Mountain Tanager), and the last one, the most difficult to attract, the Compás (Toucan Barbet) because it is a bird that usually do not exposes easily.

Malcasados – White-lined Tanager – Tachyphonus rufus

Clarinero del Pacífico – Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus

Compas – Toucan Barbet – Semnornis ramphastinus

Sustainable Destination

Family unity and constant commitment have brought this tourism project to fruition. Thanks to the support of her husband and sons, and with the help of several bank loans, she has managed to finish building her house, support her family and keep the birds. She build a third floor with an observation tower, which is more as a terrace, which gives direct view to the canopy, and where she has installed some drinking troughs to attract hummingbirds. His plans in the future are to offer a basic rural accommodation service, with hot water bathrooms. One of the attractions of the place is also the beautiful murals with birds painted by one of Dora’s sons, Erbert Sanchez. His aim is to fill the house with these murals, and to highlight the beauty of the rainforest birds that visit the gardens.

Gardens at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora, especially disposed for bird photography.

Terrace, at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora, especially disposed to attract hummingbirds.

Murals, at El Descanso Farm, Doña Dora.

All this has been paid for by the money left over from the birders’ visits. She knows that developing a tourist destination is a process that requires love and a lot of commitment. It has only been four years since she has positioned herself as a destination with a constant flow of birdwatching tourists, before that, it was all effort, patience and dedication, for almost two years.  Today they have been affected by the pandemic crisis, and any economic assistance is very important to them. If you are interested in helping you can contact them through their Facebook page.

Find a checklist of the birds you can observe in and around El Descanso, in Upper Anchicayá. This checklist is generated with data from eBird (ebird.org), a global database of bird sightings from birders like you. If you enjoy this checklist, please consider contributing your sightings to eBird. It is 100% free to take part, and your observations will help support birders, researchers, and conservationists worldwide. Go to ebird.org to learn more!


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 Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamú Birding is a natural reserve 15 km away from the city of Manizales, in the village of San peregrino. More than 40 years ago, in the heart of the coffee region in Colombia, Tinamu Birding was a coffee farm. Over the years, the Londoño Jaramillo family allowed their coffee and banana plantations to become a forest.

The family started supporting the planting of native trees in the region, protecting and reforesting a small part of the sub-Andean forest in the department of Caldas. This resulted in a high density of fauna and flora, concentrated in a land completely surrounded by open coffee and fruit tree plantations, becoming a refuge for local wildlife.

Origins of the Tinamú Birding Lodge

The real story begins just six years ago, in 2014, when Mauricio Londoño, its owner, made the decision to build a bird lodge. Since then, it became a successful and unique project in the country, competing internationally with eco-lodges and bird-lodges in countries like Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Costa Rica, which have a longer trajectory in birding and nature tourism. Since that time, ecotourism has been one of the main sources of self-financing for the reserve. They are specialized in offering a high level of service for birding tourists, who seek comfort and at the same time all the facilities to observe and photograph birds in their natural habitat.

According to Mauricio, a lot of perseverance and discipline was needed, because one of the main challenges was to adapt the facilities around the lodge to attract the birds. As is well known, the installation of bird drinkers and bird feeders requires a daily commitment to maintenance, to ensure the presence of the birds, but most of all, the health of the birds.

Tinamu Birding Visitors

Initially the bird lodge received hardcore birders, and still does, if not all of them have already passed through this place. As time went by, it became specialized in receiving people interested in having contact with nature and, at the same time, having the best possible comfort and attention. Today, Tinamú Birding is oriented to travelers looking for quality and comfort, and does not receive backpackers or outlanders. Just so you know, even camping is forbidden and no buses are accepted that bring more than 10 people.

Bird photographers at Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

Eventually, Tinamu specialized to hosting bird photographers. Bird photographers are a particular segment of bird watching tourism, who generally carry photographic equipment that can weigh up to 15 kilograms. These people do not walk much, but rather sit and wait for the perfect conditions to photograph the birds.

Facilities for bird photographers and bird watchers at the Tinamú Birding Lodge

Steely-vented Hummingbird at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The facilities offered for bird photographers at the Tinamu are concentrated on attracting the birds with food and water to scenarios well suited for bird photography. These locations are native plant gardens, with feeders and waterers installed around them. There are several natural perches installed there suitable for bird photography.

Around the lodge you can observe around 60 species of birds, among them the Gray-headed Dove, and the Little Tinamou itself, which gives the name to the reserve, has been baited to facilitate its observation. Some sectors even have hides for photographers.

Hide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Accommodation and staff

Highlights at a glance:

Tinamu offers a high level of service, from food, lodging, cleaning in the lodge and in the forest. All the employees are from rural families who live nearby, and are trained in the love of service and the appreciation and respect for the clients, and so provide a qualified service. There are 9 staff members in charge of providing the best attention in all the services of cooking, lodging, guidance and maintenance of the reserve.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The lodge has large rooms of between 25 and 30 square meters, with comfortable beds, designed for a senior and family segment, so that people receive good service and feel good. The bathrooms are very spacious, with hot water, and are safe and functional for the senior tourist.

Accommodation capacity in the Tinamu is reduced to guarantee peace in the natural environment, allowing wild animals to come close. For this reason there are no dogs, cats, television or radio that can disturb the tranquility. It is a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of nature.

Accomodation at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Today, the recovery of the forest has been so successful that, only 3 months ago, Tinamu Birding Lodge was declared as a Civil Society Nature Reserve (CSRR 031-19 before Colombian National Natural Parks NNP according to resolution 056 of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development). Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve is proudly rising as one of the most important private wildlife conservation centers in the region, and becoming a national reference for others who are beginning to understand and follow its example.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve, notice it is a refuge in the middle of a highly fragmented landscape.

Today, the reserve guarantees the regeneration and restoration of the ecosystems within its 12.6 hectares. It protects a strategic habitat in the middle of the agricultural zone. This habitat is a refuge for 227 species of resident birds and 33 species of migratory birds. Also, different types of mammals, reptiles, insects, and attractive butterflies and moths, as well as many plants and fungi. Check out the gallery of wildlife you can photograph at Tinamu at the end of this post.

Sustainable Practices at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Their new goal is to increase their environmental education programs focused on children and youth living in the surrounding area, people with disabilities, and the elderly. They are also looking for alliances with institutions, schools and universities, and agreements with ornithological associations in the country, to develop research projects for the conservation and biodiversity of nature.

Children from San Peregrino at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Among the main activities carried out in the reserve for the protection of the forest are:

  • The use of native trees for reforestation.
  • The creation of artificial nests for birds and mammals.
  • Research of the avifauna by carrying out permanent bird censuses.
  • Day and night monitoring of species with camera traps, videos, sound recording and photographic records.
  • Free workshops for children and young people in the San Peregrino area with emphasis on water, nature and bird care.
  • Workshops for groups of blind and disabled people with a focus on awareness and care of the environment.
  • Invitation of international experts, through PROCOLOMBIA and other institutions, as advisors for the preservation of the environment.
Juan Pablo Culasso at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Birds and Coffee at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Within the reserve there are also some relics of the coffee plantations of the past. These trees have been left to grow along with the native species from the reforestation. The banana is also kept, but this time for the maintenance of the birds’ food. The coffee and banana plantations are maintained naturally as they do not receive any agricultural treatment. Birds like the tinamou and some species of grallarias are very attracted by these mixed covers of coffee and forest.

Recently Tinamú created the Café de las Aves, a completely organic coffee, roasted in Chichiná, Caldas which is offered to visitors during their stay, and for sale in general. The production is not industrial, and the profits from the sale of this coffee are destined to the maintenance of the food for the birds. If you want to know more about the relationship between birds and coffee read our entry Did you know birds can be saved by the coffee you drink?

What has been happening at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve during Covid-19 pandemia?

During the pandemic, Tinamu has taken care of the people and their jobs. The lovely staff have prepared all the necessary biosecurity protocols to receive you with all the care you need. At the moment they only recommend you to #stayhome. If you like to know how to visit the reserve, write to us and we will be happy to design your trip.

Fernando Galvis – Birdwatching Guide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve
Verónica Echeverry – Receptionist at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
James Martínez – Gardener Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Dorany García – Housekeeper Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Nancy and Natali -Chefs Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Fauna and flora you can find at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve (Photo gallery)

Pieridae Butterfly
Blue-headed Parrot
Zingiberaceae Plant
Bee pollinating a passion fruit flower.
Water lily.
White-bearded Manakin
Western Emerald
Spectacled Owl
Bamboo mushroom
Earthstar mushroom
Berthold’s bush anole.
Long-tailed weasel.
Tent-making bat.
Moustached Puffbird.
Gray-headed Dove.
Nine-banded armadillo.
Stump-tailed porcupine.
Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth.
Crab-eating fox.
Western basilisk.
Bay-headed Tanager.

Sula thanks Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve for the visual material shared for the publication of this post. Also for receiving us at the reserve to know first hand everything they have to offer. This allows us to give the best information to our clients about this destination.


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. 


Brief Overview about Bird Photography for Beginners

This blog entry does not address the ambitious and advanced bird photographer, nor the complex technical aspects of the topic. It’s a more basic, personal approach from a birder, who likes to take casual pictures & videos. It emphasizes giving the interested beginner a brief overview of what options there are for bird photography.

Brief overview about Bird Photography

Not so long ago, taking high-quality bird pictures for publications was exclusively reserved for the professional photographer. The equipment used was invariably extremely expensive and exquisite. But with the rise of digital photography some 15 years ago, things drastically changed.

Digital Technology

Digitalization has leveled the field for birders, beginners, and amateur photographers alike, who have the ambition – and now the opportunity – to shoot high-quality pictures with affordable equipment. Nowadays, people with very basic knowledge of photography (like me) are able to take excellent pictures and videos of birds – something that was unthinkable a decade ago.

Bird Photography Market

Bird photography has become quite a market. There’s a large offer of workshops, guided photography tours, as well as many publication opportunities e.g. social media platforms and public databases. Although birders and bird photographers focus on the same subject, the two fields are different pairs of shoes. 

Anyway, many people like to combine both and recognize modern technologies as useful tools. Whether it’s to document a very rare bird on your excursion, capture a picture or video of a dramatic and spontaneous encounter, or taking pictures to compare, learn and study species – it’s true that today almost every birder is carrying some sort of photographic equipment in the field!

But what kind of equipment?

That’s where the potential headache starts for people completely new to the subject. Photography (no matter what genre and level) is a science, and the market offers a myriad of options to pros and beginners alike.

To start with, it’s essential to ask yourself in what environment and for what purpose you consider using your equipment. If you aim to take good pictures of rare, cryptic rainforest understory species, you will need – no matter what – adequate, expensive high-end equipment.

In rainforest understory, you definitely don’t need a big 600/800 mm lens. But if you want to take pictures of waders, birds in open habitat, distant birds from a canopy platform, then you have to consider exactly that. But for this purpose, you have several more alternatives and options for compromises.

As well, if you publish your photos exclusively on platforms and databases that compress picture quality drastically, you don’t need the fanciest gear! Nowadays there’s something for everyone, for every need. But no system will be capable to cover all application fields at the same time.

Systems widely used for Bird Photography

The options presented below are the most acclaimed and widely used for bird photography. Still, the best system with the technically best picture results are:

1. Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras and their accompanying lenses.

But this is mainly for the advanced and ambitious bird and wildlife photographer. With this system, you’ll always carry (at least) two different parts: Camera body + lens, the most weight, and spend the most cash.


For a long time now, the industry leaders for DSLRs are Nikon and Canon. The most significant advantages of DSLR cameras compared to other systems are: They have the best autofocus, have very high frame rates, perform excellent at high ISO, and are the most robustly built.

The price of good DSLR cameras ranges between 700 USD up to 6000 USD. Consider buying them second-hand. There’s a huge market for this. For an overview of Nikon and Canon camera bodies:


Accompanying one of the high-end camera bodies, are high-end telelenses of the same brands. For bird photography, you need at least a 300mm lens (or a 100-400mm zoom). Nikon & Canon offer fixed focal lengths of 400/500/600mm with apertures F/2.8, F/4, F/5.6 suitable for bird photography.

You can combine these lenses either with camera bodies with crop factor or converters in order to get more magnification with smaller focal lengths (300/400,) or incredible magnification with 500/600mm lenses. Using converters will usually (slightly) diminish picture quality. For taking pictures with such high magnification, you need good tripods and tripod heads…

Bird photographers love warm, low-angle sunlight in the early morning and late evening. Often, this ideal light is not available. If you take pictures in dark environments, you’ll need sophisticated flashes too, which tend to alter natural colors significantly.

You see, once you move into this league, you’ll have to add all different (yes, innumerable) kinds of accessories. All the above-mentioned will result in staggering expenses starting at about 12000 USD, and you dragging around lots and heavy gear into the field.

Having said this, Nikon just released the new Nikkor 500mm F/5.6 PF ED VR telelens. This very compact, light (1.5 kg!), “cheap” (3900 USD) lens offers incredible quality and could set THE standard of what many photographers will use in the future.

2. Digital, mirrorless Cameras

The mirrorless camera technology is following the above-mentioned DLSR-System hot on its heels in several aspects. With this system, you still carry two parts – the camera body and lens.

The newest releases of the industry leaders Sony and Olympus apparently approach or even match the image quality and versatility of DSLR cameras. Nikon and Canon produce mirrorless cameras too.

Mirrorless cameras lack obviously – as the name implies – a mirror. This means that one is looking through an electronic viewfinder, instead of an optical one. The imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times and creates a digital image reproduced in the electronic viewfinder or an LCD screen on the back of the camera.

Advantages of mirrorless cameras

They are small and light, still somewhat cheaper, are excellent for taking videos, and they are compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Tamron lenses.

Disadvantages of mirrorless cameras

Most of the mirrorless cameras have somewhat slower autofocus, are less tolerant to high ISO, and have significantly less battery life.

If you have a little extra cash, you might want to consider Sony’s high-end telelens, a 600mm/F.4 for about 13000 USD.

So, is there something in between the two? Absolutely!

3. Bridge cameras

Bridge cameras are mirrorless, single-lens cameras. The name “Bridge Camera” derives from “bridging the gap” between point-and-shoot cameras and single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) There you go: You have camera and lens united in one piece!

The ones best suited for bird photography have zoom lenses ranging between 25-400mm, 25-480mm or 25-600mm. These cameras are also well suited for taking videos and are extremely compact and light!

Although image quality is excellent on computer screens and by any means good enough to publish your pictures on Facebook etc., it never matches the quality of good DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Furthermore, they are not resistant to humidity and shock, they focus and shoot slower and are far less tolerant to high ISO settings.

In my opinion, they offer by far the best price-performance ratio for beginners who like to take good quality pictures and videos of birds. The large zoom range of the integrated lens makes them very versatile and useful for many other photographic purposes.

Sony & Lumix currently produce the best bridge cameras:

4. Digiscoping

Here you simply attach a point-and-shoot camera or even a smartphone (with a corresponding adapter) to your telescope. Depending on your equipment you can achieve focal lengths of 1000-3000mm and even more, not possible with any of the above-presented systems. Furthermore, a good telescope produces amazing detail with a forced depth of field and is tremendous in low-light situations.

In turn, with such a powerful focal length you’ll have considerable problems focusing on close and especially moving objects.

Although people have been digiscoping since the early 1990s, probably no one back then believed that it would be possible to take high-quality pictures with a telephone! And more: Make them instantly and easily accessible to the whole community.

Conclusions and recommendations

Advances in technology and optics have provided us new opportunities for photography, probably few have dared to think of a short while ago. Remember: The most expensive equipment is worth little if you don’t know how to handle it properly.

Whatever camera system you use: Learn to handle it well. Of course, basic technical knowledge is essential to take good pictures. Practice and experiment with your gear as much as you can.

Birds rarely pose long enough and wait until you finished fumbling around with buttons and camera settings. But: Pure technical knowledge can limit you in some ways, not helping you to take interesting pictures. And: How often has the same bird been photographed technically perfect on the same branch and the same feeder, not even causing you to raise an eyebrow anymore…

Study your subject – the birds – as well as possible. Profound knowledge about them and the environment they are living in will enhance the chances of taking extraordinary pictures – whatever kit you use!

About the author

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. Jérôme has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.