What Kind of Birder You Think You Are – Birding Colombia

Yes, we have been watching you. We want you to come and make a birding trip in Colombia, and that’s why we are interested in knowing what kind of bird watcher you are.

Since we can’t give you a direct diagnosis, here I will tell you what the most common types of birders are, according to recent studies. This will help you identify with one of them.

If you know what kind of bird watcher you are, it will be easier for you, and for us, to plan the birding trip of your dreams in Colombia. 

We will give you some of our suggestions on what you could do and where you could go if you come to Colombia to watch birds. To start, I recommend you visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

Without further ado, here are the most common bird watchers’ types: Hard Core Birders, Enthusiastic Birders, and Casual Birders (Ecotourists). Each segment differs in objectives and means to achieve satisfaction.

Hard Birding

Hard birding corresponds to extremely specialized tours to find difficult bird species targets.

The Hard Core Birders 

You are the difficult to influence birdwatcher. If your interest is to identify the greatest number of birds from a given location, and increase your life list, you can consider yourself as a hardcore birder.

In general, hardcore birdwatching is associated with competitions among birders, whether it be on a lifetime/region basis, or during a specified period. Examples of this are the Global Big Day, the Big Year, or to get into the top ten world listers.

If you are a lister, Colombia is a must to visit since we have more than 70 endemic bird species in our country. There is no way to avoid your visit.

Comedy icons Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson star in THE BIG YEAR. ©HBO

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

For a hardcore like you, Colombia can be expensive because of transportation. Many of the endemic species are found in places far form big cities, where the road infrastructure, and even hotel infrastructure, is not very good. Additionally, add the costs of the flights you must take to arrive there.

Once in the place, you will need specialized transportation, as for example 4×4 trucks that can enter these sites, or horses. It is also necessary your willingness to endure long journeys to get to some places.

Examples of places where you need specialized transportation are Bahía Solano, in Chocó, Montezuma, in Risaralda, the Ukuku Lodge, in Tolima, or Mitú, in Vaupés.

Guianan Cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola rupicola, Mitú, Vaupés

Getting up very early in the morning is almost unavoidable. This is because some birds appear at specific times early in the morning, so if you arrive late, you will miss it.

Examples of such morning birds are the Fuertes’s Parrot in Risaralda, the Santa Marta Parakeet in the Sierra Nevada, or some antpittas in Caldas.

Finally, the guide will be expensive. Local birding guides in Colombia with a high level of expertise in birds, and who also speaks your language are few. 

There are some specialized birding companies who can offer you these services, many of them from outside Colombia. In Sula, we want local companies to grow, and that is why we support and promote local operators and guides.

Characteristics of a Hardcore Birder

  • Extremely dedicated birders
  • Impatient with less-skilled birders and crowds
  • Pursue to increase “life list”
  • Competitive
  • Bring their own equipment
  • Not interested in other activities
  • Satisfaction comes from nature observations
  • Predominantly men
  • Will travel long distances to see new or rare birds
  • You guys are the smaller segment, less than 20%

Soft Birding

If you like birds, but also socializing, living other experiences. Or if you are not interested in filling lists, or competing, or do not want to be “suffering” so much in your birding trip, this is your group of birders!

The Enthusiastic Birders

I consider myself into this kind of birder, I am a broad-based nature lover. Yes, I am under suspicion for being a biologist, but I know competing of life lists are not in my preferences.

However, I have the desire to watch a large and diverse number of birds. And this does not imply going through discomfort.

Enthusiastic birders still need specialized attention related to birds, with good and fast transport services, easy to walk trails, and satisfaction. Satisfaction comes from being able to watch, as much as possible, all the available birds.

Local Birders at Vado Real, Suaita, Santander, Colombia

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

Places that will make you happy are the civil society nature reserves. Among them, we recommend you Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve in Caldas, El Dorado Bird Reserve in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Mururito and Lagos de Menegua in Meta, El Encanto in Palestina – Huila, El Descanso in the Old Way to Buenaventura, and La Minga Ecolodge in Valle del Cauca.

If you want to know more about nature reserves in Colombia visit our entry Responsible Travelers and Nature Reserves in Colombia.

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

The above-mentioned places still retain some of the privacy and direct contact with nature that we always try to find. There, everything is ready for you to watch the birds, and take with you the best experience.

Characteristics of an Enthusiastic Birder

  • Broad-based and knowledgeable nature lovers
  • Slower, more relaxed travelers
  • Tolerate birders of all skill levels
  • Satisfied as long as birds are seen
  • Confortable in larger groups
  • Interested in other nature and cultural activities
  • Satisfaction comes partly from socializing with others
  • Slightly more women than men
  • You represent about 50% of birding tourists.

The Casual Birders

The family guys! If you like to watch birds with less effort and more comfort, and/or travel with your spouse and kids, this is your group!

For these groups, birds are not the main goal of the trip. Birdwatching may be an add-on to other activities such as cultural experiences, safari, trekking, bicycling, glamping, etc.

@Colombiafrank at Mururito

What kind of birding trip you can do in Colombia?

There are plenty of option in Colombia for you to find. The coffee destinations and the coffee triangle are the most recommended for this kind of experiences. You can mix your love for coffee with your interest in nature and watch some birds, I recommend you read our entry Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

So, if you like birds, but also to do trekking or bicycling I recommend you visit Minca, in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Or if you prefer to experience the local culture and observe other animals, I recommend you El Encanto de Guanapalo, Hato La Aurora or Altagracia in Casanare for a safari and eastern plains cowboy activities.

For more information about safari in Colombia read our entry Booking a Safari in Colombia? Find here the Best Options!

But, what if you like is coffee and rum, and walk around, a swimming pool?, visit Hacienda Venecia in Caldas, or La Palma y El Tucán near to Bogotá.

Safari in Casanare

In general, these tours do not need an expert birding guide. You can venture out just to look for the birds, as there will always be easy routes designed for this within the places you lodge or in the surroundings.

You would be paying for the comfort, convenience, and variety of activities.

Characteristics of a Casual Birder

  • Non specialist birder
  • Combine birding with other nature-based activities
  • Interested in seeking something different from home
  • Prefer nature destinations accessible by road
  • Satisfaction comes from superficial interaction with nature
  • Your group represents about 30% of birding tourists

I hope you found your answer about what kind of bird watcher you are. Now you are ready to plan your trip!

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

The Specific Glossary for Birders: The Birding Lingo

Birders and ornithologists have an interest in describing things as accurately as possible. Whether it be giving directions to find a bird, or describe it, in order to get somebody’s help identifying it. A specific birding lingo or Birding Glossary exists for all that.  

But our passion, our hobby, has seen us battle through most eccentric situations. Over time a pertinent, widely used birding jargon has been established and applied in the heat of the battles. 

Those who mingled in birding circles for a while have stumbled over most of these expressions. Tough still, you might find some new ones here… 

Folks new to birding or not so familiar with the English language might raise an eyebrow about many of these sometimes “encrypted” expressions.

The Birders Jargon 

Some of the birder’s lingo is understood in all English spoken countries, others are strictly American or British. 

  •  Burndown 

An organized search by a group of birders in order to seek skulking (see skulker) species. Often results in the bird being flushed or pushed out of its hideout. 

  • Banger

To get very high-quality photos of a bird. Also crush, hammer.

  • Big Day

A birdwatching event in which birders try to see as many species of birds as possible within 24h. Colombia has been participating in recent Global Big Days, occupying the number one position in lists and birds in the world.

  • Big Year

In a big year, a birder tries to see as many species of birds as possible within a defined area in 365 days. The movie  The Big Year was inspired by this.

  • Chooks

In Australia, it refers to already seen or common birds.

  • Cosmic mind f*****/ or blower, if you prefer 

See Megafor explanations 

  • Crippler 

A rare or beautiful species whose appearance leaves you crippled. Similar league to the one above, but not quite. 

  • Dude 

The guy from “The Big Lebowski” is famous. But such a birder is a guy who has just about no clue what he’s doing (identifying, photographing, etc.), though he might be geared up and act like a pro… 

  • Dipping 

The worst part about twitching (and birding in general)see below. Missing the bird, you specifically went looking for. There are some people born under a bad sign and constantly miss their targets. These are called Dipperslike the birds. Well, it’s all part of the game. 

  • Duff gen 

Getting first-hand (often secret, suppressed) information about the whereabouts of a rare bird, and information about the access to remote, restricted areas where birds occur. A term used in hard-core British birding circles 

  • First

The first record of a species in a place.

  • Glimps 

Get only a very brief, often unsatisfying view of a bird 

  • Gripping off 

Making birders jealous with stories of good birds you’ve to see and that you know, they haven’t but they would love to see! Understand? There are some (funny, incredible) stories of people who went on a Twitch (see later) together, and one person has seen the bird and the other one dipped! (remember?). Now, the one person who’s seen it describes other people who good the observation was, in the presence of the other one who hasn’t seen it… 

  • Jizz 

The general appearance of a species, genus, family taking into consideration its size, shape, and behavior. Subjective, of course, but very useful and real for bird ID. Species are identified by their Jizz alone. Think of Flamingo  

  • LBJs/LGB (little brown jobs, little green birds) 

No community or sandwich, but notoriously difficult to identify groups of birds of the corresponding colors (i.e. Sparrows, Tyrant-Flycatchers). By the way, contrary to public opinion that all Neotropical birds are colorful, the great majority of avian diversity here constitutes of LBJs & LGBs. Better learn them! 

  • Lifer 

The first-time observation of a bird species  

  • List

A list of all species seen by a particular observer

  • Lister

A birdwatcher who competes to amass longer lists than their rivals. This birder is intensely focused on keeping and growing lists.

  • Mega 

A very rare bird in any area. A bird you’ve always been dreaming to see. So badly. There’s only one better thing than that. The one that really blows your mind. And that’s the first one on this list, remember? 

And yes, there’s been some tragedies too, in order to get such one… 

  • Nemesis bird 

A bird that always eluded you seeing it. No matter how many times you’ve been looking for. Rare or common. 

  • Patagonia Picnic Table Effect 

A phenomenon that occurs when one rare bird draws a bevy of birders to an area, resulting in more interesting species being discovered in the same locale.  

  • Patch

A birding location or set of birding locations that a birder visits frequently.

  • Peeps 

No show but small, difficult to identify waders of the Calidris-genus are collectively referred to, as peeps 

  • Pishing 

Hissing sounds made by birders with their tongue, lips, other parts of the body(!), and other aids, in order to coax a “skulker”, see next, out into view. It works! Sometimes…. 

  • Slash

A cryptic species pair on a day list.

  • Skulker 

A cryptic, notoriously difficult bird to see. Often hiding in the thickest vegetation. Resistant to Pishing  

  • Spark bird 

A species that trigger a lifelong passion for birding. 

  • Spuh

Birds that are only identifiable to genus level on a day list.

  • Stringer 

A birder who purposely invents sightings of mostly rare birds (or incredibly big numbers), in order to draw attention in the birding scene. But hey, be very careful with your reputation. Mark Obmascik in the famous birding essay “The big year” wrote: Losing credibility is like losing virginity. You lose it only once. 

  • Tick 

A new bird added to whatever list 

  • Trash Bird 

Of course, there’s no such thing. Referred here, to some extremely common and widespread birds in any given area. 

  • Twitcher 

Birders who travel instantly to see a specific bird to add to lists (local, country, world). For many it has become an obsession. Much competition, grief, stringing going on… You hope to grip people off, never dip!! Often more about collecting than watching. 

  • Warbler Neck 

A painful spasm in the neck from looking at birds, like warblers, which are often found in the tops of trees.

Last but not least: 

  • SOB (spouse of a birder) 

A person who has had the misfortune of putting up with all that 


Some species have nicknames. Twitchers (and birders in general) will also use a mixture of scientific and slang terms for feather tracts and so on.

About the authors

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 travelled many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.

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 Science behind Bird Names: Taxonomy & Nomenclature

If you as a birdwatcher flip through many of the excellent, indispensable- but older- field guides and compare bird species names with newer, Neotropical avifauna, inevitably you will stumble across several unfamiliar names! This is beacuse Taxonomy and Nomenclature. 

You must also consider that the sequence of orders and families – and within families, the genera – have changes, in some cases quite drastically. In comparing these references, you will see that many concepts have simply been given a new name.

To complicate matters, formerly single species are now believed to consist of two distinct species or vice versa (follow this link for an example).

Taxonomy, Nomenclature & the Species Concepts

Birdwatchers and species names: Confusion at all levels! However, this is not because there have been major problems since the first guides were printed, nor because the authors assigned bird names at random.

Authors from any time period face the same difficulties in choosing these names, but there is a science behind it. A Science that is in constant state of change known as Taxonomy & Nomenclature.

First of all, you need to know there is adifference between Taxonomy and Nomenclature. Taxonomy is an artificial agreement to classify biological diversity. On the othe hand, nomenclature is an artificial agreement to name biological diversity. 

The Swedish botanist Carl von Linné is considered the founder of the current system of classification of biological diversity (i.e. taxonomy), since he developed a classification system known as Linné’s taxonomy to categorize organisms, and the binomial nomenclature to name the organisms.

Carl von Linné

Systema Naturae by Carl von Linné

Let’s go back to mid-18th century when Swedish biologist Carl von Linné introduced the binary nomenclature system for taxa (life forms and organisms) to science.

His general belief was that all life forms on this planet were unchangeable and created by God. Linné was convinced that God’s presence materializes through natural diversity.

In order to prove God’s existence or at least get closer to him, Linné started to collect as many different life forms as he could gather and with these, he developed a classification system.

The Classification System

Linné standardized the description processes and categorized the life forms in hierarchical orders: family, genera, and species (taxonomy).

Additionally, he gave all species a Latin generic and species name and stored those specimens in large collections- which nowadays is undertaken by museums (nomenclature).

With this system, the basis for modern zoological and botanical taxonomy and nomenclature was created.

The nomenclatural system and process to describe new species remains very much the same as back in the days of early scientists!

Carl von Linné

The Origin of Species

In subsequent years, scientists & naturalist continued collecting, describing and discovering data that led them to begin doubting Linnés’ and others’ views regarding the origins of species.

This doubt peaked with Charles Darwin’s (and Alfred R. Wallace’s among others) discoveries and publication of the Evolutionary Theory in 1859.

The publication by Darwin bares the Victorian title: On the origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation, of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Many of the observations for these publications were made in the Neotropics!

Darwin’s work had tremendous impact on society far beyond natural history and science. Moreover, Darwin’s theory is still the backbone of modern evolutionary biology.

The Discovery of DNA

The discovery of DNA in mid-20th century  opened new possibilities to science, revealing some big surprises in taxonomy and systematics at all levels.

The fact that all modern genetic analyses and recent findings support Darwin’s theory is even more remarkable, as DNA and genetics were totally unknown to him!

DNA analyses are mostly used to define independent evolutionary lineages. 

For various reasons, birds remain the most studied animal organism, especially for evolutionary biology and taxonomy.

Bird Taxonomy

In bird taxonomy, there are two leading methodologies: the traditional Biological Species Concept (BSC) and the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC).

To make it easy to understand, I will give you a extremely simplified versions of the species concepts: biological and phylogenetic.

The Species Concept

Firstly, the Biological Species Concept considers groups of interbreeding populations that are reproductively isolated from other groups.

On the other hand, the Phylogenetic Species Concept considers species as diagnosable and divergent evolutionary lineages which share a parental pattern of ancestry and descent.

Scientists expect more changes in taxonomy and nomenclature because of the increasing knowledge given by different species concepts and DNA discoveries. 

Bird Nomenclature

At Sula we decided to follow nomenclature of the South American Classification Committee (SACC). This was a decision based on convenience! Most contemporary field guides about Neotropical avifauna are using this nomenclature.

The SACC is one of two Comities (the other is the North American Classification Committee, NACC) of the American Ornithologist Union (AOU), which deals with all taxonomic issues based on the Universal Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World.

This universal checklist follows regional authorities and is usually updated annually by the AOU in August, see here!

If you are starting or already keep a bird list, you might very well use other authorities than the above-mentioned, as for example:

  1. International Ornithological Committee (IOC) Bird checklist  or
  2. Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the birds of the World, 4th edition or
  3. HBW Alive/Birdlife International.

You can find a detailed comparison of all the major checklists on Avibase website.

Conclusion on Bird Names

  • With whatever book you consult or whatever list you follow, all species concepts and taxonomic traits are man-made constructs and decisions.
  • They differ in various degree in their primary goals, philosophy, and attempts to investigate complex and overlapping fields.
  • Scientists are constantly publishing new results in highly technical articles.
  • It is in the nature of the matter that there is going to be disagreement and inconsistency on this subject now and in the future.
  • Therefore, as this understandably causes some annoyance to the average birdwatchers and bird species names, it is at the same time nothing more than progress in Ornithology and Biology!
  • You just might be able to contribute to that by simply observing and enjoying birds.
  • Also by identifying them carefully & correctly, recording vocalizations, noting hybrids and variations in species/populations, mating pairs, and documenting extra limital records well! Is that not what birding is all about?

Aboout the authors

Jérôme Fischer

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

Note by the author: I would like to thank my friend, Dr. Manuel Schweizer, Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum Bern in Switzerland for many long discussions about these topics, decades of birding (we’re getting old buddy…come visit), and giving some input for this  Blog-entry!

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.