Birders’ Clubs and Ornithological Associations in Colombia 

According to a study published in 2008 by the Acorn Consulting Partnership, birdwatching was the fastest growing outdoor activity in Americawith 51.3 million Americans claiming to watch birds. Its growth as a niche market was expected to be strong over the next 10 years, and it is!  

The main competing birding destinations for US consumers were Mexico and Colombia, with Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama as secondary destinations. 

The birdwatching tourism boom in Colombia has been a driver for birders and ornithologists to organize themselves in local clubs or in ornithology associations . 

Their goal: sharing knowledge and raising awareness of bird conservation to all citizens. Some of them also promote their regions as bird watching destinations. 

In this post, we will talk about the main colombian ornithology associations that aim to share their love for birds throughout Colombia. 

Caldas Society of Ornithology (SCO

Sociedad Caldense de Ornitología or the Caldas Society of Ornithology was the second ornithological organization to be legally incorporated in Colombia, in 1984.

It is a non-governmental organization of environmental nature  that works for the conservation, defense and study of birds and their habitats.

The general goal of the SCO is to ensure the preservation and care of the environment in the department of Caldas, considering that one can get enjoyment from simply observing nature.

The Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata) was chosen as the society’s flagship bird and logo. In honor of the symbolic bird, the society created an ornithological newsletter called Merganetta. 

Caldas Society of Ornithology (SCO) Logo honoring the beautiful Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

SCO aims to understand better the current environmental problems and suggest conservation alternatives. For this reason, it is formed by professionals and students from different fields, which is useful to have a comprehensive vision and a holistic team. 

As a member of the National Birdwatchers Network -RNOA-, the Caldas Society has coordinated conservation initiatives such as the ‘Esperando Gavilanes’ program and the Christmas and Aquatic Bird Censuses, which have been welcomed by the ornithological community.

These are the main activities offered by the SCO: 

‘Vamos todos a pajarear’ 

This is the initiative of doing birdwatching trips open to all public. Since 2012, bird lovers and curious people gather the first Saturday of every month at 7 am in one of the eco-parks of Manizales to go birding!

These trips are specially aimed at people who have never done birdwatching but are interested in knowing the birds of the region. 

“Esperando Gavilanes’ 

It is a project that seeks to raise interest about the migratory phenomenon of the Broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) and the Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) that went unnoticed in the region, specially in Manizales.

Since these birds migrate to South America to spend winter, they can be observed in October flying over Manizales and returning to the north during the first months of the year.

To create expectations, the organization launches a campaign with newsletters, press releases, posters, and conferences aimed at all citizens. 

Bird Censuses

The SCO replicates international initiatives such as the Christmas Census and the Neotropical Waterbird Census.

The Christmas Census was the adaptation of an ancient North American tradition, which was about to go hunting as many birds as possibly during Christmas time, in which people go out to count as many birds as possible. 

In Colombia, this activity is held from December 14 to January 5. The Neotropical Waterbird Census is a monitoring program based on waterbird counts made twice a year, in February and July throughout the country. 

Antioquia Society of Ornithology (SAO

The Antioquia Society of Ornithology was founded the 24th of November of 1984, in Medellin.

SAO is a non-profit organization engaged in promoting research, knowledge, dissemination and conservation of the birds of Colombia. These objectives are met through 4 different approaches: 

1. Dissemination

SAO seeks to strengthen its positioning in spaces where its activities, publications, products and projects are showcased, as well as to motivate more people to devote their free time to the enjoyment of birds in freedom.

2. Research

Production of ornithological knowledge and sustainable projects. 

3. Training

Since birdwatching requires precise identification skills with the help of field guides, pictures, vocalizations and distribution patterns, SAO aims to train new generations of birders, bird guides and qualified scientists. 

4. Conservation

By having the Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti), a Colombian endemic endangered species, as the society’s flagship bird, SAO encourages the creation of knowledge and actions for bird and habitat conservation in the country. 

Antioquia Society of Ornithology (SAO) Logo honoring the endangered Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti)

The organization’s main ways of disseminating knowledge are its scientific newsletter, Boletín SAO, the monthly newsletter El Cucarachero, own book production, the Medellín Bird Festival, and the periodic holding of free conferences, workshops, and bird watching field trips. 

Marco Antonio Serna Grant Fund 

One of the highlights of this birding association is the study grants they offer to students interested in doing research or their degree thesis related to birds.

This project is called the Marco Antonio Serna Grant Fund and has benefited 10 students with the necessary economic resources for them to carry their research out, which then will be published in the SAO newsletter or presented to the society’s members, friends and allied organizations at a lecture.

In addition, there is SAO Kids, a project that aims to draw the attention of children to the preservation of birds, and currently 3 birdwatching clubs have been established in different schools.  

Bogota Association of Ornithology (ABO

17 people, including ornithologists and birdwatchers, gathered together in 1989 to found a group of bird enthusiasts. Two years later, the bylaws of the group were set so that it could be legally incorporated before the Chamber of Commerce in 1994.

Today, the Bogota Association of Ornithology is a non-profit organization that seeks the conservation and the study of birds and their habitats in Bogota and the department of Cundinamarca, by the means of the promotion of knowledge and enjoyment of wild birds in their freedom.  

Bogota Association of Ornithology (ABO)  Logo honoring the endemic Bogotá Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus)

Like other birding associations, this one works with different approaches: research, environmental education and sensitization of citizens, so there is a better understanding of the interaction between nature and the urban environment.

The flagship bird of ABO is the Bogotá Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus), an endemic bird of the wetlands of Bogotá clasified as endangered by the UICN. It is threatened by habitat loss

Conservation Commitment

ABO has led several ornithological initiatives and projects focused on natural, semi-natural and urban ecosystems, where data about bird communities has been collected.

This work has also helped conservation processes of various places in the city such as La Conejera and Córdoba wetlands, the Arzobispo canal, among others.  

ABO is the responsible for crucial events related with environmental education and conservation awareness such as the Cundinamarca Bird Festival 2019.

Monthly birdwatching trips

The activities this association develops include lectures, workshops, courses, and monthly birdwatching trips. These trips are done in urban or rural spaces and have a low fee for participants, although members get a discount.


The last Wednesday of every month, in the Alexis Omaña Auditorium at the National University of Colombia, is when the lectures are offered to ornithologists, birdwatchers, and any enthusiast willing to learn more about birds. 


Also, ABO produces pedagogical and didactic material specially designed to promote the appreciation of birds and respect for nature. Its journal is called El Clarinero and contains scientific knowledge and news, for example the celebration of the organization’s first 25 years.

Remember that there is no need to be an experienced ornithologist or a scientist to make part of the Bogota Association of Ornithology, just wanting to learn about such an amazing activity as birdwatching is! 

Meta Avitourism Association (Avesmeta)

This association emerges as a non-profit organization, with a tourism project that aims to be recognized locally, regionally and nationally for generating processes of research, study and conservation of birds in the Department of Meta and the region of Orinoco.

AvesMeta seeks to guide educational processes that promote in adults, children and adolescents the commitment to bird watching. The goal is to achieve a true and tangible environmental culture from bird watching and avitourism in the department of Meta.

Meta Association of Avitourism logo honoring the Paradise Tanager, the Buff-fronted Owl, the Whistling Heron and the Cundinamarca Antpitta,


The birds in the logo represent the different groups of people who participate in the association:


The biologists, engineers and guides who have acquired the knowledge of the avifauna of the department of Meta. They transmit this knowledge to the people who are entering the world of bird watching.


The teachers are the great leaders who, with their patience and enthusiasm, guide their students to become great professionals in the future. Day by day they dedicate a great part of their time to teaching and also to the love of nature, especially of birds.


Businessmen and hoteliers who offer their accommodation services to all bird lovers. They strive to offer and provide excellent services, taking into account the needs of the birders.


Students and amateur birders who make an effort every day to recognize the birds in their environment. They have the support of their teachers and experts who strive to teach them the importance of fauna, especially birds, which are part of natural ecosystems.

Colombian Association of Ornithology (ACO

October 2001, the XIV National Meeting of Ornithologists was being held in Leticia, Amazonas. Some of the attendees realized that there was an increasing number of ornithological papers presented each year at national meetings, and that these were not being published nor appropriately disseminated. That is how the idea of a national association of ornithology came about. 

ACO was founded in 2002 by 106 founding members seeking to boost the scientific research and the conservation of Colombia’s birds through the publication of a journal called ‘Ornitología Colombiana’.

A group of volunteers have worked since for the sake of the organization’s mission: “to promote the development of ornithology in Colombia through the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge on birds in pursuit of their conservation”.  

Colombian Association of Ornithology (ACO) Logo honoring the stunning Collared Inca (Coeligena torquatta)

The Ornitología Colombiana journal has great recognition thanks to its contribution to the description of new bird species and to the increase of pertinent information for bird conservation in Colombia. The journal can be found at libraries of over 20 national and international institutions. 

The flagship bird of the Colombian Association of Ornithology (ACO) honor the stunning Collared Inca (Coeligena torquatta).

Today, the Colombian Association of Ornithology is based in Bogota, has about 130 members including graduate students, biologists, ecologists, doctors, business managers, engineers and NGOs, and it is managed by a board of directors, which is elected by the members every two years. 


Membership is open to anyone interested in Colombian birds and their conservation, all one has to do is fill an application form and pay an annual fee. 

Being an active member has great advantages, such as participating in the activities of the organization, obtaining professional recognition, publishing own research on the journal for free, getting discounts on the registration to ornithology congresses and other events, as well as bibliographic material, and accessing to exclusive newsletters and academic or job opportunities. 

Colombian National Birdwatchers Network (RNOA) 

Passions go beyond regions. For this reason, the Colombian National Birdwatchers Network exists.

The Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves, or RNOA, aims to promote and facilitate cooperation and exchange of information between ornithological organizations, similar entities and birdwatchers in Colombia, in order to strengthen knowledge about birds in Colombia and their conservation.

RNOA seeks to be a means by which joint actions for studying, monitoring and preserving national birdlife and its habitats are undertaken. Its work is framed within the National Strategy for the Conservation of the Birds of Colombia. 

Colombian National Birdwatchers Network (RNOA) Logo honoring the Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis), the Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna), the Golden-collared Toucanet (Selenidera reinwardtii) and the Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus).

The flagship birds of the Colombian National Birdwatchers Network (RNOA) logoare the Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis), the Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna), the Golden-collared Toucanet (Selenidera reinwardtii) and the Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus). These birds are arranged in such a way that they form the silhouette of the map of Colombia.

The logo of this association was the most voted as the most representative of the birds of Colombia and of the network. It includes super common birds as the Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus), since those are important keys to the development and knowledge of birds and ecosystems.

The National Ornithology Meeting, ENO

RNOA is the organizer of the National Ornithology Meeting or Encuentro Nacional de Ornitología -ENO-. (know more at Colombia Bird Fairs). 

The network uses a Facebook page to allow members to share information and interact with everyone else. This is a useful tool in modern times to disseminate knowledge easily and with a great reach, as well as promoting teamwork among all birdwatchers in the country.

These were the main ornithology associations in Colombia, but you can find many others, for example university birding groups. We hope that soon there will be birding associations in every region of the country! 

About the authors

Ana María Parra.

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

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.