The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia

The north of Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea and has a continental area of almost 133,000 square km. Try not to get excited with this fantastic video about the northern birding route in the Colombian Caribbean: Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia!


Colombia’s Caribbean coast is home to some incredibly special birding hotspots. One of them is the highest coastal mountain range on the planet, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with a wide elevation gradient, offering all thermal floors and a great biodiversity, it concentrates a large number of endemic species.

In front of it, the Serranía de Perijá, another mountain range that also has a very different avifauna and is very rich in endemisms.

Between these mountains are the threatened dry forests of Cesar and La Guajira, which also harbor very special birds and ecosystems.

Fianlly, also located there, between the Caribbean Sea and the dry forest of La Guajira, is the Los Flamencos flora and fauna sanctuary, an area of coastal lagoons watered by streams. This is an important feeding area for the birds that give it its name: flamingos.

Thus, in the Northern Caribbean of Colombia you can find most of the ecosystems of the tropical fringe of the planet: Tropical dry forest, Tropical humid forests, Low dense forests, Mountain forests, Páramos, Grasslands, Savannas, Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral reefs in the Caribbean islands.

The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

 The National Audubon Society the largest bird conservation organization, along with the US Agency for International Development (USAIDand the Colombian bird study and conservation association, Asociación Calidris developed a sustainable bird watching itinerary in Colombia in order to achieve economic development and nature conservation: the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail. 

Clink in the following link to see the suggested itinerary proposed by them:

Birding Spots of The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

The birding spots included in the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail are:

  • Los Besotes Ecopark,
  • Serranía del Perijá, 
  • Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary,
  • Tayrona National Natural Park and
  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

In Serranía del Perijá, Los Flamencos and Sierra Nevada, birdwatchers and bird photographers will be delighted with the avian diversity and will be able to shoot unique and gorgeous species. 


Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta offers one of the most known birding lodges in Colombia and around the world, El Dorado Birding Nature Reserve. Located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, it is the best place to stay for a birdwatching tour in this area. 

Serranía del Perijá offers a simple birding lodge with basic amenities. It is called Chamicero del Perijá Reserve. However, if you dont mind to wake up very early in th morning to get to the highest area, you can stay at the lower part in the town of Manaure.

Finally, the accommodation in the cities of Valledupar and Riohacha is intended to be at local hotels. We recommend you Casa Rosalia Hotel Boutique in Valledupar and Hotel Taroa in Riohacha. 


The trip lasts 10 days, it starts in Valledupar and ends in Santa Marta, and includes experienced tour leaders and trained local guides in every location. 

Paramo and Dry Forest in Cesar

Los Besotes Eco Park

Ten kilometers from Valledupar, in the direction of Patillal, is the natural reserve Los Besotes, which treasures a large part of the fauna and flora of this region of the Colombian dry forest in the department of Cesar.

Los Besotes Eco Park, Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia.

Established in 1993 by the lawyer and historian Tomas Darío Gutiérrez, the ecological park is the result of an extraordinary, almost individual effort of a man with a passion for nature.

Toucans, macaws, chachalacas, condors and other typical Caribbean species live in this region. One of the most important highlights is the Blue-billed Currassow, Crax alberti.

The 14 kilometers of trails that run through the park allow you to circulate through the massif of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, between the Murillo and Los Besotes hills, and access points of almost 2,000 meters high, such as the Alto del Condor.

Serranía del Perijá: Páramo

Cerro Pintado, Perijá Mountain Range, Manaure, Cesar

Perijá is an isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes that forms the border with Venezuela and was a key spot during the Colombian internal conflict before turning into a paradise for birders all around the globe.

Since it has not always been accessible, scientists are still discovering and classifying many local species. The endemic species are  the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and Perijá Tapaculo.

Perijá Thistletail – Asthenes perijana, endemic

However, it has been found that common species such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local variety of the Yellow-breasted Brushfinch are endemic.

Other birds that can be spotted are Crested and Goldenheaded Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, Buffbreasted Mountain-Tanager, Hook-billed Kite, kinds of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager and Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.

Luckily you may see  the White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle. The Chamizero del Perijá Reserve is the birding lodge that receives tourists that want to explore this remote area full of avian surprises. 

Dry Forest and Wetlands of La Guajira

Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary 

In La Guajira peninsula, characterized by vast desert areas, this nature reserve has shallow ponds that fill with rain and evaporate during the dry season.

American Flamingo – Phoenicopterus ruber at Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Colombia

The salt water is the proper habitat for brine shrimp, which attract the American Flamingos —the stars of the sanctuary—, as well as Scarlet and White Ibis, gulls, terns and other shore birds.

Birds of La Guajira – Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus

Caribbean Dry Forest

Orinocan Saltator – Saltator orenocensis at Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

The bright-color pattern continues with the Vermillion cardinal found in the dry forest and other species that can be seen are the White-whiskered spinetail, the Chestnut piculet, the Slender-billed inezia, the White-tipped inezia, the Buffy Hummingbird and the Orinocan Saltator. 

Buffy Hummingbird – Leucippus fallax, Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

Find out more details about these destinations in our entry Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia.

Mountain Forest and Páramo of Santa Marta

Tayrona National Natural Park

Tayrona National Park is a place full of myths and legends of the ancient communities that inhabited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is a place for those seeking new and amazing ecotourism experiences.

Tayrona Park, picture by David Paez

Around 396 species of birds have been recorded here, including Little tinamou (Cripturellus soui), King vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Road hawk (Buteo magnirostris), Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) and Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis).

Find out more details about this destinations in our entries Best Time to Visit Tayrona Park to Avoid Crowds and Bad Weather and Travel Guide to The Lost City Trek – Ciudad Perdida – in Colombia.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta 

The Santa Marta mountain range is isolated from the Andes and the highest coastal mountain in the world! With 19 endemic bird speciesit is also among the most important endemism centers in the world

W Santa Marta Antbird – Drymophila hellmayri, endemic. Minca, Colombia

Many endemics have the Santa Marta moniker, such as  the Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Woodstar and Santa Marta Brush-Finch.

There is a screech owl unnamed but endemic, and species such as the Santa Marta Wren, the Santa Marta Sabrewing and the Santa Marta Blossomcrown are difficult to spot.

Santa Marta Brushfinch – Atlapetes melanocephalus. Minca, Colombia

If you are lucky, you will see  Black-backed Thornbill,  Santa Marta Woodstar,  Santa Marta Antpitta and Black-fronted Wood-Quail, but there are others that are more common: Santa Marta Brushfinch, Yellow-crowned Redstart, and Rusty-headed Spinetail. 

Be ready to focus your lens on the stunning White-tipped Quetzal, Band-tailed and Sickle-winged guans, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Golden-breasted Fruiteater. El Dorado Bird Reserve is the lodge where you will stay and relax while birds are not around. 

San Lorenzo Ridge – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Watch our birding experience in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta here. Find out more details about this destinations in our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

As time goes by, the list of Colombian birding trails has grown and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country.

Check all of our Birding Routes here

 About the authors

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.

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.

Brief Guide to the 7 Macaws You Can Find in Colombia

Macaws are the largest birds of the Psittacidade family (their size ranges between 50 to 100 cm). They are noisy and have striking and suggestive plumage.

They are New World birds and are believed to have played an important role in pre-Columbian cultures throughout the continent.

Many of these birds are found in the paintings of ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs in Mexico. It is believed that they were associated with time and fertility. They also symbolized the sun for the Maya and Aztec cultures.

The circadian and seasonal periodicity of parrots and macaws seems to have been considered as a reference parameter for the development of certain activities, mainly those related to agriculture.

They were highly prized birds for their bright and colorful plumage. They were traded by the indigenous people to be used in their rituals as ritual attire, crowns and fans, among other ritual stuff.

Brief Taxonomy of Macaws

Macaws are composed of 19 species (including extinct and critically endangered species) distributed in 6 genera:

  • Anodorhynchus
  • Cyanopsitta
  • Ara
  • Orthopsittaca
  • Primolius
  • Diopsittaca

Among these, only two genera are found in Colombia: the genus Orthopsittaca and the genus Ara.

Macaws are in Danger of Extinction

Most macaws are considered in danger of extinction. Several of them are vulnerable and endangered. Others are critically endangered, while five or more species are already extinct.

Sadly, the species that are now extinct are the Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) (EW) and the Cuban Macaw (Ara tricolor) (EX).

If you need to better comprehend the threatening categories I recommend you read our entry Bird-watching Tourism Helps to Reduce Bird Extinction Risks in Colombia.

The main causes of their rapid disappearance have been the rapid increase in deforestation, hunting and illegal capture for the pet trade.

Threatened Macaw Species in Colombia

There are two species of macaws categorized as endangered: The Military Macaw and the Great Green Macaw.

9 Facts About Macaws

  1. After eating the macaws go to special places to consume clay and mud to eliminate the toxins consumed.
  2. The macaws feed silently to avoid the attention of other macaws of different species, thus protecting their food.
  3. Macaws are very selective when choosing the clay they will consume.
  4. Macaws are left-handed, they pick up objects such as food with their left paw, and hold on to walls and trees with their right.
  5. Macaws can have psychological diseases.
  6. Ceramic pieces have been found in which macaws are depicted.
  7. Some indigenous tribes related these birds to the sun.
  8. They are animals capable of learning different tricks.
  9. They can learn human attitudes by observing people.

Macaws of Colombia

There are no endemic species of macaws in Colombia. These birds are shared with Central America, the Amazonian and Orinoquia biogeographic regions.

Red-bellied Macaw

Orthopsittaca manilatus 


This bird is distributed up to 700 meters  (2296 ft) above sea level throughout the eastern plains region of Colombia and the Colombian Amazon.

In Colombia, you can observe the Red-bellied Macaw in Vichada, Guaviare, Guainía, Caquetá, Putumayo, Vaupés, Meta and Casanare.

Blue-and-Yellow Macaw

Ara ararauna


This bird is distributed up to 1500 meters (4921 ft) above sea level. In Colombia it is found in two regions separated by the Andes Mountains. Thus, it is present in the valleys of the upper Magdalena and Cauca rivers; and in the region of the eastern plains associated with the Guyanese shield and the Colombian Amazon.

In Colombia, you can observe the Blue-and-yellow Macaw in the north of Chocó, in Antioquia, Córdoba, Sucre, and Cartagena departments  to the north. And in the eastern region, in places such as Caquetá, Cundinamarca, and the natural bird reserve El Paujil in Santander.

Military Macaw

Ara militaris


This bird is distributed up to 2000 meters (6561 ft) above sea level, and in Colombia it is found in different small regions distributed fragmentarily throughout the national territory.

In Colombia, you can easily observe the Military Macaw in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Serranía del Perijá and the Eco park Los Besotes, in Cesar.

Great Green Macaw

Ara ambiguus


This bird is distributed up to 1000 meters (3280 ft) above sea level, and in Colombia is found in the high Chocó and Darién. It is an endangered bird; it is believed that there are about 1700 individuals in the Colombian Darien.

It is found in regions of difficult access. In Colombia, you can observe the Great Green Macaw in the Urabá Antioqueño and Córdoba near the Paramillo National Park and the Campo Alegre nature reserve. There have also been records of this species in the Utría Ensenada.

Scarlet Macaw

Ara macao


This bird is distributed up to 1500 meters (4921 ft) above sea level. The plumage of this bird is very special, since it has the colors of the Colombian flag yellow, blue and red. Not in that order, but it has them.

It represents joy and Latin flavor. Unfortunately, it is one of the most hunted for illegal sale, precisely because of its cheerful and colorful plumage. Miraculously, it is not an endangered bird.

In Colombia, you can observe the Scarlet Macaw in almost all the Colombian territory, and especially in Risaralda, in Casanare, in Chiribiquete and surroundings, and in Vaupés.

Red-and-green Macaw

Ara chloropterus


This bird is distributed up to 800 meters (2624 ft) above sea level. The plumage of this bird is very similar to that of the Scarlet Macaw, but the difference in the plumage is that instead of yellow, it has green.

In Colombia, you will be able to observe the Red-and-green Macaw in almost all the Colombian territory, except for the Andes. Especially in the Northern Colombian Caribbean Birding Route, in Antioquia, and in the eastern plains and the Amazon. This bird is one of the few macaws seen in urban habitat in the city of Medellín.

A special place to go to see it is the Matavén Forest in Vichada. Find out more about this destination in our entry The Top Post-Covid-19 Destinations for Conservation Lovers in Colombia.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw

Ara severus


This bird is distributed up to 1100 meters  (3608 ft) above sea level. It is the most widely distributed macaw in the whole Colombian territory. It fights for the first place with the Red-and-green Macaw. But the Chestnut-fronted Macaw beats it!

It will be the most common Macaw in your birding trip around Colombia. In Colombia, you will be able to observe the Chestnut-fronted Macaw especially anywhere, haha, early in the morning or at sunset.

However, to photograph it you will have to visit places like the natural bird reserve El Paujil, in Santander, in the Matavén jungle in Vichada, or the city of San José del Guaviare.

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

  • NAVARIJO ORNELAS, María de Lourdes. Guacamaya: símbolo de temporalidad y fertilidad en dos ejemplos de pintura mural. Estud. cult. maya [online]. 2012, vol.39 [citado 2021-02-04], pp.173-193. Available here. ISSN 0185-2574.
  • Illustrated Guide of the Colombian Avifauna. By Fernando Ayerbe (More about guides in our entry Birders Library: The Colombian Birding Field Guides Books)
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.

7 Nature Destinations to Visit with Your Kids in Colombia!

Traveling with kids can be challenging. First of all, you are concerned about their safety. Second, you don’t want them to get bored. Experiences in nature are among the best to ensure fun, learning, and building great and beautiful memories.

Nature offers activities that can strengthen the bonds with your kids, and also provide them with impressions they will carry with them forever.

Colombia has many offers of this type. However in this post I will tell you about the safest and most enjoyable nature experiences in Colombia for your kids (from 4 to 18 y/o)

The Coffee Triangle for Kids

The coffee triangle is a major destination in Colombia, despite its size, there is a great diversity of thermal floors and landscapes. For this reason, three of our recommended destinations are found there.

In addition, this is one of the safest regions in Colombia and with the friendliest people.

1. Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm in Caldas

The department of Caldas is a coffee destination par excellence. There you can go with your kids and learn about the process of coffee production and also about cocoa, i.e. chocolate!


There are farms like Hacienda Venecia, which have different types of accommodations, several experience tours, different walking trails, and a swimming pool!

What to do?

It is a very safe place, and you will be able to take tours on foot, by bicycle, visit the plantations, get to know the most beautiful birds and butterflies of the coffee region, and enjoy with your kids the coffee landscape.

Explore the Surroundings

Caldas has to offer several destinations for birdwatching. In our post 9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas, you will find the main birding destinations in Caldas.

From Hacienda Venecia you can also explore the surroundings, and visiting the city of Manizales and the Eco park Los Yarumos.

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii

You can also visit the Los Nevados NNP to get to know the paramo, one of the most important ecosystems in Colombia. Know more about this park in our entry Best Things to Know Before Visiting Los Nevados National Natural Park.

You can visit Los Nevados Park towards the Brisas sector, where there is a special platform for bird watching. From there it is possible to watch the Buffy Helmetcrest, and endemic hummingbird of Colombia.

On the way down from there you will find the Hotel Termales del Ruiz. The gardens of this hotel offer a  a fun activity that consists of feeding hummingbirds from the palm of your hand.


The sensation of feeling one of these birds landing on your fingers is a beautiful, touching and unique experience that your kids will always remember! If you want to know more about hummingbirds I recommend you to read our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Finally, spend a day in places surrounded by plenty of wildlife and nature such as:

Finca Romelia Colors of Life

2. Botanical Garden, Panaca Park and the Wax Palm in Salento in Quindío

Quindío is a department where you can have a lot of fun with your kids! You can stay in the city of Armenia, where there are many country hotels with swimming pools. I recommend you the Hotel Sazagua.

Quindío Botanical Garden

From your hotel in Armenia, you can make a day visit to the Botanical Garden of Quindío.

This Botanical Garden holds the most complete and beautiful collections of palms, heliconia, and butterflies of Colombia.

Heliconius heliconius at Botanical Garden of Quindio

Panaca Park

Afterward, you can dedicate another day to visit the Panaca Park. If you prefer, you can stay in this park for several days at the Hotel Decameron that is inside it.

Panaca is a park dedicated to country life. There your kids will be able to have interactive experiences with farm animals, attend fun animal shows, go on carriage rides around the farm, and participate in adventure activities such as canopying or crossing tibetan bridges, among others!

The Cocora Valley in Salento

Finally, you can go to Salento and get to know one of the most emblematic landscapes of Colombia: the wax palm fields of Quindío!


Know more about the wax palm in our entries The Unique Wax Palm Forests Landscape Destinations in Colombia and The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

3. Ukumari Park, the Hot Springs in Santa Rosa, and Otún Quimbaya Sanctuary in Risaralda

Leaving Manizales or Armenia, you can continue to the city of Pereira, and visit one of the most beautiful and oldest zoos in Colombia, the Ukumari bio park.

There your kids will be able to meet the most representative animals of the Colombian Andean forests, such as the Jaguarundi, the Chachalaca, the Black Spider Monkey, the Tapir and the Andean Spectacled Bear.

Ukumari Park ©Ukumari Website

Afterward, you have two options: visit the Santa Rosa de Cabal hot springs or go to the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Hot springs in Santa Rosa de Cabal

The Thermal Eco park has a spa where you will live a plan full of rest and fun with all your family. There are a 95-meter-high waterfall and five cold water streams that bathe the mountain, forming a dreamlike landscape.


In addition, you will be able to enjoy the Thermal Expedition. This expedition will be fantastic for the kids to know how the thermal waters are born. You will walk in the middle of the mountains of the Coffee Cultural Landscape, through the central Colombian mountain range.

There you will discover the water births, where it emerges from the earth at high temperatures. You will also see a spectacular waterfall of cold water and you will get to know different species of fauna and flora unique in the world. It is an experience full of adrenaline and fun.

Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

The other option is the Otún Sanctuary. This is a more remote place, but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe. This park protects a sample of the sub-Andean jungle, one of the richest in Colombia.

Red Howler Monkey – Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

It is a perfect place to get in full contact with nature, and to walk a lot. You can also observe the native flora and fauna.

4. The Eastern Plains for Kids: Lagos de Menegua

Lagos de Menegua is a hotel-reserve in the heart of the eastern plains of Colombia. It is also a very safe place and has a spectacular landscape. It is home to more than 800 species of mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds, including the traditional chigüiros (or capyvaras), yamus, pumas, crocodiles and lizards of the eastern plains.

Lagos de Menegua Hotel & Bioreserve

What to do?

There you can go on hiking routes, safari, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, spend an afternoon at the pool, and more, all in one place!

Kids fishing mojarras in Lagos de Menegua

At night you can go to see the stars, this is a unique experience since light pollution is very low in this region.

The Lagos de Menegua Bioreserve is one of the few privileged places that still have black skies. It is frequented by astronomers and amateurs from all over the world, for observation and photography of constellations, the Solar System and the Milky Way.

Astrotourism in Lagos de Menegua ©Lagos de Menegua

Its privileged location allows the simultaneous observation of the northern and southern hemispheres – a great experience for the whole family!

Explore the Surroundings

Additionally, from Lagos de Menegua you can go to the city of Puerto Gaitan and there embark on an aquatic safari along the Meta, Manacacias, and Yucao rivers.

You don’t need much luck to be able to see monkeys, turtles, otters, reptiles, and especially the Toninas, the river dolphins. An unforgettable trip for the whole family!

Ostrich Park, Puerto López, Meta

There are two more places that you can visit from Lagos de Menegua: the Obelisk, which is the geographical center of Colombia, and the Ostrich Park, where you will know everything about these birds.

5. San Cipriano Nature Reserve in the Pacific

This is a destination little known by foreigners, but worth visiting with your whole family.

San Cipriano is a natural reserve located in the Colombian Pacific, in the department of Valle del Cauca. This place has one of the purest and cleanest crystalline rivers in Colombia. It is a perfect place to swim and float on tires (tubing) while the slow current drags you through the dense subtropical jungle.

San Cipriano Nature Reserve
Cristaline Waters of San Cipriano

The huge reserve also has numerous hiking trails, which you can walk through day and night.

The “Brujitas”

One of the most exciting parts of the trip is the entrance to the reserve. You will enter in some small carts, called Brujita, which is attached to a train track, and moved by a motorcycle. It is a 30-minute ride where you will feel like you are being engulfed by the rainforest tropical jungle.

Brujitas transportation of San Cipriano

What to do?

Spend a day in San Cipriano bathing in the rivers and natural lagoons, walking, and admiring the fauna and flora of this region. There are plenty of animals to see there as toucans, sloths, turtles, and many special birds. You can also stay in the town of San Cipriano, but the hotels offer very basic services.

Tubing along the River of San Cipriano

I recommend you to stay in Cali, or in a closer hotel called Hotel la Huerta. From there, you can go and return on the same day to San Cipriano, and there you will have all the comfort for you and your family.

La Huerta Hotel

This hotel has a swimming pool, a small nature reserve and a vegetable plantation. The hotel manages a farm to table meal plan. There, your kids will learn the processes of organic agriculture, from sowing to eating.

La Huerta Hotel

They can also walk among the plantations, observe birds in the forest and surroundings, or simply relax in the pool.

Another advantage of La Huerta Hotel is its proximity to other nice places you can visit with your kids, such as the Yotoco Reserve, where you will meet the howler monkeys; or the Calima Lake Nautical Club, where you can practice water sports such as sailing.

Calima Lake from La Huerta Hotel

6. The Chicamocha Canyon in Santander

The Chicamocha National Park is another recommended destination if you travel with kids.

You will visit one of the largest and most impressive canyons in South America, while having a lot of fun. Know more about the Chicamocha Canyon in our entry The Chicamocha Canyon, the 1st Largest Canyon in Colombia.

Chicamocha Canyon

What to do?

There you can enjoy extreme activities such as driving buggies, zip line, paragliding, swinging, and rappeling or canyoning. There are also other activities such as interaction with farm animals, virtual reality experiences and 4D movies.

The park also has an aqua park with large pools and slides. Perfect to ensure fun!

It is a place very close to the city of Bucaramanga, only one hour from Bogotá by plane.

7. Bio-park Guátika and Chicaque Park – Near to Bogotá

If you are in Bogotá, there are many places you can visit with your kids. However, I recommend two places that they might love.

Chicaque Park

First, Chicaque. It is about an hour from downtown Bogotá. This park is a very recommended place for visiting with your kids and meet the high Andean cloud forest of Colombia.

Chicaque Park, landscape from the viewpoint!

The park has seven thematic trails where you can visit waterfalls, discover butterflies and birds, oaks, and breathtaking views.

There you can also do the zip line and canopy activities, horseback riding, bird watching, and even spend the night at the park’s hotel.

Sleeping in a tree house!

In Chicaque you will find something unique, the possibility of sleeping in the treetops. At this moment, it has two rooms called Nests, with accommodation for 4 to 6 people.

This is a dream experience, as well as unforgettable for the kids, because who didn’t want to sleep in a tree house?

Tree House at Chicaque Park

Guátika Park

On the other hand, there is the Guátika biopark, Only three hours from Bogotá, this zoo has everything for family fun.

Guátika is a place that houses, in the best possible way, animals that for various reasons can no longer be in their natural habitat.

Guátika Hotel Boutique

More than 500 animals are kept there, diverse species of domestic, exotic and wild fauna, in beautiful open and naturalized spaces.

Guátika Park

There, your kids will understand the value of rescuing wildlife and why it is not good to take animals out of their natural environment.

Guátika Park

They will also be able to enjoy adventure activities such as climbing, buggy tours, zip-lining and horseback riding.

You can stay at the biopark hotel, which has beautiful country architecture and the best view of the Sugamuxi Valley. 

Guátika Park


  • Santa Marta – Minca
  • Medellín – Guatapé
  • Cali and the Cali Zoo

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.

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.

Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle

Find here the top 7 unmissable birding spots in Risaralda, a department with more than 800 species of birds, almost the same quantity of bird species in all North America, and even more than all the birds of the European continent.

Risaralda has been a region developed from an agricultural coffee economy, in addition to livestock, industry and commerce. Due to its homogeneity between the cultural, social, and economic elements based on this coffee culture, this department of Colombia is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list as a Coffee Cultural Landscape.

Risaralda crosses the Andean region from the western slope of the Central Andes through the inter-Andean valley of the Cauca River to the Pacific slope of the Western Cordillera. It comprises four thermal floors from warm, medium, cold and paramo, contemplating the perpetual snows on the Nevado de Santa Isabel. All this plurality of sceneries, nurtures a suitable context to host a great diversity of species of fauna and flora.

Thus, despite being Risaralda such a small department with only 4,140 square kilometers, it has more than 800 species of birds, among them, 25 endemic and 54 almost endemic. This means that it possesses 42% of the birds of Colombia, 80% of the birds of the Coffee Triangle, and close to 8% of the birds of the world.

1. “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

The first of the unmissable birding spots in Risaralda is “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. This place is characterized for being an easy observation point of two charismatic species: the Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax), an endangered endemic bird (EN), and the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus), a huge spectacular black-and-red cotinga with a strong, heavy bill, and a red throat and breast. These birds inhabit the cloud forests of the subtropical zone of the Cauca River Valley.

Cauca Guan – Penelope perspicax ENDEMIC
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow – Pyroderus scutatus

Other attractions of this place are the birds with striking songs like the Hooded Antpitta (Grallaricula cucullata), the Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni) and the Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Grallaria nuchalis), all almost endemic and vulnerable (VU), and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri). Also, wrens such as Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti) and the Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) can be found here.

2. Montezuma Road and National Natural Park Tatamá

Along the Montezuma road, there is a great variety of species due to the altitudinal gradient, ranging from 1300 to 2600 m above sea level. Recently the government of Risaralda has installed shelters, observation towers, and viewpoints in strategic places along the road to improve bird watching.

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

The route begins at the Cerro de Tatamá, in the Tatamá National Natural Park, at 2600 m. Here it rains a lot and you can only arrive in a 4WD car. To get to Cerro de Tatamá at 5 a.m. it is necessary to sleep at Pueblo Rico town, but the road makes you have to leave at 3 am to reach the top at dawn. As a second option, you can stay at the Montezuma Lodge, a rural family project dedicated to nature tourism, placed at the base of the hill, 1350 m above sea level. Know more about this birding spot in Risaralda in our post The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination.

White-tailed Hillstar – Urochroa bougueri

Tatamá National Natural Park is located in the western mountain range, between the departments of Choco, Valle Del Cauca and Risaralda. The geographical location, the presence of a virgin paramo, and the excellent conservation status, make the Tatamá Park a protected area where many endemic species and species of the biogeographic Chocó can be found.

Gold-ringed Tanager – Bangsia aureocincta ENDEMIC

The Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) is the target of this route. It is an endemic and also endangered tanager of the Pacific slope in the department of Risaralda. It is local and rare in subtropical rainforests.

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer – Diglossa gloriosissima ENDEMIC

Among the highlights, you can find the Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Diglossa glorisissima), Munchique Wood-Wren (Henicorhina negreti), Grass-green tanager (Chlorornis riefferii), Orange-breasted fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda), the Crested ant tanager (Habia cristata), Parker’s Antbird (Cercomacroides parkeri), Choco Tapaculo (Scytalopus chocoensis), and the Golden-bellied Warbler (Choco Warbler) (Myiothlypis chrysogaster).

Scaled Fruiteater – Ampelioides tschudii

3. Apia

Apia is a municipality located 1 hour and 15 minutes from the city of Pereira. It is characterized by its very special record of birds. The easiest bird to observe on this route is the endemic and vulnerable (VU) Yellow-headed Manakin (Chloropipo flavicapilla).

Barred Parakeet – Bolborhynchus lineola

This town has been the epicenter of many activities around birds, including the “Apia Tierra de Aves” Bird Festival. This festival has awakened in the people of the region the interest and respect for birds, as well as their protection and the conservation of their habitats.

Moustached Puffbird – Malacoptila mystacalis

From the town’s central square, you will have the opportunity to meet the most striking birds of this region, since all the candy stands have a bird painted on their walls.

Among the birds you can see, there are the endemic Turquoise Dacnis (Dacnis hartlaubi) (VU), the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) (VU), the Chestnut Wood Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus) (NT) and the Yellow-headed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes flaviceps) (EN).

Purplish-mantled Tanager – Iridosornis porphyrocephalus

4. Mistrató: Costa Rica y El Sutú

Mistrató is a town located one hour and a half from Pereira, on the road that leads to the Mampay trail. This municipality is characterized by a high concentration of endemic species (17). The emblematic bird of this route is the Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) (VU), a species endemic to Colombia, and also local, found in the Western Cordillera and north of the Central Andes.

Black-and-gold Tanager – Bangsia melanochlamys

There are two routes for birding in Mistrató, one on the Costa Rica road and the other called the Sutú.

Club-winged Manakin – Machaeropterus deliciosus

Other birds that you can find on this route are the Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii), Sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma), Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), Toucan barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus), Club-winged manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus), Glistening-green tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis), Barred hawk (Morphnarchus princeps) and the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima), among others.

Ornate Hawk Eagle – Spizaetus ornatus. Ph. Arnulfo Sanchez

Reserva El Sutú

This is a growing destination where you can photograph some of the birds of the region. So far, with the help of feeders and drinkers, you can observe up to 3 species of birds, among them, the Black-and-gold Tanager.

5. Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia

Pueblo Rico is a municipality located on the eastern side of the western mountain range, in the northwest of Risaralda, 97 kilometers from Pereira, in Colombia. The municipality of Santa Cecilia is located 32 km northwest of the municipality of Pueblo Rico. It is a region with the presence of indigenous and Afro groups.

Santa Cecilia is a town situated on the border between the departments of Risaralda and Chocó. This town connects the road that leads from the heart of the Coffee Axis to the depths of the Choco rainforests.

Pacific Antwren – Myrmotherula pacifica

Due to its location on the Pacific slope, the area is directly influenced by the intertropical confluence zone, which translates into high precipitation, and high relative humidity, with an average temperature of 28° C, and precipitation exceeding 4000 mm. Most of the region is pristine, with areas of very humid tropical forests. Many endemic species are found here.

Baudo Oropendola – Psarocolius cassini at Santa Cecilia, Risaralda, Colombia

Among the birds you can see there are the Pacific Antwren (Myrmotherula pacifica), the endemic Baudo Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini), the Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni), the Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia flavirostris), the Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata), Dusky-faced Tanager (Mitrospingus cassinii), and many others.

6. Santa Rosa de Cabal – Cortaderal

Santa Rosa de Cabal is a municipality 15 km northeast of Pereira, and the entrance to the National Natural Park Los Nevados from Risaralda. It is the capital of chorizo, a Colombian type of pork sausage. It is also part of the territory declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011: the Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape.

Fuerte’s Parrot or Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

The observation site is in Cortaderal on the road that leads to the Otún lagoon, two and a half hours from Santa Rosa de Cabal. In this place, you will be able to observe the Fuerte’s Parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi). The Fuerte’s Parrot is a rare and local species of the temperate forests of the Central Andes. In the early 2000s, this species was thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered! The protection of its natural habitats is mandatory to avoid its extinction.

Mountain Avocetbill – Opisthoprora euryptera

In this site you will also be able to observe the Andean Pygmy-owl (Glaicidium jardinii), the Hooded mountain tanager (Buthraupis montana), the Speckle-faced Parrot (Pionus tumultuosus), the Grey-breasted mountain toucan (Andigena hypoglauca), the Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum), also the Sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) and a jewel such as the Mountain Avocetbill (Opisthoprora euryptera), and other species of the Central Andes.

Grey-breasted mountain toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

7. Belén de Umbría Lek Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Belén de Umbria is only an hour and a half from the city of Pereira. From there you take the route to the Santa Emilia village. This is one of the ideal places in Risaralda to observe the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), preferably in the afternoon.

Andean cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus

Where to Stay When you go to Visit Birding Spots in Risaralda

There are many options in the city of Pereira, but I recommend the Hotel Sazagua for a luxury experience. Also, if you prefer a more authentic experience, since you are in the coffee region, I recommend Finca del Café Hotel which includes experiences with the coffee culture.

“Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary offers its own accomodation. For more information about it visit our entry Ecotourism at Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

Finally, for more distant places, such as Apia, Montezuma, Mistrató and Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia you can stay at the hotels of each town. Generally, these are very basic accommodations, but comfortable enough for your stay and rest.

If you want to know more about your trip for birdwatching, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Indeed, Risaralda is a very rainy department, especially towards the western region. Thus, I recommend you, above all, to take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.

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


  • Risaralda Bird Festival
  • Mistrató Neblina Birds – Risaralda Local Guide Arnulfo Sanchez

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.

#1 Birding Hotspot in Meta: Bosque Bavaria. Only 5 min. from Villavicencio!

The Bosque Bavaria in Villavicencio is one of the main hotspots for bird watching in Colombia and the first hotspot in the department of Meta. It is considered a place of ornithological interest due to the high concentration of bird species in a relatively small area. In this place more than 350 bird species have been registered.

In this place is located the Proaves Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus) Bird Nature Reserve which, together with the forests of the former Bavaria beer company headquarters, preserves the forest in the piedmont plains of Los Llanos sheltering bird species in a gradient between 200 and 1100 meters above sea level.

Guatiquía River Canyon (IBA)

Bosque Bavaria Hotspot is part of the Important Bird Area (IBA) Guatiquía River Canyon. The Guatiquía River Canyon is located on the eastern slope of the Eastern mountain range of Colombia, in the Llanos piedmont. Guatiquía IBA is part of the department of Meta and covers an area of 450 square kilometers.

The Guatiquía River Canyon goes up from the Bavaria bridge in Villavicencio, at 400 meters above sea level, to the Chingaza paramo, at 3,000 meters above sea level. It crosses towns such as Montfort, San Francisco, El Calvario, Santa Teresa, Candelaria and San Juanito.

Guatiquía River and Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot

The fairly wide altitudinal gradient of the IBA Guatiquía River Canyon favors the presence of fauna and flora belonging to different thermal floors. Globally threatened species, restricted-range species and biome-restricted species are found in this area.

Among them, it is worth mentioning the Band-tailed Guan (Penelope argyrotis), Blue-throated Starfrontlet (Coeligena helianthea), Crimson-rumped Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus), Brown-breasted Parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera), Cundinamarca Antpitta (Grallaria kaestneri), Andean Siskin (Spinus spinescens), Ochre-breasted Brush-finch (Atlapetes semirufus), Pale-naped Brush-finch (Atlapetes pallidinucha) and Moustached Brush-finch (Atlapetes albofrenatus).

It is possible to do a bird watching daytrip from the paramo to the lower part of the piedmont, you just need a good guide and a 4×4 truck.

Bosque Bavaria Location

The Bavaria forest is located five minutes from the city of Villavicencio, Meta, in the vicinity of the old Bavaria brewery warehouse. You can find it on the left side of the road that leads to the municipality of Restrepo, shortly before crossing the bridge over the Guatiquía River.

Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot at 5 minutes from Villavicencio

The forest is part of a transitional piedmont forest fragment between the mountainous part and the adjacent plains. Bosque Bavaria is a tropical humid forest formed by slightly altered primary and secondary forests.

It is located at an altitude ranging between 467 and 651 meters above sea level and is the boundary between the bird species present in the low areas of the Orinoco and the species typical of the mountainous forests of the Eastern Mountain Range.

Bosque Bavaria Weather

Bosque Bavaria has an average annual temperature of 27°C and an average annual rainfall of 3,663 mm (IGAC, 1996). Besides, the first period of rain occurs between April and May and the second between September and November; 62% of the total rain falls during these five months. Also, September and October are the rainiest months while January and February are the driest.

Birding in Bosque Bavaria, Meta

The tour is made along an unpaved road that connects several farms with the city. During the tour, you can observe the canyon of the Guatiquía River from the observation balconies offered by the steep forest slopes that surround the road.

Double-toothed Kite – Harpagus bidentatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Among with the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus), there are other interesting birds such as the Gilded Barbet (Capito auratus), Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata), Amazonian Motmot (Momotus momota), White-chested Puffbird (Malacoptila fusca), Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala), White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus), Sooty-capped Hermit (Phaethornis augusti), Moustached Antwren (Myrmotherula ignota), Amazonian Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus ornatus), Dwarf Cuckoo (Coccycua pumila), Green Manakin (Cryptopipo holochlora), and Striolated Manakin (Machaeropterus striolatus).

Unfortunate picture of the Striolated Manakin – Machaeropterus striolatus. Ph. Sara Colmenares

Besides birds, you can also find mammals such as the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), along with other animals such as turtles, and amphibians, butterflies, etc.

Butterfly Watching in Bosque Bavaria

The list of butterflies that live in Bosque Bavaria is composed of about 470 species. This region is the best sampled in butterflies in the entire Eastern Cordillera and has a high potential for butterfly watching tours.

Here are some of the butterfly species you can find in Bosque Bavaria:

Fig. 1. Morpho telemachus iphiclus ♂. Fig. 2. Morpho achilles patroclus ♂. Fig. 3. Morpho achilles phokylides ♂. Fig. 4. Morpho marcus intermedia ♂. Fig. 5. Morpho menelaus occidentalis ♂. Fig. 6. Antirrhaea philoctetes philaretes ♂ (Salazar et al. 2017).
Fig. 15. Parides anchises nielseni ♂. Fig. 16. Coenophlebia archidona ♂. Fig. 17. Pterourus zagreus f. bacchus ♂. Fig. 18. Eueides tales cognata ♂. Fig. 19. Methona confusa confusa ♂. Fig. 20. Hamadryas chloe chloe ♂. Fig. 21. Brevianta ematheon ♂. Fig. 22. Semomesia croesus lacrimosa ♂. Fig. 23. Cyrenia martia ssp. ♂. Fig. 24. Callicore lyca bella ♂. (Plates G. Nielsen) (Salazar et al. 2017).

Where to Stay near Bosque Bavaria Hotspot

There are several option to stay near Bosque Bavaria, either you stay at Villavicencio or in a nearby town called Restrepo.

However, for birders and nature lovers, I recommend Rancho Camaná Natural Reserve as the nearest place to stay when you visit Bosque Bavaria. Besides, from Rancho Camaná you can also visit other birding spots as Camino Monfortiano, Caney Alto, and Upin Salt Mines along the piedmont plains.


  • Wear boots, a raincoat, and a mosquito protection.
  • Disinfect shoes with hypochlorite or Clorox to prevent the dispersion of the chytrid fungus (one of the main causes of death of amphibians in the world).

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Bosque Bavaria or Guatiquía Canyon in Meta, 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.

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.

Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18

The San Antonio cloud forest and the wooded areas of the sector known as “kilometro 18” (Km. 18), are located between kilometers 14 to 23 of the Cali – Buenaventura road. The area belongs to the municipalities of Cali, in the townships of El Saladito, Felidia, and La Elvira and Dagua in the townships of San Bernardo, and Km. 26.

Multicolored Tanager – Chlorochryssa nitidissima ©Colombia Birdfair

More than 180 species of birds have been registered in San Antonio Forest – Kilometer 18. The presence of threatened species such as the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochryssa nitidissima) and the Cloud-forest pygmy owl (Glaucidium nubicola) stands out, and raises the place as one of the best hotspots for birding near to the city of Santiago de Cali, in the department of Valle del Cauca.

Sustainable Destination

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

The local community was interested in conserving the forests and following this aim they decided to creat the Asociación Rio Cali, together with the support of numerous allies. The Asociación Río Cali is a private non-profit organization that promotes and supports the maintenance of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources by involving the local human communities of the Cali and Aguacatal river basin, where the San Antonio forest and km 18 are located.

The community supports biodiversity conservation initiatives from small rural farms through the planning and management of agroecosystems, generating income and employment through the production of primary goods and environmental services. It also seeks to protect birds and their habitat by generating economic income for rural communities through nature tourism focused on bird watching.

Scientific Research at San Antonio Forest

This forest was explored in the early 20th century by the famous naturalist, ornithologist and banker Frank M. Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History. He was the creator of the Christmas Bird Count (you should know this if you are a serious bird watcher … I am just kidding!) After him, more studies and explorations were carried by other ornithologists several times during the same century. Today, all this information has served to historically track birds that have become extinct in the area due to forest fragmentation. It also have been useful to support conservation initiatives implemented on the area.

San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18: Important Bird Area (IBA)

According to BirdLife International, the San Antonio cloud forest and the surrounding wooded areas at kilometer 18 were declared National Forest Reserve Areas in 1938 and 1943. Then, in 1948 and 1960 the area was ceded to the municipality of Cali for its management as a Forest Reserve Area. In 1998, the housing areas of the Forest Reserve Area were excluded.

It is in 2004, when members and researchers from the local community and the Asociación Río Cali, proposed to BirdLife International and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Biological Research, the declaration of the “Bosque de Niebla de San Antonio – Km 18” as an Important Area for the Conservation of Birds (IBA/AICA). Thus, kilometer 18 and the San Antonio cloud forest were designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) for conservation, especially for hosting significant numbers of globally threatened species.

The Multicolored Tanager was choosen as the symbol of the IBA/AICA, because of being a unique species of the Colombian Andes, very easy to observe in the region, and being threatened to extinction due to habitat loss.

The Multicolored Tanager is the symbol of the IBA/AICA “Bosque de Niebla de San Antonio- Km 18” ©Asociación Rio Cali

Asociación Río Cali activities are also involved with monitoring the Birds of the AICA Bosque de Niebla de San Antonio and Km 18, studying native species and making inventories of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles with the support of the local environmental authority (CVC).

Among the 180 species of this place, the following ones are of main importance to the IBA: Chestnut Wood-quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus), Yellow-headed Manakin (Chloropipo flavicapilla), Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea), Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephalus) and the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima).


Cloud forest located in the western mountain range of Colombia.

The Cerro de San Antonio, also called Cerro de La Horqueta, is a montane summit (2100 m elevation) in the western andean mountain range in Colombia. It is localted 15 km west of the city of Santiago de Cali, on the road to Buenaventura, department of Valle del Cauca.

The cloud forests of San Antonio and its surrounding area, were heavily extracted during the first half of the past century (1900-1950). However, the remaining fragments stayed more or less pristine since the 1960s, and are distributed in a matrix of small farms and suburban houses.

What to do

Birding at San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18

In the San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18 you can observe more than 220 species of birds, both resident and migratory. Some of the species that can be seen are the Multicolored Tanager, the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, the Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the Green-and-black Fruiteater, the Colombian Chachalaca and 30 species of hummingbirds.

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus
Colombian Chachalaca – Ortalis columbiana, Endemic, Valle del Cauca

You can find many highly recommended places to observe and photograph birds. Also ecolodges and birdlodges specialized in offering high quality accommodation in the area. Among the most famous and recommended places to go birding in the San Antonio Cloud Forest Km 18 in Valle del Cauca are:

Finca La Conchita: At Finca La Conchita west of the city of Cali you can have superb studies of hummingbirds, plus a wide variety of other birds such as the endemic Colombian Chachalaca.

Bronzy Inca – Coeligena coeligena
Purple-throated Woodstar – Calliphlox mitchellii – male-

La Minga Ecolodge: This is the prime destination to observe and photograph the Multicolored Tanager. Be sure that the best pictures of this bird were took at La Minga Ecolodge.

View to the San Antonio Cloud Forest from La Minga Ecologe

Finca Alejandría “El Paraíso de los Colibríes”: This is one of the most known and traditional palces for photographing tanagers and hummingbirds at Km 18, perhaps because it was one of the first to open. There you can find adequate trails with numbered drinking troughs, where the birds arrive. There are also gardens with feeders inside the forest.

Crowned Woodnymph – Thalurania colombica

Araucana Lodge: Eco-lodge specializing in bird watching, botanical tours and wellness. Organic farm on site. Know more about this place in our entry Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia.

©Araucana Lodge Website

Bosque de Niebla Birding & Nature: If you love nature and birds, you must know this place. It is a family business that offers its visitors bird watching and hiking tours, as well as birding workshops. It is located at Km 18, 30 minutes from Cali, and 2 kilometers from the entrance of Km 18 via Dapa. Its purpose is to help the conservation of the cloud forest of the National Protected Forest Reserve of La Elvira, thus promoting the conservation of the habitat of its birds.

Post Covid-19 Destination ©Bosque de Niebla Birding & Nature

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit any Valle del Cauca, just check our Valle del Cauca tour, 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.[/vc_column_text]


Top Wetland Destination in Valle del Cauca for Birding: Laguna de Sonso

Laguna de Sonso is a lake, and it is one of the most important ecosystems in the department of Valle del Cauca. Since 1987 it is a nature reserve that covers 2,045 hectares. Of this area, 745 hectares are in the lagoon zone and 1,300 hectares correspond to the buffer zone.

In 2018 we were with Juancho getting to know the Laguna de Sonso. Juancho told us about many places that you can visit in Valle del Cauca to see incredible, unique and beautiful birds of the Colombian western Andes and the Pacific. On this trip we were with his father Luis Eduardo Camacho, a guide specialized in bird watching in Valle del Cauca, and with our friends from the Hotel La Huerta, which is just 30 minutes by car far from Laguna de Sonso.

Visit our Youtube Channel for more videos!

Ecological Importance of Sonso Lake

Laguna de Sonso is associated to a complex of 24 wetlands of the Upper Cauca River, and is inserted into the Tropical Dry Forest ecosystem.

This place is a biological corridor that favors the migration of species between the Central and Western Andean mountain ranges of Colombia, and also receives boreal migratory birds. At the same time, it is a refuge for local resident species, not only birds, but also plants and animals.

According to Ramsar Sites Information Service, 39 species of plants are registered in this place, from which 25 present some category of threat. There are also 186 species of birds and 5 species of endemic fish: the boquiancha (Genycharax tarpon); the roño (Callichthys fabricioi); the micudo (Pimelodella macrocephala); and two sardines (Hyphessobrycon poecilioides and Gephyrocharax caucanus). It also has 24 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 50 species of mammals.

Sonso is also an important source of food for nearby human communities, which have in this ecosystem their only source of income.

Laguna de Sonso, Valle del Cauca, Colombia

Until very recently, less than 5 years ago, this ecosystem was under a serious environmental crisis, exposed to continuous drainage to plant sugar cane. Also to the excessive input of organic matter from domestic and industrial waste, which contaminate the water.

Studies carried out by the National University of Colombia, showed that the Laguna de Sonso presents a high degree of contamination, product of human activities, which has led this area not suitable for primary contact such as swimming, nor is it secondary as in the case of nautical activities.

As a result of community action and government efforts, this wetland was declared a Wetland of International Importance in 2017, meeting the requirements of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar).

With the international category, the activity of bird watching appears as a sustainable option for the conservation of the lake and its wetlands, and as a source of economic resources for the local community. Laguna de Sonso also offers environmental education and research facilities.

Birdwatching at Laguna de Sonso

“Buitre de Ciénaga” Environmental Education Center,

In Laguna Sonso is the “Buitre de Ciénaga” Environmental Education Center, whose name celebrates the Horned Screamer. The environmental education center offers the visitor an auditorium, and toilet services.

There is a land tour around the lagoon to observe birds of the swamp and beach area. It is also possible to do kayak or boat trips on the lake. The reserve has an observation tower on the Mata Zarza peninsula, a forest on the eastern side of the lagoon and a panoramic viewpoint over the Cauca River on the western side.

For bird watching, the entrance to the center starts at 6:00 a.m. Birding guide services are offered by local communities and have a cost associated with the size of the group and the time dedicated to the experience.

Depending on the environmental conditions, up to 60 species of birds can be observed in one morning. There are different trails, and species associated with aquatic and marsh systems, such as forest species, can be observed.

The possibilities of photography are moderate, considering that there may be a lot of cloudiness, increasing the contrast in white background.

Checklist of Laguna de Sonso. Here there are some of the birds we saw when we visited Laguna de Sonso:

Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Bar-crested Antshrike Thamnophilus multistriatus
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
Greater Ani Crotophaga major
Masked Cardinal Paroaria nigrogenis
Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis juvenile

How to get to Laguna de Sonso

Laguna de Sonso Wetland Complex

The Laguna de Sonso or Laguna del Chircal is a body of water located in the department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, about 65 kilometers north of the city of Santiago de Cali. It covers 14.1 square kilometers among the municipalities of Buga, Yotoco and Guacarí, on the right bank of the Cauca River.

To get there you must drive on the Buga-Mediacanoa road, and 250 meters before crossing the Cauca River, you must turn left on an open road at the site called Puerto Bertín, 1.5 km away is the Buitre de Ciénaga Environmental Center.


  • Wear a hat,
  • use comfortable clothes,
  • use waterpfof shoes,
  • take sunscreen,
  • take insect repellent.


  • El Tiempo. 2017. La Laguna de Sonso ahora tiene sello internacional ‘Ramsar’.
  • Revista Semana. 2019. Laguna de Sonso, en el Valle, presenta altos niveles de contaminación.
  • Ramsar Sites Information Service.

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.