The piedmont plains (also known as Piedemonte llanero) is one of the most interesting regions to visit in Colombia. The Piedemonte llanero is a geographic strip that limits the Andean mountain ranges and the Llanos Orientales. It covers a wide range of biomes along the eastern edge of the eastern mountain range of Colombia.
It comprises an ecological transition zone between the mountain forests and the highland savannas. For that reason, the soils are very fertile in this area. Soil fertility is important in ecological and agricultural aspects. Paradoxically, this ecosystem is threatened by soils being heavily exploited for crops and livestock.
Here I will tell you everything you can do in the Piedemonte Llanero Route in Meta, only a 20-minute flight from Bogotá.
Piedemonte Llanero Route
If you want to know the factories of “Pan de Arroz” (rice bread, yes!), the “a la llanera” steakhouses, take a bath in hot springs, ride in one of the best horse stables in Colombia, watch incredible birds and rest in serene places, this is the route for you!
The piedmont plains include part of the departments of Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Meta and Caquetá.
The “piedemonte llanero” of the Meta department is located between the municipalities of Restrepo, Cumaral and Barranca de Upía to the east of Villavicencio.
The piedemonte llanero has two periods of rainfall that reach their maximum in April and September. It has an average annual temperature of 26 °C. It is a region with high relative humidity, ~ 80%, so you must be careful with pieces of equipments such as cameras, microphones, phones, etc.
Also, if you leave your room for more than a week without ventilation, you will probably find a fungus film covering everything when you are back. Be careful with this, and always ask for extra clean bed clothes and well-ventilated rooms. The fungus can create allergies or even settle in your ears.
What to do in the Piedemonte Llanero Route
The starting point is the city of Villavicencio, taking the bridge Mi Llanura over the river Guatiquía, in the Troncal del llano road.
Visit Bioparque Los Ocarros
The first point of this route is the Bioparque Los Ocarros. This park is a sanctuary of fauna and flora of the Eastern Plains. It has an extension of 5.7 hectares which are divided into seven sectors around a central lake.
The bio park recreates the natural environment of almost 600 animals that live there. There are mammals, reptiles, and birds. There is also an aquarium with more than 50 species of freshwater fish, the largest in the country.
Additionally, you will find a butterfly farm, a large collection of turtles, and a serpentarium with species such as rattlesnakes, boas, anacondas and rainbow boas. It is an excellent place for children, and to visit as a family plan.
Birdwatching, horse riding, and organic products at Restrepo
Then, continuing the route, you will find the municipality of Restrepo. Restrepo is known as the salt capital of the department of Meta, because of the artisanal exploitation of salt.
Salt was first exploited by the Guayupe indigenous community. You can visit the Upin Salt Mines, and the salt water springs. There you can observe the process of watering, collecting and transforming this precious mineral.
Restrepo is also known as the “Green Municipality” of Meta because of its natural wealth and landscapes. Also, it is the “World Capital of Rice Bread” (Pan de Arroz).
At Campo Ecológico Gramalote there are three routes to ride in natural settings and live the experience of the Llanos. These rides can last between one and two and a half hours.
The participants receive basic lessons in a barouche, are attended by the guides of the field, and have the possibility, at the end of the tour, to attend an equestrian show.
Work of the Llanos, Dairy, and Mamona at Cumaral
On the way to Cumaral, at km 21, you can enjoy one of the best factories of dairy products in the region: Lácteos La Catira. There you can learn how to make cheese, and also try the best yogurts and cheese bread you can imagine.
Continuing the route you will find the municipality of Cumaral, a typical llanero town where you can experience the work of the llanos, visit the Manga de Coleo, and enjoy the meat “a la llanera”, popularly known as “Mamona”, a typical dish of the eastern plains.
“Mamona”, is meat from a calf less than 9 months old. This meat has a tender texture that is very pleasant for the palate. Its preparation is relatively simple, the meat is marinated with beer, salt and other seasonings.
Once it is ready, it is threaded into large wooden sticks, which are placed around a fire to guarantee its uniform cooking. The meat is accompanied with yucca, potato and plantain, and with beer or the popular Refajo (Colombian soda with barley beer).
The World Meeting of Vaquería (Cowboys) is held in Cumaral. It takes place in the “Manga de Coleo” Hernán Braidy Braidy. Coleo is the main sport of the Llanero man. It is made up of a trilogy of rider, horse, and bull. The rider’s objective is to knock down the bull by pulling its tail.
This sport is practiced in a track called Manga de Coleo. Many animal lovers are against this tradition. But it is part of the daily tasks of a cowboy in the Llanos when he has to handle the cattle in the great plains.
When leaving Cumaral, you take the road that leads to the Cundinamarca municipalities of Paratebueno and Maya, on the route to reach the municipality of Barranca de Upía in Meta. In Barranca de Upía you can try famous dishes such as: “carne a la perra”, “sancocho”, “carne asada”, “muchacho relleno”, “carne de marisca”, among others.
Also, in Barranca de Upia you can visit the Cerro Mirador, the Guaicaramo Hot Springs, and Aguas Calientes. There are natural water pools which, according to the locals, help to improve different illnesses due to the minerals they carry.
The water heats up on the surface due to a geological rift in the foothills of the Eastern mountain range, between the municipalities of Villavicencio and Barranca de Upía. This natural phenomenon has become a tourist destination known as Termales de Aguas Calientes, a private nature reserve located 102 kilometers from Villavicencio.
There you can enjoy Turkish baths made of wood that collect the steam from the high temperatures. Also, you will find cold springs, hot springs, a hot pool, a mud therapy area and a waterfall. All these attractions are natural formations. You will also be able to know how small oil springs emerge from the ground and water streams.
Where to Stay when you Visit the Piedemonte Llanero
During the entire trip there is a permanent offer of hotels, including a five-star hotel. I will recommend three places that offer completely different but equally fulfilling experiences.
Hacienda Las Mercedes
This is a private accommodation, with a swimming pool and access to the Campo Ecológico Gramalote. It is a Spanish style house with a central patio and ample rooms with private bathrooms.
There you can relax, take walks around the hacienda, go horseback riding, enjoy the pool, and be in an environment just for you and your family or friends.
The Ecolodge Cosmogenesis is an agro-eco-touristic, therapeutic, and formative center that will provide you with moments of harmony with nature and will contribute to your optimal spiritual, mental, and physical state.
This is a place that has for you an exquisite healing energy and that will provide you with everything you need to live a unique stay.
Rancho Camaná offers lodging services, all under strict sustainability protocols. It is the number one place in the region, and one of the most recognized in the country, for its commitment to the environment through conservation, education, and waste treatment.
If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours or want to visit the Piedemonte llanero route in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.
Briceño Vanegas G. Evolución de la integridad estructural de ecosistemas lóticos del piedemonte llanero frente a la intervención antrópica. Acta biol. Colomb. 2015; 20(2):133-144. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15446/abc.v20n2.42307
About the author
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.
Birds are everywhere, even in the middle of the big cities, the only thing you must do to discover them is to connect with nature, by doing urban birding. Cities are, in fact, real jungles, with specific and unique fauna and flora and ecological networks, like any other environment on Earth. Only this one has a high level of human intervention, and birds are where you least expect them: flying high in the sky, perched on top of buildings or antennas, nesting on your ledge, eating seeds in your neighborhood park, waiting for the leftovers you leave somewhere, in a lake, in the pool and even on lamp posts!
The activity of identifying a bird in the city requires paying attention to what is around, the trees, the houses, the buildings, the sounds and the colors, apart from a good field guide of course. Many birders travel to remote nature destinations to find exotic birds and tick their checklists -Colombia is becoming a top birding destination. However, birding has moved to the cities of the world in recent times and people are discovering the huge birdlife that goes unnoticed in the urban everyday life. Urban birding is now a trend and we will talk about the basics of urban birding and the best urban birding spots in Colombia.
Urban Birding in Colombia according to ‘The Urban Birder’
David Lindo is a wildlife broadcaster, writer, educator, lecturer, and birding tour guide from London, England. Lindo, also known as ‘The Urban Birder‘, is passionate about looking for birds in urban environments as well as sharing his passion with others and promoting conservation for those birds with whom we share our lives in the cities.
He was at the Colombia Bird Fair 2020 to give a speech about urban birds and bird migration within cities. This was his second time in the country and both experiences were mind-blowing. We had the possibility to interview him on birdwatching tourism, bird conservation and urban birding in Colombia.
“Birdwatching tourism is essential when it comes to conservation” – he told us. This is about a cycle where the bird diversity in one region attracts birders and other kinds of tourists, meaning money entering the local economy. When locals see that people are investing in the region because of birds, they realize they need to protect that resource in order to attract more tourists. In a more holistic perspective, the promotion of ecotourism ensures the protection of natural areas because people actually enjoy visiting and discovering the wildlife that inhabit those areas. This is essential for rural and urban birding spots, and citizens must protect the little nature that is left in the concrete jungle.
The Urban Birder thinks that more people should come to Colombia because it has more species of birds than any other country in the world. For example, Cali -speaking of the Colombia Birdfair host city, a city with over 2 million people, has more than 500 bird species, which is incredible for an urban birder. This is something that Colombians should definitely feel proud of.
7 tips for urban birding in Colombia
Feel safe. An unfamiliar city in a Latin country can seem scary. However, Colombian cities are safe, without denying that there are places where it is advisable to be careful. Always go birding in the company of guides or trusted friends who know the area and its neighbours well. In any case “don’t give papaya!“
Bring your local bird guide book, and be amazed at how many birds you can find! Some recommendations here.
Don’t worry if you cannot identify all the birds you see. There are a lot of different species and some are similar, identifying the features of birds is something that comes with time and practice.
When you go out birding, turn off your mind to all the urban sounds and try to tune in to nature’s wave. After a while, you will start hearing and seeing things you never expected.
Once you get the hang of it, try urban birding every day for 10 or 30 minutes. Include birding in your routine, before work or school, and you will feel great!
After you have gotten used to urban birding, it is time to buy a pair of binoculars -go to a store and try ones that suit you- and a birding guide for identification.
Above all else, just look up!
Watch the full interview with David Lindo (LINK)
Urban Birding Spots in Colombia
Colombian cities are characterized by large patches of green areas in municipal parks, monuments, sanctuaries, zoos, and universities. This plant cover, usually composed by native species, is home to many species of birds, as well as mammals and insects. As Colombia has big cities in all the different thermal floors, in all the different mountain ranges and with all the possibilities of ecosystems, it is possible to check a great number of bird species when visiting its main cities. Urban birding is a good opportunity to integrate with the culture and biodiversity of the country, since during and after a day of birding in the city you can get to know the city and also enjoy the local cuisine, historical places, understand the culture, and notice the main attractions of each city that you can also visit during your trip.
Urban Birding Spots in Bogotá
Of course, the capital of Colombia is the first on the list of urban birding spots, as it has plenty of green areas that attract birdlife. Check out our complete guide for Birdwatching in Bogotá, to get detailed information.
The district of Engativá, in the west edge of Bogota, hosts a great park, renowned among the bogotanos and also visited by tourists. This is La Florida Regional Park, an area of 267 hectares of forest and wetland for the enjoyment and relaxation of the community. The complete facilities include basketball, football, volleyball, tennis courts, skating and figure skating rinks, a camping zone, a playground, kiosks, a 2 km walking trail and a natural lake for water sports. The lake zone is where birders can tour in search of endemic and migratory birds. Here you can observe 3 endemic species to Bogota: the Silvery-Throated Spinetail, Apolinar’s Wren and the Bogota Rail, along with other ~300 species.
It is hard not to notice the white church watching the city from any point in Bogota. At 3,152 meters above sea level, Monserrate is one of the most iconic symbols of Bogota. The sanctuary and monastery built in the 17th century is a pilgrimage and tourist site enclosed in lush vegetation. The area has high Andean forests, Eucalyptus and Pine forests that host diverse wildlife, although it has partially disappeared over time. You can climb whether in cable car, funicular or -if you are a fit person, on foot.
During the hike, if you are going on foot, you will hear the song of the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and find a family of Andean Guans. At the top of the mountain, in the gardens of the sanctuary, you have one of the best views of the city while also having a chance to observe different high-altitude birds. There are at least 58 bird species, including: Silvery-Throated Spinetail, Rufous-Browed Conebill, Pale-bellied Tapaculo, Golden-Fronted Whitestart, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Shining Sunbeam, Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain Tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, Grey-Browed and Pale-Naped Brush Finches, Andean Siskin, among other birds.
Bogota’s botanical garden not only preserves biodiversity amid a concrete jungle but works as a research center and provides cultural and educational activities for citizens. As a proof of the success of its operating model, 50,000 people visit the garden each year. Named after the Spanish priest, who was also a botanist, physician, geographer, mathematician and teacher Jose Celestino Mutis, who was the first naturalist to make a complete research in the territory of the New Kingdom of Granada, in Spanish “Nuevo Reino de Granada”, an area corresponding mainly to modern-day Colombia which lasted from 1538 to 1739, during the “Expedición Botánica” (Royal Botanical Expedition to New Granada). His work inspired a long tradition of studies on the fauna and flora fields of the country.
The Botanical Garden of Bogotá has 20 hectares of land containing 300 plant families, and its highlighted species of birds are the Scrub Tanager, Rufous-browed Conebill, Mountain Elaenia, Rusty and Black Flowerpiercers, Yellow-backed Oriole, Andean Siskin. At the end of the year, you can also see several migratory birds.
Quinta de Bolívar Museum serves as a tribute to the legacy of Simón Bolívar. The entrance of the museum lies in front of Montserrate and boasts several gardens that attract many birds, especially hummingbirds. Inside the museum there are 24 different areas with unique furniture of the XVII and XIX centuries, some of the pieces were from Bolivar himself, since he owned the house for 10 years. This may not be the most common bird watching site, however, here you enjoy spectacular views of some birds of the area and have the chance to learn about one of the most important figures in Colombia history. Among the birds found here are the Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, and Black Flowerpiercer. The entrance is free every Sunday.
~ 35 species
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana is a Catholic university founded in 1623 by the Society of Jesus in the east zone of the city of Bogota, on the foothills of the eastern cordillera. Its campus has 18 hectares, with 202,988 m2 of buildings and abundant vegetation. In fact, the university has carried out a process of ecological restoration for 10 years. A recent infographic guide published by the Ornithology Javeriano Group details 35 of the most common birds in the campus, characterized by a high Andean forest at 2,640 MASL. Among them, Sparkling Violetear, Canada Warbler, Purple Gallinule, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Red-eye Vireo.
It is one of the wetlands with the best water quality and most visited in the city. It has a bird observatory, an auditorium, bathrooms and signs. It is located northwest of Bogota, in the town of Engativá, between carreras 73 and 76. It is made up of 10.86 hectares of which 5.64 form the water mirror. In the wetland you can find birds from the savannah forests of Bogotá, Yellow-backed Oriole, Andean Siskin, or the Lesser Goldfinch, as well as birds from aquatic environments such as Purple Gallinule, American Coot and Common Gallinule among others.
Walking around the city’s zoo you can spot groups of Common Ground Dove looking for food in the ground, Great Kiskadee in the trees and wires singing their name, along with Streaked Saltator, Guira Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Spot-breasted Woodpecker… As for the aquatic birds, the Neotropic Cormorants are seen constantly diving, while the Green Kingfisher perch silently on low shaded branches waiting for the moment to plunge after fish. During the migration season, you will find the Blackburnian Warbler and Tropical Parula, both of which belong the New World warblers group.
Cali River and El Gato del Rio Park
~ 100 species
If you walk along the riverside that flows next to the zoo, you will easily find several species such as Red-crowned Woodpeckers, which commute between the trees and nearby gardens; hummingbirds including the Brown Violetear feeding outside some houses, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Vermillion Flycatcher and Yellow-olive Flycatcher; Black-billed Thrush, Black Phoebe on the rocks near water; as well as the Black-crowned Night Heron and Snowy Egret vigilant to ambush prey.
Downstream the Cali river, 10 minutes on foot from the San Antonio hill, you find El Gato del Rio which is a park area with a big, bronze statue of a cat made by the Colombian artist Hernando Tejada. This is not only a place to hang out with friends but to spot Safron Finch, Common Tody Flycatcher, flocks of Spectacled Parrotlet, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Yellow-headed Caracara in the treetops and Black Vulture overflying the zone.
Lago de las Garzas Eco Park
~ 60 species
To the southwest edge of Cali, Lago de las Garzas – or Heron Lake, is a public eco park consisting of an artificial lake surrounded by about 400 trees, where people go to relax, have a picnic, walk along interpretive trails and observe wildlife. The clumsy Greater Ani can be found here crashing around in the foliage. Other species are Striated Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Bare-faced Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, hidden in the bushes is the Grey-necked Wood Rail. There are also hummingbirds, and species as the Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Rusty-margined Flycatcher and the Common Potoo.
Southwest of “La Sucursal del Cielo”, a local name to refer to Cali city, is this beloved weekend destination for the locals, just 20 minutes by bus from the city. This natural bathing spot is in the municipality of Pance at 1,200 m a.s.l. in average and receives many caleñas families that seek to enjoy nature in the eastern slope of the Western Cordillera, covered by tropical dry forest and premontane wet forest. Along the crystal clear, rocky waters of the river, you can go birding and find the Colombian Chachalaca, Andean Motmot, Green Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Golden-collared Manakin, Green Hermit, the Collared Trogon and Red-Headed Barbet, among other species.
This public university located in southern Cali is the second largest university campus in Colombia, after Universidad Nacional in Bogotá. Nature is a protagonist here, with a dry tropical forest ecosystem, and 20 years ago there were 80 resident species and 13 boreal migrants recorded in 1 km2 of the campus (know more here). The five most abundant species are the Cattle egret, Vermillion Flycatcher, Black-billed Thrush, Tropical Kingbird and the Blue-gray Tanager. Apart from these birds, you can see the Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Baltimore Oriole, Tropical Parula, Yellow Warbler and the Scrub Tanager, among the other 150 bird species.
This prestigious country club 45 minutes from the center of Cali is the place where caleños go to practice golf, tennis, soccer and other sports with a view of Farallones de Cali, the mountain range that gives the club its name, and if you play on a clear day, it is possible to see the majestic snow-capped volcano of Huila to the south east. Its garden shelter about 170 species of birds, among which are the Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Purple Gallinule, Colombian Chachalaca and the Grayish Piculet.
Urban Birding Spots in Medellín
These are the best places to go urban birding in Medellín, Antioquia:
Cerro El Volador Regional Metropolitan Natural Park
~ 35 species
Cerro El Volador is a metropolitan regional natural park, the largest in Medellín, located in front of the Medellin headquarter of Universidad Nacional and 15 minutes by car from the Atanasio Girardot football stadium. It has an area of 100 hectares with 9 different types of soil cover and 10 water sources, the perfect home to 106 bird species and 76 species of butterflies. The bird species that stand out in this protected area are the Bar-crested Antshrike, Lineated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Large-billed Seed Finch, Slate-colored Seedeater, Eared Dove, Blue-necked Tanager, Palm Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Spectacled Parrotlet, Bananaquit, and Streaked Flycatcher. The park is an important place for environmental education and research.
Arví Park is the only park in Colombia with a Sustainable Tourism certification from the Rainforest Alliance. It is located on the outskirts of Medellin and is easily accessible by cable car. Its diverse trails offer visitors the possibility to do day and night hiking, bird watching, picnics, bike tours, archaeological and cultural tours with abounding flora such as orchids. Here you can see the Golden-olive Woodpecker, the Azara’s Spinetail, the Green Jay, the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, and the Andean Solitaire.
The municipality of Sabaneta, south of Medellin, has a natural reserve of 235 hectares and is considered a water reserve for the Aburrá Valley. Because of this, it is not allowed to camp, make bonfires or practice extreme sports. Its Andean wet forest ecosystem has native flora that shelters bird species such as the Colombian Chachalaca, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Yellow-headed Manakin, the endemic Red-bellied Grackle and Stiles’s Tapaculo, among other 350 bird species.
To the north of the capital of Antioquia, next to Explora Park, the Medellin Botanical Garden is considered as a living museum. It has living collections of vertical gardens, ornamental plants, theme exhibitions and collections of endangered species to promote conservation. Birding is one of the main attractions, as it is a great environment for over 100 native and migratory bird species. Bare-faced Ibis, White-tailed Kite, Andean Motmot, Slate-throated Redstart, Black-capped Tanager and Olivaceous Piculet can be spotted here.
Commune No. 14 El Poblado is one of the 16 communes of Medellín, capital of the Department of Antioquia. It is the most expensive and exclusive sector of the city. It is located in the south-eastern area. It is the largest commune in Medellín and also the least populated in relative terms. Lleras Park is one of the most representative places of El Poblado and a place of almost forced passage for the tourists who come to the city. In the parks and gardens of the neighborhood, which also has two streams, attracts many birds as Black-throated Mango, Roadside Hawk, Southern Lapwing, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Grayish Saltator, American Redstart among others.
Urban Birding Spots in Manizales
Manizales is the capital of Caldas, one of the departments of the Coffee Region, which registers nearly 900 bird species. These are some urban birding spots in Manizales:
Los Alcázares Arenillo Eco Park
Right to the west of Manizales, Los Alcázares Eco park becomes a main lung within the city. Below 2000 MASL, this humid premontane forest is the setting for responsible ecotourism activities, such as landscape contemplation, hiking and birdwatching. This park has over 30 hectares inhabited by more than 140 bird species from 34 families, including the Scaled Antpitta, Scrub Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Bar-crested Antshrike, among others.
Paraíso Verde Manizales
Just 3 km north of Manizales there is a lodge true to the Coffee Region culture. Paraíso Verde is a classic-styled house in the middle of a stunning landscape of mountains, great sunsets, trees, bright flowers, birds, butterflies and more. There are several trails to explore the place and enjoy not only bird watching but bird photography! The lodge has ideal feeders for photographers to take their best shots. Among the 200 bird species that inhabit Paraíso Verde, you can see the Squirrel Cuckoo, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Crimson-rumped toucanet, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Scaled Antpitta. The entrance costs $35,000 COP and the guiding service has an extra cost.
Recinto del Pensamiento is a distinctive natural reserve since it does not only protect natural resources but seeks to raise awareness and educate about common welfare. It is located 10 km southwest of Manizales. Here you can access an ecological trail, a chairlift system, a garden, an orchid forest, a butterfly observatory, and a birdwatching spot. You can also have an authentic coffee experience and even plant a tree! In its 179 ha you can spot around 230 species of birds, among them the Lesser Violetear, White-naped Brushfinch, Metallic-green Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Collared Inca, and Swainson’s Hawk. You can come with at least one person or up to 6 to do birdwatching, having previously made a reserve and paying a fee of $80,000.
Los Yarumos Ecopark
Los Yarumos Ecopark is a protected natural area in the eastern zone of Manizales. Local families and tourists visit this park to spend an adventurous weekend with 5 zip lines of 30 to 70 meters high, a 105-meter long Tibetan bridge, rappel down a waterfall, slides, a climbing wall and a 4-hour tour along an ecological trail in the forest for nature lovers. The curious ones can visit the library, the natural science museum and participate in the cultural activities. Its 53 hectares of cloud forest serve as home to diverse wildlife, including agoutis, opossums, foxes and tigrillos, and flowers such as bromeliads, anthuriums and orchids. But the tree that gives the park its name is the Yarumo or trumpet tree, which attracts -along with the other trees, many unique birds, such as the Green Jay and the Emerald toucanet, among 200 others, including the Golden-plumed Parakeet, White-vented Plumeleteer and the Palm Tanager.
Urban Birding Spots in Armenia
The capital of Quindío in the Coffee Region is also a good destination for urban birding in Colombia.
Parque de la Vida is a breathing space in the middle of the city of 8 hectares, with cascades, a lake and a lot of green. This park was donated to Armenia by the Coffee farmers National Federation. A 2 km trail crosses a guadual and a gorge. The lake is inhabited by different fish, ducks and geese, and people find in the park crafts exhibitions, children games and spaces for exercising and relaxation. At least 220 bird species can be found in here, including the Blue-necked Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, and Turquoise Dacnis.
The Quindío Botanical Garden is outside the city of Armenia, more exactly in Calarcá municipality. It is an NGO that fosters conservation projects, scientific research, and environmental education. As a recognized spot for nature tourism in Colombia, it offers several attractions such as the National Collection of Palms, which bring together most native species of Colombian palms, a renowned butterfly house, an insect zoo, a geology and soil museum, and three spots for bird watching (a house in the forest, a 22-meter tower and the hummingbird ballet. There are 205 bird species recorded in this area, including about 10 migratory species. You can spot the Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Barred Antshrike, Blue-Necked Tanager, the near endemic Western Emerald, and the endemic Grayish Piculet.
Urban Birding Spots in Villavicencio
The department of Meta, in Llanos Orientales, is the third region in Colombia with most bird species, having nearly 1050 reported. In its capital, Villavicencio, you can go urban birding.
Since 2008, the Orange-Breasted Falcon Reserve -also known as Bosque Bavaria, exists to preserve the habitat of the birds endemic to the Orinoco region or Eastern plains. It is located northwest of Villavicencio, just 15 minutes by car. In 30 hectares of reserve you can explore the mountain forest of the Eastern Andes, where there is a variety of bird species. The most notable birds here are the Gray-Chinned Hermit, Blue-Fronted Lancebil, Amazonian Motmot, Yellow-billed Nunbird, White-Chinned Jacamar, Scaled Piculet, White-Chested Puffbird and the Striolated Manakin.
Universidad de Los Llanos
The Universidad de los Llanos , is the largest public academic institution of higher education in the eastern plains and Amazon region of Colombia. Its headquarters are located in Villavicencio, capital of the department of Meta. More than 200 species of birds have been reported here. It is a unique campus full of native trees and gardens that are the support and biological corridor for many birds in the region. You can find there birds like Rufous-breasted Hermit, White-bearded Hermit, Pale-bellied Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat. Hoatzin, Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Russet-crowned Crake, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Green Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill among others.
Bioparque Los Ocarros
The Ocarros Biopark is a zoo of fauna of the eastern plains of Colombia, where you can see jaguars, anacondas, armadillos, snakes, crocodiles, among other species, just 5 minutes from the city of Villavicencio (Meta), on the road that leads to the municipality of Restrepo. The place has 5.5 hectares with large areas, which serve as habitat for about 680 animals of 150 species typical of the ecosystem of the region.
This theme park offers specialized tours and events for one or more days, as well as workshops, conferences and seminars. Among the birds in the wild that can be observed here are Speckled Chachalaca, Hoatzin, Oriole Blackbird, Silver-beaked Tanager, Orange-crowned Oriole, Violaceous Jay, Scaled Piculet, Northern Waterthrush, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, many aquatic birds, among others.
Monumento de Cristo Rey
After years of state neglect, El Redentor Hill, home to the monument to Christ the King, one of Villavicencio’s landmarks, has recently been recovered to attract religious, sports and even bird-watching visitors. Cristo Rey is located on the hills that rise above the center of Villavicencio, which also makes it a unique place as a tourist viewpoint over the city and the whole plain. This work was started in 1949 by Pedro Eliseo Achury Garavito, who was the parish priest of Villavicencio cathedral at the time. The authorship of the monument is due to José Rama Kers and it was inaugurated in 1954.
The ascent to the hill is done by a road surrounded by little intervened forests of the Andean foothills. You can find bird species such as Barred Antshrike, Short-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Russet-backed Oropendola, Scaled Piculet, Great Potoo, Common Potoo, Amazonian Motmot, Black-crowned Tityra, Glittering-throated Emerald, Lettered Aracari among others.
Jardín Botánico de Villavicencio
Created in 1983 and since then is a center of flora where it promotes the conservation, preservation, and propagation of plant material, as well as research and promotion of environmental and ecological education programs. It has 46.3 hectares and is mostly occupied by forest, pasture areas and the nursery of plant material, plots of heliconia plants, guadua plants and trees of various species. Species such as Speckled Chachalaca, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Crested Oropendola, Tropical Screech-Owl, Bat Falcon, Gray-chinned Hermit, Buff-throated Saltator among others can be found.
Urban Birding Spots in Santa Marta
This Caribbean city, the capital of the department of Magdalena and home to the highest coastal mountain in the world -Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, also offers spots for urban birding:
Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is an important tourist attraction in Santa Marta. This is the house where Simon Bolivar, Colombia’s liberator, lived his last days. This huge country house, founded in 1608, is located just 5 km from the city and boasts amazing gardens with vegetation from the Caribbean tropical dry forests. It actually has a Botanical Garden that collects plants such as a Samanea saman, Ceibas and Tamarinds, along with flowers that attract several birds. Among the 152 registered species, you will likely find the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Orange-Chinned Parakeet, Yellow Warbler, Whooping Motmot, Russet-Throated Puffbird, and the Trinidad Euphonia.
Universidad del Magdalena
Universidad del Magdalena is a departmental public university located near Quinta de San Pedro in Santa Marta. It is the second Caribbean public university to get the High Quality Institutional Accreditation from the National Ministry of Education and has one of the greatest campus in the region, with 30 hectares of dry tropical forest ecosystem and an artificial lake. A research published in 2008 reported 186 bird species distributed in 41 families: 38 resident, 77 transitory and 72 migratory. In the university you are likely to see the Great-tailed Grackle, Carib Grackle; some endangered species from the United States such as Stilt and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and the Willow Flycatcher; other species such as the Cattle Egret, Savanna Hawk, Crested Bobwhite and many more.
Urban Birding Spots in Popayan
The department of Cauca is located to the southwest Pacific coast of Colombia and has around 1100 bird species reported in platforms as eBird! Popayan is its capital and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 1738 m a.s.l., this city of nearly 300,000 inhabitants is a good destination for urban birding, having a strategic reservoir formed by micro-watersheds, wetlands and springs. In the historical downtown, you can see eared doves (Zenaida articulata), house sparrows, flycatchers, swallows and hummingbirds.
Vía Las Tres Cruces Hill
Also, around Cerro de Las Tres Cruces, it is possible to spot the White-Naped Brushfinch (Atlapetes albinucha), Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus), Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus), Rusty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa sittoides), among others.
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
Current content writer for Sula. 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.