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: http://www.northerncolombiabirdingtrail.com/

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. 

Accomodation

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. 

Itinerary

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

References 
 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.

What is a Birding Photography Tour and Where to Go in Colombia


Doing bird photography in Colombia is a must. It is the ‘birdiest’ country in the world. Nowhere else on the planet you will find more bird species than in here. There are over 1,900 registered species   80 endemic  and this number represents 20% of all the species of birds in the world.

Every region of Colombia boasts unique bird species for birders to enjoy. However, photographing birds is a whole another scenario and not all the birding spots throughout the country are apt to do bird photography tours.   

Find out the best tips for bird photography in our entries Brief Overview about Bird Photography for Beginners and How to Prepare for a Birding Tour in the Neotropics?.

In this post, we will talk about the difference between bird photography and birdwatching tours, and the most recommended bird photography destinations in Colombia. 

Bird Photography vs Birdwatching 

The Guide

In South America, both fields are commonly undistinguished. However, it is essential that a guide leading a bird photography tour has knowledge about birds in the region as well as photography, to help tourists improve their pictures.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Colombia did not have this kind of complete guides, but currently the landscape is changing. 

The Destination

Also, the destination for doing bird photography is totally different from a spot for birdwatching. Photography guides are used to visiting the destinations in advance to know if those are convenient for doing a photography tour or not.

Aspects to take into account for a bird photography destination, and which offer ease to the photographers, are:

  • The bird perches.
  • The background.
  • The slope of the terrain where you are going to place your tripod or seat.
  • The suitable infrastructure for photography such as hides, or observation towers.
  • Access to electricity.
  • Spacious rooms with extra desks and outlets.

Experts Advice

We interviewed 2 South American photographers at the Colombia BirdFair 2020 on the subject, and here we will share their recommendations.

Steve Sánchez

Steve Sánchez is a birding guide and nature photographer specialized in bird photography from Peru. He is the manager and CEO of Kuntur Birding and Steve Sánchez Wildlife Photography. 

Steve thinks a birdwatching tour is very different from a photography tour or a bird photography tour.

Usually, what a birdwatcher wants is to observe as many bird species as possible during their trip. On the ther side, a nature photographer is not interested in having a lot of species photographed if those pictures are mediocre or do not turn out well. For a photographer, the priority is quality, not quantity. 

Steve Sanchez recommends to lodge owners to listen to the professional photographers advice to make the lodge more apt for photography (that means changing the perches or moving the feeders to a better place and this does not negatively impact birds, as it is commonly believed). 

Memo Gómez

Memo Gomez, a nature photographer from Colombia, and CEO of the El Cantil Ecolodge, says that photographers need to spend time with birds.

Memo explained to us that bird photographers need the right landscape, the right spot, the right button for every picture, while birders seek to spot a bird and cross their checklists, it is quite different. Photographers are more patient, because they need to wait for the perfect conditions to take a shot. 

Some practical tips for bird photographers, explained by Memo Gomez, are:

  1. Exposure is key, if you learn how to control exposure well, you will get more and more pictures.
  2. Understand pretty well the focus system of your camera, for example when photographing birds in flight, cause it depends on the camera manufacturer.
  3. Have the right local guide. When going to the jungle or complex environments, finding a bird is tough if you do not bring a local guide that has a deep knowledge of the area.

The Coffee Triangle Bird Photography Tour 

In the western and central ranges of the Andes lies the region where the best-quality coffee of the world is grown: the Colombian Coffee Region 

Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda are the mainly constituents of the region, with stunning landscapes and high biodiversity hosted in dry forests, tropical humid forests and páramos.

This area concentrates about 45% of all birds in the country, Quindío has around 690 bird species, Caldas has approximately 880 species with 22 endemic  and Risaralda around 890 species with 25 endemic.

That being said, you may notice why the Coffee region is a special destination for bird photography. In Sula, we have a bird photography tour around the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee region) 

It starts in Pereira and ends in the town of La Virginia, in Risaralda too. It is an unforgettable 14-day birding experience.

You will visit the next spots: 

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

The Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve is a renowned birding place in Manizales where you can hear, observe and photograph from 70 to 110 bird species at 1,225 meters above sea level!

Find out more information about Tinamu in our entry The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Moustached Puffbird (Malacoptila mystacalis) at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Among the species you can find are the Little Tinamou, Colombian Chachalaca, Gray-headed Dove, Dwarf Cuckoo, Common Potoo, Common Pauraque, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Western emerald, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Grayish Piculet, Bar-crested Antshrike and Scrub Tanager. 

The Reserve offers Facilities and Avitourism Services with a comprehensive and specialized service for photographers and birders, as follows:  

  • Tour of photography and bird watching
  • Birding Library for consultation
  • Space for workshops with audiovisual equipment
  • Wide screen for review of photographic and video files
  • Hummingbird garden with support feedlots
  • Feedlots for birds with hide for photographers
  • Fishing lake for birds only
  • +3 Km. of private and safe paths
  • Hides
  • Trails with recognized perches and crossing points for some birds

Río Blanco Reserve

The Rio Blanco Reserve is 3 km from Manizales and has the cloud forest ecosystem at over 2,159 MASL. It is key in the preservation of water and biodiversity. The place has been suitable with feeders and drinkers for hummingbirds and tanager, as well as with small observation benches to photograph the 4 different species of antpittas that have been bait in the reserve.

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri) at Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas, Colombia

Here you can photograph species such as the Masked Saltator, Rusty Faced Parrot, Golden Plumed Parakeet, the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta and the near endemic Bicolored Antpitta. There are approximately 350 bird species here! 

Cameguadua Reservoir

The Cameguadua Reservoir is an aquatic ecopark commonly visited by around 250 species of aquatic birds.

Cameguadua Pier

From the pier you can photograph Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Blackish Rail, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Neotropic Cormorant, Snowy Egret, among others. It has a dock that goes deep into the lake, from where it is possible to locate the camera to take photographs. 

Romelia Colors of Life Farm

In the Romelia Colors of Life farm, you will have the possibility to spot over 200 bird species including the Golden-plumed Parakeet, Bar-crested Antshrike, Crimson-rumped Toucanet , Yellow-vented Woodpecker and Golden-olive Woodpecker, in a nice area with orchids, bonsai, citrus fruits and avocados crops. 

There is also a striking collection of orchids and bonsais from around the world.

Orchid at Finca Romelia Colors of Life

Termales del Ruiz Hotel 

If you want to discover highland birds, Termales del Ruiz Hotel hosts approximately 190 species including Andean Siskin, Shining Sunbeam, Glowing Puffleg, Red-crested Cotinga, Buff-winged Starfrontlet,  Great Sapphirewing, Slaty Brushfinch, Masked Flowerpiercer and Black-backed Bush Tanager in a páramo ecosystem at 3,500 meters above sea level.

Shining Sunbeam – Aglaeactis cupripennis

Also, you can enjoy several hot springs here. This place is known for its large number of drinking fountains and gardens with native plants that attract hummingbirds and other high mountain species. It has benches and terraces to facilitate photography. It is even possible to have the experience of feeding the birds in your own hand. 

Tatamá Hill and Montezuma Ecolodge

One particularly recommended birding spot is the Finca Montezuma eco-lodge, located on the hillside that connects the Risaralda with Chocó, in the western range of the Andes.

It has a huge cloud forest that borders the Tatamá National Natural Park and boasts fauna and flora wealth. It is not so known among birders but is home to various endemic species, such as the iconic Black-and-gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers and the Chocó Tapaculo and Warbler.  

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

Find out more information about Tatamá and Montezuma Lodge in our entry The Uniqueness of Tatamá Park and Montezuma Road Destination.

Other birding spots within the Coffee region are the towns of Santa Rosa de Cabal, Santa Cecilia, Apía, Mistrató and La Virginia. These boast ecosystems such as páramo, rainforest, wet premontane forest, cloud forest and tropical dry forest, so the variety of birds you can spot is unbelievable. However, there is still lack of good infrastructure to photograph them.   

Chicoral, Dapa and Km 18, Cali 

Find out more information about Km 18 and the San Antonio forest in Valle del Cauca in our e entry Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18.

Finca Alejandría Farm

Finca Alejandría is 18 km down the road from Cali to Buenaventura, on the Pacific coast. This place covered in cloud forest has several feeders that attract hummingbirds and other regional bird species such as tanagers, toucanets and motmots.

Red-headed Barbet – Eubucco bourcierii at Finca Alejandría

The stars of the zone are the Multicolored Tanager, which is really difficult to see, Blue-headed Sapphire, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Crested Quetzal and Golden-headed Quetzal. Our Valle del Cauca birding route has a stop in this farm. Check the itinerary here

Finca La Conchita Farm

In this zone known as the 18 Km, you can also visit Finca La Conchita to photograph hummingbirds, honey creepers, tropical mockingbirds and plenty more bird species. Experienced photographers such as Augusto Ilian have taken gorgeous shots at this birding spot.

Bronzy Inca – Coeligena coeligena at La Conchita

La Minga Ecolodge

Another eco-lodge for bird photography is La Minga, which is located within the Rio Bitaco forest reserve. In the cloud forest, over 300 species and 4 endemic birds have been spotted.

La Minga Ecolodge

You can easily photograph up to 17 species of hummingbirds, up to 30 species of tanagers, flower piercers and honeycreepers. Watch our birding experience in Km 18!

Upper Anchicayá

Find out more about this destination in our entry Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá.

El Descanso km 55 – Doña Dora

It is also important to mention the immense effort local people is putting into develop adequate places for bird photography. It requires a lot of compromise, money and time.

Compas – Toucan Barbet – Semnorinis ramphastinus at El Descanso Km 55

Here is one of the most impressive places in Valle del Cauca, where bird watching and bird photography helped local people to transform and enhance their life conditions, El Descanso, Km 55 Old Way to Buenaventura with doña Dora.

As time goes by, the list of bird photography destinations in Colombia gets longer and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country. Check all of our Birding Routes here

References 
About the authors

Ana María Parra

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

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.

The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation

Colombia Birdwatching guide! All about birding in Colombia.

Bird watching in Colombia is considered one of the priority products in peacebuilding, especially because of the possibility of generating more employment opportunities in the territories that were affected by the armed conflict and that are abundant in flora and fauna. With 20% of bird species in the world, the advantages that Colombia offers in the birdwatching segment are incredible.

1. Best spots for birdwatching in Colombia

1.1. Andean Region

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

This is a very special place for bird watching in the department of Caldas, and it has become one of the top destinations for photography in Colombia.

Tinamú Birding Located in the village of San Peregrino, the reserve is composed of a 15-ha fragment of dry forest at 1,225 m a.s.l. (4019 FAMSL). It is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and a variety of ancient plants and trees.

To share this natural wealth, facilities have been adapted for bird-seekers, ornithologists, and bird and nature lovers from around the world to provide unforgettable experiences.

The area is well known throughout the country for its high-class bird product and surreal opportunities for photography, research, and good old-fashioned bird watching.

Tatamá National Natural Park and Montezuma road

Tatamá National Park is situated on the borders of the department of Chocó, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca along the western Colombian Andean mountain range. Currently, the park is closed to public, but it can be accessed by following the road connecting the Montezuma Lodge and a military base at the top of the Montezuma Mountain.

Montezuma is an area of confluence between the Biogeographic Pacific and the Coffee Axis. The area houses a rich array of ecosystems, including the Andean Forest, the High Andean Forest, and the Paramos that are all extremely well preserved.

This ideal geographical location and its status as a protected area have transformed Tatamá Natural Park into a natural refuge in Colombia for a large variety of plant and animal species. Many of Colombia’s endemic and near-endemic species are found here.

Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Otún Quimbaya Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is an important ecotourism destination in Colombia. Found in the coffee region at the upper basin of the Otún river in the department of Risaralda, the area houses some incredible flora, most notable of which are its trees.

Here you can find the Cauca guan (Penelope perspicax), Mustached antpitta (Grallaria alleni), Chestnut wood Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus), Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii), Wattled Guan (Aburria aburri), Multicolored tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus). This wide variety attracts a rich array of birds and other fauna to observe.

Río Blanco Reserve and Quebrada Olivares

Located along the Central Andean Mountain range in the department of Caldas, the Protective Forest Reserve of Río Blanco and Quebrada Olivares has one of the highest rates of biodiversity in Colombia.

This place is known for its photography facilities primarily focused on antpittas, tanagers and hummingbirds.

Jardín, Antioquia

Jardín is a beautiful patrimonial town in the department of Antioquia. The town is surrounded by Paramos so that it is also surrounded by pristine cloud forests. During your visit, you can stop by the Jardín de Rocas Natural Park, which is a Natural Park dedicated to the conservation, research and sighting of the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus).

There is also the road Jardin – Riosucio, where the altitudinal variation lets you enjoy birds from different thermal floors. The Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve is on this road, all of which makes this area one of Colombia’s top 10 bird destinations.

1.2. Caribbean Region

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Sierra Nevada contains a high concentration of endemic species in Colombia, making it a must visit place for birders in Colombia. One of the main attractions is the ability to observe on different thermal floors since altitude variation ranges from zero to 5,700 meters above sea level (18700 FAMSL).

Serranía del Perijá

Serranía del Perijá is located in the department of Valledupar, which shares a border with Venezuela. The area has acquired a significant biological importance for the country and humanity, as there are high rates of endemism along with other important natural sites.

Here you can find birds like the Perijá Metaltail (Metallura iracunda), Perijá Thistletail (Asthenes perijana), Perijá Brushfinch (Arremon perijanus) and the newly described Perijá Tapaculo (Scytalopus perijanus). The area also includes the Balcón del Cesar where you can find birds in mid-level altitudes.

La Guajira

Birding in La Guajira is relatively easy since most of the species of interest can be easily found during a long morning session. The region consists of a well conserved dry forest ecosystem inside the indigenous territory of the Wayuu tribe.

The birding session begins in Camarones downtown area, where you will find the Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) followed by a trip to the surrounding indigenous villages in the dry forest. These areas house endemic, almost endemic and restricted habitat bird specialties.

The flag species is the Cardinal Guajiro or Vermilio Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus). The session concludes with a birding tour in lagunar and the surrounding coastal ecosystems, where the flagship species is the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).

Camarones

At the center of this little town, you can find the Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) and the Trinidad Euphonia (Euphonia trinitatis).

Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

Very close to Riohacha and Camarones lies this national sanctuary devoted to the preservation of the Caribbean dry forest and marshes that contain over 250 bird species. This area is specialized in the conservation of migratory and threatened birds, such as the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber).

The area also protects the other typical species, including the Vermilion cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus), Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) and Anteado Hummingbird (Leucippus falax), found in the dry ecosystems of La Guajira.

1.3. Pacific Region

Old way to Buenaventura: Anchicayá

This is another hotspot for birdwatching in Colombia. Situated in the department of Valle del Cauca, Buenaventura is surrounded by forests that house both Andean and Pacific fauna.

Housing over 350 species of birds, the rich geography of Buenaventura makes it an ideal spot for any avid birdwatcher. The old road leading to Buenaventura is named after the river seen at the end of this great canyon that follows the road.

La Planada Natural Reserve – Nariño

La Planada Natural Reserve is managed by the AWÁ indigenous community who form part of the Indigenous town council of Pialapí Pueblo Viejo. It is located on the Pacific slope of the western mountain range in the department of Nariño and conserves about 3,200 ha of cloud and rainforest.

The altitude varies anywhere between 200 and 2,100 meters above sea level (3930 to 6890 FAMSL), and the region receives upwards of 4,800 mm of precipitation per year.

Endemic species of fauna and flora are protected, among which includes a large variety of orchids, 243 species of birds and the only bear of South America: The Spectacled Bear.

Río Ñambí Reserve – Nariño

Río Ñambí reserve is located on the Pacific slope of the “Knot of the Pastos”, better known as the “Massif of Huaca”, in the Andean mountain range. The area forms part of the department of Nariño and sits along a road that leads to the Pacific sea from the city of Pasto.

It has 1,400 ha of a well preserved rainforests that receive 7000 mm of precipitation per year. The altitude ranges from 1100 to 1900 meters above sea level (3600 to 6230 FAMSL) and houses a large variety of flora and fauna.

There are approximately 350 species of birds, including 31 species of hummingbirds and a recently discovered species, The Chocó Vireo (Vireo masteri). The reserve is also a refuge for a variety of orchids and butterflies in Colombia.

Lodging is still very basic and the area is only accessible through a 3 km trail in the forest. The community has improved the trail with birding facilities for photography and birdwatching.

1.4. Orinoquia Region

Mururito Farm Hotel Natural Reserve

The Mururito Farm Hotel is an ecological lodge & natural reserve of sits in the Department of Meta, which is located in the Colombian plains about 1h30m from Puerto Gaitán. The reserve spans 2,000 ha along the Manacacías River.

There is a variety of scenic views showing off the region’s rich natural diversity. From the pristine forests and creeks to the well maintained estuaries, marshes, lagoons, savannas and hills, the region houses an incredible array of flora, birds, mammals and reptiles that cannot be missed!

El Encanto de Guanapalo – Altagracia – Casanare

El Encanto de Guanapalo is a natural reserve in Colombia consisting of almost 9 thousand ha located 110 km from Yopal. Since 1908 the owners have worked to  conserve the area, which supports the Llanera tradition and culture in Casanare Colombia.

Today, Hato Mata de Palma, Hato Altamira and Hato Montana make up the El Encanto de Guanapalo. Here, you can find beautiful floodplains and gallery forests of the Colombian eastern plains, enjoy regional food, and participate in unforgettable experiences of adventure and tradition, such as the Llanero Safari.

1.5. Amazon Region

Mitu

Mitú is the capital of the department of Vaupés in the Amazon region of Colombia so that it shares a border with Brazil. Mitu is the closest and thus easiest city to enter the Amazon Forest in Colombia.

Here, you will find White-sand forest, Terra firme and Várzea. Birding trails are located inside of indigenous communities that provide guidance and food.

In recent years, tourism has become a way to make a living as well as maintain the preservation of these ecosystems.

Isla Escondida Natural Reserve – Putumayo

The reserve is located in the department of Putumayo, Colombia – not far from the border with Ecuador. The reserve consists of106 ha of mainly primary forests nestled between the Andes and the Amazon at an altitude of 850 meters above sea level (2790 FAMSL).

The area houses typical species to both the Andean and Amazon regions, which is why it comes so highly recommended for birders. In comparison to other regions, however, the area is less developed and difficult to access. The area still offers relatively good lodging services though.

Proaves’ Bird Nature Reserves and Lodges

Proaves is an NGO that working to conserve the natural ecosystems and birds of Colombia through research, monitoring, communication, education and the establishment of nature reserves around the country.

Proaves has the largest private reserve system in Colombia oriented towards the protection of endangered bird species. The system is composed by 23 reserves, each one named after the bird they are meant to protect.

It is possible to visit the reserves, but only 35% of them are equipped with bird lodges and other accommodation services. Moreover, transportation on a 4×4 is required to access any of the reserves. The more secluded the reserve is, the higher the transportation and accommodation costs.

El Dorado Bird Nature Reserve 

Located in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, it is one of the best bird ecolodges in Colombia. Find out more below.

Tangaras Bird Reserve

Tangaras Bird Reserve protect the Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) and  the Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys). The reserve is located in Carmen de Atrato, near a variety of Afro-Colombian and indigenous community reserves in the department of Chocó.

Blue-billed Curassow Bird Reserve

Blue-billed Curassow Bird Reserve is located in the Sierra de las Quinchas, between the towns of Puerto Boyacá, Bolívar and Cimitarra. The reserve lies in the departments of Boyacá and Santander, respectively.

Chestnut-capped Piha Bird Reserve

This reserve is located in El Roble in the department of Antioquia.

Chamicero del Perijá Nature Reserve

Chamicero del Perjá is located in the villages of El Cinco and Altos de Perijá in the municipality of Manaure and the department of Cesar. The main attractions are the Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Brush-finch, and Perijá Antpitta.

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve

Located on the western slope of the Colombian Eastern mountain range in the town of San Vicente de Chucuri and the department of Santander, Cerulean Warbler Bird reserve is near the Serranía de los Yariguíes.

2. Interesting Birding Points in Colombia

Here you can find information about places of ornithological interest or value in Colombia.

2.1. Areas with high bird diversity in Colombia

The richness of birds in Colombia has attracted attention of scientists, travelers and ornithology enthusiasts around the world.

Colombia’s more than 1900 species represent about 20% of all species in the world and 60% of those identified in South America, all of which has made Colombia one of the most important places in terms of biodiversity.

Here is a list of the top ten sites for birdwatching in Colombia, based on species diversity.

Place Bird species* Location
Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve 544 San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander
National Natural Park Tatamá and Cerro Montezuma 534 Pueblo Rico, Risaralda
Chestnut-capped Piha Bird Reserve 519 Anorí, Antioquia
Río Claro Canyon Natural Reserve 517 San Francisco, Antioquia
Fauna and Flora Sanctuary Otún Quimbaya 480 Vereda La Suiza, Risaralda
Old road to Buenaventura 478 Dagua, Valle del Cauca
Tangaras Bird Reserve 461 El Carmen de Atrato, Chocó
Río Blanco Ecological Reserve 455 Manizales, Caldas
Yellow-eared Parrot Bird Reserve 443 Jardín, Antioquia
La Isla Escondida Reserve 433 Orito, Putumayo

Of course, this is just a top ten list, but there are more than 100 places in Colombia with more than 300 bird species to observe!

You can also explore the county by departments. Here are the top 10 departments with most bird species in Colombia:

Department Bird species* Region
Cauca 1167 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Antioquia 1052 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Meta 1047 Orinoquia and Andean Region.
Valle del Cauca 1026 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Nariño 995 Pacific and Andean Regions.
Putumayo 992 Amazon Region
Chocó 953 Pacific Region
Cundinamarca 918 Andean Region
Boyacá 909 Andean Region
Risaralda 894 Andean and Pacific Regions.

2.2. Areas with high bird endemism in Colombia

The endemic areas of Colombia are classified by their geographical position as follows:

Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela

Reaching altitudes of up to 1000m, this is a region characterized by a wide variety of ecosystems, including deserts (including cactus scrub), thorn scrubs, dry forests (deciduous and evergreen), riparian associations and mangroves (Sugden 1982, L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993).

Here, you can find the following endemic species: Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Lepidopyga lilliae) CR, Chestnut Piculet (Picumnus cinnamomeus) LC, Black-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus melanonotus) LC, White-whiskered Spinetail (Synallaxis candei) LC, Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) LC, Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus) LC.

The region houses important birding areas like Tayrona National Park, Salamanca Island and Ciénaga Grande and Los Besotes EcoPark (first IBA of Colombia).

Central Andean paramo

The altitude of this region ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 m and supports humid elfin forest, Polylepis woodland and scrub, páramo scrub and grassland ecosystems. It is possible to visit important birding areas like Los Nevados National Park, Toche Water Basin and Puracé National Park.

The most remarkable birds of this regions are the Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stubelii)Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) and the Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii).

Chocó

This area is a pluvial forest with one of the world’s richest biotas. Here, you can visit places like the old road to Buenaventura, National Parks Ensenada de Utría and Tatamá, Yotoco Forest Reserve, Alto Calima, Reserva Natural Río Ñambí and La Planada Natural Reserve.

Colombian Eastern Andes

Here, it is possible to find a variety of habitats, ranging from upper tropical to temperate and páramo zones.

These habitats house species like the Bogotá Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus), Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari), Bronze-tailed Thornbill (Chalcostigma heteropogon), Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii), Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis andina), Spot-flanked Gallinule (Gallinula melanops bogotensis), Bearded Tachuri (Polystictus pectoralis bogotensis) and Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus).

There are also important IBAs like the Chingaza National Natural Park and surround, Wetlands of the Sabana de Bogotá, El Cocuy National Natural Park, Guatiquía River Canyon, Western Hills of Tabio and Tenjo.

Colombian inter-Andean slopes

The region houses subtropical evergreen forests of the Andean foothills at a altitudes ranging between 1,000-2,500 m.

The important birding areas present is this region are:

  1. Jardín, Antioquia.
  2. Yotoco Forest Reserve, Valle del Cauca.
  3. Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas. 
  4. the East Risaralda Forests, Barbas – Bremen basin, Quindío.
  5. Combeima River canyon, Tolima.
  6. Toche River Canyon, Tolima.
  7. aPuracé National Park, Cauca.
  8. Meremberg Natural Reserve, Huila.
  9. Cueva de los Guácharos National Park, Huila.
  10. Chicoral, Valle del Cauca.

This where you will find many endemic birds like the Tolima Dove (Leptotila conoveri), the Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi) and the critically endangered Yellow eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis).

Colombian inter-Andean Valleys

The valleys, which ranges anywhere from 200-1,700 m above sea-level, are made up of open woodlands, dry forests and arid scrub. A majority of the area has been converted for agricultural use, which has significantly reduced the presence of naturally occurring vegetation.

Here, you can find the White-chested Swift (Cypseloides lemosi), Greyish Piculet (Picumnus granadensis), Apical Flycatcher (Myiarchus apicalis) and the Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna).

The notable birding areas are the Reserva Natural Laguna de Sonso, Reserva Forestal Yotoco, Oriente de Risaralda, Tolima and Cundinamarca.

Macarena Mountains

This is an isolated mountain range located in the Meta department of Colombia. The national park is situated at the meeting point between the Amazon, Orinoco and Andes regions. The area contains rainforests, dry forests, shrublands and savanna ecosystems.

Conservationists have identified the Macarena Mountains as a key area for the preservation of the threatened Spot-winged Parrotlet (Touit stictoptera) and the Speckled Rail (Coturnicops notatus).

Orinoco-Negro white-sand forest

The forest is located in the departments of Guainía, Guaviare and Vaupés in the south-east of Colombia. The endemic birding areas lie within the Inírida Basin, El Tuparro and Chiribiquete National Parks, Bojonawi, and Estrella Fluvial Inírida.

Providence and San Andrés Islands

Here, you can find the Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris), San Andres Vireo (Vireo caribaeus) and Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx).

Santa Marta Mountains

This is an isolated mountain range separated from the Andes chain. Here, you can find several forested habitats depending on the altitude, which reaches up to 5,700 m.

There you can watch birds sucha as the Santa Marta Blossomcrown (Anthocephala floriceps), Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), Santa Marta Woodstar (Chaetocercus astreans), White-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus), Santa Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata), Santa Marta Antpitta (Grallaria bangsi), Santa Marta Tapaculo (Scytalopus sanctaemartae), Brown-rumped Tapaculo (Scytalopus latebricola), Streak-capped Spinetail (Cranioleuca hellmayri), Rusty-headed Spinetail (Synallaxis fuscorufa), Santa Marta Bush-tyrant (Myiotheretes pernix), Santa Marta Wren (Troglodytes monticola), Santa Marta Brush-finch (Atlapetes melanocephalus) LC, Santa Marta Warbler (Myiothlypis basilica), White-lored Warbler (Myiothlypis conspicillata), Yellow-crowned Whitestart (Myioborus flavivertex), Rufous-browed Conebill (Conirostrum rufum) and Santa Marta Mountain-tanager (Anisognathus melanogenys).

There are some other regions with high endemisms, like Darién, Sierra de Chiribiquete, Tumaco and Bocagrande Islands, and the Upper Amazon-Napo lowlands; however, these areas are not accessible to tourists.

2.3. Endemic birds of Colombia and where to find them

Endemic birds of Colombia (by families)

Endemic Cracids of Colombia

Penelope perspicaxOrtalis garrula Ortalis ColumbianaCrax alberti 

Endemic Quails of Colombia

Odontophorus hyperythrusOdontophorus strophium 

Endemic grebes of Colombia

Podiceps andinus Already extinct

Endemic Pigeons of Colombia

Leptotila conoveri 

Endemic Hummingbirds of Colombia

Anthocephala floriceps,  Anthocephala berlepschiRamphomicron dorsaleOxypogon stuebeliiOxypogon cyanolaemusOxypogon guerinii , Eriocnemis isabellae,  Eriocnemis mirabilisCoeligena prunelleiCoeligena phalerataCoeligena orinaChaetocercus astreansChlorostilbon olivaresiCampylopterus phainopeplusAmazilia castaneiventrisAmazilia cyanifronsLepidopyga liliae

Endemic Rails of Colombia

Rallus semiplumbeus 

Endemic Owls of Colombia

Megascops gilesi

Endemic Puffbirds of Colombia

Bucco noanamae 

Endemic Barbets of Colombia

Capito hypoleucus

Endemic Woodpeckers of Colombia

Picumnus granadensisMelanerpes pulcher 

Endemic Parrots of Colombia

Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons Hapalopsittaca fuertesi , Pyrrhura viridicata , Pyrrhura calliptera 

Endemic Antbirds of Colombia

Drymophila hellmayri , Drymophila caudata , Cercomacroides parkeri 

Endemic Antpittas of Colombia
  1. Santa Marta Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria bangsi
  2. Cundinamarca Antpitta (Eastern Andes) Grallaria kaestneri
  3. Sierra Nevada Antpitta (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta) Grallaria spatiator
  4. Muisca Antpitta (Eastern Andes)  Grallaria rufula
  5. Chamí Antpitta (Western Andes)   Grallaria alvarezi
  6. Urrao Antpitta (Western Andes) Grallaria urraoensis
  7. Brown-banded Antpitta (Central Andes) Grallaria milleri
Endemic Tapaculos of Colombia

Scytalopus sanctaemartaeScytalopus rodrigueziScytalopus alvarezlopeziScytalopus stilesi Scytalopus latebricola Scytalopus canus

Endemic Foliage gleaners of Colombia

Clibanornis rufipectus

Endemic Spine-tails of Colombia

Synallaxis subpudicaSynallaxis fuscorufa

Endemic Tyrant flycatchers of Colombia
  • Endemic Bristle-Tyrant of Colombia

Phylloscartes lanyoni 

  • Endemic Bush-Tyrant of Colombia

Myiotheretes pernix 

Endemic Flycatchers of Colombia

Myiarchus apicalis

Endemic Contingas of Colombia

Lipaugus weberi 

Endemic Vireos of Colombia

Vireo approximansVireo caribaeus 

Endemic Wrens of Colombia

Troglodytes monticolaCistothorus apolinariThryophilus sernaiThryophilus nicefori Henicorhina anachoretaHenicorhina negreti 

Endemic Tanagers of Colombia
  • Endemic Flowerpiercers of Colombia

Diglossa gloriosissima 

  • Endemic Dacnis of Colombia

Dacnis hartlaubi 

  • Endemic Tanagers of Colombia

Chlorochrysa nitidissimaAnisognathus melanogenysBangsia melanochlamysBangsia aureocincta

Endemic Sparrows of Colombia
  • Endemic Brushfinch of Colombia

Arremon basilicus Atlapetes melanocephalusAtlapetes flavicepsAtlapetes fuscoolivaceusAtlapetes blancae 

Endemic Cardinals/grosbeaks of Colombia
  • Endemic Ant-tanagers of Colombia

Habia gutturalisHabia cristata 

Endemic Wood-Warblers of Colombia
  • Endemic Warblers of Colombia

Myiothlypis basilicaMyiothlypis conspicillata 

Endemic Redstarts of Colombia

Myioborus flavivertex 

Endemic Blackbirds of Colombia
  • Endemic Oropendolas of Colombia

Psarocolius cassini

  • Endemic Grackles of Colombia

Macroagelaius subalarisHypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster 

Endemic Finches of Colombia

Euphonia concinna

2.4. Endangered Bird Species of Colombia

Threatened species are interesting targets for birdwatchers. The combination of endemic and threatened status is becoming increasingly common, which has made these birds the targets of birders, tourism, and conservation strategists.

Responsible tourism is one avenue that may guarantee the preservation of these species. In Colombia there are around 124 globally threatened birds. The list below denotes which birds are critically endangered and where to find them according to the IUCN Red List.

The Global IUCN Red List Categories are: Data Deficient (DD), Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in The Wild (EW), Extinct (EX). Below you can find the most Critically Endangered bird species of Colombia.

Scientific name English name Where to find it*
Crax alberti Blue-billed Curassow N Colombia, S Antioquia and W Boyacá; currently survives only in a few remnant forests patches from La Guajira and Magdalena. El Paujil Bird Reserve, Boyacá, E Andes. Tayrona National Park, N, Magdalena. Los Besotes Ecopark Reserve, Cesar.
Oxypogon cyanolaemus Blue-bearded Helmetcrest N Colombia. Lagunas de Sevilla, Sierra nevada de Santa Marta.
Eriocnemis isabellae Gorgeted Puffleg W Andes of SW Colombia. Serranía del Pinche, Cauca.
Coeligena orina Glittering Starfrontlet NW Colombia. Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve, Antioquia, Colombia. Páramo de Frontino, Antioquia. Las Orquídeas Natural National Park, Antioquia–Chocó border. Farallones de Citará, on Antioquia–Chocó border. Jardín, Antioquia. Cerro Montezuma, Risaralda.
Lepidopyga lilliae Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Coastal N Colombia. Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca, Magdalena, Colombia. Bocas del Atrato, Antioquia
Hapalopsittaca fuertesi Indigo-winged Parrot W slope of C Andes of Colombia Cortaderal, Risaralda, Colombia.
Grallaria fenwickorum Urrao Antpitta SE slope of Páramo del Sol Massif, at N end of W Andes of Colombia. Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve, Antioquia, Colombia.
Lipaugus weberi Chestnut-capped Piha N & NE slopes of C Andes of Colombia. Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve, Antioquia.
Troglodytes monticola Santa Marta Wren Upper elevations in Santa Marta Massif, in N Colombia. Lagunas de Sevilla, Sierra nevada de Santa Marta.
Thryophilus nicefori Niceforo’s Wren W slope of E Andes from Serranía de los Yariguíes and San Gil area (Santander) E to Soatá (Boyacá). Cerulean Warbler Reserve, Lodge, Santander. Barichara, Santander.
Atlapetes blancae Antioquia Brushfinch C Andes of Antioquia. Vereda Alto de Medina, Bello, Antioquia. Vereda Cerezales, Antioquia.

*own registers, ebird.orghbw.com 

Find out more information about bird extinction in our entry Bird-watching Tourism Helps to Reduce Bird Extinction Risks in Colombia.

2.5. Top 5 charismatic bird species of Colombia

Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus)

In Colombia this species occurs as a subspecies known as R. p. sanguinolentus, Gould, 1859. These birds reside along the western Andes of Colombia and into the northwest corner of Ecuador.

Their feathers are a brilliant and unmistakable orange color, and the males have a distinctive crest created by two rows of fluffy feathers that take the shape of a semicircular casque. Females are dark chestnut-brown colored.

One of the most striking moments to observe these birds is during breeding season. The males form groups of up to 15 or more individuals to attract the attention of the females. They then compete with ritualized bowing and head-bobbing displays towards the other, which includes jumping, wing-flapping, bill-snapping and callings.

Helmetcrest Hummingbirds

These stunning hummingbirds are highly distinctive. There are three species variants in in Colombia: the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus), Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stuebelii) and Green-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii).

The males have a colored strip on the throat resembling a tie or bowtie and a spiky crest. These birds are found in solitary forages near flowering shrubs in the Páramos.

The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest are found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Blue-bearded Helmetcrest), near the town of Minca and Santa Marta city.

Los Nevados National Natural Park, which is close to Manizales City, houses the Buffy Helmetcrest, and Sumapaz National Natural Park near Bogotá is where you will find the Green-bearded Helmetcrest.

Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima)

This endemic but vulnerable of Colombia is found in the Colombian Inter-Andean Slopes and Chocó. The genus name Chlorochrysa refers to the green and yellow plumage, and the species name nitidissima means “very bright”.

The beauty of this bird comes from its electrified plumage. It is a difficult to see species in the field since it travels in mixed flocks at the top of the forest and moves quickly.

There are, however, some places where this bird has been enticed by the local fauna. La Minga Bird Lodge and Finca Alejandría, both of which are in the Valle del Cauca, have banana trees that attract these birds and allow for photography.

Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

Despite this species being extremely common throughout the Andes, it is always a great experience to see one live. The Torrent duck lives by fast-flowing rivers and streams in the mountains; they move around a mixture of rapids, rocks, ravines, waterfalls along with some calmer waters.

It is for this reason that the duck has been named the “torrent duck”, as it is fearless against the most dangerous currents of South America. The Torrent is extremely territorial and mates for life. This will surely interest you romantics out there!

They are, however, difficult to catch, despite their abundance; however, if you find one half of the pair, the other will surely be quick to follow. Some of the best places to find them are Otún Quimbaya in Risaralda and Combeima river canyon in Tolima.

Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)

Have you ever heard of a toucan living in the cold? The Grey-Breasted Mountain-Toucan lives in the higher altitudes of the Páramos, between 2,000 and 3,659 meters above sea level (6562 to 11975 FAMSL).

The birds have a stunning, blueish-greyish coat accented by cheerful and multicolored tones of red, yellow, green and pink. In Colombia you can find this beautiful bird in the areas of the coffee triangle, Valle del Cauca and Cauca and Nariño… but only if the dense fog clears up a bit.

2.6. Top 5 larger bird species of Colombia

Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria)

Height: 122–140 cm. Weight: male 6–8 kg, female 4–6 kg. Wingspan: 230–260 cm.

The Jabiru is the largest stork in the New World. Its name comes from the Guaraní language and means “swollen neck”. This size of this bird is not the only element that makes this bird particular; it is also mute and communicates by beating its beak.

In addition, these birds mate for life, meaning that if you find one half of the mate, the other half is not far behind. Upon your visit, you can see this voiceless bird in our photographic safari tour.

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

Height: 100–130 cm. Weight: female 8 – 11 kg, male 11 – 15 kg. Wingspan: 260–320 cm.

The Andean condor is the national bird of Colombia and has thus become highly symbolic. It is believed to be a symbol of power and health because of its size and longevity. The Andean condor is recognized as one of the largest flying birds on the planet, only second to the Wandering albatross or the Southern royal albatross.

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)

Height: 89–105 cm. Weight: male 4–5 kg, female 6–9 kg. Wingspan: 176–201 cm.

The presence of this bird indicates that the ecosystem is in total balance. It is a magnificent hunter of the forests. In Colombia, the Harpy Eagle can be found in the Chocó, Caquetá and Amazonas departments.

Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta)

Height: 80–94 cm. Weight: 3–3.5 kg. Wingspan: 170 cm.

With a spiny and cornified* structure attached to the skull, the Horned Screamer is the unicorn of birds, which grows continuously and gives this species its name.  Its call is a very loud echoing sound, and it also gives this species name.

* What does Cornified mean? cor·ni·fi·ca·tion. noun. The process by which squamous epithelial cells in vertebrate animals develop into tough protective layers or structures such as hair, hooves, and the outer layer of skin; the final stage of keratinization. Origin of cornification.

Black Curassow (Crax alector)

Height 85–95 cm. Weight: male 3–4 kg; female 2,4–3,4 kg.

Despite appearing in large numbers, the Black Curassow is threatened by habitat loss and has thus received a vulnerable conservation status due to excessive trapping and hunting.

In Colombia, this bird has been reported at Sierra de la Macarena in the Orinoquia Region.

2.7. Top 5 smaller bird species of Colombia

Gorgeted Woodstar (Chaetocercus heliodor)

Size: 5·8–6·4 cm

The smallest of the Woodstars, this little bird can be found 1h from Bogotá at a place called Jardín Encantado (Enchanted Garden) or at the Chingaza National Natural Park, which is about four hours from Bogotá.

Spangled Coquette (Lophornis stictolophus)

Size: 6·4–6·9 cm

Usually mistaken by a big bee, this hummingbird is usually observed foraging at the top of the trees. The male has a beautiful orange crest with black spots. In Colombia it is possible to observe it in the piedmont forests of the Casanare department in the Eastern Andes. If you want to know this bird, travel with us to Casanare!

Santa Marta Woodstar (Chaetocercus astreans)

Size: 6-7 cm

Little is known about this tiny woodstar hummingbird found only in the Santa Marta mountains. It is known that it lives around montane forest borders, woodlands and shaded coffee plantations; however, it is possible to find it feeding in the gardens of the high parts of Minca.

Little Woodstar (Chaetocercus bombus)

Size: 6–7 cm

This is a small, buzzer hummingbird considered among the smallest birds in the world. In Colombia it has only been registered at the Ñambí River Nature Reserve. Little is known about this bird, which is currently under threat.

Rufous-Crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei)

Size: 6·4–7 cm; c. 2,8 g.

The Rufous can be smaller than your own thumb! This bird looks like the Spangled Coquette; the males of this species have big and jazzy crests.

The clue to differentiating them is their location. While the Spangled Coquette is found in Casanare (east Andes piedmont at the Orinoquia region), the Rufous-crested Coquette is found in Antioquia and Santander lowland forests.

2.8. Top 5 rare or difficult to see species in Colombia

Barred Tinamou (Crypturellus casiquiare)

Located in a small area between eastern Colombia and southern Venezuela, the Barred Tinamou has been registered in the Vaupés river, near the Brazilian border and the east end of Guainía.

The Barred Tinamou was discovered in the 1920s, but because of its limited presence, it is of little interest to ornithologists and birdwatchers. Virtually nothing has been published about the species’ natural history!

Helmeted Curassow (Pauxi pauxi)

The Helmeted Curassow has a comparatively smaller presence in Colombia, as it is found primarily in the northeast. In May of 2007, the Proaves, and ONG for birds conservation mentioned above, established the Helmeted Curassow Bird Reserve to protect this endangered species and its habitat.  

Despite these and other conservation efforts, the population has been declining due to a combination of hunting and habitat destruction.

Tacarcuna Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus tacarcunae)

This little-known species is found in the northwest corner of Colombia and the southern tip of Panama. It has been reported in Los Katíos National Park; however, this park is closed to visitors.

Scarlet-Breasted Dacnis (Dacnis berlepschi)

Found along the border of Colombia and Ecuador, the Scarlet-Breasted Dacnis is a rare find, especially since its habitat is extremely fragmented and has been reduced over the years. All of this explains the limited information on its natural history.

Its habitat is extremely fragmented and has been reduced over the years. In Colombia this species can be found in protected areas, such as the Río Ñambí Community Nature Reserve in the department of Nariño.

Sharpbill (Oxyruncus cristatus)

Because this species is hard to observe, not much is known about its history and nuances. The specie’s distribution spans from Costa Rica to Argentina; however, its presence is highly fragmented.

The Sharpbill’s voice is exceptionally distinctive and extremely firm; many have compared it to the sound of a falling bomb. In Colombia this species can be found in the department of Antioquia.

2.9. Species with a rich cultural significance in Colombia

The Yellow-Eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis)

It is believed that touching the wings of this bird in flight will bring about good luck. This good luck, however, may run out, as the species is under threat by habitat destruction that has reduced the amount of wax palm trees (Ceroxylon spp.). The parrots use these trees for food, shelter and nesting.

During Holy Week, these trees are harvested for the religious celebration of Palm Sunday. In an effort to reduce the habitat destruction, people have begun to use little saplings of palms that are then planted after the festivities.

Cucarachero – (House wren – Troglodytes aedon)

This bird is well known for its particularly harmonious song. The bird is not shy of humans, and it can be seen with its tail erect while actively jumping along hedges or bushes, occasionally in tall trees. Its vocalizations consist of a melodic, bubbling twitter that occur throughout the year.

This song is so beloved by Colombians to the point that Garzón & Collazos, a Colombian vocal duo, composed a Bambuco (a traditional music genre from Colombia) about a love story based on the behavior of these birds. Listen to the original song in the video here.

Turpial montañero or Toche – (Yellow-backed Oriole – Icterus chrysater)

Unfortunately, the beautiful songs and colors of this bird make it a very attractive ornament in houses. Some subspecies are easy to tame and learn to speak like magpies.

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

In 1835 the Andean Condor was recognized as the national bird of the Republic of Colombia due to its great power. It is considered part of the National Heritage because it is a bird that represents the spiritual harmony of those who love the nation.

The symbolism of this bird precedes the birth of Colombia. The Andean Condor was recognized as a mystical bird responsible the earth’s sunrise. With its powerful wings, the condor carries the sun and provides it with the strength to ascend into the sky.

The Andean Condor is considered a bird of freedom and sovereignty. In the national shield of Colombia, it can be seen spreading its wings and showing its majesty.

2.10. High concentrations of birds in Colombia

National Natural Park Montezuma Hill 

This place is one of the most well preserved national parks in Colombia. The eBird system has noted around 590 bird species in the region while other reports have recorded roughly 51 families, 270 genera and 402 species.

The families with the greatest representation are: the Tyrannidae with 30 genera and 47 species; the Thraupidae with 19 genera and 43 species; and the Trochilidae with 28 genera and 36 species.

Eighteen of the one-hundred and sixty three species are considered to be vulnerable or threated either locally or globally, including one (1) endemism Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) and 11 endemisms of the Western Cordillera. Nine of these species are endemic to Colombia while 14 are considered almost endemic.

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve

This is a reserve dedicated to the conservation of the migratory Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea). Located on the western slope of the Colombian Eastern Andes in the department of Santander, the reserve houses around 540 birds. The  Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) has declared the reserve an official AZE site.

Cañón del Río Claro Reserve

The “Cañón del Río Claro” Reserve is located on the south eastern slope of the Central Andean Mountain range in the department of Antioquia. The biodiverse area contains humid forests that grow on limestone rocks, and these forests house a large variety of flora and fauna.

The reserve’s transparent waters running along a marble bed carved out over millions of years offers a unique view. With around 520 reporte bird species, the area is considered the most important biological reserve in the central region of the country.

Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

This reserve was created to protect the habitat of the Chestnut-capped Piha (Lipaugus weberi). Located in Anorí, Antioquia, the reserve contains around 506 bird species.

Los Flamencos Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna in La Guajira

Unlike other reserves known for their biodiversity, this reserve is known for its high density of one species: the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber). A slender bird with pink plumage, the pink flamingo is found along the Navío Quebrado lagoon and Laguna Grande.

The graceful flamingos and their vibrant coloring are the sanctuary’s main attraction, but the area also has relics of tropical dry, very dry tropical forest, mangrove ecosystems and estuaries with their own unique habitats and species. Despite its small size, the sanctuary is considered one of the richest protected areas in Colombia.

Altagracia Natural Reserve

This reserve is home to around 23% of the global population of the Orinoco Goose (Oressochen jubatus).

2.11. Species to see easily in Colombia

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana)

The Nature Reserve Jardín de Rocas is located beside the Serranias bridge and over the Volcanes river (400 m from the Jardin’s main square).

It is a place where people can enjoy watching these birds in their natural habitat because every morning and every afternoon, a lek of around 15 males comes to rest in the garden of this reserve. It is a unique experience in Colombia.

Hummingbirds in feeders

There are many places to observe hummingbirds in Colombia. Generally, there are species that are more confident than others in the face of humans.

Among these is the White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga melivora), Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzcatl), Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae), Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis), Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens), Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica), Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerottei) and Indigo-capped Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanifrons).

Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)

This is a difficult bird to detect due to its camouflage abilities. This means that pictures must be taken from very short distances. If you can spot the bird, you will appreciate the incredibleness of its camouflage abilities.

The bird is active at night, which is when it feeds on large insects. Its’ terrifying call is a sharp and descending scream that frightens many and fills the imaginations of unsuspecting people, especially late at night.

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)

This bird is similar to the Great Potoo; the difference is that it usually rests on cut branches. It is so confident in its camouflage that you can take selfies with it without it budging from its spot in the slightest.

With a big head and huge yellow eyes, it blends perfectly with its environment and becomes very difficult to detect. The bird is active at night and mainly hunts from an exposed hanger. The song has melancholic series of whistles that descend in tone: “POO, POO, Poo, poo, poo”.

Crescent-Faced Antpitta (Grallaricula lineifrons)

Also known as Lunita, the Crescent-Faced Antpitta is a tamed bird appearing every morning at 8 o’clock for breakfast in Hacienda El Bosque. Lunitas are small and live in the cloud forest at very high elevations in the Andes.

The bird is brown and gray with white half-moons on its face, striped bottoms and beige spots on the sides of its neck. Lunita remains in the undergrowth but not typically on the ground. It is usually located by its vocalizations; the typical song is a growing series of sweet whistles.

2.12. Bird species with prominent songs of Colombia

Musician Wren (Musician) (Cyphorhinus arada)

This bird has been registered in the departments of Vaupés and Putumayo, both in the Amazon region of Colombia.

Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus)

The Chestnut-Breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) is a bird species in the Troglodytidae family found in the Andes of Colombia. Its natural habitat is a subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

This bird is more easily heard than seen. Listen for repeated sets of 2–3 eerie whistled notes moving up in pitch.

Song Wren (Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus)

Like its chestnut counterpart, the Song Wren is more easily heard than seen. Listen for a unique combination of deep whistles and harsher clucking notes. It lives in the undergrowth of very humid forests and adjacent areas of high secondary growth.

Four subspecies are recognized in Colombia: C. p. lawrenciiC. p. propinquusC. p. chocoanus and C. p. phaeocephalus.

It is located south of the Serranía del Baudo (chocoanus), west of the Gulf of Urabá to the upper Atrato valley (lawrencii), in the headwaters of the San Juan River south to Nariño (phaeocephalus), in the Sinú east valley, through the humid lowlands of the north from the Andes to the middle valley of the southern Magdalena, and to the east of Antioquia.

Andean Solitaire (Myadestes ralloides)

The Andean Solitaire is a shy bird of the cloud forests, where it remains hidden above the trees most of the time. The bird can be detected through its melodious song.

What this bird it lacks in colors and markings, it makes up for with its gorgeous voice.  Listen for short, ethereal and flutelike phrases, usually appearing in a long and leisurely series.

3. What to expect when you come to Colombia for birding?

Despite the varying opportunities Colombia’s rich geography provides, it is still necessary to acknowledge that birding and other forms of ecotourism are relatively new industries, especially in comparison to countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador or Brazil.

Colombia is still lacking in high quality and standard infrastructure, especially in terms of transportation to reach many of these places. Other areas lack hot water, bilingual guides, and well groomed trails with hideouts and observation towers.

Nonetheless, the situation is highly recommendable. In terms of seeking out adventure and a unique experience, Colombia is certainly the most interesting choice, especially for those looking to disconnect for a bit.

3.1. Accommodation in Colombia

Currently, there are around 30 bird lodges in Colombia. While its numbers are far behind those of Peru, Costa Rica and Ecuador, Colombia’s faculties are rapidly improving.

Hotels

The country’s main cities, along with some of the surrounding area, have very nice hotels with the basic services included. However, the further away you move from the cities, the lower the quality of services.

For example, it is likely to find cold water showers in hot regions. Many of the locals would consider hot showers to be a nonsensical demand.

Bedroom sizes also become smaller, as well as the restroom size. Some hotels have several floors with no elevators, which can difficult for people with certain health conditions or who simply have a lot of baggage.

Breakfast included in the hotel price is rare, especially in small town hotels.

Rural accommodations

Some of Colombia’s most fantastic places for birding are quite difficult to reach.  One alternative is to stay with the local people in their own homes.

Many campesinos open up their home to tourists as a means of extra income. You can expect wood-made houses, small beds, shared rooms and shared bathrooms- all quite simple and rustic.

Everything, however, is very clean and includes farm to table food and attentive and kind hosts.

Services

Colombia is still working towards offering higher quality customer support and services for its clients.

3.2. Services and Facilities

Transportation in Colombia

Roads and specialized transportation services for birdwatchers in Colombia Main roads in Colombia are paved. In general, most secondary roads are in good conditions, but it depends on the region. Landslides and rockslides are the main reason for road closures in Colombia.

The primary regions affected by these occurrences are the route Bogotá – Villavicencio, which is the main connection to the eastern plains, and the route Ibagué – Armenia (known as La línea road), which connects Bogotá with the rest of the country.

Delays and closures are especially prevalent during the winter seasons when it rains a lot. As if this were not enough, the costs to travel by plane quadruple due to the low number of airlines covering these routes.

Thus, if you are planning to travel to Colombia, make sure you plan it with enough time to avoid high flight prices.

Nowadays, there are few companies offering specialized transportation for birdwatchers in Colombia. Big companies are used to paved roads and scheduled departure and arrival times, with little interest in waiting for a birder.

This is likely to change, as birdwatching and natural tourism continues to grow in the area. Natural parks, reserves, and birding routes in Colombia are far from accessible in terms of connectivity and infrastructure.

In general, you will find open, unregulated roads, and in some cases, there are no roads at all. Many operators offering services to birders will the traditional transportation mechanisms of the region, such as willys (jeeps),  chivas (traditional bus) or mulas (a hybrid between a horse and a donkey).

Travelling this way can be a good cultural experience; however, if you want your comfort and privacy, you will need a 4×4 truck. The most common 4×4 truck used in Colombia is a Duster because of the tradeoff quality and the price.

The problem with this car is its size, as many Europeans and North Americans will find it a tight squeeze to say the least. Additionally, poor road conditions and bad connectivity makes terrestrial transportation expensive.

In recent years, this factor has been the principal factor behind birding’s rising price in Colombia. Traffic accidents are can also cause delays, especially in rural areas. If you travel by land, do not panic (watch drivers video). As long as you or your driver follow the rules, there should be no problems.

Distances in Colombia

Colombia is a huge country, as it is the size of Germany and France or that of Texas and California combined. Besides this, the intricate mountain ranges increase distances and traveling times.

We recommend you travel by plane, but if you must or prefer to travel the country by car, use professional transportation services. 

For example, traveling from Bogotá to Cali takes 40 minutes by plane while it can take anywhere from 9 to 12 hours by car depending on the car and the traffic conditions! You will cross the Western Andean Mountain Range into the Central Mountain Range. This voyage is full of ups and downs, with winding roads and unexpected bends.

Food in Colombia

Despite Colombia’s plethora of fruits and veggies, traditional Colombian food is based on carbohydrates, meat and products derived from sugarcane, such as the panela, and maize, such as the arepa. Local food Depending on the region, your dose of carbohydrates will vary, LOL.

The most widespread recipe in Colombia is something called sancocho. The sancocho is a soup with potato, cassava or yucca, green banana or “platano” and a protein, ranging from cow, pigs, chicken or fish. Sometimes combinations of these proteins will appear. The soup is seasoned with onion, tomato and salt. Despite the sancocho’s popularity, there are typical dishes in each region.

Special requirements in Colombia

Since it is not common to find vegetarian or vegan offerings in the rural areas of Colombia, it is necessary to inform to your travel company about your food preferences well in advance. This guarantees that all your requests will be met during your trip.

You can also equip yourself with biscuits and candies at the supermarket before traveling to remote or isolated areas.

Drinking water is available only in the capital cities, such as Bogotá or Medellín; although, it is not always advisable to drink it directly, as some pipes may be old. We recommend that you use filtered water or buy bottled water.

Colombia Birdwatching Guides

In Colombia there are excellent birdwatching guides who are very knowledgeable about birds and the various services the regions provide.

Guides come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from indigenous communities and campesinos to engineers, biologists and passionate enthusiasts. Some of them work as freelancers while others work for a specific company.

The point is that they are still few, considering the size of the country, the diversity of regions and quantity of birds. English guides are especially hard to find in some of the more remote regions, so a translator, for whatever language you prefer, may be necessary.

4. Best Time to come to Colombia for birdwatching

Due to the variety of ecosystems in Colombia, is it possible to visit the country throughout the year; however, visitors should look into the best time to visit specific regions, as seasonality varies.

Colombia’s seasons are determined by the rain, which is influenced by the climatic phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña. This affects accessibility to some regions, and sometimes coincides with bird nesting times.

Besides this, considering bird migratory seasons is also an important consideration when planning a visit for birdwatching in Colombia. Migration occurs between September and April for  boreal species and between May and September for austral migratory bird species.

5. Urban birding in Colombia and Best cities to do it

Here you can find information about places of ornithological interest or value in Colombia.

5.1. Best spots for birdwatching in Bogotá

La Florida Park

Located on the western limits of Bogota, La Florida Park is a large reserve with 267 ha of forests and wetlands in the capital district. Here, it is possible to observe 3 endemic species to Bogota: the Silvery-Throated Spinetail, Apolinar´s Wren  and the Bogotá Rail.

Monserrate Sanctuary

The Monserrate Sanctuary is an iconic symbol of Bogotá.  Towering over the city at 3152 meters above sea level, the sanctuary is a religious pilgrimage site enclosed in exuberant and lush vegetation. The area contains three types of forest:  The High Andean Forests, Eucalyptus forests and Pine forests. 

The site offers the best view of the city while also offering birders a chance to observe various birds in the high-altitude gardens.

 Here are some of species you may find: Silvery-Throated Spinetail EN, Rufous-Browed Conebill, Pale-bellied Tapaculo, Golden-Fronted Whitestart, Andean Guan, 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.

Botanical Garden José Celestino Mutis

The botanical garden of Bogota functions as a research center provides cultural and educational services for citizens. With 19 ha of land containing 300 plant families, the garden receives over 50,000 individuals during the year.

This is the main hub for biodiversity within the city limits of Bogotá. The following species can be found here: The Scrub Tanager, Rufous-browed Conebill, Mountain Elaenia, Rusty and Black Flowerpiercers, Yellow-backed Oriole, Andean Siskin, and several migratory birds During the migratory seasons occuring at the end of the year.

Quinta de Bolívar Museum

This museum is devoted to the legacy of Simon Bolivar. The entrance of the museum lies within Monserratte and includes several gardens that attract many birds, especially hummingbirds. Because this is a museum, this will not be your traditional birdwatching experience.

You can, however, kills two birds with one stone and get a history lesson on Colombia as well. Among the birds found here are the Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, among others.

Hummingbirds Observatory

The observatory is not actually located in Bogota but rather 30 minutes outside the city, via La Calera town. Here it is possible to observe around 30 Hummingbird species and montane birds.

You can either pay for a three hour pass or a full day pass, making it accessible to families as well as individuals.

5.2. Best spots for birdwatching in Cali

The Pance River Ecopark

The Pance River Eco Park is in the Department of Valle del Cauca, near the Municipality of Cali. The ecopark lies between 1,125 – 1,240 meters above sea level with an area of 59.9 ha that house a transition zone between the Tropical Dry Forest and Premontane Wet Forest.

Among the species it is possible to find the Colombian Chachalaca , Andean Motmot, Green Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Golden-collared Manakin, Green Hermit, and the Collared Trogon, Red-Headed Barbet. The area houses over 200 other bird species as well.

Eco Park Lake of the Garzas

The Eco Park Lake of the Garzas is framed by an artificial lake. The first conservation date back to 1995; however, the initiative really took off in 1996 after the American Airlines accident. With the support of the affected families and the DAGMA, over 400 trees were planted in memory of the people lost.

The ecopark is a public place and offers basic infrastructure for the development of educational programs, environmental research and passive recreation, including the observation of diverse fauna and flora. Here, it is possible to observe the endemic Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis, the Common Potoo – Nyctibius griseus, the Rufous-Breasted Hermit –Glaucis hirsutus, the Chestnut-Headed Oropendola – Psarocolius wagleri, among other 200 bird species.  

Farallones Country Club

This is a private country club dedicated to offering golf, tennis, soccer and swimming activities to its members. The club lies within a huge tree garden containing several lakes with large and small water mirrors in the landscapes that add difficulties for any golfer.

This place has been recognized as a hotspot for birds in the city of Cali, with around 180 species to observe. Here is a small list of what you might find: the Gray-Cowled Wood-Rail – Aramides cajaneus, Purple Gallinule – Porphyrio martinica, Colombian Chachalaca – Ortalis Columbiana and the Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis.  

Universidad del Valle

This is a public Colombian university located in the city of Cali in the department of Valle del Cauca. The city is one of the largest university campuses in Colombia with an area of 1,000,000 m², making it the second largest university campus in the country after the main campus of the National University in Bogotá.

Within the area’s gardens and green spaces, you can observe species like the Vermilion Flycatcher – Pyrocephalus rubinus, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper – Lepidocolaptes souleyetii, Baltimore Oriole – Icterus galbula, Tropical Parula – Setophaga pitiayumi, Yellow Warbler – Setophaga petechia and the Scrub Tanager – Stilpnia vitriolina, among the other 150 bird species.

5.3. Best spots for birdwatching in Medellín

Cerro El Volador

The Cerro El Volador is the largest natural park within an urban area of the city of Medellín. It is located in the northwest of the city, in carrera 65, in front of the headquarters of the National University in Medellín.

The park has important ecological, historical, archaeological and touristic value for the inhabitants of the Aburrá Valley.

It is a protected area with status as a Metropolitan Regional Natural Park due to its biodiversity and vegetation cover. The park is an important platform for environmental education and research.

Arví Park

Arví Park is the only park in Colombia with a Sustainable Tourism certification from the Rainforest Alliance. With 10 trails containing diverse flora, archeological sites, and blossoming orchids that attract birds from all over, the park has a lot to offer.

Among the bird species it is possible to observe the Golden-olive Woodpecker – Colaptes rubiginosus, the Azara’s Spinetail – Synallaxis azarae, the Green Jay – Cyanocorax yncas, the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta – Grallaria ruficapilla, and the Andean Solitaire – Myadestes ralloides, etc.

La Romera Natural Reserve

This reserve is located on the outskirts of Medellín in the municipality of Sabanetas. The Romera has an area of 235 hectares, the best way to get to the Park is walking, along the paths immersed in the vegetation of the area which corresponds to Andean wet forest at 2650 meter above sea level.

Here it is possible to observe the Colombian Chachalaca – Ortalis Columbiana, Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Spizaetus ornatus, Southern Emerald-Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus albivitta, Yellow-headed Manakin – Chloropipo flavicapilla, the endemic Red-bellied Grackle – Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster, among other 350 bird species.

5.4. Best spots for birdwatching in Manizales

Paraíso Verde Manizales

This place has a coffee-style house surrounded by forests, gardens and natural water sources, just three kilometers from the center of Manizales. It is possible to walk along the paths and surroundings of the house for bird watching.

They also have ideal feeders for bird photography. Around 200 species of birds can be found in this place, among them Squirrel Cuckoo – Piaya cayana, Southern Emerald-Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus albivitta, Crimson-rumped Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus haematopygus, Steely-vented Hummingbird – Amazilia saucerottei, Scaled Antpitta – Grallaria guatimalensis, etc.

Los Alcázares Arenillo EcoPark

Located in the municipality of Manizales, in the Los Alcázares neighborhood, 5 minutes from the city center with an extension of 33.43 ha at 2000 m.a.s.l. It is immersed in a very humid premontane forest life zone; its vegetation is characterized by trees of great importance for the fauna of the place.

The Alcázares Arenillo Ecopark becomes one of the main lungs within the urban area of the city of Manizales. Ecological tours and good environmental practices are the activities that tourists can develop in it.

Bird watching has easy access and easy roads, here you can meet more than 140 species of birds and among the most representative stand out, Scaled Antpitta – Grallaria guatimalensis, Scrub Tanager – Tangara vitriolina, Red-headed Barbet – Eubucco Bourcierii, Bar-crested Antshrike – Thamnophilus multistriatus, among other 300 bird species.

Recinto del Pensamiento

The Jaime Restrepo Mejía Recinto del Pensamiento has an area of 179 ha, which are mostly part of a protective and productive natural reserve. The “Recinto del Pensamiento” offers a path that presents different natural attractions such as: Orchard of aromas, Chairlift system, Ecological path, Bird’s eye view, Eastern path, Butterfly observatory, Orchid forest, Wooden pavilion and Coffee Ritual.

Here it is possible to observe around 260 species of birds among them the Lesser Violetear – Colibri cyanotus, White-naped Brushfinch – Atlapetes albinucha, Metallic-green Tanager – Tangara labradorides, Indigo Flowerpiercer – Diglossa indigotica, Collared Inca – Coeligena torquata, etc.

Los Yarumos Ecopark

The Los Yarumos Ecopark is really close to the city center. With its 53 hectares of cloud forest, the park hosts a large variety of fauna and flora while also providing the urban area of ​​Manizales with oxygen and water. Species of flora, such as bromeliads, anthuriums and orchids, adorn the ecological paths.

Arboloco (shrub) large tree ferns and palms can also be found in this forest reserve. Of course, the most notable site to see is the Yarumo, which paints the Andean jungles white. The trees attract many unique birds, such as the Mountain Carriqui – Cyanocorax yncas, and the Emerald Toucan – Aulacorhynchus prasinus. Guatines, opossums, foxes and even tigrillos are also quite abundant in this region.

5.5. Best spots for birdwatching in Armenia

Parque de La Vida

The Parque de la Vida in the city of Armenia is one of the largest green lungs of the Quindian capital. With a total area of about 8 ha, this ecotourist offers the inhabitants of the city a slice of paradise amid the concrete and chaos of daily life.

The park offers a variety of different tours revealing waterfalls, artificial lakes, and over 200 bird species, including: The Blue-Necked Tanager – Stilpnia cyanicollis, Bay-Headed Tanager – Tangara gyrola, Flame-Rumped Tanager – Ramphocelus flammigerus, Hepatic Tanager – Piranga flava, Turquoise Dacnis – Dacnis hartlaubi, etc.

Quindío Botanical Garden

The Quindío Botanical Garden fosters conservation projects, scientific research and environmental education. It is also an internationally recognized center for natural tourism in Colombia.

There are several plant collections and exhibitions including the National Collection of Palms. These collections brings together almost all the native species of Colombian palms.

The Botanical Graden also has a beautiful and famous butterfly garden, an insect zoo, three sites for bird watching, a geology and soil museum, the Line Tunnel Museum, an ethnobotanical palm museum and many other natural attractions.

There are around 200 bird species reported in this area, among them the Crimson-Rumped Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus haematopygus, Barred Antshrike – Thamnophilus doliatus, Blue-Necked Tanager –Stilpnia cyanicollis, the near endemic Western Emerald – Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus, and the endemic Grayish Piculet – Picumnus granadensis.

5.6. Best spots for birdwatching in Villavicencio

Bosque Bavaria (Orange-Breasted Falcon Reserve)

The reserve is located at the base of the Eastern Andes in the foothills of the Colombian eastern plains, five minutes outside the capital city of Villavicencio in the department of Meta. The forest has around 30 ha of humid foothill forests located between 800 and 1.100 m above sea level.

The most notable birds here are the Gray-Chinned Hermit – Phaethornis griseogularis, Blue-Fronted Lancebill – Doryfera johannae, Amazonian Motmot – Momotus momota, Yellow-billed Nunbird – Monasa flavirostris, White-Chinned Jacamar – Galbula tombacea, Scaled Piculet – Picumnus squamulatus, White-Chested Puffbird – Malacoptila fusca and the Striolated Manakin – Machaeropterus striolatus among others.

5.7. Best spots for birdwatching in Santa Marta

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino Botanical Garden is one of the most important tourist attractions in the city of Santa Marta. The garden houses the largest representation of flora from the tropical dry forests of the Caribbean.

It is also the most important wildlife refuge in the urban environment of the Santa Marta district. This is a historical and cultural place that can also be great for bird watching activities in Santa Marta.

Among the 140 registered species, you will likely find the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl – Glaucidium brasilianum, Orange-Chinned Parakeet – Brotogeris jugularis, Yellow Warbler – Setophaga petechia, Whooping Motmot – Momotus subrufescens, Russet-Throated Puffbird – Hypnelus ruficollis, and the Trinidad Euphonia – Euphonia trinitatis.

5.8. Best spots for birdwatching in Popayán

Popayán downtown and Cerro de la Eme

The city of Popayán can be found in the Valley of Pubenza, between the Western and Central mountain ranges of Colombia in the southwest of the country.

Because of its white color, UNESCO has declared this city a world heritage site, which means you can combine bird watching with cultural exploration.

Your adventure begins with a departure from the Cerro de la Eme hill, which has multiple trails containing more than 100 recorded bird species, including 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, etc.

6. Best ecolodges and birdlodges in Colombia

An “ecolodge” is a type of tourist accommodation designed to have the least amount of impact on the natural environment in which it is located.

Beyond not harming the environment, ecolodges should positively impact the environment as well as the local community. Ecolodges can be classified depending on the quality of comfort and the number of facilities available.

In Colombia there is still a transition between basic, rural infrastructure and basic hospitality services to world-class lodges with good infrastructure, sustainable practices and high quality hospitality services.

There are around 35 lodges throughout country that offer hospitality to birdwatchers and other travelers. Here we have listed the top five places that meet our criteria for bot accessibility, comfort, and sustainability.

We have also factored in the potential benefits for birdwatchers, and thus have considered aspects like facilities for birdwatchers, and photographers as well as other attractions, such as trail quality, gardens, and balconies.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Hotel Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve is a special place in Manizales Caldas for photography and bird watching. Facilities were created to provide birdwatchers, ornithologists, and nature lovers from around the world with an unforgettable experience.

The area is nationally recognized as an ideal spot for photography and bird watching. It provides comfortable rooms with easy access for older adults, private bathroom, hot water and decorations allusive to birds.

It also provides an early breakfast, opportunities for bird watching day and night, night viewer and camera tripods, a library for consultation, a hummingbird garden, bird feeders, and hideouts for photographers.

Mururito Farm Hotel Natural Reserve

This ecological lodge & nature reserve is located in the Colombian plains in the department of Meta. Spanning 2,000 hectare along the Manacacias River, the reserve provides comfortable rooms with easy access for older adults, private bathrooms and decorum matching that of the Colombian Plains.

The area also has gardens attracting birds and butterflies along solar panels that provide electricity both day and night.

The lodge allows for walks in the forests or the savannas, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, farm activities and much more.

El Dorado Bird Natural Reserve

El Dorado is the flagship reserve of the ProAves foundation and one of the most important bird watching sites in South America. It has 10 rooms and five individual huts, inspired by the architecture of the indigenous Kogui tribe.

The huts offer wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The services include: the observation of endemic birds, feeders; different species of mammals and wildlife; trails, observation towers, terraces, a specialized library and resting areas; a restaurant that serves excellent meals and a bar. However, due to its remote location, access becomes increasingly difficult during the rainy season.

La Minga Ecolodge

The ecolodge is located within the Rio Bitaco Forest Reserve, which is a well-preserved cloud forest in the Valle del Cauca department.

The place has maintained bird feeders in the house and garden for several years, along with a floral garden, nectar and fruit feeding stations.

Over 17 species of hummingbirds and 30 species of colorful tanagers (including the multicolor tanager), flower piercers, and honeycreepers can be observed and easily photographed. In the surrounding forest, you can also observe Quetzals and Toucanets.

The house is small but offers cozy accommodations, including a specialized library and chimney.

Araucana Lodge

The lodge is located in the Chocó Bioregion of Colombia, about a 40 min. drive from Cali. It offers ten luxurious rooms with private balconies and complete services. It also provides facilities to birdwatch, take walks, and eat farm to table meals.

El Nido del Condor

El Nido del Condor offers a luxury, glamping experience at the top of the Andean Mountains in the department of Caldas. Here, it is possible to photograph the Andean Condor.

Find a complete guide to the best ecolodges and birdlodges in our entries Complete Guide to the Best Eco lodges in Colombia and Ultimate Guide to the Best Birding Lodges in Colombia.

7. Colombian Birding Trails

Colombian Birding Trails With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Minister of Commerce’s Tourism and Industry Fund (MINCIT),  the Tourism Promotion Fund (Fontur), The National Audubon Society, and Birdlife International, Calidris in Colombia has been promoting conservation initiatives based on science, bird-based tourism and the public awareness of birds and conservation in Colombia.

Currently, Audubon develops Birding Trails in Colombia to enhance community governance and improve local incomes while conserving the remarkable biodiversity of Colombia.

The program focuses on the conservation of birds and habitats through bird-focused tourism by training local birding guides, which includes English language skills.

The trained people become ambassadress for their local environments and aim to convince these communities to conserve habitats rather than degrade them.

The first results were released on 2016 with the Northern Colombia Birding Trail. Currently, they have been developing the Central, the Southwestern and the Eastern Andes Birding Trails.

PROCOLOMBIA and The Birders Documentary

PROCOLOMBIA is the entity in charge of promoting Tourism, Foreign Investment in Colombia, non-mining energy exports and the overall image of the country.

PROCOLOMBIA asked WhereNext to create a long-form documentary film and five short films about bird diversity in Colombia (learn know more here).

The documentary is called THE BIRDERS | A Melodic Journey through Northern Colombia. It is a magnificent promotional of Colombia that not only portrays the country as an ideal destination for bird watching but for nature and adventure more broadly.

The video demonstrates just how truly unique Colombia is as a country. We hope that the birdwatching industry will help preserve the nation’s natural beauty and promote the growth of ecotourism.

The Caribbean Region: THE BIRDERS | Bird tales from Colombia’s Caribbean.

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The Andean Region, THE BIRDERS | A family’s nest in the Colombian Andes.

The Pacific Region: THE BIRDERS | A photographer’s view of Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

The Eastern Plains or Orinoquia Region: THE BIRDERS | A winged safari through the grasslands of Colombia’s Orinoquia.

The Amazon Region: THE BIRDERS | A feathered adventure in the Colombian Amazon.

References
  • BirdLife International (2019) Endemic Bird http://www.birdlife.org on 22/10/2019
  • ebird.org