The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail of Colombia

The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail of Colombia is probably the most diverse with nearly 1,400 bird species between the departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño.

In this region, you have contact with the Western Andes mountain range, the Choco Region, and the Pacific ocean.

The most relevant birding hotspots of this route are the Choco Forest and the Andean Cloud forests of the western cordillera.

The diversity of this route is explained because it covers many different habitats such as paramos, wetlands, Andean cloud forests, tropical rainforest, coastal areas, dry forest and very nice bird-lodges and farms dedicated to bird photography.

The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail

The National Audubon Society of the United States was involved in the design of this route along with the government of Colombia and Calidris NGO to help the country reach its goal of becoming the world’s top birding destination.

The training of stakeholders linked to the birding offer in the region was the main activity, including local guides, owners of lodges, farms and nature reserves, and community-based tourism associations.

Among the places to be visited are included national parks, civil society nature reserves, and private reserves.

Birding Spots of The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail

You should know that in the past, this region was not a safe place. Nowadays, birding tourism and related stakeholders are becoming:

active drivers in conservation, economic development, and peace-building”

For that reason, there are still some destinations with difficult access, and poor hotel infrastructure, especially towards the Pacific region in Valle del Cauca and Nariño.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is just an example of the route you can take. However, if you want to see more options, visit the itinerary designed by us.

Remember that you can customize your trip with us. Don’t miss the opportunity to add other activities such as whale watching; a city tour in Cali, the city of salsa music; an urban birding day also in Cali; a stop in the beautiful city of Popayan in the department of Cauca; or visit the paramos and volcanic lakes of Nariño, among many other activities, either alone or with your family.

Given the wide offer of destinations on this route, here are the main stops in each department. If you want to know more about each destination, I recommend you to visit the entries we prepared for you about them.

You can also visit our Youtube channel ColombiaFrank, where you will find first hand information about many of these destinations.

Valle del Cauca

Western Andes Cloud Forests

Wetlands – Sonso Lagoon

  • Laguna Sonso
  • Gota de Leche

Choco region – Anchicaya

  • El Descanso km 55
  • Upper Anchicaya
  • Aguasclaras
  • Lower Anchicaya
  • Buenaventura*

Following the path of the Anchicaya River as it descends through the western Andes to meet the Pacific Ocean, the old road from Buenaventura, mostly abandoned, offers incredible birding.

One of the most famous places in this point is the restaurant El descanso km 55, read our entry about this place Best Set to Photography Tropical Rainforest Birds at Upper Anchicayá.

Among the more than 500 species that have been recorded along the road are about 50 species endemic to the region.

The Pacific lowlands of the San Cipriano Reserve

  • San Cipriano Reserve
  • La Delfina
  • Buenaventura*

The Pacific rainforest of San Cipriano is incredibly humid, very lush and home to Chocó endemics, including the Five-colored Barbet, Chocó Toucan, Chocó Woodpecker, Rose-faced Parrot, Stub-tailed Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, and Black-tipped Cotinga.

*From here you can continue to Buenaventura for seabird watching on the Pacific coast. This point was not included in the official route, but if you have time, you can visit it in a day trip.

Cauca

Paramos in Puracé National Park and the Central Andes

From Valle, the route goes into the south of the department of Cauca to observe the Central Andes and the páramo where you can see the Andean condor.

At the end of the day you can enjoy a bath in the volcanic springs of Coconuco, where the thermal waters have been diverted to a series of pools, each at a different temperature.

Dry Forest in the Patía Valley

Descending from the páramo, the itinerary concludes in the dry forest of the Patía Valley, located only 600 meters above sea level. The dry forest is a very different habitat where you can find Blue Ground-Dove, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Apical Flycatcher (endemic), and the Scarlet-backed Woodpecker.

Nariño Extension (Optional)

Birders with extra time and a thirst for adventure should continue south to the department of Nariño, a former conflict zone that is newly accessible to visitors.

Nariño is rather more rustic than Valle or Cauca, but features fantastic birding, especially in the rainforests of the Pacific slope.

Among the highlights is La Planada Reserve, which offers some of the best birding in Colombia. You can also continue on to the Rio ñambi Reserve and the Bangsias Reserve.

Another place that has emerged as an interesting birding destination in Nariño is Tumaco. However, the law and order situation still keeps it on the back foot for tourism development. We do not recommend traveling to this place alone.

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.

Recommendations

  • Take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots, and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.
  • Remember that this whole region has a high relative humidity, so be prepared to keep your equipment safe from excess humidity. In our entry How to Prepare for a Birding Tour in the Neotropics? you will find useful information on this subject.
  • Be always accompanied by a local guide.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours contact us and plan your trip with us.

References
  • Birdwatching in Colombia – Procolombia
  • Audubon Society Website
  • The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The 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 Central Andes Birding Trail of Colombia: Coffee and Birds!


The Central Andes Birding Trail of Colombia is probably one of the most wonderful and complete birdwatching tourism routes in Colombia since it gathers a great diversity of environments and all the richness of the Colombian coffee cultural landscape, the heritage of Colombia, and humanity.

The Central Andes are basically composed of the proximity between the 3 mountain ranges of Colombia, which occurs precisely in the departments of Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda. Watch our video below and know more about these beautiful departments of Colombia.

In this region, you have contact with the inter-Andean valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers, and you can go from zero to 5000 meters above sea level. These characteristics make this region concentrate a high variety of ecosystems and unique environments ranging from the transition dry forests of the inter-Andean valleys through the Andean cloud forests, to the paramos and the perpetual snows.

The most relevant birding hotspots of this route are the Magdalena Valley Endemic Bird Area, the Choco Forest, and the paramos. In particular, in the western Andes, the Chocó ecoregion has a unique avifauna. Also, the páramo, an ecosystem above 3000 m, is full of range-restricted endemics and area specialists.

Paraphrasing Audubon, this is a land of endemic hummingbirds, colorful tanagers, singing antpittas and gorgeous parrots!

The Central Andes Birding Trail

Once again, the National Audubon Society of the United States was involved in the design of this route along with Colombian institutions and Government, training about 60 service providers linked to the birding offer in the region, including guides, lodging and nature reserve owners, local travel agencies and community-based tourism associations:

“The Central Andes Birding Trail was developed in partnership with Audubon’s Birdlife International partner Asociación Calidris, with support from the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism and FONTUR, Colombia’s Tourism Fund. The trail is network of Audubon-trained professional birding guides and operators, sites such as national parks and private reserves, and small businesses and support services. Bird-focused tourism benefits local communities and organizations such as the Yarumo Blanco Community Association, which works directly on local conservation issues and community development in and around the Otún Quimbaya Sanctuary.”

Audubon.org

Among the places to be visited are included national parks, civil society nature reserves, private reserves, farms, and sanctuaries. And why not? you can also include some coffee farms that, although not officially part of the itinerary of the Central Andes Birding Trail, we highly recommend you to visit.

Small Area – Huge Diversity

This is a region of approximately 13880 square kilometers, an area similar to the area of Puerto Rico or the state of Connecticut, or even the Death Valley National Park in California and Nevada in the United States. And it is surprising that in this relatively small area there is so much diversity.

For this reason, on this trip you will be able to combine a great variety of destinations where each place has its own specialties; do not think that because it is such a small area you will not find a great diversity. You are in Colombia!

It is precisely this richness of landscape and birdlife, together with the cultural richness and the hospitality of the people of the Colombian coffee region, which gives this birding route in Colombia a very special character.

Birding Spots of The Central Andes Birding Trail

You should know that in this region there is a wide range of destinations for bird watching tourism, however not all of them are included in the itinerary designed for this trail.

The reason for this is most likely due to the difficulty of access or lack of hotel infrastructure or roads that prevent these places have minimum standards for high standard tourism, or the basics for the birdwatchers.

This does not mean that these places cannot be visited, but you will have to be prepared for difficult terrain or to have to travel long distances the same day or stay in rural houses or farms of medium to low infrastructure.

In our blogs about each department, you can find the complete offer of birding destinations in each of them. I recommend you to visit our entries 9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas and Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle.

Highlight Species of The Central Andes Birding Trail

Among the almost a thousand birds you can find in this route, the most highlighted are Northern Screamer, Cauca Guan, Colombian Chachalaca, Chestnut Wood-Quail, Buffy Helmetcrest, Dusky Starfrontlet, Spot-crowned Barbet, White-mantled Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Grayish Piculet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Rusty-faced Parrot, Indigo-winged (Fuerte’s) Parrot, Yellow-eared Parrot, Parker’s Antbird, Moustached Antpitta, Bicolored Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Hooded Antpitta, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Tatama Tapaculo, Stiles’s Tapaculo, Paramillo Tapaculo, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Apical Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Yellow-headed Manakin, Club-winged Manakin, Munchique Wood-Wren, Black-and-gold Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Multicolored Tanager, Turquoise Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Tanager Finch, Yellow-headed Brushfinch, Sooty Ant-Tanager, Crested Ant-Tanager, Baudo Oropendola, Red-bellied Grackle, Velvet-fronted Euphonia.

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri) at Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas, Colombia
Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii
Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi
Black-and-gold-Tanager – Bangsia melanochlamys

Itinerary

Caldas

  • La Romelia, a.k.a. Finca Romelia Colors of Life.
  • Tinamú, a.k.a. Tinamu Birding & Nature Reserve.
  • Cameguadua, this is a reservoir.
  • Los Alcázares, is an ecopark in the heart of the city of Manizales.
  • Rio Blanco, a private Nature Reserve.
  • Rio Claro, a Private Nature Reserve in the coffee-growing area of Villamaría.
  • Recinto del Pensamiento, a very nice hotel on the outskirts of Manizales. The annual Avitourism Congress is held there.
  • Los Nevados National Park.
  • Bellavista Reserve, a transition area of tropical dry forest near the town of Victoria.
  • Guarinocito, oxbow lake also near to the town of Victoria and La Dorada.

Risaralda

  • Mistrato, a little town in Risaralda.
  • Santa Cecilia, found in the Choco region.
  • Montezuma Road and Tatama National Park.
  • Apia
  • Botanical Garden of the Technologic University of Pereira
  • Cortaderal
  • Otun Quimbaya

Quindio

  • Salento-Area
  • Quindio Botanical Garden
  • Rancho California
  • Pijao

Itinerary Example

The following itinerary is just an example of the route you can take. However, if you want to see more options, visit the itinerary designed by us.

Remember that you can customize your trip with us. Don’t miss the opportunity to live cultural experiences such as coffee tasting, rum tasting, chocolate production, visit the wax palm forests, among many other activities, either alone or with your family.

The following example trip proposed by Audubon lasts 17 days. It starts in Honda and ends in the Nevados National Park, and includes experienced tour leaders and trained local guides in every location.

Day 1 – Arrival in Bogotá. Overnight near the airport.
Day 2 – Birding travel to Honda. Begin your day birding the marshes near the airport in Bogotá, hoping for the endemic Bogotá rail. The afternoon will be spent traveling to Honda or the Victoria area. Overnight in Honda (or Victoria).
Day 3 – Birding Victoria. The morning will be devoted to visiting the Bellavista reserve. Overnight in Honda (or Victoria).
Day 4 – Laguna Guarinocito and travel to Manizales. Overnight in Manizales.
Day 5 – Río Blanco. Birding in the morning at Río Blanco. Overnight in Tinamú lodge.
Day 6 – Tinamú reserve, travel to Salento. Birding at the Tinamú reserve and then travel to Salento, stopping at the Cameguadua reservoir. Option 2 for this day starts early in Tinamú to drive to la Soledad, Río claro to bird with the community and travel to Salento.
Day 7 – Birding Salento and Camino nacional. Option 2 for this day includes a visit to Pijao.
Day 8 – Morning birding and drive to Otún Quimbaya after lunch, overnight there.
Day 9 – All day Otún Quimbaya. All-day in the Otún Quimbaya area, with a post-lunch break. Overnight in Otún Quimbaya.
Day 10 – Morning in Otún Quimbaya, drive to the western Andes. Last morning in the Otún Quimbaya. Afternoon driving to the town of Mistrató. Overnight in Mistrató. Option 2 for this day starts birding in Otún Quimbaya and then driving to Apía.
Day 11 – Visit the wonderful Chocó forests of Mistrató or Apía, returning for lunch in town. Then travel to Pueblo Rico, and onward to the Montezuma ecolodge. Overnight in Montezuma.
Day 12 – Montezuma all day. All-day in Montezuma starting at the high elevation site and birding our way down. Overnight in Montezuma.
Day 13 – Montezuma all day. Morning visit to Santa Cecilia, afternoon and overnight in Montezuma.
Day 14 – Montezuma in the morning, drive to Santa Rosa de Cabal.
Day 15 – Start early to look for the Indigo-winged (Fuertes’s) parrot in Cortaderal. In the afternoon, transfer to Manizales and Los Nevados national park. Overnight in hotel Term ales del Ruiz.
Day 16 – Los Nevados National Park. Overnight in Hotel Termales del Ruiz.
Day 17 – Transfer to airport in Pereira. Flights back to Bogotá and home.

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!

Recommendations

Take waterproof clothing, waterproof boots, and waterproof backpacks to protect your equipment in case of rain.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours contact us and plan your trip with us.

References
  • Birdwatching in Colombia – Procolombia
  • Audubon Society Website
  • The Central Andes Birding Trail
About the author

Sara Colmenares

The 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.

Tolima Birding Routes: from the Andean Snows to the Magdalena Valley

Birdwatching in Tolima is recognized as a new sustainable opportunity to develop local economies, while important ecosystems and bird species of the region are conserved. Find here the Tolima Birding Routes created for your visit, and why you should go there.

Conservation Efforts

In February 2021 Tolima department recognized 10 emblematic bird species, which are expected to contribute to promote birding tourism industry and bird conservation. The official administration announced the Draft Ordinance No 004 of 2021 by which:

“the emblematic birds of Tolima are declared as a symbol of ecological and cultural heritage, and their protection and conservation is promoted”

This resolution is part of the efforts made to know and protect Tolima’s birds and ecosystems. This set of special birds will be an object of conservation in the region.

Thus, public institutions, professionals and the local community will work together to develop activities to promote the knowledge, protection and conservation of the birds of the department of Tolima.

Among the programs, environmental education, citizen science and nature tourism have an essential role. Moreover, programs related to community based and birdwatching tourism are sustainable opportunities wich will contribute to the socio-economic growth of the region.

Tolima Ecosystems

Nevado del Ruiz view from the Tolima’s side

Tolima stands out among the most biodiverse destinations in the country. Its wide range of natural environments ranges from the snow-capped mountains of Tolima, Santa Isabel, Ruiz and Huila, to the dry and humid forests of the upper and middle basin of the Magdalena River. This allows the presence of a richness of bird species close to 800 species.

In the territory of Tolima, 22 endemic and 49 near-endemic species have been recorded. It is the winter habitat of 67 species of migratory birds.

On the other hand, 28 species of birds are threatened with extinction, and there is an urgency to preserve them.

Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

Tolima Birding Routes

Tropical Dry Forest

It is distributed in the lower areas of the upper basin of the Magdalena Valley, and has a diversity of habitats for birds such as forest fragments, scrublands, grasslands and wetlands.

Destinations: Venadillo, Armero Guayabal, Coello, Ibagué, Prado, Lérida, Alvarado, San Luis, Piedras, Honda, Melgar, and Mariquita.

Tropical Rainforest

These forests go up to 1,000 m in elevation and have species representative of the Magdalena Valley.

Destinations: Honda, Falan, Mariquita, and Fresno.

Montane Forests

They are the best represented ecosystem in Tolima and occupy 20% of the department’s surface. They are located on the Andean slopes of the central and eastern mountain ranges, between 1000 and 2000 m above sea level. These forests are the habitat of most of Tolima’s emblematic endemic bird species.

Destinations: Juntas, Cajamarca, Chaparral, Planadas, Líbano, San Antonio, Villarrica, Cunday, Casablanca, and Ibagué.

High Andean forests and Páramo

These are strategic high mountain ecosystems, located between 2500 – 4000 meters above sea level, bordering the beginning of the glaciers of the department’s snow-capped volcanoes.

Destinations: Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, Ibagué (Toche), and Roncesvalles.

Emblematic Birds of Tolima

Tolima Blossomcrown

Anthocephala berlepschi

Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi) visiting a Mermelada plant (Streptosolen jamesonii) at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Why it is important

This is an endemic hummingbird of Colombia. It distributes along the Colombia’s central Andes, and the eastern Andes, in the southern part of the country.

Where to find it

Ukuku Rural Lodge. Ukuku is a small rural ecolodge located in the beautiful Combeima River Canyon, in the municipality of Ibagué – Colombia.

It is a place surrounded by fauna and flora of the high Andean ecosystem. In fact, its name comes from a Quechua word meaning Spectacled Bear, a unique species of bear in the Andes.

This ecolodge reflects the life philosophy of its creators, a nice couple of biologists and mountaineers. They created a rural alternative for rest, adventure, relaxation and coexistence with nature.

The Tolima Blossomcrown visists their gardens every day in the mornig and in the afternoon. Their favorite plant is the Mermelada, Streptosolen jamesonii.

Yellow-headed Brushfinch

Atlapetes flaviceps 

Why it is important

This brushfinch is another endemic species of Colombia. It has a limited range of distrubution in the central and western Andes of Colombia.

Where to find it

In Tolima, you will find this bird when visiting the Combeima Canyon and the Ukuku Lodge, in the montane forests.

The Combeima Canyon is a buffer zone of Los Nevados National Park. It locates on the eastern side of the Central Andes between 1400 and 4200 meters above sea level.

The route to the Combeima Canyon is 18 km long from the Plaza de Bolivar, in the center of Ibagué, to the village of Juntas. The road runs along the banks of the Combeima River.

Rufous-fronted Parakeet

Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons

Why it is important

This is a parakeet you will find only at very high elevations in Colombia’s central Andes. And, as if that were not enough, it is also a very scarce and difficult bird to watch.

Where to find it

In Tolima, the Rufous-fronted Parakeet can be observed in Los Nevados National Park, going up through the municipality of Murillo towards the Nevado del Ruiz snow-capped mountain.

Murillo is the highest municipality in the department of Tolima with 3,000 meters above sea level. Because of its proximity, it is very easy to appreciate the Nevado del Ruiz.

Velvet-fronted Euphonia

Euphonia concinna

Why it is important

This is a bird endemic to the Tropical Dry Forest in the Magdalena Valley in central Colombia. It is found from around 200 to 1,000 meters above sea level.

It is a difficult bird to observe, as it is uncommon within its range. In addition, it is commonly mistaken for Orange-bellied Euphonia.

Where to find it

It is possible to observe the Velvet-fronted Euphonia in the municipalities of Tolima placed around the Tropical Dry Forest of the Magdalena Valley such as Venadillo, Armero Guayabal, Coello, Ibagué, Prado, Lérida, Alvarado, San Luis, Piedras, Honda, Melgar, and Mariquita.

There are other interseting birds that can be observed in the tropical dry forests of Tolima, such as:

  • Apical Flycatcher (Myiarchus apicalis)
  • Colombian Chachalaca (Ortalis columbiana)
  • Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia tolimae)
  • Agami Heron (Agamia agami)
  • Whistling Heron (Syrigma sibilatrix)
  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
  • Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus)
  • Red-Billed Esmerald (Chlorostilbon gibsoni)
  • Shining-green Hummingbird (Lepidopyga goudoti)

Brown-banded Antpitta

Grallaria milleri 

Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri

Why it is important

This is an antpitta restricted to cloud forest in Colombia’s central Andes. As many other antpittas, it spends most of the time on the forest floor, which makes it difficult to see.

If you like antpittas I recommend you to visit our entry 5 New Reasons to Come to Colombia to Watch Birds.

Where to find it

This bird is easy to see in the feeders of the Rio Blanco Ecological Reserve near Manizales. Yet, Tolima is working hard to become a destination to watch the Brown-banded Antpitta.

You can find it in the montane forests of Tolima, between 1000 to 2000 meters above sea level. Places with these kind of forests are: Cajamarca, Chaparral, Planadas, Líbano, San Antonio, Villarrica, Cunday, Casablanca, and Ibagué.

Other species you can find in the montane forests of Tolima are:

  • Tolima Dove (Leptotila conoveri)
  • Tolima Blossomcrown (Anthocephala berlepschi)
  • Indigo capped Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanifrons)
  • Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni)
  • Crecent-faced Antpitta (Grallaricula lineifrons)
  • Yellow-headed Manakin (Choloropipo flavicapilla)
  • Yellow-headed BrushFinch (Atlapetes flaviceps)
  • Dusky-headed Brush Finch (Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus)
  • Masked Saltator (Saltator cinctus)
  • Red-bellied Grackle (Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster)
  • Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)
  • Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius eximius)

Sooty Ant-Tanager

Habia gutturalis

Why it is important

This bird is also endemic to northwestern Colombia. Occurs in lowlands up to about 1,100 m. Typically seen in pairs or small groups in the forest understory, often near water.

Where to find it

It is found in the humid forests of Tolima. This life zone is represented in the municipalities of Mariquita, Honda, Fresno and Falan in the beginning of the middle Magdalena Valley. These forests protect a large percentage of the country’s biodiversity.

Other species you can find in the humid forests of Tolima are:

  • Parker’s ant bird (Cercomacra parkeri)
  • Beautiful woodpecker (Melanerpes pulcher)
  • Yelow-tufted Dacnis (Dacnis egregia)
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds  (Myrmeciza exsul)
  • White-mantled Barbet (Capito hypoleucus)
  • Sooty-headed Wren (Pheugopedius spadix)
  • Barred Puffbird (Nystalus radiatus)
  • Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratropipa erytrocephala)
  • White-bibbed Manakin (Corapipo leucorrhoa)

Indigo-winged Parrot

Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi

Why it is important

This is a rare and endangered parrot restricted to high elevations in the central Andes of Colombia.

Where to find it

The Indigo-winged Parrot is difficult to watch, yet recently it has been observed in Santa Rosa de Cabal in Risaralda department. Find out more about Risarald in our entry Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle.

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the high andean forests, between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level, in the areas of Los Nevados and Las Hermosas National Parks, and Nevado del Huila, in the municipalities of Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, and Toche.

Yellow-eared Parrot

Ognorhynchus icterotis

Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis

Why it is important

This bird has lost much of its habitat, becoming confined to the small remnants of wax palm forests in Colombia. If you want to know more about the wax palm forests of Colombia visit our entries The Unique Wax Palm Forests Landscape Destinations in Colombia and The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

Where to find it

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the high andean forests, between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level, in the areas of Los Nevados and Las Hermosas National Parks, and Nevado del Huila, in the municipalities of Anzoátegui, Murillo, Cajamarca, and Toche.

Wax Palm at Toche, Tolima

Roncesvalles was also a good place to watch this bird, but saddly this year one of the rangers Colombian conservationist of the area was killed. So, tourism is closed since then in this area. Know more about this story in the Audubon’s post Remembering Gonzalo Cardona, Protector of the Yellow-eared Parrot.

Buffy Helmetcrest

Oxypogon stuebelii

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii

Why it is important

This is an endemic bird of the paramos of the Central Andes of Colombia. It is one of the 17 species of hummingbirds unique to Colombia. Know them all in our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Where to find it

In Tolima, this bird can be seen in the paramo Los Nevados.

Another species that can be seen in the paramos and high andean forests of Tolima are:

  • Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii)
  • Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum)
  • Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
  • Carunculated Caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus)
  • Black- Chested Buzzard – Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus)
  • Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori)
  • Andean Tit-Spinetail (Leptasthenura andicola)
  • Black-backed Bush Tanager (Urothraupis stolzmanni)

Tolima Dove

Leptotila conoveri

Tolima Dove – Leptotila conoveri

Why it is important

This is another unique species of the Andean cloud forest in the central Andes of Colombia. At the national and international level, it is listed as an Endangered species.

Where to find it

This bird is easy to see in the gardens of Ukuku Lodge, near to the Combeyma Canyon.

Now that you know about the wonderful birds of Tolima, you understand that this is an unmissable destination on your birding trip to Colombia, especially if you want to record some of the endemic species of our country.

Find more information about Tolima nature destinations in our entry Tolima, a Little Known Destination in Colombia with a Lot to Offer!

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia, visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

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

References
  • Tolima Regional Autonomous Corporation – cortolima.gov.co
  • Anthocephala, Ornithology Association of Tolima.
About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Tolima, a Little Known Destination in Colombia with a Lot to Offer!

Tolima is a department in Colombia where music is its distinctive expression… until now. In recent times, nature tourism has drawn the attention as a new attraction.

Birdwatching and nature tourism are new there, and emerged after the signing of the peace process. With it, people began to see bird watching and nature tourism as an economic opportunity.

Where is Tolima?

Tolima is located in the center-west of Colombia, in the Andean region. Its capital city is Ibagué, and it locates on the eastern flank of the Central Andes, in the center of the department. It is known as the Musical Capital of Colombia.

Tolima department borders to the north with Caldas, to the east with Cundinamarca, to the south with Huila and to the west with Valle del Cauca, Quindío and Risaralda departments.

So, if you are in the coffee region, or in Bogota or Cali, it will be very easy for you to visit this region by car, or by plane.

Perales National Airport is located in the east of the city of Ibagué and is the main airport in Tolima. It is in the process of becoming an international airport.

Rare food alert: One of the most famous meals in Colombia is the lechona. The lechona borned in Tolima. This is a dish based on pork meat, stuffed with peas and rice, and mixed inside the pork itself.

Lechona dish served in a Bijao leaf, with lemon and arepa.

It is baked in the oven, leaving the pork skin browned and toasted. It is served with a portion of the skin, in a Bijao leaf, previously passed through the fire, as a plate. This leaf is similar to the banana leaf, but it is not edible.

What does it mean Tolima?

The are several stories about the name Tolima. One of them tells that the word comes from the Panche term tolima, tulima or dulima, which means river of snow or cloud.

Another story refers to an indigenous woman called Tulima, or Yulima. Yulima was an indigenous queen and priestess who protected a religious sanctuary. This place was very rich in gold deposits, near Machín Volcano and Nevado del Tolima.

The Spaniards assaulted her and took her as a prisoner. They led her in chains to Ibagué, in whose main square the conquerors burned her alive.

While she was dying she received blessings from Father Cobos to help her soul elevates to heaven. The department preserved her legendary name as a perennial tribute to her martyrdom.

Tolima as a Nature Destination

Tolima covers an area of 149,800 hectares. It extends from the upper Magdalena valley in the east to the Tolima snow-capped mountain in the northwest.

Thus, the department of Tolima has a huge variety of ecosystems and life zones. There you will find tropical dry forests at 2800 meters above sea level, to the paramo life zone, at approximately 5280 meters above sea level.

Machín Volcano, Toche, Tolima, COlombia

This broad altitudinal variation arises into a great variety of climates and topographic aspects. This variation, in turn, results in a high number of habitats for a wide diversity of species, birds among them.

Additionally, the mountainous landscapes of Tolima makes it a very good region to visit for hiking.

Los Nevados Natural National Park in Tolima.

Also, the Magdalena River, the most important river of Colombia, crosses Tolima from south to north enriching the landscape. The city of Honda was one of its main ports in the colonial past (watch the video below).

The natural wealth of Tolima has allowed the development of several important tourist activities. Furthermore, several national natural parks belong to the department of Tolima and are reserves of water, flora and fauna: Los Nevados National Natural Park, Las Hermosas National Natural Park, and Nevado del Huila National Natural Park.

Aquatic Tourism

There are several aquatic parks in the lowland areas of Tolima you can visit with your family.  Also, you can do rafting on the Sumapaz river in Melgar, Carmen de Apicalá, Coello, Flandes and Suárez.

 

In the north, at Mariquita, Honda, Ambalema and Falan towns, you can combine historical colonial tourism with water parks.

Sport Fishing and Water Sports

To the south is the Prado reservoir focused on sport fishing and water sports. This region also has a lot of indigenous history. There you will find Amerindian expressions in ceramics made by the Pijao communities.

Prado reservoir, Tolima, Colombia

The area also has incredible landscapes such as the Pacandé Mountain and the northern side of the Tatacoa Desert.

Hiking and Trekking

In the center of the department, Ibagué, Murillo and Líbano towns are close to Los Nevados National Park. There, mountaineering is the main attraction.

Snow-capped mountain of Tolima

Check our tour to Nevado del Tolima here.

Birdwatching in Tolima

More and more people is discovering the biodiversity of birdlife in Tolima. Today, Tolima is 14 in the eBird’ species list of departments of Colombia, with 809 bird species reported.

Besides this, it is 8th in the Top 10 departments with more checklists, with around 14300.

5th Tolima Bird Festival – La Rivera Route ©Cortolima

In Tolima, a Bird Festival is also held every year. The most recent version was in 2019, being the fifth one. This festival features cultural and academic activities, as well as bird watching tours.

Tolima Birdwatching Routes

Private and public entities work together to protect and conserve the birds biodiversity of Tolima. Thus, since 2018, the Chamber of Commerce, the Ornithological Association Anthocephala, and Cortolima developed a total of 33 birdwatching routes in Tolima.

13 of these birding routes are near to Ibagué and the Río Viejo wetland in San Luis.

The main routes established in Tolima include:

  • Toche Canyon,
  • Combeima Canyon,
  • The northern route (Honda, Mariquita, Fresno and Falán),
  • Las Hermosas in Chaparral,
  • San Antonio,
  • Planadas,
  • Galilea forest,
  • Murillo – Armero route,
  • Roncesvalles,
  • Falán – Mariquita,
  • Clarita Botero en Ibagué
  • “Raúl Echeverry” Botanical Garden in Líbano, and
  • San Jorge Botanical Garden, among others.

One of the most important routes that you should not miss is the Toche Canyon Route. The Toche Canyon locates between the cities of Cajamarca and Ibagué.

Wax Palm at Toche, Tolima

There there are ten species of parrots, among them the Indigo-winged Parrot, the Yellow-eared Parrot and the Golden-plumed Parakeet. These species live in the ecosystem offered by the most conserved forest of wax palm in the country.

Top Birds of Tolima

Here’s a taste of what’s to come in a future post. The most representative bird species in Tolima are:

  1. Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi 
  2. Tolima Dove – Leptotila conoveri
  3. Indigo-winged Parrot – Hapalopsittaca fuertesi
  4. Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis
  5. Velvet-fronted Euphonia – Euphonia concinna
  6. Crested Ant-Tanager – Habia cristata
  7. Yellow-headed Brushfinch – Atlapetes flaviceps
  8. Rufous-fronted Parakeet – Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons
  9. Indigo-capped Hummingbird – Amazilia cyanifrons
  10. Apical Flycatcher – Myiarchus apicalis
  11. Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri
  12. Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii
Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Find the Tolima birding routes and highlights in our entry Tolima Birding Routes: from the Andean Snows to the Magdalena Valley.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Tolima! In future posts we will tell you how we did during our visit.

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia, visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

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

References
  • Tolima Regional Autonomous Corporation – cortolima.gov.co
  • Anthocephala, Ornithology Association of Tolima.
About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Bird-watching Tourism Helps to Reduce Bird Extinction Risks in Colombia


Extinction is the disappearance of all members of a species. Extinction is considered from the instant in which the last individual of a species dies.

Colombia is a megadiverse country, with a natural wealth that for a long time was hidden by the shadow of war. Recent scientific expeditions, such as Colombia Bio, have shown how little we knew about our fauna and flora, so much so that with each of them new species have been discovered.

Colombia bio ©Colciencias

However, the expeditions also left the question of how much we may not have known. We are now in a race against indiscriminate and poorly controlled human intervention.

Deforestation, expansion of the agricultural frontier, mining, illicit crops are now present in these previously unexplored territories.

Tourism still needs to make its way into these regions as a competitive and profitable alternative. At the same time, as a good strategy for biodiversity conservation.

International Union for Conservation of Nature, UICN

The UICN is an organization whose mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

IUCN has been active for more than 70 years, and today works in a combined effort to conserve nature and accelerate the transition to sustainable development.

IUCN has developed a comprehensive information system on the conservation status of animal, fungal and plant species worldwide: The IUCN Red List.

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria is a system for classifying the risk of extinction of species worldwide. It divides species into nine categories:

  • Not Evaluated, NE.
  • Data Deficient, DD.
  • Least Concern, LC.
  • Near Threatened, NT.
  • Vulnerable, VU.
  • Endangered, EN.
  • Critically Endangered, CR.
  • Extinct in the Wild, EW.
  • Extinct, EX.

Species may move up or down the list as their populations increase or decline. Find more information at the UICN Red List website iucnredlist.org.

Bird Extinction

Painting of a dodo head by Cornelis Saftleven from 1638, probably the latest original depiction of the species ©Cornelis Saftleven – History of the dodo. http://julianhume.co.uk/

According to Colombia Birdfair, 40% of the bird species that inhabit our planet are going through a population decline, and 1 in 8 species is threatened. In addition to this, 1.4% have become extinct.

Here you will find some data:

Human activities are the main factor related with bird extinction. Climate change, intensive agriculture, invasive species, illegal hunting and overfishing are behind this devastating statistic.

First Bird Extinct in Colombia

The only bird species known to be extinct in Colombia is the Colombian GrebePodiceps andinus, endemic to the wetlands in the Eastern Andes of Colombia.  It was last recorded in 1977 in Lake Tota. 

Podiceps andinus ©Paula Andrea Romero, Arte&Conservación – BirdsColombia

Its disappearance is associated with the combined result of wetland drainage, and the eutrophication and salinization that has destroyed the submerged Potamogeton vegetation, where this species fed on a great variety of arthropods. 

Additional extinction factors were the introduction of exotic fish, such as the rainbow trout Salmo gairdneri (Fjeldså 1993), hunting, pesticide pollutionremoval of reeds, and predation. 

Bogota Rail – Rallus semiplumbeus, EN. ©neilorlandodiazma CC BY-SA 2.0.

According to the Humedales de Bogotá Foundation, the extinction of the Colombian Grebe should be remembered, and should serve as a lesson. 

Currently, there are two species of birds endemic to the Bogotá Savanna in critical danger of extinction, the Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus) and the Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari). Sadly, very little is being done to reverse this situation. 

Know more about the wetlands of Bogotá in our entry Wetlands of Bogotá are the Best Spots for Birdwatching in the City. 

Tracking Extinction Risks

Rengifo et al. 2020, calculated the degree of extinction threat to the country’s birds from 2002 to 2016 in a recent study which is the first study of its kind.

The main conclusion of the study is that habitat loss is the main threat to the Colombian Birds. Moreover, the results of this study left two flavors, one sweet and one somewhat bitter: Colombia has the potential to become the Country of Birds, or the Country of Bird Extinction. 

Podiceps andinus, ICN, National University of Colombia, Bogotá.

On the positive side, birds have benefited from land abandonment and subsequent habitat recovery as people moved to cities, from the reduction in the rate of habitat loss as illegal coca cultivation shifted between regions, and from conservation actions. 

On the negative side, the most important causes of the deterioration in conservation status are habitat loss due to the expansion of illicit crops, the same sad story, and population declines due to hunting. Yes, hunting! 

Of the two, I will only dwell on hunting, because the story of illegal cultivation speaks for itself. The people who enter the territories to extract resources such as timber, or gold, generally illegally, need to eat. And to eat, they hunt birds. 

Additionally, other significant threats for birds such as the increased presence of invasive and domestic animals, such as trout, cats, rats, dogs, and the Shiny cowbird; as well as agriculture expansion, cattle ranching, timber extraction, illegal mining, oil production, water contamination and habitat loss due to city expansion. 

The Most Threatened Areas and Birds 

The most threatened birds are those living in mangroves and freshwater habitats in the Pacific region and the Pacific Ocean. Also, the species living in the High Andean forest and paramo. 

The Andes and the Pacific are two natural regions with many endemic and restricted-range species. 

The most affected areas are the southern Pacific and Andean regions on the border with Ecuador. 

The Andes region has experienced extensive agricultural activities and deforestation for centuries. It is also a region negatively affected by climate change. All of this has resulted in the loss of habitat for birds. 

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – Endemic, CR.

On the other hand, the Pacific region has been affected by illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining, which are the main threats to birds in this region. 

Illegal crops, illegal logging and illegal mining are also important causes of habitat loss in some other regions. Illegal logging occurs mainly in Darién (Pacific Region) and Amazon. Illegal mining occurs mainly in Chocó (Pacific region). And, illegal crops also occur in the Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, on the border with Venezuela. 

Here is the list of birds mentioned in the study with the most remarkable changes in category of threat in Colombia:

Genuine changes suffered by species during 2002–2016 period. Endemic species are marked with asterisk*.

Birdwatching Tourism as a Conservation Strategy

This study concluded that local economic development based on birdwatching tourism remains a good strategy for bird conservation, because despite clear threats, the overall risk of bird extinction in Colombia remains relatively low and stable.

However, this should not be a reason to postpone actions to conserve species and prevent extinctions.

Not everything is bad, in our entry Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenarium I will tell you what has been done since the signing of the peace agreement, in favor of birding tourism as a strategy for bird conservation. 

Colombia Birdfair 2021: Preventing Extinction

In 2021, the most important bird fair in Colombia, the Colombia Birdfair, has extinction as its main topic.

This year Colombia Birdfair will have an extensive program of academic talks, courses and special activities for children and young people. From February 11 to 14 it will present the theme “Preventing Extinction” and will feature national and international experts on conservation and extinction issues.

 

This year the fair will be 100% virtual. According to Carlos Mario Wagner, director of the fair,

“virtuality is a great opportunity to connect with audiences and bird lovers from different countries, and thus promote bird conservation globally”.

The event expects to gather a large national and international audience around of the seventh version of the Colombia Birdfair. It looks for an exchange of ideas and proposals on conservation and birding tourism, with specialists from several continents.

The following are the main lecturers:

  • From India: Purnima Devi Barman Ph.D.
  • From Colombia: Natalia Ocampo Peñuela Ph.D., Carolina Murcia Ph.D., María Ángela Echeverry Galvis Ph.D., Ana María Morales Cañizares, Rubén Darío Palacio, Diego Calderón Franco, Jhon Fredy Casamachin Ui, Diego Ochoa and Ángela María Amaya Villarreal (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
  • From The United Kingdom: Stuart Pimm Ph.D., David Lindo, Phil Gregory and Stuart Butchart Ph.D. (co-author of the mentioned study in this post).
  • From Kenia: Washington Wachira
  • From The United States: Jennifer Ackerman, Kenn Kaufman, LoraKim Joyner and Mollee Brown.
  • From Spain: Josep del Hoyo Calduch

Registrations are open on the website: http://www.colombiabirfair.com/.

With the registration, you will have virtual access to the lectures and talks from February 11 to 14, 2021. Registrtion fee: 14USD.

For more information about birding trips to Colombia and the birds of Colombia visit our entry The Complete Colombia Birdwatching Guide: Tourism & Conservation.

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

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Birdwatching Tourism in Colombia During the Post-conflict Scenario

Colombia is a megadiverse country. It is also a country with a difficult history. War has been around for more than 60 years. With the signing of the peace agreement in 2016, Colombia opened up as never before, presenting a rich, unexplored and under-exploited territory. It also was the starting of the post-conflict struggle.

Paradoxically, the conservation of natural habitats in Colombia was facilitated by the war conflict, preventing territories from being invaded by development and deforestation.

Colombia’s Post-conflict Scenarium

Tourism has been one of the sectors that have benefited the most from the peace agreement, especially nature tourism.

One of the economic benefits of the peace agreement in Colombia has been that local communities have an alternative business opportunity in bird watching tourism.

The most remarkable result was the bird-watching expansion to areas, that were formerly unsafe, such as Caquetá and Putumayo.

Western Striolated-Puffbird, Nystalus obamai. Fin del Mundo, Putumayo, Colombia.

However, not everything has been rosy. This time of transition has cost us, especially due to the lack of proper administration and governance in the territories that were liberated from the conflict.

The Environmental Cost of the Post-conflict

Deforestation

Many studies on post-conflict dynamics have concluded that the social, political, and administrative imbalance that remains in the new peace territories leads to environmental degradation, especially through increased deforestation.

Unfortunately, it has been recognized that the main threat to Colombian birds is the loss of habitat caused by deforestation. Deforestation occurs when people begin to use the resources to which they did not have access before.

Carrying Capacity Excedeed

Another aspect is the deterioration of the new sites due to uncontrolled visitation by tourists and visitors, which exceeds the carrying capacity limits of many of these sites.

Deforestation Hotspots in the Colombian Amazon, part 3: Chiribiquete-Macarena ©MAAP

An example of this is the Chiribiquete National Natural Park, which had to be closed to visitors due to vandalism and overcrowding. In addition, the park has also been threatened by deforestation.

Other Conflicts

Likewise, demobilization has not been complete, and there are still some illegal groups that continue with their own agenda.

Finally, it is unfortunate to have to mention that the murder of environmental leaders has also seriously affected the country.

The Boom of Scientific Expeditions

In Colombia, the peace process also allowed scientific explorations to expand in the territory, as it was possible to visit places previously closed due to public safety issues.

Colombia Bio Expeditions

Colombia bio ©Colciencias

After the signing of the peace treaty, the Colombia Bio project, promoted by Colciencias, was launched in the country.

Colombia BIO aimed to carry out 20 expeditions in the period between 2016 and 2018 in order to generate knowledge about biodiversity. The expditions were possible thanks to the end of the conflict.

The expeditions were conducted in continental and marine areas that were:

  • Unexplored areas,
  • In post-conflict territories,
  • Under threat, or
  • Associated with transformed landscapes.

Many of the explored areas shared several of those characteristics. The Colombia Bio expeditions discovered countless new species of fauna and flora in the country.

Thanks to this, and to the great impulse that the Colombian government gave to birdwatching tourism, Colombian ornithologists, as well as bird lovers, now have more and better information about the birds of the most bird-rich country in the world.

2021: 5 Years After the Signing of the Peace Agreement

In 2021 it will be five years since the signing of the peace agreement. Since then, the country has been preparing to become a world-class bird-watching destination.

Today we have improvements such as:

Additionally, today we have a big advance in terms of policy for tourism and nature tourism training.

First Sustainability Policy for Tourism in Colombia

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism launched the first sustainability policy for tourism in Colombia in December 2020. It is called the Sustainable tourism policy “United for Nature”.

This sustainability policy aims to position sustainability as a fundamental pillar for the development of tourism in Colombia through a strategic plan for 2030 called the Roadmap for Sustainable Tourism.

This plan is composed of six strategies, 14 programs, 32 projects and 140 policy actions.

Sustainable Development Goals

The objectives of the plan focus on the following guidelines:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Efficient energy management and investment in renewable and non-conventional energy sources.
  • Responsible management of solid waste.
  • Saving and efficient use of water.
  • Adequate wastewater treatment.
  • Protection of the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems.

First Guide for Nature Tourism in Colombia

They also launched the first guide for nature tourism in Colombia together with ProColombia, and the support of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; the Humboldt Institute; and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

©Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia

The guide is called “Contemplation Comprehension, Conservation: An Illustrated Handbook for Nature Tourism Guides in Colombia”.

 

It will be a tool for the country to take advantage of its potential as an international destination with sustainable and responsible practices.

You can take a look to the Handbook in the website https://guianaturaleza.colombia.travel/en/

The Colombian Birding Trails

At the same time, Since 2015, Audubon, in collaboration with Asociación Calidris, has been working on bird-based ecotourism initiatives in Colombia to support local development and conservation.

Picture from Audubon: “Wayuu indigenous students and teacher Alvaro Jaramillo are bird watching in La Guajira, Colombia this past June. The program teaches locals to become tour guides for travelers interested in spotting birds. Photo: Carlos Villalon”

Audubon has been training many people as specialized bird tour informers in all regions of Colombia, and developing the following birding routes:

However, bilingual and bird-focused guides, as well as specialized birding infrastructure, such as canopy towers or canopy trails, platforms, hides, etc., are still underdeveloped.

Therefore, if you come to Colombia to watch birds, especially on your own, you will have the best guides in local people, as they have a first-hand experience with the local landscape and wildlife, but with low or basic training in bird identification and foreign language skills (i.e. English).

How We are Helping

In Sula we always work with the local community. Whether it is with the accompaniment of a local guide, with local transportation services, with lodging in hotels and lodges developed by local people, among others.

Visiting Usiacurí and Luriza Reserve

We have first-hand knowledge of all our allies, and also help people in their regions to develop and/or improve their products and services.

Organize your trip with us, so that you have the best services, and at the same time help the economic development of the regions you visit.

References
About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

The Top Post-Covid-19 Destinations for Conservation Lovers in Colombia

Colombia bets on four new post-Covid-19 nature tourism routes! MinComercio, Colombia Productiva, and the Natural Wealth Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the support of the UNWTO, EAN University, and Ruta N, created the Colombia Riqueza Natural Prize, an award for the transformation in nature tourism.  

In order for us to continue being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the government of Colombia will continue to focus on identifying initiatives that promote the natural wealth of the country. The main goals are:

  1. Highlighting Colombia’s biodiversity.
  2. Reactivate the nature tourism sector.
  3. Helping local communities in different regions of Colombia.

This is key to boosting nature tourism in the phase of economic recovery that followed the Covid-19 crisis. And, also, to keep showing and promoting the best of Colombia. 

The prize was looking for the transformation of Nature Tourism in the face of the contingency of the COVID-19. The idea was to encourage the reactivation of the nature tourism sector and support environmental conservation and local communities economies.

“This award will not only serve to strengthen our plans to revitalize nature tourism, but it also highlights the importance of being one of the most megadiverse countries on the planet and the second most biodiverse”

– said the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, José Manuel Restrepo.
San Andrés & Providencia

A Prize for a Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery

According to Martha Aponte, USAID’s deputy director in Colombia, nature tourism can contribute to the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity as well as to economic development.

For this to happen, it is indispensable to discourage tourism that threatens the health of our ecosystems. Nature tourism should be seen as a tool to improve the well-being of local communities, conserve resources, and educate visitors.

The post-Covid-19 economic recovery phase will support the identification of initiatives that protect natural resources and, at the same time, promote nature tourism in Colombia under the current situation.

In this regard, Camilo Fernández de Soto, President of Colombia Productiva, explained that in Colombia nature tourism needs to:

  • Implement more efficient processes,
  • Improve the quality of its offer,
  • Accelerate the digital transformation,
  • Implement digital marketing strategies, and
  • Adopt sustainability as the fundamental part of the experiences.

The award seeks to support the work of nature tourism into overcome its main issues in order to continue attracting more local and international travelers, especially in the context of post-Covid-19 economic recovery. 

The winners will receive up to USD 50,000 to make their projects a reality in different regions of the country.

The Applications

During one month 1,185 projects applied to this prize. All of them coming from the 32 departments of the country.

54% were submitted by legal entities, while 46% were submitted by individuals. Most of the initiatives were submitted by micro and small businesses, foundations, and NGOs.

Proposals were also received from indigenous organizations, collective territories, peasant associations, community councils, and even large companies. Additionally, 84% of the proposals had not received any pre-award funding.

The Judges

The jury was composed of Brigitte Baptiste, rector of EAN University; Camilo Fernández de Soto, president of Colombia Productiva; Gilberto Salcedo, vice-president of Tourism for ProColombia; Natalia Bayona, director of Innovation and Transformation for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Ricardo Sánchez, director of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; Ximena García, advisor to USAID’s environmental office; and Agostinho João de Almeida, director of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Finalists

From the total number of projects, 15 finalists were selected and evaluated by the high-level jury.

In addition to the resources funded by USAID’s Natural Wealth Program, the winning initiatives will receive specialized accompaniment from EAN University and Ruta N to execute their projects.

Also, the 15 finalists will receive scholarships from the World Tourism Organization and EAN University in tourism management.

The Top 4 Winning Initiatives

Among the 15 finalists, only four projects won the prize. All these projects are aimed at the conservation and sustainability of Colombian ecosystems. All of them highlight the country’s biodiversity, and focus on addressing the economic impact of Covid-19 on the nature tourism sector, which has been one of the most affected by the pandemic.

The winning projects highlight Colombia’s unique biodiversity:

  • Caribbean Region: ‘Seaflower Meaningful Diving’ (in San Andres Island).
  • Andean – Chocó Forest Region: ‘Establishing the first birding route for visually impaired people in South America’ (in Valle del Cauca).
  • Orinoquia Region: ‘Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar watching destination (in Casanare).
  • Orinoquia – Amazon Region: ‘Reactivation of nature and cultural immersion tourism in the Matavén jungle’ (in Vichada).

All projects have one year for their development and implementation.

San Andres & Providencia Coral Reef Diving Destination

An experience that will use augmented reality and learning for you to enjoy diving the coral reefs of San Andres Island, and helping its conservation.

Seaflower Meaningful Diving, Diving With a Purpose

This is a project focused on promoting collaboration between islanders, fishermen, and tourists to finance education, conservation, restoration, and management projects of coral reefs in the San Andrés Archipelago.

This project proposes the implementation of e-courses, complemented with gamification and augmented reality, allowing people to start their diving experience and preparation from home. Also, experiencing from home how is the activity of nursing corals.

At the destination, travelers will be able to obtain three rewards:

  • The Green Fins certificate, as responsible and environmentally friendly diving operators
  • The Reef Check Trainers, for participation in coral monitoring, and/or
  • The Reef Repair Trainers, for participation in coral reef restoration.
Coral gardening, Coral reef restoration, Reef Giving, Responsible consumerism. Picture by coralesdepaz.org

Inclusive Bird Watching Destination

A captivating experience that will allow visually impaired people to enjoy the wonders of the San Antonio Cloud Forest and its hundreds of bird species, in one of the most biodiverse areas of South America: the Valle del Cauca.

First Birding Route for People with Visual Disabilities in South America

This is a project carried out in order to find a new way of approaching, recognizing, and linking with nature for the population with visual disabilities.

This contributes to the enjoyment and identification of the species of most representative birds of the Andean region of Colombia, in the AICA/IBA San Antonio Fog Forest – Km. 18, in Cali. Know more about San Antonio Forest in our entry Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18.

The initiative transforms birdwatching tourism in Colombia into an inclusive activity and fosters new market niches. In addition, it takes into account the creation of a special sound guide for the visually impaired population and the training of tourist guides in the region.

Oiga Mire Lea Festival – Birding activity with visually impaired people at San Antonio Cloud Forest with Juan Pablo Culasso and CVC ©Sonidos Invisibles

Jaguar Sighting in Colombia

An experience that allows you to walk the jaguar route and get to Hato La Aurora to visit the first destination for safe jaguar watching in colombia. 

First Jaguar Sighting Route in Colombia Post-Covid-19 Destination

Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar sighting destination in Colombia: Hato La Aurora, in Casanare. This project’s aim is to strengthen this jaguar sighting destination as a strategy for the conservation of big cats and flooded savannas, and coexistence with sustainable productive activities.

The project includes the creation of a guide to good practices for cat watching, the training of guides from the region, and the creation of trails and a portfolio of services associated with nature tourism.

Jaguar ©skeeze at Pixabay 

Nature and Immersion Tourism in Vichada

Connect with the indigenous traditions of the Piaroa people in one of the most beautiful jungle areas of Colombia!

Matavén Forest and Piaroa Indigenous People

This project seeks to strengthen nature and immersion tourism products with indigenous communities, as the Piaroa indigenous communities from La Urbana and Pueblo Nuevo, of the Great Matavén Reserve, in Vichada. Its aim is to motivate an economic reactivation and conservation of the region’s biodiversity.

Piapoco Culture at Matavén ©Mauricio Romero Mendoza at Flickr

We are all very happy for the winners. We hope to have wonderful products by 2022 that offer you the best nature destinations in Colombia. Destinations that support our biodiversity, that are inclusive, that use innovative technological tools, and of course, that help the economic reactivation of nature tourism in Colombia.

Stay tuned!


References


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Top 7 Unmissable Birding Spots in Risaralda in the Coffee Triangle

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

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

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

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

1. “Otún Quimbaya” Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

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

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

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

2. Montezuma Road and National Natural Park Tatamá

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

Olive Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

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

White-tailed Hillstar – Urochroa bougueri

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

Gold-ringed Tanager – Bangsia aureocincta ENDEMIC

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

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer – Diglossa gloriosissima ENDEMIC

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

Scaled Fruiteater – Ampelioides tschudii

3. Apia

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

Barred Parakeet – Bolborhynchus lineola

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

Moustached Puffbird – Malacoptila mystacalis

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

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

Purplish-mantled Tanager – Iridosornis porphyrocephalus

4. Mistrató: Costa Rica y El Sutú

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

Black-and-gold Tanager – Bangsia melanochlamys

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

Club-winged Manakin – Machaeropterus deliciosus

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

Ornate Hawk Eagle – Spizaetus ornatus. Ph. Arnulfo Sanchez

Reserva El Sutú

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

5. Pueblo Rico – Santa Cecilia

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

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

Pacific Antwren – Myrmotherula pacifica

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

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

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

6. Santa Rosa de Cabal – Cortaderal

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

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

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

Mountain Avocetbill – Opisthoprora euryptera

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

Grey-breasted mountain toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

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

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

Andean cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

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


References

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

About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

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

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

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

Guatiquía River Canyon (IBA)

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

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

Guatiquía River and Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot

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

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

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

Bosque Bavaria Location

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

Bosque Bavaria Birding Hotspot at 5 minutes from Villavicencio

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

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

Bosque Bavaria Weather

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

Birding in Bosque Bavaria, Meta

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

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

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

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

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

Butterfly Watching in Bosque Bavaria

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

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

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

Where to Stay near Bosque Bavaria Hotspot

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

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

Recommendations

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

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Bosque Bavaria or Guatiquía Canyon in Meta, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


References


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

9.5% of the Birds of the World: Main Spots for Birdwatching in Caldas

Find here why birdwatching in Caldas is a must! The greatest biodiversity of Colombia is concentrated on the slopes of the north of the Andes, between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level. In fact, it is so huge, that it can even surpass the biogeographic Chocó and the Amazon biodiversity. 

Then, the Andean region is one of the areas with the greatest biological diversity in Colombia, and it is here where the department of Caldas is placed. 

Caldas has 9.5% of the birds of the world 

Caldas has a high richness in birdlife and because of its area, it can be considered as a region with a high concentration of bird species per area, with around 870 bird species reported. 

In addition, 22 of the bird species found in Caldas are endemic and 34 are almost endemic, being one of the departments with higher endemism in the country. The importance of some species lies in both their endemic condition as well as in their threat level.  

The reason why the department of Caldas has such high biodiversity is its geographical location. To be specific, Caldas borders are found between the Cauca and Magdalena rivers, the two largest rivers of Colombia.

Besides this, it is placed on both sides of the Central Andean mountain range and also over the eastern flank of the western Andean mountain range.

As a result, the territory of Caldas has the particularity of featuring very varied ecosystems: from the perpetual snows and páramos to the dry forests of the lower areas of the basins.  

Birding at the heart of the Coffee Triangle  

Caldas region coincides with the optimal area for growing coffee, and many coffee farms can be found there! It is part of the famous Eje Cafetero (Coffee Triangle), with a coffee culture deeply rooted in its people.

Then, although birds are the main motivation for tourists, it also can be the coffee, the hospitality and the typical gastronomy of Caldas. 

Caldas – The Heart of the Coffee Triangle

Society of Ornithology of Caldas (SCO) and Birding Tourism Congress 

Given the great bird richness in the department, birdwatching has been consolidating for over 30 years with the presence of the Society of Ornithology of Caldas (SCO).

The SCO is one of the oldest and largest birding societies in the country. Find out more about SCO and other birding clubs in Colombia in our post Birders’ Clubs and Ornithological Associations in Colombia

Recently, birding tourism has been consolidated in the region with the Avitourism Congress, which in 2018 hosted the VIII South American Bird Fair, and it was attended by 850 participants from 25 countries around the world. 

SCO’s logo honoring the
Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)

Best Places to go for Birdwatching in Caldas 

Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve 

Among the most suitable places for birdwatching, you can find at first place the Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve. This is one of the best bird lodges in Colombia, located in San Peregrino village just 30 minutes from the city of Manizales.

Tinamú Reserve protects a dry forest of 15 ha. at 1.225. m.a.s.l., which is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and a variety of plants and trees.

Tinamu Birding offers great facilities for bird photography, read our entry The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve to know more about this place.  

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)

Río Blanco Forest Reserve 

Another very special place for birdwatching is just three kilometers far from Manizales. Among the cloud forest of the Andes, you will find the Río Blanco Forest Reserve.

At Rio Blanco Reserve you will find around 372 different bird species, of which 13 are endemic, 30 migratory and 13 are threatened. 

The highlight of this place is the facilities for photographing birds, especially drinkers to attract hummingbirds and tanagers, and feeders to attract antpittas.

Brown-banded Antpitta – Grallaria milleri
Blue-capped Tanager – Thraupis cyanocephala
Buff-tailed Coronet – Boissonneaua flavescens
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus somptuosus

Hacienda Venecia Coffee Farm Hotel

Among the farms you can find Hacienda Venecia, a 100 years coffee farm where you can enjoy coffee and chocolate experiences bonded with birding activities.  Know more about Hacienda venecia in our entry Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia.

Birding at Hacienda Venecia

Finca Romelia Colors of Life  

Finca Romelia is a family tourism project where visitors can take pleasure in observing more than 840 species of orchids for an average of 8,000 orchid plants, an interesting variety of bonsai and around 216 species of birds, as well as citrus and avocado production crops.

Orchids at Finca Romelia

Cameguadua and La Esmeralda Reservoirs 

La Esmeralda is owned by the Caldas Hydroelectric Power Plant (CHEC) and has about 40 hectares of forest. It is considered the last remaining forest on the banks of the Cauca River, reported in Caldas, which corresponds to a semi-dry tropical forest with high biodiversity and influence of the river and the reservoir. With about 200 species of birds, it is a site of high ornithological interest. 

Birds of aquatic ecosystems can be found in Cameguadua and La Esmeralda Reservoirs. Cameguadua is located in the municipality of Chinchiná, 30 minutes from the city of Manizales, with two lakes, to the north is the tourist boardwalk and to the south the lake is for recovery. It has patches of forests and isolated trees that make it an attraction mainly for water birds, and there is a pier suitable for bird photography. 

Birding at Cameguadua

National Natural Park Los Nevados 

The best places for high mountain birds are in the National Natural Park Los Nevados, at Brisas-Tucurrumby-La Esperanza sector, where there is a platform, as a facility for the bird observation and photography. 

Besides Brisas, the thematic Park Laguna Negra is another attraction with an imposing lagoon of glacial origin, resting place for migratory species and wild ducks. 

Pale-naped Brushfinch – Atlapetes pallidinucha
Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii

Termales del Ruiz Hotel  

Termales del Ruiz Hotel is a private hidden hotel with amazing spaces for rest and enjoy the incredible Nevado del Ruiz, with ample space for rest and relaxation, meditation, reading and of course, birdwatching! 

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager – Anisognathus igniventris
Shining Sunbeam – Aglaeactis cupripennis

Hacienda El Bosque 

Hacienda El Bosque is a traditional family dairy farm located 30 minutes from Manizales on the road to Bogotá. Its elevation gradient from 2,800 to 3,900 meters allows for varied ecosystems such as pastures for livestock and dairy production and large areas of high Andean forest and paramo.

The natural forest fragments have been protected for over 40 years, allowing the conservation of more than 25 water sources. It has an inventory of 127 species of birds. There you can find special facilities for bird photography.  

Grey-breasted Mountain-toucan – Andigena hypoglauca

Nido del Condor 

El Nido del Cóndor eco-hotel is located on the Condor Route to Los Nevados National Park via Santa Isabel. This place has an alternative, inclusive, and sustainable architecture.

The most special thing about this place is the presence of the nest of a beautiful couple of Andean Condors that fly over the 2 canyons that make up the plateau where this hotel is located. 

Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus

Paraíso Verde 

Paraiso Verde is a lodge near Manizales, inspired in the typical style of a coffee house, with large corridors and railings around it, with an extension of 7 hectares and located at an altitude of 1,950 meters. It presents fragments of very humid premontane forest and has a record of 192 species of birds.

With 200 species of birds and feeders which are ideal for bird photography, the ecohotel has specialized in offering facilities for bird watching and bird photography. It has about 4 km of ecological trails with several points for bird photography. 

Emerald Toucanet – Aulacorhynchus prasinus

Hacienda El Jardin 

Hacienda El Jardín is located 40 minutes from the city of Manizales.  This farm has 70 years of tradition and coffee activity at an altitude of 1,450 m and 100 ha of extension.

Also, the Hacienda has several habitats where birds can be observed including lakes, pastures, fragments of native forests, crops, and reforested areas with native trees, shrubs and flowers.   

Yellow-backed oriole – Icterus chrysater

La Juanita Ecohotel 

La Juanita Ecohotel is specialized in bird watching and has a total area of 4 ha at an altitude of approximately 2,000 m. It is immersed in a very humid premontane forest life zone, and it has trails in the middle of a secondary forest and areas suitable for bird watching.  ~127 species reported. 

Flame-rumped Tanager – Ramphocelus flammigerus

Urban Birding in Manizales 

You can also do urban bird watching in the city of Manizales. Just go to the Ecoparque Alcázares – Arenillo located in the neighborhood of Los Alcazares 5 minutes from downtown. This park has an extension of 33.43 hectares and is located at 2000 m.a.s.l.   

It is a little piece of very humid premontane jungle in the middle of the concrete jungle of Manizales. Its vegetation is characterized by trees of great importance for the fauna of the place like the black Yarumo, Balso panelero, Colombian Pine, Camargo, Arboloco, Espadero, Roble, Cariseco, Arrayán, Encenillo, Silvo Silvo and Manzanillo, mountain coffee bushes, Siete cueros, guayabos and palms of the gender Chamaedorea. There have been reported up to 167 species of birds.

Other places that you can visit in the city of Manizales for birding are the botanical garden of the University of Caldas, the viewpoint of Chipre, the Los Yarumos Ecopark, Kairi Reserve and the hotel Recinto del Pensamiento, among the most prominent. 

Recinto del Pensamiento

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


References 


About the author 

Sara Colmenares 

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