The Treasure of “El Dorado”: The Guatavita Lagoon

The Guatavita lagoon was one of the most sacred of the Muiscas, since the ritual of investiture of the new Zipa (Cacique- chief) was carried out there. This is one of the origins of the El Dorado Legend. The famous Muisca Raft that is exhibited in the Gold Museum of the Bank of the Republic of Colombia is evidence that this type of ritual was celebrated in the lakes of the region. Find out more about the museums of Colombia in The 117 Museums Guide of Colombia for Culture Travelers travel guide.

Guatavita comes from the Chibcha language GUA-TA-VITA, which translated into Spanish means “tillage of the tip” or “end of the mountain range”, as stated by the linguist Joaquín Acosta Ortegón in his Chibcha dictionary. The Chronicler Fray Pedro Simón, in his “Historical News”, said that Guatavita was called Guatafita, which means “thing set on high”, stating that it was the Spaniards who made the change from F to V to give it more phonetic sweetness to that name.


Origins of El Dorado Legend

According to the Muisca tradition, in Guatavita the cacique Sua was married to a beautiful princess from another tribe. Sua was very fond of chicha and bacchanals, and his wife, with whom he had a daughter, fell in love with a warrior who was courting her.

The lovers were caught by Sua, and he subjected the warrior to horrendous tortures, to the point of taking his heart out and serving it to his wife. The woman fled in despair, took her daughter in her arms and dove with her into the lagoon.

The cacique ordered the priests to recover his family. They informed him that the woman was now living under water, where a large snake had betrothed her. The cacique demanded that his daughter be brought to him, and they brought him a child without eyes. Sua, disheartened, returned her to the waters and ordered that from that day on, the best emeralds and gold filigrees be thrown into the lagoon (if you want to know about filigrees watch our video Santa Fe de Antioquia). The purpose of the ceremony was to beg the queen to ask the gods for prosperity and bonanza for her people.

Every full moon, Guatavita’s snake emerged from the waters to remind the people about the offerings, the priests watched his appearance as a sign of prosperity.

The Golden Indigenous

El Dorado Legend, gold statue at the Gold Museum, Bogotá, Colombia, picture by Pedro Szekely, from flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0. Wikimedia.

With the Spanish invasion, the ritual acquired a new meaning. They were told that a ritual was carried out when a new cacique, usually the nephew, son of a sister of the previous cacique, was in power.

The heir prepared himself within a six years period before the ceremony. He had to purified himself through fasting, and confined himself in a cave where he could not see the sun or eat food with salt or chili.

Some chroniclers have narrated it this way:

“…In that Guatavita lagoon, a great raft of reeds was made, decorated as brightly as possible… They undressed the successor, smeared him with a sticky soil and sprinkled him with gold powder and ground, so that in the raft everything was covered with this metal…

The golden indigenous man made his offering by pouring all the gold and emeralds he carried into the middle of the lagoon, and the four chiefs who went with him did the same. During the way back to land in the raft, they started a party, with bagpipes and “fotutos”, with dances in their own way, with which ceremony they received the new cacique who was recognized as lord and prince …”

From this ceremony was taken that so celebrated name of El Dorado.

The Search for the Treasure

The history of the “golden indigenous” gave rise to the “El Dorado”, a mythical place that the conquistadors sought from the Andes to the Amazon, with such eagerness that within a week, in 1539, three expeditions led by Sebastián de Belalcázar, Nicolás de Federmán ​and Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, from Peru, Venezuela and Santa Marta, respectively, coincided in Guatavita.

There were several attempts to drain the lagoon to find its hidden treasures, among which the most important were that of Captain Lázaro Fonte, who was able to extract several pieces of fine gold, and that of Antonio de Sepúlveda in the 16th century, who also managed to remove emeralds and ceramic pieces.

In 1580, a merchant named Juan Sepulveda employed 5,000 indigenous men and dug a canal to drain it. The water level dropped as much as 20 meters, but then the canal collapsed and the King of Spain refused to continue financing the enterprise. Sepulveda had to abandon, despite having rescued several pieces of filigree and an emerald the size of a fist.

Unsuccessful attempts continued throughout the colony, but the legendary gold continues to fuel treasure hunters’ dreams to this day. In an old German book published in 1911, for example, there is even a photograph, supposedly real, of the totally drained lagoon.

In the book is narrated that some W. Cooper, representative of the English company Contractors Limited, had shown two German tourists photographs of objects taken from the lagoon as rings, snakes, frogs and men’s heads, made of gold. This Cooper told them that the value of the gold found since 1909 amounted to at least 500 pounds, which paid several times the investment of the expedition.

Recovery of Guatavita Lagoon

What is certain is that the Guatavita lagoon, when you visit it for the first time, is smaller than you could imagine… given the size of the legend!. But the sad thing is that this happened after it was emptied of more than half its contents by gold diggers, English and Germans, among others, until the end of the 19th century. These treasure hunters opened a hole in the mountain to drain the water to take out the gold pieces that rested at the bottom of the lagoon.

Fortunately, the failure of all these expeditions appeased the greed of the gold diggers. Initially, the place was reduced to abandonment, and at the beginning of the 21st century the park was closed to the public to try to recover it.

Today, a good part of its splendor has been reborn, with the frailejones, bromeliads, lichens, arnicas and multicolored mosses. The true treasure is the lagoon and the páramos of Colombia, because from there the water flows to all the surrounding regions.

Currently, the lagoon is located in an environmentally protected area where you can access a trail that crosses an impressive mountainous area, full of vegetation and typical species of the Colombian páramo.

We recommend you to visit the Guatavita Lagoon after visiting the Golden Museum in Bogotá. 

How to Get to Guatavita Lagoon

Guatavita town is located 75 kilometers northeast of Bogotá, bordering the municipalities of Sesquilé and Machetá to the north; Gachetá and Junín to the east; Guasca and Sopó to the south; and Tocancipá and Gachancipá to the west.

However, Guatavita Lagoon is 8 km from the road that borders the Tominé reservoir, besides the town.

The Guatavita lagoon today is a Regional Natural Reserve of the System of Protected areas of Colombia. Entrance fee for foreigners is around of 13,000 COP (3.5 USD). After paying, you will be led by a local specialized guide, in small groups, through a natural path along the paramo.

Local guides are from the Muisca community which still inhabits the region.


Accomodation near Guatavita Lagoon

You can find accommodation in the town of Guatavita or in the nearby parks associated with the reservoir circuit that exist throughout the region. This accommodation, offered by the parks, is of the shared cabin type, with a minimum cost of 215,000 COP (60 USD), depending on the number of people.


To enjoy it to the fullest, we recommend you take comfortable, warm and waterproof clothing, as the average temperature of the place is 13ºC and rainfall is frequent. However, none of this will prevent you from having a deep connection with nature and with the ancestral past that this lagoon hides, and that makes it an authentic cultural heritage of the country.

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit Guatavita Lagoon, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


About the author

Sara Colmenares

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

Visit the Mana Dulce Reserve, 50 years Conserving a Humid Enclave in the Tropical Dry Forest

The Tropical dry forest represents 22% of the forests in South America. In Colombia, the tropical dry forest was originally distributed in the regions of the Caribbean plain and the inter-Andean valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers between 0 and 1000 m of altitude. Today it only remains 8% of its original extension.

The Inter Andean Valleys Dry Forest of Colombia

Inter Andean Tropical Dry Forest from ana Dulce Reserve

In the region of the inter-Andean valleys, the tropical dry forest is distributed in the departments of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, and Antioquia, covering approximately 1’650.000 hectares.

The dry forests of the inter-Andean valleys have similar vegetation to the dry forest of the Caribbean plain, suggesting that in a remote past these regions were connected, constituting a corridor to the dry coastal areas of Ecuador and Peru.

There are several woody plant species restricted to the dry forests of inter-Andean valleys. There are also some bird species restricted to this habitat. For the arid zones and tropical dry forest of the inter-Andean valleys of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers the following birds are registered as endemic: Red-legged Tinamou (Crypturellus erythropus), Chestnut-winged Chachalaca (Ortalis garrula), and Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna), which are associated with the tropical dry forest.

Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve

The Mana Dulce Civil Society Nature Reserve is located in the Inter-Andean valley of the Magdalena River, in the department of Cundinamarca. Its distinct avifauna of tropical dry, deciduous forest, only about 3 hours away from Bogota, immediately caught our interest. Its dry climate is appealing and it is the total opposite to the lush and wet forests of Amazonia.

Fifty years ago, Mr. Helio Mendoza saw in the relics of the tropical dry forest of the Alto Magdalena an opportunity to reconnect with nature. He first bought 20 hectares, where he built a colonial house for his family.

Little by little, he completed about 90 hectares full of trees from the tropical dry forest, an almost extinct ecosystem in the country.

Mana Dulce Reserve House

In 2002 the family managed to convert this land into a civil society natural reserve where today an ecotourism project is being carried out. In this place, there are natural caves with bats, viewpoints, trails opened by animals, and a water source in the middle of the tropical dry forest, hence the name of the reserve.

There are trails decorated with native trees such as ceibas and palms more than 150 years old and 30 meters high; a natural spring with 200 years of life; an old stone bridge, which is said to be the third natural stone bridge built in Colombia; the Chimbilacera cave, four meters high and 20 meters deep, where 19 species of bats live; and the viewpoint “Mirador del Indio Malachí”, which offers a panoramic view of the dry forest of the Alto Magdalena.

Birding at Mana Dulce Nature Reserve

As you may have guessed, the avifauna of Mana Dulce Reserve is intriguingly similar to the drier forests of the Caribbean CoastAlthough species diversity is smaller in dry forests than in humid forests, it is a highly interesting ecosystem.

It might not appear at first glance, but this ecosystem is equally threatened by habitat destruction (clearing for cattle pasture, frequent fires) as most other forest types in Latin America. 

We hopped on public transport in Bogota and settled for a 4 days stay. Accommodation is available within the property of the private reserve. Get more information via Facebook. Three meals were included in the modest price.  

The two main birding areas are several easy Loop-tails through the forest of the property, starting just next to the farm, and along the access road to the reserve. There are accessible trails outside the reserve that can be explored. They have much of the same species as the trails within Mana Dulce Reserve. 

A Colombian endemic confined to dry forests of the Magdalena valley: Velvet-fronted Euphonia – Euphonia concinna.

Birding early hours is key, as it gets very hot after 10 o’clockOne of the star attractions is easily seen: The endemic Velvet-fronted EuphoniaIt frequently visits and even nests right next to the main building. 

Colombian Chachalacas (endemic), are easily located by their loud calls. Apical Flycatcher (yes, another endemic) can be found at several sites close to the building. Another main targets are Pheasant Cuckoo which likes to sing at night. Listen for its simple plaintive song here.

Barred Puffbird, Dwarf CuckooRed-billed Scythebill, Greenish ElaeniaCinereous Becard, Lance-tailed Manakin, White-eared Conebill are among the many quality birds to be looked for. 

White-fringed Antwren – Formicivora grisea

White-fringed Antwren, Barred-, Black-crowned AntshrikeJet– and White-bellied Antbirds represent the Thamnophilds.  The drab Tyrannids, Southern Beardless-, Mouse-colored TyrannuletPearly-vented Tody-TyrantPale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant & Euler’s Flycatcher blend perfectly in the barren surrounding. 

Rufous-tailed JacamarRufous-capped Warbler & Orange-crowned Oriole for sure, add some color! 

There are several more common & and widespread species like Whooping MotmotRufous-browed PeppershrikeScrub GreenletBlack-chested Jay & Black-faced Grassquit to keep one entertained. 

White-bellied Antbird – Myrmeciza longipes

Pale-eyed Pygmy-tyrant – Atalotriccus pilaris

Fuscous Flycatcher – Cnemotriccus fuscatus

This reserve is not often visited by tour groups and even individual birders. But its easy access, quality birding, and tranquility make it a prime destination for those who wish to visit a reserve of the well-established birding routes in Colombia. 

  • Tropical Dry Forest of Colombia. Biological Resources Research Institute Alexander von Humboldt.
  • The Tropical Dry Forest in Colombia (Bs-T). Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Biodiversity Inventory Program. Group of Explorations and Environmental Monitoring GEMA. 1998.
  • Semana Rural On-line Journal
About the authors

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. 

Jérôme Fischer

Professional bird guide, swiss native, with more than 32 years of experience guiding hardcore birders and birdwatching tours. Jérôme has been focused on bird identification. He also traveled to many countries,  starting in Switzerland. Then he traveled exploring South America, the most biodiverse continent in the world, becoming specialized in Neotropical birds.

Where to go for Birdwatching in Bogotá? Complete Bogotá Bird Guide

In case you did not know, or if you have only few days in the city of Bogotá, and want to go out for a nature experience, birdwatching in Bogotá can be a great experience. 

Bogotá has a quite ample habitat variation for birds: Native vegetation arranged in forests, stubble, thickets, paramo vegetation and riparian vegetation.

There are also habitats associated to forests and thickets composed by exotic species, semi-arid areas, paddocks and crops, wetlands and lakes and ponds. 

Why does Bogotá has so much habitats for birds?

The answer is because of its bio – geographical position. Bogotá is located in the “Savannah of Bogotá”, which is in the Eastern Andean mountain range of Colombia, in the southern part of the Cundiboyacense plateau.

The Cundiboyacense plateau is the largest plateau in the Colombian Andes, with heights ranging from 2,600 to more than 3,500 meters above sea level. Thus, Bogota was built on the plain that borders the eastern hills of the city.

The Savannah of Bogotá

Historical records tell us that mostly more than 50% of the current territory of the city was covered with wetlands and lagoons. For being a plain of great extension it received the name of Savannah of Bogotá.

But don’t get confused, the “Bogotá Savannah” is not really a savannah as an ecosystem, since the savannahs have as their main characteristic very high temperatures and low rainfall, as in the Serengeti. Here, there are frequent rains and the temperature raises until 23ºC at best.

Suitable Habitat for Birds 

All the Bogotá’s Savannah is a real gem for bird watching lovers. The savannah of Bogotá is an area of ​​biogeographic importance due to the presence of a high level of bird endemism.

The Savannah of Bogotá had a system of natural lagoons and wetlands that functioned as humidity regulators. Currently, some of the remnants of this system still meet this function.

Around the savannah, you can find natural landscapes such as dry forests, cloud forests, desert areas and paramos. Some of these areas have been transformed into crop areas, pastures and urban zones, increasing pollution levels and the presence of invasive species.

Association of Ornithology of Bogotá (ABO)

The birds of Bogotá have been monitored since 1989 by the Association of Ornithology of Bogotá (ABO) with the participation of experts and amateurs interested in the proper management of biodiversity and bird conservation.

This monitoring shows the status of resident and migratory bird populations that live in the city and its near surroundings.

Nature of the Urban Area of Bogotá

In the urban area of Bogotá, there are more than 76,000 hectares included in the District System of Protected Areas which includes wetlands, hills, ecological mountain parks and 4,500 urban parks.

Among the 15 recognized wetlands, 11 have RAMSAR category. Also, in the district of Sumapaz, there is the Páramo of Sumapaz, the largest in the world.

Recent mayors have focused on the importance of nature and biodiversity conservation, thus, nature tourism in Bogotá and its surroundings has been developed as an effective tool for such means, providing activities such as bird watching and hiking.

Bogota Natural Areas. Wetlands Represented in Blue. Image by Bogotá City Hall.

Birds of Bogotá

There are around 235 bird species registered for Bogotá and surroundings, of which 6 are under some degree of threat, 46 are boreal migrants and 7 are endemic (3 species, 4 subspecies).

Bogota Bird Guide

Recently, the mayor’s office of Bogotá and the Tourism Institute of Bogotá published a practical birding guide called “Guía de aves de Bogotá” available in both English and Spanish.

The guide facilitates bird watching in Bogotá, and it  is aimed at people who want to get closer to the world of birds for the first time, for expert observers or photographers who are looking for new places for birding in Bogotá and for national and foreign tourists who want to meet and enjoy activities of bird watching in Bogotá.

The Guía de aves de Bogotá offers information about must-see birds in Bogotá, resident aquatic birds and resident terrestrial birds. It also shows information about status, endemism, distribution, diet and habitat of around 176 birds that can effectively be found in Bogotá.

There is also information about where to birdwatch in Bogotá, the level of difficulty, suggested itineraries, recommendations, good birding practice advice, recommendations for tour operators, contact information and bird checklists.

Despite the useful information you can find in this guide, there are some recommended places that still need to be improved for high quality tourism and bird watching activity, due to the poor infrastructure, high contamination and the high assault risk.

We hope that in the future those issues get resolved. Here there are our suggestions and opinions about the different places you can visit for birding in Bogotá. We also include places that are commonly included in birding itineraries around Bogotá.

Key Bird Species to Watch in Bogotá

Bogota rail – Rallus semiplumbeus

Endangered endemic species. This species is endemic to areas of wetlands and lagoons. It is threatened by the deterioration and decline of its habitat, in addition to being easy prey for feral dogs and cats or pets found in wetlands. It is often heard but difficult to see.

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari (subspecies C. a. Apolinari).

Endangered endemic species. Found in reedbeds around lakes and ponds. After decades of habitat decline, its recent dramatic decline may be associated with breeding parasitism, in which the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) lays its eggs in the wren’s nest, thus decreasing its survival rate. In addition, their territorial habits and sedentary behavior increase their vulnerability.

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – ENDEMIC

Spot-flanked Gallinule – Gallinula melanops (subspecies G. m. bogotensis) / Porphyriops melanops (subspecies P. m. bogotensis)

Endangered endemic species. This subspecies is endemic to the Colombian Andes and is threatened locally as the destruction of wetland ecosystems by urbanization directly affects their populations. The vast majority survive in artificial lagoons near the Bogotá river.


Silvery-throated Spinetail – Synallaxis subpudica

Endemic. This species is considered quite common in its natural habitats: the edges of the mountain forests, the canopy gaps with shrub growth, thickets and hedges, between 2000 and 3200 m of altitude. Quite common in subtropical and temperate undergrowth and thickets, wetlands and adjacent willow copses in Bogotá.

Pale-bellied Tapaculo – Scytalopus griseicollis (subspecies S. g. griseicollis)

Near-Endemic. Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally fairly common in vicinity of Bogotá; tolerates considerable habitat disturbance and fragmentation; the W slope of the E Andes. This subspecies is characterized by a pale grey mantle. Fairly common in Chingaza National Park and also occurs in Sumapaz National Park.

Subtropical Doradito – Pseudocolopteryx acutipennis

Critically Endangered. This bird is very locally in Andes from Colombia, is a yellowish flycatcher of marshy habitats. Rather difficult to see in dense reedbeds of Andean lakes.

Green-bearded Helmetcrest – Oxypogon guerinii 

Endemic. This hummingbird lives at humid open paramo with Espeletia vegetation, sometimes at edge of Polylepis forests; It is considered the bird symbol of the stopped by its bright colors, the sharp white crest and the beard of the males. Occurs at 3000 m to 5200 m.

Green-bearded Helmetcrest – Oxypogon guerinii, female – ENDEMIC

Wetlands in Bogotá

La Florida Regional Park – Lake Sector (La Florida Wetland).

This park has large natural spaces with high environmental value. It is owned by the Capital District and is located in western Bogotá, partially outside its urban perimeter, in the town of La Florida, municipality of Funza and western limit of the town of Engativá, capital district.

La Florida is one of the most prominent parks in the city, which has 267 hectares mostly made up of native forests and foreign species, and has a natural lake, a natural extension of the Jaboque wetland, which houses various endemic and migratory species.

The park is equipped with sports facilities, pedagogical nursery and tree planting which includes papule pines, cypresses, acacias, Quindío wax palms and oaks. 

In the lake, which is part of the wetland ecosystem of Bogotá, tours are made to see endemic birds and migratory birds that inhabit this water reserve. The lake sector was enabled as an area for bird watching, since November 10th 2011, it is currently a place visited by nationals and foreigners. 

The Lake sector has a water mirror partially surrounded by an interpretive path and native aquatic flora, a hide-type bird observatory with a maximum capacity for 10 people and a surveillance service.

Jaboque Wetland

The Jaboque wetland has an advanced restoration and conservation process and several endemic species of the Savannah of Bogotá and the Eastern Cordillera can be observed such as the endemic Bogotá Rail, Silvery-throated Spinetail and Apolinar´s Wren.

Also birds like Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Noble Snipe, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Subtropical Doradito, Black Flowerpiercer, Band-tailed Seadeater, Andean Siskin … ~ 331 species. Checklist

Santa María del Lago Wetland District Ecological Park. Recommended

This is one of the wetlands with the best water quality and most visited in the city, it has a bird observatory, auditorium, bathrooms and good signalization. 

Among the flora of the ecosystem include willows and alders, lemnas, common water hyacinths, rushes and floating pennyworts. In addition to a mixture of acacias, eucalyptus, arrayanes, cherry trees and pink and orange abutilon.

Observation Tower at Santa María del Lago, Bogotá, Colombia Quinta de Simón Bolívar, Bogotá, Colombia ©Fundación Humedales de Bogotá

The fauna of this wetland, includes mammals such as Guinea Pig (Cavia anolaimae), arboreal rice rat (Oeomys speciosus), and fulvous pygmy rice rat (Oligoryzomys fulvescens), the frog Hyla labialis (Hylidae) and the fish Eremophilus mutissii (Trichomycteridae) and Rundulus bogulus (Characidae) considered missing from the wetland.

Key Species of Santa María del Lago

Among bird species it is possible to find Andean Duck (Oxyura ferruginea),  Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors), Black Flowerpiercer (Diglossa humeralis), Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea), Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)  Crimson-backed Tanager (Ramphocelus dimidiatus), Striated Heron (Butorides striata), among other 125 taxa. Checklist


There are some other wetlands in Bogotá which are not recommended to visit because of their localization and safety.

Those are Córdoba Wetland District Ecological Park, La Conejera Wetland District Ecological Park, Juan Amarillo or Tibabuyes Wetland District Ecological Park and Jaboque Wetland District Ecological Park.

Urban Parks of Bogotá

The following are the parks you can find in Bogotá:

  • Botanical Garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis,
  • Simon Bolivar Metropolitan Park,
  • Entrenubes Mountain District Ecological Park,
  • El Gran Chico – El Virrey Corridor Park,
  • Enrique Olaya Herrera National Park,
  • Independence Park, and
  • Quinta de Bolívar House Museum.

We recommend visiting the Botanical Garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis, Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park and Quinta de Bolívar House Museum for bird watching.

The other parks are more suitable for recreational or sporting activities.

Botanical Garden of Bogotá José Celestino Mutis

The Botanical Garden of Bogotá is the first and most important research and conservation center of Colombian vegetation, with an emphasis on Andean flora.

It is the main refuge of biodiversity in Bogotá, the living collection of the Botanical Garden houses about 54,884 individuals, 304 families, 469 genera, 903 species and individuals of representative plants of the Andean ecosystems and the moorland.

This Collection is a source of research, conservation of diversity and education in the region and the country.

Great Thrush – Turdus fuscater, Botanical Garden of Bogotá

The ecosystems currently represented are high Andean forest and moorland, with which it is sought to represent native species of the altitudinal range between 2,800 and 3,250 meters above sea level.

It is important to highlight that they work in the construction of the largest Tropicario in Colombia and, possibly, the most imposing in Latin America, where they also have a projection to house 900 individuals of 200 species, distributed in different environments such as useful Plants; CEPAC (Specialized Collections for Conservation); Tropical Dry Forest (bsT); Humid Forest (Amazonia and biogeographic Chocó) and Superparamo. Checklist

Simon Bolívar Metropolitan Park

The Simon Bolivar Metropolitan Park is the largest and most important urban park in the city of Bogotá, located in the geographic center of Bogotá.

Although the metropolitan park is made up of several parks, people from Bogotá tend to refer to each of these parks separately and do not associate them with a single “megapark.”

Currently, it is considered the “lung of the city”, for its strategic location in the heart of the city, for its wide vegetation and large size of its green areas.

Key Species at Simón Bolívar Park

There are several species of native plants that house urban bird species such as rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) or the Great thrush (Turdus fuscater). Due to the presence of large lakes, it is also possible to observe water birds such as herons.

Quinta de Bolívar House Museum

The history of Quinta de Bolívar dates back to 1670. It was a villa that was later given to Simon Bolivar as a sign of gratitude for the services provided to the cause of independence.

Bolivar was its owner for ten years although he lived there only for 423 days. Since 1820, when Bolivar received the villa as a gift, the house began to be prepared to serve as a room for the then President of the Republic.

Quinta de Simón Bolívar, Bogotá, Colombia ©CC

Today it works as a museum, although the historic house and its surroundings (restored between 1992 and 2000) were never designed to serve as a museum.

It is since then that this Cultural Property of National Character (former National Monument) is configured as one of the 5 museums of the Ministry of Culture in Bogotá.

Key Species at Quinta de Bolívar

Due to its proximity to Monserrate and the eastern hills, and thanks to the gardens planted with trees and shrubs native to the high Andean forests, it is possible to find an interesting birdlife visiting the place including hummingbirds, tanagers and warblers. Checklist

Eastern Hills of Bogotá

There are several trails for hiking around Bogotá, in the eastern Hills as follows:

  • Monserrate trail, San Francisco,
  • The Vicacha River Trail,
  • The Old Creek Trail,
  • The Aguadora Hill Trail,
  • The Delights Creek Trail.

However, the most suitable for bird watching is the Monserrate trail.

Monserrate, Bogotá, Colombia

When looking up from any point in the city, it is impossible not to run into that hill that, from its 3,152 meters above sea level, watches Bogotá.

The hill of Monserrate is the quintessential symbol of Bogotá, the capital of Colombians. Located at 3152 meters above sea level, it houses the sanctuary of  Señor Caído de Monserrate, a place of pilgrimage of nationals and foreigners, surrounded by lush vegetation and from where you can see the best landscape of the Bogota savannah.

The stone path by which you can reach the top, opens at 6 in the morning to receive pilgrims and athletes from all over. Along the route different species of birds can be found in an altitude gradient of more than 600 meters.

Key Species of the Eastern Hills of Bogotá

Here it is possible to find high-mountain species such as Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant (Ochthoeca fumicolor), Mountain Wren (Troglodytes solstitialis), Blue-backed Conebill (Conirostrum sitticolor), Glossy Flowerpiercer (Diglossa lafresnayii), Black Flowerpiercer (Diglossa humeralis), White-sided Flowerpiercer (Diglossa albilatera), Rusty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa sittoides), Bluish Flowerpiercer (Diglossa caerulescens), Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea), Black-capped Hemispingus (Kleinothraupis atropileus), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus igniventris), Andean Guan (Penelope montagnii) and more than 15 species of hummingbirds. Checklist

Páramo in Bogotá

Buffer zone on the road to the Sumapaz National Natural Park.

The Sumapaz National Natural Park is located at the Sumapaz district of Bogotá. It covers approximately 43% of the largest complex of paramos in the world.

It is considered one of the richest areas in high altitude Colombian genera and species, as it has a large number of organisms, many of them endemic. This fact makes the Park an important reservoir of biological, ecological and genetic diversity.

Paramo de Sumapaz

The park also contributes to the water supply system of Bogotá and to multiple aqueducts of Cundinamarca and Meta departments. It is a provider of water regulation services with rivers such as Tunjuelo, Sumapaz and Ariari and its numerous lagoons that allow, among other things, the development of important crops in the Orinoquia, also supporting biodiversity habitat.

Main ecosystems 

Two of the main tropical mountain ecosystems are represented in the Sumapaz National Natural Park: the páramo and the Andean forests.

In the páramo, there are three basic types of environments: sub-páramo, proper páramo and superpáramo (Cuatrecasas 1958 taken from Pedraza-Peñalosa et al., 2004). The Andean forest is divided into high Andean, Andean and sub-Andean forest vegetation following elevation.

Key Species of Sumapaz

Among the key species, it is possible to find endemic and near endemic species such as:

  • Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus),
  • Green-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii),
  • Apolinar´s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari),
  • Bronze-tailed Thornbill (Chalcostigma heteropogon),
  • Pale-bellied Tapaculo (Scytalopus griseicollis), 
  • Rufous-browed Conebill (Conirostrum rufum),
  • Silvery-throated Spinetail (Synallaxis subpudica),
  • Noble Snipe (Gallinago nobilis), and both
  • Scarlet-bellied (Anisognathus igniventris) and Hooded (Buthraupis montana) Mountain-Tanagers.

However, the target here is the Green-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii). 

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.