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

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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.