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.

YouTube video player

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.

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.