14 Unique Monkeys you Cannot Miss in Colombia

Colombia is one of the countries with the largest diversity of monkeys. It is ranked as the sixth country in the world, and the third in the region after Brazil and Peru. Such diversity is associated to Colombia’s geographic location and topography.

Colombian primate species, aka Colombian monkeys,  are a good example of Neotropical monkeys, since we have representatives of the three families recognized for the American continent: Cebidae, Pithecidae and Atelidae. The department with the largest number of species is Cauca, since it includes Andean, Chocó and Amazonian Piedemont areas, each of these regions usually has some particular species.

Below you will know and discover some of the most unique monkeys that you can find in Colombia.

Discovering the endemic monkeys of Colombia

Brumback’s night monkey – Aotus brumbacki

Brumback’s Night Monkey – Aotus brumbacki

Where to find it: Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Cundinamarca, Meta, Vichada

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Habitat: inhabits at low altitudes in Colombian Eastern Plains, usually in dense forest, fragmented forest, gallery forest and riparian forest.

It is also found in a small part of Apure State, Venezuela. Its western range extends from the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera between the Arauca River to the north and the Guaviare River to the south.

They are nocturnal animals, being mainly active on full moon nights. During the day they take refuge mainly in tree hollows to rest. They are monogamous and congregate in groups of 3 to 5 individuals.

Hernández-Camacho’s night monkey – Aotus jorgehernandezi

Where to find it:  Habitat: Quindio and Risaralda, it is possible that it occurs in Tatamá Natural National Park.

Conservation status: Data deficient.

Habitat: dense forest, fragmented forest, gallery and riparian forest and secondary or transitional vegetation.

It is a nocturnal species, first described in 2007 by Thomas Defler and Marta Bueno, two of the most important primatologists of Colombia.

This monkey has a gray neck and a white spot over each eye, separated by a black band. The skin on the chest, belly, lower arms and lower wrists is thick and black.

Gray-handed night monkey – Aotus griseimembra

Where to find it:  Sinú River, including the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Magdalena River, Cauca River and Sao Jorge River valleys. It can be found in the border with Venezuela near to Maracaibo.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Habitat: tropical dry forest. It is arboreal and nocturnal.

This little monkey eats fruits, flowers, leaves, nectar, and insects. A curious fact of this monkey is that it is monogamous, and communicates visually. Also, male and female are identical. The Gray-handed night monkey is an important dispersor of seeds and are also potential pollinators for trees, and it is used by scientists as a model because it is resistant to VIH-1.

The hair on the back of the hands and feet is the color of light coffee with darker hair tips, a key distinguishing feature from other A. lemurinus subspecies.

Varied white-fronted capuchin – Cebus versicolor

Where to find it:  Middle and high Magdalena Valley.

Habitat: Lowland moist forest and palm swamps in the Río Magdalena Valley of northern Colombia

Conservation status: Endangered.

It was classified as a subspecies of the white-fronted capuchin (C. albifrons) but genetic analysis revealed it to be a separate species.

Santa Marta white-fronted capuchin – Cebus malitiousus

Where to find it:  Magdalena

Conservation status: Endangered

Habitat: The habitat where this species can be seen is in Mosaic of crops with natural spaces Gallery and riparian forest.

This primate is a medium-sized monkey, is characterized by a color that is rather dark brown over almost the entire body with yellowish shoulders.

It is omnivorous, feeding mainly on fruits, invertebrates, other plant parts and sometimes small vertebrates.

Colombian black-handed titi – Cheracebus medemi

Where to find it:  Putumayo and Caquetá.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Habitat: Inhabits tropical rainforest in southern Colombia, and this is one of the species most affected by climate change. They live in family groups and are monogamous.

The Colombian black-handed titi is territorial, and vocalizes loudly when couples from other groups enter their own territory.

Their diet consists mainly of fruits. To a lesser degree they also eat other parts of plants and insects.

Ornate titi – Plecturocebus ornatus

Where to find it:  Caquetá.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: This species can be seen in the following habitats: Dense forest, fragmented forest Secondary or transitional vegetation Mosaic of crops, pastures and natural spaces Gallery and riparian forest.

It is a miniature monkey with a graceful red beard, discovered in the Colombian jungle. Its fur is grayish-brown, it does not have a white band on its forehead and is the size of an average domestic cat.

They have one offspring per year and, when the offspring arrive, the parents usually force the eldest of the offspring to leave the group, to concentrate their attention on the newborn. Family groups of this species stay together in groups of up to four individuals.

Caqueta Tití – Plecturocebus caquetensis

The Caquetá Titi Monkey (Plecturocebus caquetensis) (Illustration: Stephen D. Nash)

Where to find it:  Caquetá.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: It usually inhabits the humid forests between the Caquetá and Orteguaza rivers, in the northwestern Amazon, southern Colombia.

Its body measures between 35 cm in length and its tail 61 cm, weighs between 800 and 1400 g. Their body fur is abundant and reddish on the neck; the end of the tail is black with white tips.

They are monogamous and form small groups of 3 to 6 and preferably 4 individuals.

White-footed tamarin – Saguinus leucopus 

Where to find it:  Confined to restricted forest patches in the Magdalena River valley towards the center and north of Colombia, particularly in the departments of Antioquia, Bolívar and Tolima; between 0 to 1600 m.a.s.l.

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Habitat: This primate is found in dry tropical, humid tropical, very humid tropical and very humid premontane forest (under the Holdridge scheme). This species uses different types of habitat: primary forest and secondary forest with several years of regeneration, preferably using primary forest.

The White-footed tamarin is very similar in appearance to the cotton-top tamarin, from which it is separated by the Atrato. Its average weight is 440 grams. These primates are diurnal and arboreal, active and agile. They move constantly and quickly between trees, and can jump up to four meters between them.

The back is pale silvery brown, or yellowish white variegated with brown. The face is almost naked with some thin white hairs. The forehead is whitish, as well as the area from the crown of the head to the ears.

Groups range in size from 2 to 15 individuals.

Cotton-top tamarin – Saguinus oedipus

Cotton-top tamarin – Saguinus oedipus

Where to find it: Atlántico, Bolivar, Sucre, Córdoba, Antioquia.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: Found only in the northern region of Colombia in tropical dry forests.

Squirrel-sized, they also have white chests and bellies, while their backs and tails are covered with long black and brown fur. They have claw-like nails, which are essential for jumping from one tree to another.

They feed through the middle layer of the canopy in search of the fruits and insects that make up much of their diet. The Cotton-top tamarin form social family groups that include breeding parents, their adult offspring and even unrelated adults that have migrated into the group.

Interesting Endemic subspecies

Colombian woolly monkey – Lagothrix lagothricha lugens

Where to find it:  Amazonia and Orinoquia Regions.

Conservation status: Critically endangered

Habitat: it can be found in dense forest, fragmented forest and open forest.

It is a large species among the New World monkeys. The body length ranges between 45 and 55 cm, the tail is longer than the body and measures between 60 and 65 cm; the average weight is between 7 to 10 kg, larger males can have a muscular body, with well-developed arms and tails. They are obligate frugivores, completing their diet with immature leaves, their main function in the forest is the dispersion of seeds.

They usually live in groups of 20 to 24 individuals, for their rest periods they look for tall trees to sleep 25 to 30 meters high.

Hernández-Camacho’s Black-mantled Tamarin – Leontocebus nigricollis hernandezi

Where to find it: Amazonas, Caquetá, Cauca, Cauca, Huila, Meta, Nariño, Putumayo

Conservation status: Least concern

Habitat: Found in a wide variety of habitats: secondary vegetation, isolated patches of forest, seasonally flooded forest and inland non-flooded forest up to an altitude of approximately 500 meters above sea level.

Head-body length ranges from 175 to 270 mm, while its tail reaches 250 to 383 mm; it weighs between 338 and 436 g. Females are slightly heavier than females. Females are slightly heavier than males. Their diet is based on insects and fruits.

Colombian squirrel monkey – Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena

Where to find it:  Amazonia and Upper Orinoco

Conservation status: Least concern

Habitat: It is one of the best known monkeys in Colombia due to its wide distribution, its adaptability to highly disturbed or urban environments.

The body with the head reaches 25 to 37 cm in length in the male and up to 34 cm in the female; the tail is 38 to 45 cm long in the male and up to 43 cm in the female; it weighs between 550 and 1,200 gr.

Their diet is based on insects and ripe fruits, so they spend most of the day moving among the branches in search of food, they are social and arboreal animals, and rarely travel on the ground. Females give birth to 1 or 2 young after a gestation period, which lasts between 150 to 170 days.

Varied Capuchin – Cebus versicolor cesarea

Where to find it:  Cesar, Magdalena, Bolivar, Santander, Boyacá, Caldas, and Cundinamarca.

Conservation status: Critically endangered.

Habitat: it inhabits mosaics of crops with natural spaces, gallery and riparian forest, and dense forest. It is an arboreal and diurnal animal, however, they come down to the ground more often than most New World monkeys.

They feed on many types of food including fruits, plant material, invertebrates and in some cases small vertebrates. They are medium-sized animals weighing between 1.5Kg and 4Kg, with an average adult length between 33.5cm and 45.3cm (excluding the tail), with the male being about 27% larger than the female.

What Can be Done to Conserve Primates in Colombia?

Half of Colombia’s primates are at some level of threat to their survival and little effort is being invested to protect them. This situation is serious, considering the decisions that need to be made for the future of primates, which are an extremely important part of Colombia’s forest ecosystems.

The Atlas of primate biodiversity published by the Humboldt Institute tells us that the loss of the distribution area of endemic primates is a recurrent pattern in the country, some of them have lost between 8 and 68% of their potential and natural distribution.

Avoiding the destruction of forests and minimizing hunting are the main actions that can help their conservation. It is also important to monitor populations and carry out forest restoration projects, generate biological corridors and protect habitat in the most important areas for their populations.

Recently, researchers from the University of Caldas confirmed the presence of a nocturnal monkey in the department of Nariño, which could be a new species. Also in the south of Meta there is a species of marmoset that has a similar appearance to Plecterocebus caquetensis… This means that perhaps in Colombia there are still monkey species to be discovered!.

Nature tourism is also a help since it serves as a tool for the education of human populations around the habitats of these species, which they begin to learn about and care for. Learn about Conocer para Conservar initiative in the Primatology Association of Colombia website.

If you want to see monkeys in Colombia, contact us and we will help you plan the best trip!

  • http://www.humboldt.org.co/
  • https://www.asoprimatologicacolombiana.org/
  • https://www.itis.gov/
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.

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

From a Cursed Island to a Paradise: Gorgona Island National Natural Park

In the early to mid last century, prison islands were all the rage. One of the most famous was Alcatraz, in San Francisco (United States) of which many books and movies were written, such as the famous Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood. There were many in the Atlantic, but all of them were inhabited. In Colombia, the uninhabited Gorgona Island, in the Pacific, was the perfect place to create a prison where more than 4,000 prisoners served their sentences.

Around the decade of the 80’s, 70% of the Gorgona island was deforested, as 10 tons of firewood were used weekly to cook for more than a thousand people. Fortunately, the ecological wave that rising everywhere, saved this unique and magical place from being completely wiped out.

Today it is known as the Gorgona National Natural Park, a spectacular place to visit, which, according to biologist Mateo Lopez, it serves as a barrier against climate change. It rains so much that the water production is immense, forming 75 streams in winter. Besides this, in Gorgona there are unique species such as the spectacular blue anole (Anolis gorgonae). This is a small Galapagos, but in Colombia!

Discovering Gorgona National Natural Park

Gorgona National Natural Park, made up of three islets,  is on the Pacific Ocean in the western part Colombia, between the island of Malpelo and the port of Buenaventura. This small paradise has an extension of about 26 km² of land  and 616.88 km² of marine area.

Gorgona has one of the most beautiful and complex ecosystems on the planet. It is possible to appreciate a tropical rainforest, beautiful coral formations and Indo-Pacific coral reefs. During the months of June and October it is possible to appreciate the migration of humpback whales, which come to this point to give birth to their calves, named ballenatos in Spanish.

A little bit of Gorgona’s History

The Sindagua native (precolonial aborigins) inhabited Gorgona around 1500 a.c. By 1526 the island was discovered by the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro who gave the island its modern name “Gorgona” thanks to the large number of snakes on the island, recalling the Greek mythology, where the gorgons instead of wearing hair carried snakes.

In 1959 the president of Colombia Alberto Lleras Camargo ordered the construction of a maximum-security prison, which opened in 1960. The main house of the Payan family, who lived on the island, was modified to be the prison administration.

In 1984 President Belisario Betancur closed the prison and authorized the house to be turned into a museum. The island was then declared a protected area designated for scientific research.  Entry since then was restricted, but nowadays is open for ecotourism.

Pirates in Gorgona Island

It is estimated that in the centuries XVII and XVIII Gorgona was the refuge of pirates, because it was considered a privileged point to set full sail to attack the galleons returning to Europe from the colonies with large amounts of gold. After the attacks they sailed up the seas to Panama.

La Virgen, old prison reminders in Gorgona, Colombia CC Licence

Gorgona Prison Escape Stories

Daniel Camargo Barbosa, known as the “Monster of the Mangones” was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a nine years old girl in Barranquilla. After his capture it was learned that in his home he had a record (photographs and underwear) of 170 girls and women from Colombia and Ecuador whom he raped and murdered.

On November 23, 1984 it was confirmed that “Camargo”, as he was known, did not return to the patio number 2 where he was confined and no more information was obtained from him after the weekly bath that the prisoners had on the beach.

3 days later they found a boat destroyed at the shore and thought that sharks had killed the Camargo.  An order  to suspend the “search mission” was issued and the version that the “fugitive had died in his escape attempt” was officially released.

The prison had so far 21 records of escape attempts but none of these men were found alive. The traces of the bodies were found in the remains of the boats in the middle of the ocean.

The only escape that was confirmed much later was that of Pedro Ariza and his nephew Alberto Lopez,  together with their dog Jacqueline. They all managed to survive because they were rescued by a crew of tourists who took them to the port of Buenaventura.

Gorgona Island as a Protected Area

Gorgona Island currently belongs administratively to the municipality of Guapi, Cauca. The protected area consists of the islands Gorgona and Gorgonita, and the islets El Viudo and El horno.

The island is the largest in the world in terms of freshwater production, with 25 freshwater streams and 120 transient streams. The island also has 2 lagoons Tunapurí and Ayantuna, located on the southeastern side of the island, and are home to babillas (small size alligator type reptiles).

The highest point of the island is La Trinidad with a height of 338 meters above sea level. There are additionally  3 other small hills of lower altitude: Los Micos, La Esperanza and El Mirador.

Blue anole – Anolis gorgonae by Diego Gomez

Importance for Conservation and Local Communities

Gorgona Island is an important coastal marine conservation enclave in the Colombian Pacific. Due to its environmental characteristics, the biological diversity on Gorgona Island is considerable. As of 2004, 715 plant species and 1398 animal species had been reported, without considering terrestrial invertebrates and zooplankton species (UAESPNN, 2004). Among these, six endemic species stand out:

  • Nhotria gorgonensis (marine worm),
  • Maldane gorgonensis (marine worm),
  • Hypobolosera gorgonensis (lung crab),
  • Dyrmaeus gorgoniensis (land snail),
  • Parides gorgoniensis (butterfly),
  • Anolis gorgononae (blue anole),

And six endemic subspecies:

  • Thamnophilus punctatus gorgonae (Black-crowned Antshrike),
  • Coereba flaveola gorgonae (bananaquit),
  • Cyanerpes cyaneus gigas (Red-legged honeycreeper),
  • Cebus capucinus curtus (Colombian white-faced capuchin),
  • Bradypus variegatus gorgonae (Brown-throated sloth), and
  • Proechimys semispinosus gorgonae (Tome’s spiny rat).

Additionally, of the total number of flora and fauna species that have been reported for Gorgona Island, at least six plant species and 40 animal species are classified with some degree of threat according to the IUCN categories.

In addition to the high diversity of species and ecosystems, Gorgona Island fulfills a strategic function for the coastal human communities near its area of influence, since it was traditionally used as an artisanal fishing area.

How to get to Gorgona National Natural Park


Take a 45- minutes flight from Bogotá to Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 3- hours ride to Buenaventura. Once at Buenaventura port  you should take an extra 12-hour boat ride to Gorgona.


Take a 45- minutes flight from Bogotá to Palmira city. Once at the airport, take a flight to Guapi with Satena airline. Finally, from Guapi you should take an extra 1,5-hour boat ride to Gorgona.

What to do in Gorgona National Natural Park

Diving and snorkeling

Gorgona Island is a wonderful place for diving and snorkeling thanks to the great variety of marine fauna and flora species, including whitetip sharks, turtles of different species, groupers, octopus, large schools of snappers, jacks, among others, along with the beautiful and colorful coral reefs found on the island.

The park has 12 authorized dive sites with a maximum depth of 40 meters; the most recognized are: El planchón; La tiburonera; El remanso; La parguera; La plaza de toros; El horno and Las montañitas.

These areas have the optimal conditions for a unique experience. Bear in mind that in order to dive in this waters you need to have certified experience.

Hiking and Trekking

Hiking is the most exciting activity in Gorgona National Natural Park. You can hike along 4 trails: Antiguo Penal, Playa Palmeras, Yundigua y Higueron. This activity allows you to admire majestic landscapes among a paradisiacal tropical jungle while admiring the place that was once a prison.

Gorgona & Gorgonilla by Hector Chirimia Gonzalez


In Gorgona the most representative birds are the frigate bird, the pelican and the sulas. Other species of birds from Malpelo island that can be seen during the traveler’s stay are: the Red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) nesting in Malpelo, Galapagos and California; the Pomarine and Long-tailed jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus and S. longicaudus); the Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus iherninieri), the sooty shearwater (P. griseus), and the black storm petrel (Oceanodroma melania).

Wildlife Observation

The coral formations of the island are divided into sectors: La Ventana is the one with the largest coral extension (73.2%), followed by Playa Blanca (66.4%) and finally La Camaronera and La Azufrada (44.15%). Corals present in Gorgona belong to 18 different species of a group of 6 reef families.

The park has a record of 381 species of marine fish, 11 species of whales and dolphins, and 4 sea lions. In the second half of the year it is possible to see humpback whales, despite the possible rains.

Where to stay in Gorgona National Natural Park

Gorgona natural national park offers simple accommodation for travelers. In addition, the island has the beautiful Hotel Parque Nacional Gorgona, where you can enjoy wonderful facilities and an afternoon swim at a pool.

Best time to visit Gorgona National Natural Park

The climate on Gorgona Island is tropical maritime super-humid. Air temperature is generally above 26°C while relative humidity reaches 90% saturation. Average monthly precipitation ranges between 180 mm to 400 mm during the “dry” season (January-March) and between 550 mm to 750 mm during the “rainy” season (April-December).

Gorgona Island can be visited all year round, there is no dry season but the months with less rainfall are February and March. 

Gorgona National Natural Park Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 13,500 (approx.USD 4)
  • Colombians, resident foreigners and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 22,000 (approx.USD 7)
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 53,000 (approx.USD 17)
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Gorgona National Natural Park

  • To take any of the tours inside the sanctuary you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
  • Gorgona is one of the mating, breeding and feeding sites of the humpback whale. For this reason observing whales must be done under supervision of authorized guides;
  • Consider wearing personal protective items (sun blocker, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Recommended the use of binoculars to admire animals’ behavior and beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance. It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

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.

Ultimate Travel Guide to the Utría National Natural Park

Discover the natural wonders of Utría National Natural Park in Colombia. It is possible to admire a series of mountainous spurs covered with exuberant tropical jungle, and bathed by the mysterious waters of the Pacific Sea. Its landscapes can be described with rainforest, mangroves, and gray beaches, and it is an ideal place for whale watching in Colombia.

Discovering Utría National Natural Park

This park locates in the Biogeographic Choco Forest, belonging to the Baudo mountain range, in the north of the Colombian Pacific coast, in the department of Choco. This region is known worldwide to be the rainiest, and it is also an important biodiversity hotspot.

The park has a unique peaceful boat ride way inset to the sounds of the jungle. A beautiful lagoon of marine water surrounded by mangroves and gray beaches welcomes you.

At Utría, you can evidence a fracture of the earth generated millions of years ago. This fracture allows seawater to flow for 7km inland.

The Baudó mountain range gives rise to the Boroboro, Jurubidá, Baudó, Chori and Bojayá rivers, as well as the giant Caribbean and Pacific hydrographic areas. The hydrographic representation of this area is 2,242 MMC.


This protected area has 7 of the 10 species of mangroves and hidden rocky cliffs reaching heights of 1,400 meters above sea level. Depending on the season, mangrove roots protrude like land animals at low tide. When the tide rises, roots hide underwater, serving as a shelter for water animals that visit to mate.

The diversity of the park makes it a magical place to appreciate diverse environments and ecosystems. The contrast of tropical rainforest and reefs makes the flora and fauna of this protected area quite unique and diverse.


Utría is a territory populated by two communities that are strategic allies for the conservation and protection of the park.

On one side, the “Embera” natives, which live within the jungles of the province of Chocó, keeping their cultural traditions intact. Their presence is also noticeable in the provinces of Antioquia, Risaralda, Quindio, Caldas, Valle, Cauca, Cordoba, Putumayo, Caquetá and Nariño.

On the other side, the black afro-Colombian communities of the Pacific coast that are known for developing economic activities related to the art of the sea and are the ones that have the most contact with visitors of this protected area.

How to get to Utría National Natural Park

Bogotá-Medellín-Bahía Solano

Take a flight to Rionegro José María Córdoba (JMC) airport in Medellín. Take a taxi ride to Medellin´s alternative Olaya Herrera airport (OH) at the city center, about 40 minutes away.

From Olaya Herrera, you can take a flight to Bahia Solano using Colombia’s national airline, Satena. Finally, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Bogotá-Quibdo-Bahía Solano

Take a 1-hour flight from Bogotá to El Caraño Airport (UIB) at Quibdo city. Once at the airport, you have to take a flight to Bahia Solano with Satena Airline. Finally, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Cali-Buenaventura-Bahía Solano

Take a 145-minute flight from Bogotá to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 3-hour ride to Buenaventura.

In Buenaventura, take a 6 hours boat trip to Bahia Solano. Lastly, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Although these three routes exist, we recommend the Medellin-Bahia Solano route because it is the safest.

What to do in Utría National Natural Park

Utría National Natural Park is currently closed. Those who wish to visit Utría and carry out ecotourism activities may do so in the day trip mode, that is, enter the protected area in the morning and leave at the time arranged by the park.

The staff of Utría National Natural Park is the only one in charge of registering at the park’s entrance, giving induction talks, explaining the authorized sites, and providing recommendations for any activity within the protected area.

Utría National Natural Park, known as the ‘cradle of whales’, continues its whale season without any setbacks, as in previous years.

Hiking and Trekking

Hiking along any of the 3 available trails is the most exciting activity in Utría National Natural Park:

  • Cocalito Trail, the round trip is about 1 km, 1 hour and it’s of moderate level of difficulty.
  • Estero Grande Trail, the round trip is about 611 m, 40 minutes, low level of difficulty.
  • Water trip, about 1.1 km long, with a low degree of difficulty; it can be done by canoeing at high tide.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving at Punta Esperanza and Punta Diego, an ecosystem rich in coral formations and marine life is a must-do. At Playa Blanca, there is a marked snorkeling area. Diving programs, rental equipment, and facilities are available on site.

Wildlife Observation in Utría

Utría hosts unique ecosystems on the planet and is ideal for observing a great amount of native fauna and flora. Regarding mammals, at the Utría Natural National Park it is possible to observe:

  • Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca centralis),
  • Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis),
  • Gray-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus zonalis),
  • Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi),
  • Mantled howler (Alouatta palliata),
  • Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii),
  • White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari),
  • Tamarins (Saguinus sp.),
  • Colombian white-faced capuchin (Cebus capuccinus),
  • Margay (Leopardus wiedii),
  • Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata),
  • Common opossum (Didelphys marsupialis),
  • South American coati (Nasua nasua),
  • Lowland paca (Cuniculus paca),
  • Red brocket (Mazama americana),
  • Tayra (Eira barbara) y
  • Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Chloepus hoffmanni)

With regards to marine life, it is worth noting that this point of the Pacific is ideal for animal mating and the birth of the amazing humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Orcas, or killer whales (Orcinus orca), and sperm whales or cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus).

Ocypode gaudichaudii, also known as the painted ghost crab or cart driver crab. Huina Beach, Bahía Solano, Chocó.

The area has 105 species of decapod crustaceans, where the painted ghost crab (Ocypode gaudichaudii) is a predominant species. There is also the presence of bivalves such as the Hacha (Pinna rugosa) and “piangua” (Anadara spp.), and mollusks such as the Eastern Pacific giant conch (Titanostrombus galeatus).

It is also possible to see endangered species of sea turtles on the beaches such as the olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

Bird Watching

Around 270 species of birds may be observed in Utria National Natural Park, being the most diverse watching spot in the area. The endemic birds in the Utria park are:

  • Choco tinamou or Chocó tinamou (Crypturellus kerriae)
  • The Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja)
  • Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)
  • The Great Curassow (Crax rubra)

Other bird species are Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), Tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), Yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and many migratory shorebirds.

Where to stay in Utría National Natural Park

Utría National Natural Park offers shared accommodations within the Park. Additional accommodation alternatives are available close by. Our suggested choices are:

  • Ecolodge El Almejal is located in Bahia Solano, 24 km away from the protected area.
  • Hotel Costa Choco is in Bahia Solano, 30 km away from the protected area.
  • Coco Loco Lodge is in Bahia Solano, 23 km away from the protected area.

Best time to visit the Utría National Natural Park

Humpback whale watching season happens between July and November. Note that at Utría it rains for approximately 300 days a year, and October is considered the rainiest month.

Utría National Natural Park Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 13,000
  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 55,000
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Utría National Natural Park

  • To take any of the tours inside the park you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
  • Consider wearing personal protective items (sun blocker, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Recommended the use of binoculars to admire animals’ behavior and beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance. It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you. It’s never enough to carry a personal medicine kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Beginners Route Top 9 Birds of Colombia: From the Caribbean to the Andes

While in the world there are more or less 10,000 species of birds, Colombia has around 2000! I know, it is a huge number. But don’t worry, here I will tell you which birds to start with if you are coming for the first time to Colombia to watch birds.

Also, this guide may help you if you don’t have much experience with birding, or if you don’t feel like traveling to difficult or remote destinations. Moreover, if you are not sure about your birding style, visit our entry What Kind of Birder You Think You Are – Birding Colombia, and find out the best birding trip options for you.

The Beginners Route to the Top 9 Birds of Colombia

You will see these spectacular birds in places that are equally interesting, varied and fun. Besides, with the excuse of knowing these birds, you will be visiting half of the country, from the Caribbean to the Andes.

First Stop: The Caribbean

Start your trip visiting La Guajira and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Find out more information about birding in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Regarding La Guajira and the Caribbean Dry Forest birding destinations, please visit our entry Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia.

1. Vermilion Cardinal

Vermilion Cardinal – Cardinalis phoeniceus

This is a bird endemic to the Colombian Caribbean and Venezuela. In Colombia, it is found only in the dry forests of La Guajira.

It is a very easy bird to observe. You will spend a fantastic day in the company of a local indigenous guide from the Wayuu community. Plus: Lunch at the beach!

If you have enough time, you can visit the Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, another beautiful attraction of the region.

Where to Stay: Hotel Taroa

2. Santa Marta Brush-finch

Santa Marta Brushfinch – Atlapetes melanocephalus

This is an endemic bird of Colombia that lives in the shrubby edges of the rainforest and secondary forests, between 1,500 and 3,200 m  (4921 – 10498 ft) of altitude, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Knowing this bird may be one of the best excuses to visit the Sierra Nevada. Besides, it is a bird that has become very comfortable with the presence of tourists.

Although it is not recommended, if you throw it pieces of bread or fruit, it will approach without a doubt. It may even land on your hands just to eat!

Where to Stay: El Dorado Bird Lodge

Second Stop: Santander

Santander is an adventure destination by tradition. There you can find the Chicamocha Canyon, one of the largest in South America. There is also the town of San Gil, the cradle of extreme adventure tourism in Colombia.

3. White-mantled Barbet

White-mantled Barbet – Capito hypoleucus ©CC 2.0 Ron Knight

This is another endemic bird of Colombia, and its distribution is associated with the Magdalena Valley. It can be seen in many places of Antioquia, Caldas, Boyacá, and Santander.

Two of the best places to observe and photograph the Withe-mantled Barbet are the Rio Claro Reserve, 3 hours from Medellin, in the department of Antioquia. Find more information about Rio Claro in our entry #1 Colombia Mid-Magdalena Valley Birding Hotspot: Rio Claro Reserve.

On the other hand, there is the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve of Proaves, which is located in the municipality of San Vicente de Chucurí, department of Santander, 87 kilometers from Bucaramanga. From Bucaramanga, you will have an approximate travel time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Where to Stay: Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve of Proaves

Third Stop: Antioquia

Does Guatapé sound familiar? Antioquia is a department with an immense wealth of nature destinations that have been little explored.

It is also home to several towns in the network of Colombia’s Heritage Villages, such as Jardín, Santa Fé de Antioquia, and Jericó.

4. Andean Cook-of-the-Rock

Andean cock-of-the-rock – Rupicola peruvianus

This is an emblematic bird of the Andean forests. It is very striking for its color and size, and especially when found in groups of males, called leks.

It lives near rivers and rocky areas. Many people travel to distant places to see them under bridges, or, from a considerable distance, on a tree branch.

However, there is a place in Antioquia where you can go to see them easily and up close. It is the private reserve Jardín de Rocas in the municipality of Jardín.

It is worth mentioning that Jardín is one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia and is part of the country’s Network of Heritage Towns. So, it is well worth the visit.

5. Yellow-eared Parrot

Yellow-eared Parrot – Ognorhynchus icterotis

This parrot nests and lives among wax palms in some areas of the Western and Central Cordillera of Colombia. It is also endemic to Colombia. If you are curious about wax palm, then visit our entry The Wax Palm and Why it is a Must to See When Visiting Colombia.

For a long time, this parrot was endangered, and thanks to the efforts of many people and NGO’s this bird is nowadays in a lower category of threat.

The ideal, and safest, place to see it is the Jardín-Riosucio road, between the departments of Antioquia and Caldas. There are some remnants of wax palm forest that have been used for nesting programs for these birds.

Of course, you will have to get there very early!

Where to Stay: Cassa Passiflora Hotel Boutique

Fourth Stop: The Coffee Triangle!

Colombia’s must-see destination par excellence, the coffee region has a lot to offer. It comprises the departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío, in addition to northwestern Tolima, and some parts of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca.

In 2011 UNESCO declared this area a World Heritage Site for its cultural importance and its coffee landscape. Since then, it has been known as the Coffee Cultural Landscape (#PCC).

6. Andean Condor

Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus

It is no longer necessary to go to remote places to see the Andean Condor in Colombia. In Manizales, just 40 min by flight from Bogotá, there is a place called Nido del Cóndor (Condor’s Nest).

This is a hotel placed over a strategic place for the sighting of the Andean Condor. You will have the privilege of observing a pair of condors nesting on the rocky outcrop under the tents of the lodge.

Moreover, you will see them flying over the balcony of your room, entering and leaving their nest. The plateau where these birds nest is one of the three areas known in Colombia where the Andean Condor is found.

Nido del Cóndor is located in the municipality of Villamaría, Caldas, Colombia.

Where to Stay: Nido del Cóndor

7. Tolima Blossomcrown

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

Among these top 9 birds of Colombia, I included just one hummingbird. However, Colombia is a great destination for hummingbird watching. Find out why in our entry 17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

The Tolima Blossomcrown is a species of hummingbird endemic to Colombia. It is threatened by the loss of its habitat. It is found in tropical montane forests between 1200 and 2300 m  (4921 – 10498 ft) on the eastern slopes of the central cordillera of the Andes.

This bird is very easy to see in the Combeima Canyon, in Tolima. Especially in the Ukuku Lodge, a place that has specialized in attracting birds and hummingbirds.

It loves to visit the gardens of nectar plants grown around the Ukuku’s house.

Where to Stay: Ukuku Lodge.

Fifth Stop: Cali!

Cali is a city with a wide cultural offer, as well as a wide range of natural destinations. If you want to know more about the cultural offer of Cali, visit the Dancing Salsa in Cali Colombia blog on the Pelecanus website.

8. Multicolored Tanager

Multicoloured tanager – Chlorochrysa nitidissima, Valle del Cauca

The Multicolored Tanager is a bird endemic to the western Andes of Colombia. It is considered a winged jewel among the birds of Colombia and is one of the most wanted birds by birdwatchers.

Although it is a common bird moving around the treetops, it is very difficult to see. It always flies on the tallest trees, and it is a very small bird… and it is green! and restless!…

For this reason, some places have concentrated on attracting this bird to feeders in open gardens, to watch them up close.

This is the case of the Minga Ecolodge, a birdlodge near Cali. Every day between 6:00 and 8:00 am you will have the opportunity to see and photograph this beautiful bird.

If you like tanagers a lot, you’ll love our entry Top 7 Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and Where to Find Them.

Where to stay: Minga Ecolodge.

Final Stop: Bogotá!

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia. It has many activities to offer in and around the city. There are plenty of birding activities you can do in Bogotá, I wrote about them in our entry Where to go for Birdwatching in Bogotá? Complete Bogotá Bird Guide.

9. Apolinar’s Wren

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – ENDEMIC

This is a bird endemic to the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes of Colombia. It was very easy to find in the wetlands of the urban area of Bogotá. However, intense urbanization and pollution have limited its distribution to the páramo areas.

You can drive to the Sumapaz Park and from the road you will have the opportunity to hear it several times and even see it. When we went there, we were lucky, just watch the picture we got!

Find out more details about the Páramo of Sumapaz in our entry The Biggest Páramo in the World is in Colombia: Know the Sumapaz Park.

Where to stay: Muisca Hotel.

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!

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.

Heliconias of Colombia: The Best Collections You Should Visit

Heliconias are plants of great ornamental beauty due to their colors, strange geometric shapes and their banana tree shape. The heliconias are known throughout the world as exotic tropical plants, for their variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and long durability.

What is a Heliconia?

Heliconias are plants whose height varies from 1.2 to 1.9 meters, sometimes more. Their roots are strong and reach up to four meters, therefore, the heliconia is resistant to erosion.

As well as heliconias, birds of paradise, achiras, gingers, bilbos, and other plants known as platanillos are botanically grouped in the order Zingiberales.

Georeferenced records of Heliconias ©OpenStreetMap contributors, ©OpenMapTiles, GBIF

The order Zingiberales is composed of eight families: Musaceae, Heliconeaceae, Strelitziaceae, Lowiaceae, Zingiberaceae, Cannaceae, Marantaceae and Costaceae.

Among these, the best known are the gingers and the birds of paradise (Betancur and Crees, 1993).

The family Heliconiaceae is represented only by the genus Heliconia and has about 250 species, of which 98% are distributed in Central and South America, and the Caribbean (Kress, 1994, cited by Maza and Builes, 2000).

Heliconias of Colombia

Of the more than 250 species of the genus Heliconia, 110 are distributed in the wild in Colombia, and 48 of them have been reported as endemic. Among these species, many have some degree of threat.

Most of the species are distributed in the Andean and Pacific regions, between sea level and 2400 m of altitude.

The regions of Colombia with the highest proportion of endemic Heliconias are the Andean with 75% and the Pacific with 20%.

Moreover, the regions with the highest concentration of species are the more humid regions, such as the western Andean slope (35%), the Atrato river valley (25%), the Magdalena river slopes (25%) and the eastern Andean region (25%) (Betancur and Kress, 1995, 1999).

Thus, Colombia is the largest center of Heliconias diversity in the world (Abalo and Morales, 1982).

Heliconia Flowers are Exported from Colombia

Casa Oropendola, Minca. Heliconias in the center of the table.

Heliconias are used worldwide on various occasions and special dates throughout the year.

The colorful heliconias we know are inflorescences. The real flower is white, small, and is inside. However, what is marketed is the inflorescence, even, the inner flower must be removed in post-production, otherwise it generates a bad smell in the plant.

Heliconia vellerigera ©Tinamu Birding

Colombia is an exporter of heliconias with destinations such as the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Aruba, Holland, and some Asian countries like Japan.

The market for Heliconias is very demanding. This is due to the special care that this type of flowers requires both in its production process and in the handling after it, and to the different attributes to which great importance is attributed by the trader and the final consumer (color, size, shape, quality, etc.)

Heliconias as a Tourist Attraction

Recently, ornamental flora and fauna such as Heliconias, orchids, butterflies, etc. is becoming a potential tourist attraction, especially in Colombia, a country of high biological diversity.

Nature tourism is a good option when you want to get to know these exotic plants in their natural habitat.

In Colombia, there are several places where you can find heliconias. Here I recomend you three places you can visit to see the exuberance of the heliconias.

Quindio Botanical Garden

Butterfly Garden (Mariposario) of the Botanical Garden of Quindío

This place is known for its great butterfly farm, but it is also an excellent destination to see the largest collections of palms and heliconias in Colombia. It also has an insect zoo and three sites for bird watching, among many other things.

The National Collection of Heliconias

The National Collection of Heliconias is located in the Quindio Botanical Garden. This collection has been made thanks to the support of Professor Gustavo Morales in terms of the supply of specimens and their curatorship.

The collection currently holds 45% of the 115 species estimated for Colombia, and its objective is to achieve 100% representation of this family.

The collection includes species of the family Heliconiaceae and the genus Heliconia. 13 of the species contained have some category of threat. In particular,H. abaloi, H. berryziana, H. foreroi, and H. oleosa are critically endangered (CR).

The National Collection of Heliconias is located in the Quindio Botanical Garden

How the collection works

Field trips to different locations made by the scientific staff of the Quindio Botanical Garden are made to collect native heliconias. The scientists take the plants to the Quindio Botanical Garden, and other botanical gardens, for ex-situ conservation purposes.

The specimens are taken to their final place in the National Collection of Heliconias after treatment with a process of acclimatization and propagation. Once in the collection, they acquire an accession number and are monitored and managed agronomically.

Visiting the Collection

Visitors can enter the ecotourism service through the modality of reservation or scheduling.

Only a maximum of 15 people are allowed per group and they will have an exclusive guide who will give them a special tour, full of knowledge and new experiences.


Kids (3-12) ~9 USD – Adults ~15 USD

How to get there

The botanical garden is located at Av Centenario no 15-190 Km. 3 Via Valle Calárca, Colombia. It is 15.5 km from the city of Armenia, which translates to 25 minutes by car.

If you are on the coffee axis, the Quindio Botanical Garden is a destination you can add to your route.

COVID-19 Crisis

The Botanical Garden of Quindio is an NGO. Today it needs your support to sustain itself, so visiting it is a good option.

However, you can also contribute from where you are with their tree sponsorship program or through donations directed to the collection of palms, heliconias, among others.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus)

The Tinamu is a Natural Reserve and Birdlodge, where up to 260 species of birds have been registered, distributed in 47 families, the most numerous families being flycatchers with 35 (Tyrannidae), tanagers with 21 (Thraupidae), queens with 16 (Parulidae) and hummingbirds with 16 (Trochilidae).

It is also home to +260 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and a great variety of plants and trees. Tinamu is a place that since 2014 offers a high level of service in bird watching toursim.

Heliconias of the Tinamu Reserve

In the Tinamú Birding Natural Reserve, there are 7 species of Heliconias and 3 other Zingiber species: Heliconia wagneriana, Heliconia latispatha, Heliconia rostrata, Heliconia stricta, Heliconia vellerigera, Calathea crotalifera, Zingiber spectabile, and Musa velutina.

Heliconia latispatha ©Tinamu Birding

There, besides the birds, you can walk in the forest and meet these beautiful specimens, as well as the birds that come to feed and pollinate these species. Two of them are the Stripe-throated Hermit (Phaethornis striigularis) and the Green Hermit (Phaethornis guy).

In this forest of heliconias, you can also find an incredible lek of Golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus).

Heliconia rostrata ©Tinamu Birding

How to get here

Tinamú Birding is located in Caldas, 18 km from Manizales (30′), in the San Peregrino sector. It is immersed in the Coffee Cultural Landscape and a sub-Andean forest of 11 hectares, between 1,200 and 1,300 meters above sea level, with a warm climate of 25°C.

Heliconia wagneriana ©Tinamu Birding

Visiting the Collection

You can make your reservation by following this link.

To learn more about the Tinamu I recommend you read our entry The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Paraíso Andino Reserve

Paraíso Andino Glamping

The Ecoglamping Reserva Paraíso Andino is a family project that highlights the restoration and conservation of a fragment of sub-Andean forest.

For more than 12 years, they have actively and passively restored the forest and, today they have an excellent infrastructure for ecotourism, such as bird watching, butterfly watching and ethnobotany. And it is very close to Bogotá!

Heliconias of the Paraíso Andino Reserve

The reserve has a collection of heliconias of approximately 60 species. There you can enjoy a guided walk through a trail that takes you through the entire collection.

It is the best option if you want to know these plants in their natural habitat, very close to Bogota. You will also be able to learn about native forest plants and medicinal plants, their uses and history.

How to get here

Paraíso Andino is located in La Vega Cundinamarca (Colombia) Km 12.5 via La Vega-Sasaima.

Visiting the Collection

The entrance to the reserve is by reservation.

  • Téllez Jaramillo P A (2018). Colección Nacional de Heliconias. Version 4.2. Jardín Botánico del Quindío. Occurrence dataset accessed via GBIF.org on 2021-01-04.
  • GBIF
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.


Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta covers part of the departments of Magdalena, La Guajira and Cesar, and is the highest coastal mountain range in the world. It covers life zones from sea level to the snow belt. Because of the variety of ecosystems, thermal floors by the sea, its unique beauty and cultural richness, it is a unique territory to visit.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range has been declared a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1979), among other national categories. It is the most endemic rich, continental area in the World. 21 species (and several more subspecies) are confined to the area – many of them carry Santa Marta in their name. The isolated range’s avifauna bares similarities with both Venezuelan mountain ranges to the east, and Andean mountains to the south-west, all adding to the biogeographical complexity of these mountains. 

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park (aka Santa Marta Mountainsis for long and by far Colombia’s prime birding destination. It’s the highest coastal mountain range in South America, the highest peaks – Cristobal Colon & Simon Bolivar – are at the same time the highest ones in Colombia. They tower 5575 meters above sea level. 

Within this mountainous massif there is an area of great cultural significance, considered a sacred place for the four indigenous peoples of the Sierra: the Arhuacos (or Ikas), the Wiwas, the Kogis, and the Kankuamos. This is the Teyuna Archaeological Park “Lost City”, which is administered by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History – ICANH.

Climate and seasonality

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta you can find lowland rainforest (0-1,050 m), premontane rainforest (1,050-1,900 m), paramo (3,400-4,200 m), superparamo (4,200-5,100 m) and snow belt (5,100-5,770 m). The average annual temperature at sea level is 27º C, while at the top of the mountains it drops to 0º C. The annual precipitation is 3,000-4,000 mm and decreases with altitude. The dry season runs from October to November and from June to July.

Cuchilla de San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Ridge)

The Cuchilla of San Lorenzo is an area within the Sierra Nevada that has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA). It extends from the town of Minca (600 m), through an extensive area of shade coffee plantations, to the edge of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park.

The Cuchilla de San Lorenzo is very important for the migratory birds that cross the Caribbean. It also contains one of the highest concentrations of endemic species in Santa Marta with the presence of Santa Marta bush-tyrant (Myiotheretes pernix), Santa Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhura viridicata) and Santa Marta Blossomcrown (Anthocephala floriceps) among others.

Most endemic bird species are concentrated in the upper parts of the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo and Cerro Kennedy, a mountain that reaches 2,800 m. Cerro Kennedy has wooded patches, dominated mainly by bamboo and shrubs. This is one of the best areas in Santa Marta to observe endemic and rare species, since it presents 15 species of endemic birds, making it one of the highest concentrations of endemisms in the continent.

In the region, projects that involve the local population have been implemented towards the conservation of the environment. Strategies such as: the production of “Bird Friendly Coffee“, the creation of a “Bird Friendly Club” for children and young people of the region, the installation of monitoring stations for the bird populations and environmental education actions.

Vista de Nieve Farm at Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

On our Sula Fam-Trip we first visited the beautiful coffeeplantation “Finca Vista de Nieve” which caters also for small groups of birders. It’s the ideal place to get away from it all, combine birding with relaxing holidays. Sipping delicious local coffee while watching a beautiful sunset over the Caribbean Sea shall sure do you good. 

The close surroundings of the farm consists of shade grown coffee plantations and some second growth forest – both excellent habitat for birding. With an elevation of about 1300 m. asl. Many of the Santa Marta foothill specialties are found here. During our comfortable 2-night stay the we observed exquisite species like Black-fronted Wood-QuailScaled PiculetSanta Marta AntbirdSlate-crowned AntpittaSanta Marta TapaculoSanta Marta Foliage-gleanerStreak-capped Spinetail, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch & White-lored Warbler. 

A walk down the access road to Vista Nieves through a mosaic of coffee plantations and second growth forest can turn up some nice mixed flocks and especially Spectacled Tyrannulet and Santa Marta Blossomcrown. The latter visits flowering plants in gardens of local farmers & roadside shops. 

In order to see most of the area’s endemics it’s necessary to visit different elevations.

El Dorado Lodge

The centerpiece of a visit to the Santa Marta Mountains is the El Dorado Lodge 2000 m. asl., owned and managed by the ProAves foundation. It has several trails into good forest, excellent hummingbird feeders and access to the Cuchilla San Lorenzo is way more convenient from here. The immediate area around the lodge is best for the recently described Santa Marta Screech-OwlWhite-tipped QuetzalBlack-throated Tody-TyrantGolden-breasted Fruiteater & Santa Marta Brushfinch. The lodge’s compost pile attracts regularly Band-tailed GuanBlack-fronted Wood-Quail and Sierra Nevada Brushfinch. The hummingbird feeders host large numbers of Brown VioletearCrowned Woodnymph and rarer species like Lazuline Sabrewing and even White-tailed Starfrontlet. 

From the lodge the road winds up the mountain and end at the exposed Cuchilla de San Lorenzo at 2600 m. asl. It’s only an 8 km long ride but on an extremely rough, bumpy road. This has the benefit that it prevents general tourism invading the area. Plans to build a concrete road up to the ridge have fortunately been stalled. The environmental impact would have been disastrous. The road ends at the ProAves reserve, which was established to protect the ParakeetsIt is the only accessible site to see this endangered species. If you stay at the lodge you have access to an observation tower, but you can see the Santa Marta Parakeet elsewhere along the ridge first thing in the morning. If you have a scope scan the Eucalyptus tree in front of the tower. At times they are frequented by Black-backed Thornbills. 

The view from here is one of the most impressive vistas in the country. You bird along a roughly 1 km long stretch on a trail in stunted elfin forest. Black-backed Thornbill (rare), Santa Marta Sabrewing (extremely rare)Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Santa Marta AntpittaRusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant (rare) Hermit Wood-Wren, Black-cheeked Mountain-TanagerSanta Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta WarblerYellow-crowned Redstart occur here and are all endemic! For Santa Marta Wren and Blue-bearded Helmetcrest you have to mount a multi-day expedition in order to access proper habitat. 

Unfortunately, the excessive use of playback by everybody have had impact on the birds. Several species don’t respond anymore to it at all, and got very difficult to see… 

Santa Marta Biological Station

If you’ve been efficient on the ridge or your time is limited you can visit the Santa Marta Biological Station on your way back. But you have to arrive there at 9am – that’s feeding time for Santa Marta AntpittaAt current state it is not possible to stay there overnightbecause of a turnover of the station’s manager. 


For those with a little more time, a visit to the lovely and touristy town of Minca might well be taken into consideration. It’s year-round spring-like climate, many hiking opportunities, good food & charming hotels offer something for everybody. There’s some good birding around Minca, too. Species like Military MacawScaled PiculetVenezuelan FlycatcherRosy Thrush-Tanager & Golden-winged Sparrow occur within close reach of town.  


  • BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cuchilla de San Lorenzo. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/08/2020.
  • System of National Natural Parks Website
  • Macaulay Library archive Website

About the authors

Sara Colmenares

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

Jérôme Fischer

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

5 New Reasons to Come to Colombia to Watch Birds

Colombia has 4 new bird species to add to its already large list. This is great news not only to encourage you to come to Colombia, but to visit the Neotropics for bird watching! Update your records, notebooks, and wishlists with the new Colombian Antpittas!

What is an Antpitta?

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri)

Antpittas are walker, vocal, small, round, stubby, long-legged, pale and grayish birds that live in the rainforests of the Andes. They look more like an egg with legs (and feathers)… This is a very particular group of species, and they are known as the ghosts of the forest, since you can hear them loud and clear, even feel that they are singing at your feet, but you can hardly ever see them.

As they are birds that move around on the forest floor looking for worms, their favourite food, they have plumages that are very difficult to differentiate from fallen leaves and trunks. Despite this, they are very docile animals that can be easily conditioned to visit “artificial” feeding grounds. However, a lot of commitment and punctuality is needed, as these birds are very regular in their daily journeys and always arrive at the same time to the visiting points.

So much so that when you go on a birding tour that includes a visit to a place with specialized feeding grounds for Grallarias, you have to be the most punctual in life! Because if you miss it, the bird doesn’t come back until the next day. And on these tours there is no next day in the same place, unless you want to. It is usual to see birders settling in up to an hour before the Grallarias cross the feeding points, making sure to have all their equipment ready for when the bird appears.

First it announces itself with its song, then it appears like a ballerina on stage, jumping through the foliage, until it reaches the point where its food has been placed. Sometimes, if there is a lot of noise, it appears in the biggest of silences, eats its worm and leaves without being noticed.

How many Colombian Antpittas are?

So far in Colombia, up to 27 species have been recorded within the family Grallariidae, with 4 endemic species and 16 endemic subspecies. But all that changed in July 2020, when two studies on the taxonomy and phylogenetic diversity of the Grallaria rufula complex changed everything (to the regret of many birders, once again the scientists messing things up!)

The Grallaria rufula blakei complex

The Grallaria rufula blakei complex was considered to consist of 2 species and 7 subspecies distributed from southern Peru to the Colombian Caribbean: the Rufous Antpitta, Grallaria rufula (Lafresnaye, 1843), and the Chestnut Antpitta, Grallaria blakei (Graves, 1987).

Plumage in the G. rufula blakei complex contributed heavily to the traditional classification and description of species and subspecies. Among plumage characteristics, the only characters that show appreciable variation are (1) color of the back, head, and breast, which ranges from olive-gray brown; (2) color or patterning of the belly, including the extent of white coloration; (3) in some cases a contrasting light feather tips and the presence of indistinct barring on the lower and (4) presence or absence of a dull whitish eye-ring.

New Discoverings

Studies on genetics and vocalization led to split this Grallaria rufula complex from two, G. rufula (Rufous Antpitta) and G. blakei (Chestnut Antpitta), to sixteen established species distributed along the Andean Mountain Range from southern Peru to the Colombian Caribbean. Seven of them had no name! Leaving Peru with 10 new species, 8 of which are endemic, and Colombia with 5 species, of which 4 are new species and two of them are endemic!

Approximate geographic ranges of all taxa in the Rufula-rufocinerea-blakei Complex as a reference to update your records, notebooks, and wishlists. From the two sister papers: Isler et al. Zootaxa 2020; Chesser et al. Auk 2020 @amcuervo

So, now Colombia has 32 species within the family Grallariidae, with 7 endemic species and 12 endemic subspecies, and more are coming!

Five New Reasons to come to Colombia!

The Rufous Antpitta was distributed throughout the three Andean mountain ranges of Colombia and in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía del Perijá. With this study, it was found that practically every population in each mountain range and mountain system corresponded to a different species for the Colombian Antpittas group:

Maps with the approximate geographic ranges of the new Colombian Antpittas. From the two sister papers: Isler et al. Zootaxa 2020; Chesser et al. Auk 2020 @amcuervo

1. Perijá Antpitta – G. saltuensis.

481Perijá Antpitta – Grallaria saltuensis. Photo by @amcuervo

Almost endemic species which is only found in the Departments of La Guajira and Cesar in Colombia, and Zulia in Venezuela. It is found between 2500 and 3250 masl.

  • Where to find it? This species can be found in the sector of Manaure Balcón del Cesar, in the department of Cesar, in the Serranía del Perijá (watch our video). There are several places where you can stay there: Centro Turístico y Ecológico Villa Adelaida, in the lower part of the Serranía, or in the Perijá Thistletail natural bird reserve, towards the higher part.

2. Sierra Nevada Antpitta – G. spatiator

Sierra Nevada Antpitta – Grallaria Spatiator. Picture by @amcuervo

Endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Magdalena, La Guajira and Cesar Departments of Colombia. It is found between 2200 and 2900 masl.

  • Where to find it? After the town of Minca, in Magdalena, arriving to the sector of the San Lorenzo Ridge. There are several lodging options in the region including a coffee farm Vista de Nieve, the nature reserve El Dorado, and even rural lodging closest to the San Lorenzo Ridge.

3. Muisca Antpitta – G. rufula

Muisca Antpitta – Grallaria rufula. Picture by @amcuervo

It is endemic to the Eastern Cordillera and with a distribution almost parallel to that of the indigenous people of the Muiscas. Its new english name honors this indigenous people of the Cundinamarca-Boyacá highlands.  It is found between 1850 and 3800 masl.

  • Where to find it? In Colombia it distributes from the Eastern Andes in Norte de Santander, and south to Cundinamarca and western Meta. This species can be found very close to Bogotá, in the national natural park Chingaza. And very probably in the surroundings of Bogotá in private Nature Reserves like El Encenillo.

4. Equatorial Antpitta – G. saturata

Equatorial Antpitta – Grallaria saturata. Picture by @amcuervo

Subspecies resurrected and elevated to species. It includes the population of the Iguaque Massif in Boyacá and the Central Cordillera from Caldas, through Ecuador, to northern Peru. It is found between 2550 to 3650 masl.

  • Where to find it? In Colombia you can find this species at the Coffee Axes. You can find it on the Jardín-Riosucio road, or on the road to the Nevado del Ruiz in Caldas. You have many lodging options in these regions, in addition to a large number of other bird species that you can observe there.  There is a very special place, where spaces have been adapted for the photography of this bird. It is called Hacienda el Bosque, a dairy farm that has also bet on conservation through ecotourism, just 30 minutes from the city of Manizales. The grallaria that arrives at its feeders is called Juliana.

5. Chamí Antpitta – G. alvarezi

Chamí Antpitta – Grallaria alvarezi Cuervo, Cadena, Isler & ChesserPicture by Eddie Williams @Eddiewilliams09 @amcuervo

It is the new endemic to the Western Cordillera of Colombia, from Paramillo, northwestern Antioquia, south to northwestern Cauca. It is distributed between 2350 to 3650 m.

  • Where to find it? It is distributed from Paramillo Natural National Park, through Urrao, Jardín-Riosucio road, and Tatamá, Farallones de Cali and Munchique Natural National Parks, in Risaralda, Valle del Cauca and Cauca respectively. You have many lodging options in these regions, in addition to a large number of other bird species that you can observe there. There is a very nice rural tourism initiative for bird watching in the town of Riosucio, department of Caldas, where you can observe these birds, it is called Bird Watching Mirador El Roble. There, some farmers installed feeders and receive an infinity of birds, including the Chamí Antpitta. Contact us if you want to know the details.

The Importance of Species Names

The Chamí Antpitta had no name, and the scientists took the opportunity to honor two very important people. The scientific name of the Chamí Antpitta honors Colombian ornithologist Mauricio Alvarez Rebolledo, leader of many biological expeditions during Colombia’s worst period of political instability in the 1990s and early 2000s. His role has been very important in the areas of conservation and education. Mauricio Alvarez pioneered bird song recording in the country and founded the Environmental Sounds Collection at the Alexander Von Humboldt Institute.

The english name, Chamí Antpitta, was also given to honor “the people of the mountains”, the indigenous community of the Emberá-Chamí that inhabits the foothills of the northwestern Andes in Colombia. Chamí means “mountain” in the Emberá language.

Ornithologist Andres Cuervo, one of the authors of the study, said that the English name assigned to these species (Muisca and Chamí) is intended to appropriate the species in the country. Also to associate them directly with its geographical location and with the cultural context of the region where they are distributed. It is very special that these indigenous communities still exist in Colombia and it is also important to recognize them in academic and tourism spaces.

Current list of endemic and near-endemic Colombian Antpittas

Endemic species of Colombian Antpittas

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

Endemic subspecies of Colombian Antpittas

  1. Ruffous-crowned Antpitta (Pacific Region) Pittasoma rufopileatum rosenbergi  Pittasoma rufopileatum harterti
  2. Giant Antpitta (Southern Central Andes) Grallaria gigantea lehmanni
  3. Moustached Antpitta (Western and Central Andes) Grallaria alleni alleni 
  4. Bicolored Antpitta (Central Andes) Grallaria rufocinerea rufocinerea
  5. Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Colombian Andes) Grallaria nuchalis ruficeps
  6. White-bellied Antpitta (Central and Eastern Andes) Grallaria hypoleuca hypoleuca
  7. Streak-chested Antpitta (Northern Andes) Hylopezus perspicillatus pallidior
  8. White-lored Antpitta (South Colombia Andes – Amazon foothills) Hylopezus fulviventris caquetae
  9. Thrush-like Antpitta (Eastern Andes and Serranía de la Macarena Foothills) Myrmothera campanisona modesta
  10. Ochre-breasted Antpitta (Western Andes west side and Northern Central Andes) Grallaricula flavirostris ochraceiventris
  11. Hooded Antpitta (Colombian Andes) Grallaricula cucullata cucullata
  12. Slate-crowned Antpitta (Eastern Andes) Grallaricula nana nana Grallaricula nana hallsi

Now, all that remains is to focus on getting to know these new species in depth, and developing effective conservation strategies for their habitats. There are rumors that there may be more splits and new species in this group. So we have to be prepared!

Nature tourism, once again, appears as a way to keep these species alive, which paradoxically are found in areas that require a high commitment to conservation. So don’t wait and come to Colombia to meet these Andean forest singers! 


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.

Wetlands of Bogotá are the Best Spots for Birdwatching in the City

The accelerated and unplanned urban expansion of Bogotá in the last 50 years has been the most preponderant factor in the notable reduction and deterioration of its wetlands. Global warming, pollution, the disposal of garbage, rubble and household waste are a great threat to the wetlands of Bogota, putting at risk the species that inhabit these ecosystems.

Unfortunately, the species most affected by the deterioration of the wetlands are birds, especially migratory birds. At the moment, one species endemic to Colombia and the Bogotá savannah is already extinct, and another three are in serious danger of disappearing. For this reason, the protection and adequate management of Bogota’s wetlands is a priority for the conservation of endemic and associated threatened species. Also for the migratory birds whose survival depends on the health of this ecosystem.

Ecological tours are one of the conservation strategies for people to enjoy and visit these ecosystems.

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

Ramsar category Wetlands of Bogotá

Bogotá is the first city in Colombia to have an urban wetlands complex with the highest environmental certification in the world, and is also the only city in Latin America with ecosystems in this category. These are 11 of the 14 Wetland District Ecological Parks, PEDH, which with a total of 667.38 hectares, meet the criteria of the International Ramsar Convention.

The Ramsar category urban wetlands complex is integrated by the wetlands: Tibanica, la Vaca Norte, El Burro, El Tunjo, Capellanía, Santa María del Lago, Córdoba, Jaboque, Juan Amarillo, La Conejera and Torca-Guaymaral.

This recognition also highlights the ecological value of these urban ecosystems as permanent and transitional habitat for a significant number of plant species, mammals and water and migratory birds ─ Many migratory birds have the urban wetlands of Bogotá as strategic points for recovering energy and finding food, shelter and rest.

Wetlands Birds of Bogotá

Bogotá’s wetlands are home to more than 200 species of birds, including three endemic, two of which are endangered: the Bogotá Rail (EN) (Rallus semiplumbeus), the Apolinar’s Wren (EN) (Cistothorus apolinari) and the Silvery-throated Spinetail (Synallaxis subpudica). It can also be found the almost endemic and endangered bird, the Rufous-browed Conebill (Conirostrum rufum).

In addition, nine locally endemic subspecies can be found in Bogotá’s wetlands:

  • Spot-flanked Gallinule (Porphyriops melanops bogotensis)

  • Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis andina)

  • American Coot (Fulica americana columbiana)

  • Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus bogotensis)

  • Grassland Yellow-Finch (Montane) (Sicalis luteola bogotensis)

  • Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis bogotensis)

  • Spot-billed Ground Tyrant (Muscisaxicola maculirostris niceforoi)

  • Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris peregrina)

  • Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus bogotensis)

Migratory birds in Bogotá

The Bogotá wetlands and their forest edges provide suitable habitats for many of the migratory birds recorded in Colombia. However, the number of species that may be present in the wetlands depends on the quality of the habitats and their geographical location, mainly distance from the coast and height above sea level. It is possible that the remaining wetlands in Bogotá have become a unique and fundamental refuge within urban landscapes that are inhospitable to migratory birds.

The richness of migratory bird life in the Bogotá wetlands can be attributed to two factors: (1) the presence of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats that attract diverse species and (2) the geographic location of Bogotá, on the main migration route of the species that enter South America through the Darien and continue to the Amazon, the foothills of the Andes or Patagonia.

Of the almost 650 species that breed in North America, about 200 species are Neotropical migrants and approximately 125 of them frequently arrive in Colombia. Of these, about 65 arrive in the wetlands of Bogotá. Migratory birds require quality habitats in their non-breeding areas and depend on them year after year. The Bogotá savannah is an important stopover site before and after the birds cross the high parts of the Eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes.

Most Neotropical migratory birds recorded in Colombia arrive mainly in the months of September and October. After six to nine months in the country, they head north again between April and May. Some of these species are only in transit, passing through Colombia on their way to non-breeding areas further south, stopping only for rest or to increase their energy reserves.

Generally speaking, the migratory species that arrive in Colombia are divided into two main groups, represented by a similar number of species: aquatic and terrestrial. Thirteen are classified as species of concern in North America, due to population declines, and are therefore listed as priorities for conservation. Sixty species are Boreal migrants and five are Southern migrants. The new world warblers (Parulidae) is the most represented family, with 12 species, followed by the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae), and shorebirds, sandpipers and snipes (Scolopacidae) are also well represented.

It is important to highlight the presence of the Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea), categorized by BirdLife (2013) as Vulnerable (VU) at a global level, due to habitat degradation. Another important bird is the as well as the Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), a species considered almost threatened (NT) globally. Other species that do not qualify as globally threatened, but are listed as of greater concern in North America, and are relatively abundant in the wetlands of Bogotá, include the Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) and the Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis).

Endangered bird species of Bogota’s wetlands

Colombian grebe – Podiceps andinus – Agencia de Noticias UNAL

Locally, the Colombian grebe (Podiceps andinus), was a endemic species that inhabited the wetlands. It has already become extinct due to pressure on these ecosystems. The last time this grebe was seen was in 1977 in Lake Tota, near Bogotá. It frequented the lagoons of the Cundinamarca-Boyacá savannah, but it seems that erosion, contamination, drainage and the deterioration of water quality were putting an end to it. Its disappearance is also attributed to the change in vegetation in the habitats it frequented.

Similarly, Apolinar’s Wren and Subtropical Doradito (Pseudocolopteryx acutipennis) are found along the same path. In the wetlands and lagoons of the Eastern Cordillera, especially in the Cundinamarca-Boyacá highlands, some individuals of the Apolinar’s Wren can still be seen. But the contamination of the wetlands and possibly the action of global climate change seem to be affecting its populations. The Apolinar’s Wren can be seen in the La Florida wetland in Bogotá, and in Sumapaz National Park.

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari E – Sumapaz

The Subtropical Doradito, on the other hand, is in a similar situation to the Apolinar’s Wren. Its records are scarce in the wetlands of the Sabana de Bogotá. It travels by short flights between the reeds of the wetlands. The Subtropical Doradito can be seen in the wetlands of Bogotá Jaboque or La Florida.

Bogotá Wetlands you can visit

Paradoxically, not all the Ramsar Wetlands in Bogotá can be visited. Of the 14 wetlands, only three of them are suitable to be visited. However, only two of them have the highest environmental certification worldwide Ramsar: Santa Maria del Lago and Córdoba.

La Florida Park Wetland

La Florida Park is the most important Regional Park in Bogota. It is located in the district of Engativá, at kilometer 4, via Engativá – Cota. It is a spot for ecotourism in Bogotá.

It has 267 green hectares and a lake that was enabled as an area for bird watching, with a modern bird observatory with strict bio-construction standards. It is a place very visited by nationals and foreigners. There you can find more than 75 species of birds, including those that live in the neighboring Jaboque wetland, among them the Bogotá Rail and the Apolinar’s Wren.

Santa Maria del Lago Wetland

Located in the district of Engativá, near Calle 80. You can get there using Transmilenio, getting off at the station Minuto de Dios. In the Santa María del Lago wetland there is a bird watching tower, and a path that borders the entire wetland area, with green areas where the American Coot (Fulica americana) can be seen.

Córdoba Wetland

The Cordoba Wetland District Ecological Park, located in the north of Bogota, in the middle of the noblest neighborhoods, has 40.4 hectares. It connects with the Cordoba and Molinos canals, to the west with the lake of the Choquenza Club, Los Lagartos Club and the Juan Amarillo Wetland, forming the Córdoba-Juan Amarillo system. The Córdoba wetland has three sectors:

  • Sector one: Located on 127th Street to the north, it borders the Monaco, Prado Veraniego Sur and Canódromo neighborhoods, and is the smallest and least visited of the three in the city.
  • Sector two: Located between Cordoba Avenue and Suba Avenue, it borders the Batan, Potosi, Puente Largo, Santa Rosa neighborhoods and a series of residential areas such as Córdoba Parks and Solis del Restrepo. Recently, works were carried out in this sector with paths, viewpoints and a bridge that allow greater comfort for visitors. In addition, seven small islands were adapted, where several species of reeds and trees were planted in order to restore the vegetation that serves as food and shelter for the fauna of the site.
  • Sector Three: It is the lower part of the wetland. The extension of this sector is 21.4 hectares It extends between Suba and Boyacá Avenues. It borders the neighborhoods Pontevedra, San Nicolas, Julio Florez and Niza Sur.

About 85 species of birds have been detected here, distributed in 62 genera and 32 families.

Other animals you can find in the Bogotá wetlands.

Bogotá grass mouse – Neomicroxus bogotensis. Picture by iNaturalist

According to the iNaturalist platform, around 767 species of living beings have been found in the wetlands of Bogotá, including all animal, plant and fungi groups.

Among them we can highlight: the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) which was introduced, the endemic Green dotted treefrog (Dendropsophus molitor), the endemic Thickhead ground snake (Atractus crassicaudatus), the quase endemic guinea pig (Cavia aperea anolaimae), the Andean white-eared opossum (Didelphis pernigra), the Long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), the endemic Bogotá grass mouse or Bogotá akodont (Neomicroxus bogotensis), the Bogotá yellow-shouldered bat (Sturnira bogotensis), the Hoary bat (Aeorestes cinereus), the Red-tailed squirrel (Notosciurus granatensis), the Highland yellow-shouldered bat (Sturnira ludovici), the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and the Desert red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii), among others.


  • iNaturalist Website
  • Bogota Ornithological Association (ABO)
  • Bogotá Wetlands Foundation
  • News Agency Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Aves de la Sabana de Bogotá, guía de campo. Primera edición. Bogotá; ABO, CAR. Bogotá, Colombia. Asociación Bogotana de Ornitología.
  • Chaparro-Herrera, S., & Ochoa, D. (2015). Aves de los Humedales de Bogotá, Aportes para su Conservación. Asociación Bogotana de Ornitología-ABO-. Bogotá DC.
  • Rappole, J. H. 1995. The ecology of migrant birds: A Neotropical perspective. Wash., DC: Smithsonian Inst. Press.

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.

17 Unique Hummingbirds of Colombia and Where to Find Them

If you’ve heard that Colombia is a hummingbird’s paradise, or that hummingbird heaven is in Colombia, then you weren’t wrong. Colombia is the country with the most species of hummingbirds in the world, above Ecuador, Costa Rica or Peru. Of the 360 species of hummingbirds in the world, in Colombia you can find up to 165 species of hummingbirds. In other words, almost half of the world’s hummingbirds are here in Colombia (45.8%), and we encourage you to come and meet them. And some of them are unique. In this entry we will tell you which species of hummingbirds are endemic to Colombia and where you can find them. This is a list of the unique hummingbirds of Colombia

A molecular phylogenetic study about the diversification of hummingbirds recognize that the Trochilidae family, the hummingbird’s bird family, consists of nine main clades: Topazes, Hermits, Mangoes, Brilliants, Coquettes, Patagona, Mountain Gems, Bees, and Emeralds. In Colombia we have endemic emeralds, coquettes, brilliants and bees hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Groups Adapted from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.016


This is the group with the most endemic species in Colombia, with 5 genera and 7 species.

Santa Marta Blossomcrown – Anthocephala floriceps

Santa Marta Blossomcrown – Anthocephala floriceps. Picture from https://www.oiseaux.net/

This species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, commonly recorded towards the flanks facing the Caribbean Sea. It is found between 600 and 1700 meters above sea level. It is a species in a vulnerable conservation category according to the the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List category, henceforth IUCN,  and the Colombian Red List of Birds.

This species is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi

Tolima Blossomcrown – Anthocephala berlepschi at Ukuku Lodge, Tolima

This species is found on the western slope of the eastern mountain range of Colombia and the eastern slope of the central mountain range of Colombia, towards the Magdalena River Valley. Its distribution ranges between 1200 and 2300 meters above sea level- It is classified as  vulnerable according to the IUCN and the Red List of Birds of Colombia.

There is a very special place in the department of Tolima, very close to its capital Ibagué, which is the canyon of the Combeima River. There you can visit Anni and Truman, two biologists who are passionate about conservation, bird watching and mountaineering. In their rural lodge Ukuku, the encounter with this small hummingbird is a great experience. They have adapted gardens with native plants and drinkers, specially arranged to attract birds. The Ukuku Rural Lodge is a highly recommended place if you are a bird photographer.

Chiribiquete Emerald – Chlorostilbon olivaresi

Chiribiquete emerald – Chlorostilbon olivaresi. Capture of the first specimen for science. Sierra de Chiribiquete, Guaviare, Caquetá (Colombia) November 1992. Technical data: Ringing Copyright © Facultad de Biología UCM 2020 http://bioimagen.bioucm.es/

This hummingbird is found in the Colombian Amazon region adjacent to the Guyanese shield in the departments of Caquetá and Guaviare. Its distributions ranges between 300 and 600 meters above sea level.

Despite it is not under any serious threat category, there are very few records of this species in Colombia. It is found in remote places where, for a long time, there was no access because of the war. However, it is not free from threats to its habitat. Today you can visit the department of Caquetá and find this bird in the municipality of Solano, very close to the natural National Park Serranía de Chiribiquete, now recognized by UNESCO as a Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Santa Marta Sabrewing – Campylopterus phainopeplus

Santa Marta Sabrewing – Campylopterus phainopeplus. During fieldwork in the Crossing the Caribbean project, in April 2010, the SELVA researcher Laura Cardenas captured a male Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus). This is an important record of this species for the region.” http://selva.org.co/es/2010/04/capture-of-the-santa-marta-sabrewing/

This hummingbird is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, towards the continental flanks facing east, in the department of Valledupar, and distributes between 1000 and 4800 meters above sea level.

It is an endangered species according to the IUCN, and vulnerable according to the Red List of Birds of Colombia. This is really a very difficult species to observe, and very little is known about it. It has only been reported once by the Selva Foundation near the Vista de Nieve sector, the coffee region in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, up from Minca. Watch our video about Birdwatching in Minca.

Chestnut-bellied hummingbird – Amazilia castaneiventris

Chestnut-bellied hummingbird – Amazilia castaneiventris. Palacio, Rubén. 2011. Wiki Aves Colombia.
(R. Johnston, Editor). Universidad ICESI. Cali. Colombia. https://www.icesi.edu.co/wiki_aves_colombia/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=1877

This species is found in the San Lucas mountain range in the department of Bolívar, and on the western flank of the eastern cordillera in the department of Santander. It is known to occur between 200 and 2100 meters above sea level and has been declared as an endangered species according to the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds. This species has the distinction of not presenting a marked sexual dimorphism, that is, the male and the female are similar in their plumage.

Visiting the San Lucas Mountains can be a bit complicated, but visiting Santander is very easy and you can find this hummingbird in the municipalities of San Gil and Piedecuesta, very close to the capital Bucaramanga. You can also find it in the Bird Natural Reserve Cerulean Warbler in San Vicente de Chucuri. Even in the center of the town of San Vicente del Chucurí you can find it!

The municipality of Soatá in Boyacá is another destination to watch this bird, where conservation projects are advanced to protect it.

Indigo-capped hummingbird – Amazilia cyanifrons

Indigo-capped hummingbird – Amazilia cyanifrons. Picture by Ron Knight from Seaford, East Sussex, United Kingdom – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42656101

This hummingbird is found throughout the western flank of the Colombian Andes and is distributed between 400 and 2600 meters above sea level. It is not under any threat and, like the Chestnut-bellied hummingbird, does not have a remarkable differentiation in plumage between male and female.

This is one of the easiest species of hummingbirds to see in Colombia since only half an hour from Bogotá you can see it in all its splendor in the municipality of San Francisco de Sales, in a place known as El Jardín Encantado. This place belongs to a family that destined the garden of their house to attract different types of birds. They have many native plants with flowers and numbered feeders, which facilitates the observation and photography of birds.

Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird – Lepidopyga liliae

Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird – Lepidopyga liliae. Picture by Elio Rafael Ariza Ramos – CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69162520

This is one of the most controversial hummingbirds in Colombia. It shares its habitat with a species very similar to it, which is even of the same genus, L. coeruleogularis, known as Sapphire-throated Hummingbird. The distribution of these two species is the same, bordering the entire Caribbean coast of Colombia from the Magdalena to the Urabá region.

As if that were not enough, the two species are very similar and the only difference between them is the extension of the blue spot that extends from the neck to the belly in the male, being very complicated to differentiate, especially between young individuals. Most of the time the only way to differentiate them is through their song.

The Sapphire-bellied hummingbird has been consistently observed between the departments of Atlántico and Magdalena, in the Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca. It is declared critically endangered according to the IUCN and in a vulnerable state according to the Red Book of Birds of Colombia.


This group has 2 genera and 4 species.

Black-backed Thornbill – Ramphomicron dorsale

Black-backed Thornbill – Ramphomicron dorsale. Picture by D. Brinkhuizen. 2015. El Dorado Reserve Magdalena, Colombia (Macaulay Library ML 204884671)

This hummingbird species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, between 2000 and 4500 meters above sea level. It is declared as an endangered species according to the IUCN. This species is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Natural Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stuebelii

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii at Los Nevados National Park, Brisas sector, Caldas, Colombia

This is one of the species with the smallest distribution in the world, which makes it even more unique, not only because of its beauty or its state of conservation. It is found in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes between 3200 and 4600 meters above sea level. It is a species in a vulnerable state according to the IUCN and in danger according to the Red List of Birds of Colombia.

Despite its small range this species is very easy to observe in Los Nevados National Natural Park a few hours from the city of Manizales in the department of Caldas. This park has installed in its Brisas station an observation platform for this species. You just have to arrive and have the luck of having a dry climate, a clear sky and a low cloudiness. It is also easy to observe in the gardens conditioned for the observation of birds in the hotel Termales del Ruiz.

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest – Oxypogon cyanolaemus

This is a very rare hummingbird, first found over 100 years ago in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and then disappeared until 2015 when it was first observed after a long time. It is found between 3200 and 4600 meters above sea level and is a species declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN and Endangered by the Red List of Birds of Colombia.

To observe this hummingbird you have to visit the Lagunas de Sevilla, in the municipality of El Placer, on the way up to the Cristóbal Colón peak in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, one of the highest peaks in Colombia. This paramo region is the habitat of this endemic species of the highest zone of the Sierra Nevada. As well as the other species of this genus, you can observe it fluttering around the frailejones of the páramos. To get there you have to book a special tour service, since it is not a common route for tourists.

Green-bearded helmetcrest – Oxypogon guerinii

Green-bearded helmetcrest – Oxypogon guerinii, female – E, Sumapaz

This hummingbird species has the widest range within the genus Oxypogon. In Colombia it extends over much of the northern part of the eastern mountain range of the Andes, on its eastern flank. Like the other two species, it is only possible to observe it after 3000 meters and up to 4400 meters above sea level. Unlike its close relatives, this species is not endangered.

You can observe this bird very easily in two places very close to the city of Bogotá. One is the Chingaza National Natural Park and the other is the Páramo del Sumapaz National Nature Park in the Chisacá Lagoon. The Páramo de Sumapaz is located within the district of the city of Bogotá, so you can go there very early in the morning and return with time to enjoy a wonderful Santafereño lunch in Bogotá.


This group has 2 genera and 5 species.

Gorgeted puffleg – Eriocnemis isabellae

Gorgeted puffleg – Eriocnemis isabellae. Picture by Alex Cortes 2011 Flickr

This is a truly unique and special hummingbird that was recognized by science as a new species for Colombia in 2007. It was recorded in the department of Cauca, and its distribution is apparently as small as that of Buffy helmetcrest. It was first recorded in the cloud forests of the Serranía del Pinche (Department of Cauca), in the West Andes.

This species has been declared critically endangered according to the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds. Unfortunately, this bird has only been registered by scientists and has never been seen by a tourist or an amateur birder, mainly because the Department of Cauca is one of the departments with the most difficult access in Colombia, due to public order and security problems. Its habitat is seriously threatened by the deforestation of the forest to plant coca crops.

Colorful puffleg – Eriocnemis mirabilis

Colorful puffleg – Eriocnemis mirabilis. Picture by Nigel Voaden. 2010. Cauca, Colombia. eBird Checklist S18312226 (Macaulay Library ML239615281)

This beautiful hummingbird distributes at the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes, between 2100 and 2800 meters above sea level. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN and the Colombian Red List of Birds.

You can get to know this hummingbird at the Munchique National Natural Park in the department of Cauca, at the municipality of El Tambo, 61 km west of Popayán. This park is a hummingbird paradise, as it is home not only to this species, but also to 36 other species of hummingbirds. There are about 500 species of birds in this park, and bird watching is done in the park through a special trail called the Bird and Tanager Trail.

Black Inca – Coeligena prunellei

Black Inca – Coeligena prunellei. Arango, C. 2016. Wiki Aves de Colombia. (C. Arango, Editor). Universidad Icesi. Cali, Colombia. https://www.icesi.edu.co/wiki_aves_colombia/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=1872

This hummingbird is distributed on the western flank of the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes, in the departments of Santander and Boyacá. It is found between 1400 and 2600 meters above sea level and has been declared as vulnerable by the IUCN and as almost threatened in the Red List of Birds of Colombia.

This hummingbird can be easily observed if you visit the Rogitama Civil Society Nature Reserve located in the Corredor Andino de Roble, in Arcabuco, Boyacá, only 3 hours from Bogotá.

White-tailed Starfrontlet – Coeligena phalerata

White-tailed Starfrontlet – Coeligena phalerata. Palacio, Ruben. 2011. Wiki Aves Colombia. (R. Johnston, Editor). Universidad ICESI. Cali. Colombia. https://icesi.edu.co/wiki_aves_colombia/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=2153

This species is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and is distributed between 1200 and 3300 meters above sea level. It is not under any category of threat. It is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Natural Bird Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Dusky Starfrontlet – Coeligena urine

This hummingbird has one of the most beautiful iridescences among hummingbirds, for it shines as if it were made of gold, so much so that in Colombia it is known as the Sun Hummingbird. It is found on the western flank of the western mountain range of the Colombian Andes, in the department of Antioquia. It is a hummingbird that is distributed in highlands, between 3000 and 3500 meters above sea level. It is critically endangered according to the IUCN and as a threatened species according to the Colombian Red List of Birds.

You can observe this hummingbird in the reserve created especially for its conservation, known as Dusky Starfrontlet Bird Reserve de Proaves. It is located in the Vereda El Chuscal, about 17 km north of the municipality of Urrao, Antioquia.


This group has 1 genus and 1 species.

Santa Marta woodstar – Chaetocercus astreans

This hummingbird inspires a lot of tenderness because of its size and shape. You will not believe how much beauty this tiny creature carries as it flits among the flowers it pollinates and feeds on. This hummingbird is unique to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is found between 300 and 2800 meters above sea level. Fortunately it is not under any threat category. It is very easy to observe in the gardens of the El Dorado Bird Nature Reserve, located near Minca and the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.


Now you know what the rarest and most unique hummingbirds in Colombia are. Do not hesitate to contact us to plan your trip to Colombia and meet these wonderful birds!

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.