Best Ornithology Meetings and Bird Fairs you can Visit in Colombia

Bird fairs and avitourism meetings have helped the bird tourism industry, ornithologists and birding enthusiasts to keep their eyes on Colombia. 

We have said this a lot, but in case you didn’t know, Colombia is the country with the greatest diversity of birds on the planet! Over 1,900 bird species inhabit this wonderful country that also ranks first in orchids and second in plants, butterflies, amphibians and freshwater fish.

Out of the total number, 80 species of birds can only be seen in Colombia. So we are talking about an incredibly biodiverse country that is becoming an ecotourism destination little by little, with the help of the government, NGOs and local communities.

In Colombia, several bird fairs have been created to gather Colombians and foreigners around the bird-based tourism and conduct interesting activities for the promotion of products or initiatives and scientific divulgation. Here are the biggest ones in the country! 

Colombia Bird Fair

Colombia Bird Fair is the most well-known bird fair in the country. It is an international fair that is held in Cali every year during the second week of February. The first version was in 2014.

During the Colombia Bird Fair, all attendees will be able to enjoy free lectures, workshops, business meetings, stores and birding trips. The lectures are given by experts in different fields such as ornithology and tourism. 

Its goal is to promote the culture of the conservation of birds and their habitats in Colombia, as well as to make Cali a remarkable destination for bird watching. 

Why Valle del Cauca?

Cali is the capital of the Valle del Cauca department. This department boast a high number of bird species: over 1,000!

W Lyre-tailed Nightjar – Uropsalis lyra

Consider that Valle del Cauca has an area of 22,100 square kilometers, being 450 times smaller than the United States, which is around 9,800,000 square kilometers.  This comparison can give you an idea of the importance of this Colombian region for birdwatching tourism.

And, 50% of the birds of Valle del Cauca birds can be found in Cali, making it the city with most bird species in the world.  

Carlos Mario Wagner, Colombia Birdfair President

Approximately 22,000 people attended Colombia Birdfair in 2020, and some of its highlights were the 8 bird watching trips made around the city and the Colombia Birdfair Kids, section aimed at children and youngsters to motivate their love for conservation and birds.  

National Ornithology Meeting (ENO in Spanish)

ENO 2018, Mitú – Vaupés – Colombia

The Colombian National Birdwatchers Network –RNOA– has organized one of Colombia’s greatest ornithological events for over 30 years: Encuentro Nacional de Ornitología -ENO-.

This is a space hat gathers ornithologists, enthusiast or professional bird watchers and birders in general to share experiences, discover the national birdlife and, of course, go birding.

ENO is held in August and offers the attendees guided birdwatching trips, lectures by national and international speakers and cultural events. 

Learn more about RNOA here in our blog Birders’ Clubs and Ornithological Associations in Colombia.

Manizales Avitourism Congress

In 2009, the 1° International Meeting on Birdwatching Tourism was held in the city of Manizales, Caldas. Three years later, it became a yearly event held in November.

The Avitourism Congress is widely recognized by its history, organization, special guests, level of attendance and its birdwatching trips to different natural reserves and places in Caldas.

Tourism operators, ornithologists, biologists, tour guides, bird lovers and institutions gather around protecting bird habitats, and promoting the sustainable development of the tourism sector and the local communities.

Brown-banded Antpitta (Grallaria milleri) at Rio Blanco Reserve, Caldas, Colombia

The main activities are the academic agenda that includes lectures, workshops, educational symposiums, scientific posters, the art exhibitions, the business fair, and the birdwatching trips.

If you are interested in attending the Avitourism Congress 2020, you need to stay informed, since only 550 places will be available once the registrations are opened! 

Why Caldas?

According to the updated list of endemic and near endemic birds in Colombia published by  the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research InstituteCaldas is home to 802 species of birds, 22 endemic, 73 near endemic and 77 migratory species. 

This means that 42% of birds in Colombia are in a territory that occupies less than 1% of the country, which makes the department of Caldas very attractive for bird watching tourists.

Buffy Helmetcrest – Oxypogon stubelii

Also, it is a place with several ecosystems, such as dry forests, tropical rainforests and páramos, ranging from 170 to 5,400 meters above sea level, which have amazing landscapes and areas with great birdlife, along with specialized birdwatching facilities. 

First South American Bird Fair

In 2018, Colombia hosted the 8th South American Bird Fair during the Avitourism Congress, becoming a meeting place for birders and experts from all over the world. 

According to Horacio Matarasso (President of the International Committee of the South American Bird Fair) this fair aims to gather people around the conservation and birdwatching tourism in South America the ‘continent of birds’, with more than 3,500 bird species.

Risaralda Bird Festival

The Risaralda Bird Festival was created in 2017 with the aim of encouraging the development of a culture towards the knowledge and protection of birds. A major goal of Risaralda and the fair organizers is to be a world model in biodiversity conservation. 

In addition, like bird fairs in other cities, it seeks to promote its host city, Pereira, as a birding destination. During the fair attendees will enjoy lectures with national and international guests, and field trips to the birdwatching routes.

Olive-Finch – Arremon castaneiceps

Journalists, biologists, ecologists, ornithologists, artists, professors, tour guides, photographers, doctors and park rangers… All brought together by one passion: birds. 

This bird festival stands out for one reason. It seeks to provoke a greater sense of ownership by the local community, as well as governmental empowerment, with regard to bird conservation.

The fair undertakes initiatives such as the election of an emblematic bird in each municipality of the department, to be adopted as a flagship by the local councils.

Besides this, a birdwatching route is planned in each town, and it is named after the elected flagship bird. 

Why Risaralda?

Risaralda hosts over 850 bird species, 25 of which are endemic, and is improving its infrastructure for birdwatching tourism.

Gold-ringed Tanager – Bangsia aureocincta ENDEMIC

Medellín Bird Festival

The Medellin Bird Festival was created by the Antioquia Ornothological Society. This is a space where new scientific findings on birdlife are shared, the birdwatching tourism sector is explored and valuable community tourism initiatives based on sustainable development are promoted.  

The festival has been held for 6 editions in October in Medellín ‘the world bird capital’. Yes, there is a competition between Medellin and Cali over which city has the most number of birds.

The activities offered during the festival include lectures, panel discussions, open mics, workshops, birdwatching trips, bicycle trips, exhibitions, a bird photography contest, and a film festival.

The festival is supported by the Medellin Municipal Council and all the activities are aimed at citizens, since they can become the best bird conservation allies once they develop a sense of belonging towards birdlife and natural resources in their region. 

Why Antioquia?

This fair was created to honor the 900 bird species that live in the department of Antioquia. This department as a its privileged geographic location in the Western Andes, that allows biodiverse ecosystems to thrive.

Trogon personatus (Masked Trogon) at Parque Arví – Antioquia

Bird Fairs in Bogota 

The capital of Colombia is starting to get involved in the birding culture and some smaller bird fairs have been held in recent times.

For example, the Bogota Bird Fest held in May 2018, which sought to raise awareness about the importance of birds and included the celebration of Global Big Day, art exhibitions and shows, workshops and field trips.

Also, the town of Choachí in Cundinamarca hosted the first edition of the Cundinamarca Bird Festival, a sample of inter-municipal teamwork in order to showcase the regional biodiversity and strengthen the avitourism sector. 

To showcase the potential of Colombia as an avitourism destination, the Birdland Summit Colombia was launched in January 2020 by Sociedad Tequendama, together with Procolombia, Bogotá Ornithology Association, Audubon and Colombia Productiva, which aim to boost tourism in Colombia and highlight the bird diversity in the country. It will be held after Covid-19 crisis.

Apolinar’s Wren – Cistothorus apolinari – ENDEMIC

These were the main bird fairs in Colombia, and we hope in the future many more will be created in other cities to continue spreading the love for birds throughout the country.   

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About the authors

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

Updated by:

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.