The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia

The north of Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea and has a continental area of almost 133,000 square km. Try not to get excited with this fantastic video about the northern birding route in the Colombian Caribbean: Northern Caribbean Birding Trail of Colombia!


Colombia’s Caribbean coast is home to some incredibly special birding hotspots. One of them is the highest coastal mountain range on the planet, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with a wide elevation gradient, offering all thermal floors and a great biodiversity, it concentrates a large number of endemic species.

In front of it, the Serranía de Perijá, another mountain range that also has a very different avifauna and is very rich in endemisms.

Between these mountains are the threatened dry forests of Cesar and La Guajira, which also harbor very special birds and ecosystems.

Fianlly, also located there, between the Caribbean Sea and the dry forest of La Guajira, is the Los Flamencos flora and fauna sanctuary, an area of coastal lagoons watered by streams. This is an important feeding area for the birds that give it its name: flamingos.

Thus, in the Northern Caribbean of Colombia you can find most of the ecosystems of the tropical fringe of the planet: Tropical dry forest, Tropical humid forests, Low dense forests, Mountain forests, Páramos, Grasslands, Savannas, Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral reefs in the Caribbean islands.

The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

 The National Audubon Society the largest bird conservation organization, along with the US Agency for International Development (USAIDand the Colombian bird study and conservation association, Asociación Calidris developed a sustainable bird watching itinerary in Colombia in order to achieve economic development and nature conservation: the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail. 

Clink in the following link to see the suggested itinerary proposed by them:

Birding Spots of The Northern Caribbean Birding Trail

The birding spots included in the Northern Caribbean Birding Trail are:

  • Los Besotes Ecopark,
  • Serranía del Perijá, 
  • Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary,
  • Tayrona National Natural Park and
  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

In Serranía del Perijá, Los Flamencos and Sierra Nevada, birdwatchers and bird photographers will be delighted with the avian diversity and will be able to shoot unique and gorgeous species. 


Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta offers one of the most known birding lodges in Colombia and around the world, El Dorado Birding Nature Reserve. Located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, it is the best place to stay for a birdwatching tour in this area. 

Serranía del Perijá offers a simple birding lodge with basic amenities. It is called Chamicero del Perijá Reserve. However, if you dont mind to wake up very early in th morning to get to the highest area, you can stay at the lower part in the town of Manaure.

Finally, the accommodation in the cities of Valledupar and Riohacha is intended to be at local hotels. We recommend you Casa Rosalia Hotel Boutique in Valledupar and Hotel Taroa in Riohacha. 


The trip lasts 10 days, it starts in Valledupar and ends in Santa Marta, and includes experienced tour leaders and trained local guides in every location. 

Paramo and Dry Forest in Cesar

Los Besotes Eco Park

Ten kilometers from Valledupar, in the direction of Patillal, is the natural reserve Los Besotes, which treasures a large part of the fauna and flora of this region of the Colombian dry forest in the department of Cesar.

Los Besots Eco Park, Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia.
Los Besotes Eco Park, Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia.

Established in 1993 by the lawyer and historian Tomas Darío Gutiérrez, the ecological park is the result of an extraordinary, almost individual effort of a man with a passion for nature.

Toucans, macaws, chachalacas, condors and other typical Caribbean species live in this region. One of the most important highlights is the Blue-billed Currassow, Crax alberti.

The 14 kilometers of trails that run through the park allow you to circulate through the massif of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, between the Murillo and Los Besotes hills, and access points of almost 2,000 meters high, such as the Alto del Condor.

Serranía del Perijá: Páramo

Cerro Pintado, Perijá Mountain Range, Manaure, Cesar

Perijá is an isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes that forms the border with Venezuela and was a key spot during the Colombian internal conflict before turning into a paradise for birders all around the globe.

Since it has not always been accessible, scientists are still discovering and classifying many local species. The endemic species are  the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and Perijá Tapaculo.

Perijá Thistletail – Asthenes perijana, endemic

However, it has been found that common species such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local variety of the Yellow-breasted Brushfinch are endemic.

Other birds that can be spotted are Crested and Goldenheaded Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, Buffbreasted Mountain-Tanager, Hook-billed Kite, kinds of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager and Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.

Luckily you may see  the White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle. The Chamizero del Perijá Reserve is the birding lodge that receives tourists that want to explore this remote area full of avian surprises. 

Dry Forest and Wetlands of La Guajira

Los Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary 

In La Guajira peninsula, characterized by vast desert areas, this nature reserve has shallow ponds that fill with rain and evaporate during the dry season.

American Flamingo – Phoenicopterus ruber at Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, Colombia

The salt water is the proper habitat for brine shrimp, which attract the American Flamingos —the stars of the sanctuary—, as well as Scarlet and White Ibis, gulls, terns and other shore birds.

Birds of La Guajira – Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus

Caribbean Dry Forest

Orinocan Saltator – Saltator orenocensis at Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

The bright-color pattern continues with the Vermillion cardinal found in the dry forest and other species that can be seen are the White-whiskered spinetail, the Chestnut piculet, the Slender-billed inezia, the White-tipped inezia, the Buffy Hummingbird and the Orinocan Saltator. 

Buffy Hummingbird – Leucippus fallax, Camarones, La Guajira, Colombia

Find out more details about these destinations in our entry Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia.

Mountain Forest and Páramo of Santa Marta

Tayrona National Natural Park

Tayrona National Park is a place full of myths and legends of the ancient communities that inhabited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is a place for those seeking new and amazing ecotourism experiences.

Tayrona Park, picture by David Paez

Around 396 species of birds have been recorded here, including Little tinamou (Cripturellus soui), King vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Road hawk (Buteo magnirostris), Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) and Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis).

Find out more details about this destinations in our entries Best Time to Visit Tayrona Park to Avoid Crowds and Bad Weather and Travel Guide to The Lost City Trek – Ciudad Perdida – in Colombia.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta 

The Santa Marta mountain range is isolated from the Andes and the highest coastal mountain in the world! With 19 endemic bird speciesit is also among the most important endemism centers in the world

W Santa Marta Antbird – Drymophila hellmayri, endemic. Minca, Colombia

Many endemics have the Santa Marta moniker, such as  the Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Woodstar and Santa Marta Brush-Finch.

There is a screech owl unnamed but endemic, and species such as the Santa Marta Wren, the Santa Marta Sabrewing and the Santa Marta Blossomcrown are difficult to spot.

Santa Marta Brushfinch – Atlapetes melanocephalus. Minca, Colombia

If you are lucky, you will see  Black-backed Thornbill,  Santa Marta Woodstar,  Santa Marta Antpitta and Black-fronted Wood-Quail, but there are others that are more common: Santa Marta Brushfinch, Yellow-crowned Redstart, and Rusty-headed Spinetail. 

Be ready to focus your lens on the stunning White-tipped Quetzal, Band-tailed and Sickle-winged guans, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Golden-breasted Fruiteater. El Dorado Bird Reserve is the lodge where you will stay and relax while birds are not around. 

San Lorenzo Ridge – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Watch our birding experience in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta here. Find out more details about this destinations in our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

As time goes by, the list of Colombian birding trails has grown and you can be sure that you will find fantastic birds in any region of the country.

Check all of our Birding Routes here

 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.

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.

Minca Ultimate Travel Guide, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Minca is a small town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, 650 meters above sea level, and about 14 km from the center of the city of Santa Marta, in the department of Magdalena, northern Colombia.

Brief Intro about Minca

It is considered the ecological capital of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is a region with a vocation for coffee, and for many years it attracted inhabitants from the north of Santander who took advantage of its land and climate for the cultivation of coffee.

Coffee Production in Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

In the past, it was an area marked by armed conflict. Today it is a safe place. However, in Colombia, and everywhere, it is better not to give papaya. I recommend you not to go out without the accompaniment of a certified guide, especially if you go to the waterfalls or to the hotels outside the city, and at night.

Minca has a rich archaeological history and is an ecological paradise with the crystal clear Minca River and its immense green vegetation.

This place served in the past as a habitat for the Tayrona culture. Today they are found in the indigenous peoples belonging to the Kággaba (Kogi), Ijka (Arhuaco), Wiwa (Arzarios) and Kankuamo in the highlands.

Minca has multiple lodging sites, it is the corner of painters, sculptors and artisans. There are also several coffee producing haciendas that have opened their doors to tourism.

If you decide to visit Minca, in this blog you will find a travel guide to Minca, learn what to do in Minca, where to stay in Minca and more.

How to get to Minca

No matter where you come from, to get to Minca you will have to get to Santa Marta first.

Once in Santa Marta, you can book a private transfer to Minca from Santa Marta which does offer convenience. Some people prefer to arrive by cab or even by motorcycle.

Once in Minca, motorcycle or 4×4 car become the only transportation option, especially in the rainy season which is from October to December and from April to May.

Roads in Minca during rainy season

If you are going to the higher areas, it is necessary to go up by motorcycle or 4×4 car, since the road is not paved, it is narrow, and when it rains it becomes a river of water, and a reservoir of mud. But don’t worry, I promise you that the experience can be really fun!

What you can do in Minca

Thanks to its geographical position, Minca and its surroundings have different attractions.

It is a place where you can enjoy a cooler climate if you come from beach areas like Cartagena or Santa Marta.

There you can do everything related to nature tourism: hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, water tourism in rivers and waterfalls, adventure, rest and coffee.

Bird watching

Minca’s altitudinal gradient makes it a very interesting destination for bird watching, also because it is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which is a hotspot of endemism not only for Colombia, but worldwide.

Two hours by car from Mica is the El Dorado Natural Reserve, ideal for observing endemic species of the Sierra Nevada.

In its surroundings there are about 300 species of birds, both resident and migratory. It is a region of coffee plantations, with habitats ranging from dry forest, rain forest, cloud forest, and páramo (moorland) in the higher parts.

W Santa Marta Antbird – Drymophila hellmayri ENDEMIC

To learn more about birding in Mica and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, visit our entry Colombia’s Prime Birding Destination: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Among the most striking species are Santa Marta Brush-finch, Sierra Nevada Brush-finch, Santa Marta Parakeet, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Antbird, White-lored Warbler, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Whooping Motmot, Golden-winged Sparrow, Santa Marta Emerald Toucanet, White-tipped Quetzal, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, and many others.

Wildlife Watching

In addition to bird watching you can go on night safaris, especially around El Dorado Natural Reserve.
In Minca you can find the habitat of many species and there is a high concentration of endemic species, not only birds, but also frogs, reptiles, butterflies, plants and beautiful landscapes.

Butterfly watching in Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Hiking and Trekking

Minca is also an ideal destination for trekking. There are several routes, but among the most recognized are Las Piedras, Los Pinos and Cerro Kennedy.

The most recommended hike is of medium intensity, with one day of duration, and 11 km of route. It begins by leaving Santa Marta by land transport to Finca La Victoria, where you can learn about the process and history of coffee in this region.

From there you will continue walking and getting to know viewpoints and the diversity of bird species until you reach the area of Los pinos, 1,300 meters above sea level. From Los Pinos you will descend to the waterfalls of Marinka, being the final and refreshing point of the tour.

Views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta from Minca

Cerro Kennedy is another good destination for trekking in Minca. Most travelers choose to do this route on foot, but for mountain bike fans, there is a mountain biking route as well as the option to go up by bike.

The hike to Cerro Kennedy is of a moderate to difficult level. It is a 25 km route from Minca, to go and back takes two days. You will go from 650 meters above sea level, to 2700 meters. There you will find fascinating views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Water Tourism

Visiting rivers and waterfalls in Minca

Pozo Azul

After a 45 minute walk from the center of Minca, you will find Pozo Azul, which crosses the Minca River.

Cascades of Marinka

They are found after a walk of 90 minutes from the center of the town. You will have to pay for a small admission fee.

At Marinka you will find two waterfalls, one of them with a natural pool. There are also bathrooms and a café.


Cycling or Mountain Biking in Minca

There are many plans and routes in the mountains and around Minca. You will be able to live an incredible adventure full of adrenaline. There are tours from beginners to advanced.

Rappel down waterfalls.

You can practice rappelling in the Marika waterfalls.

Coffee and Beer Experiences

La Victoria Farm

La Victoria was founded in 1892 and is one of the largest and oldest coffee estates in northern Colombia. It is located about a 90 minute walk from the town of Minca.

Coffee Production in Minca, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

In addition to producing top quality organic coffee, La Victoria is home to Nevada, a small brewery that makes artisanal beer using pure mountain water and local products such as coffee and coca leaves.

La Victoria has also embraced tourism as an alternative source of income, offering guided tours that explain the history and operation of the coffee farm, you can learn the entire process of cultivation and preparation for export, and see their early 20th century machines that run on hydroelectric power.

The farm also has its own nature reserve for the enjoyment of bird watchers and nature lovers.

Where to stay in Minca

Minca has many houses, hostels and farms that offer their guests comfort and tranquility. They are available in all types and prices. Here I will recommend some of the best options:

#1 Birdlodge in Minca

El Dorado Birdlodge

El Dorado Birdlodge ©

#1 Hostel in Minca

Casas Viejas Hostel Lodge

Relaxing at Minca

#1 Private House

Oropéndola House

Casa Oropendola, Minca
Casa Oropendola, Minca

#1 Coffee Farm

Vista Nieve Farm

Vista Nieve Farm, Minca

Recommendations when visiting Minca

  • Go prepared for the heat, Minca has 80% average relative humidity, and 32 degrees average temperature.
  • Bring repellent, sunscreen, towel, bathing suit.
  • Wear proper walking shoes.

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.


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 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.

Discover the Caribbean Dry Forest Birding Trail of Colombia

We visited parts of Colombia’s Caribbean Dry Forest (Departments of Atlántico, Magdalena, La Guajira and Cesar)From a birding perspective, especially the department of Magdalena encompasses probably the best-established birding routes in the Country. But other areas in this region are yet to be fully explored by birders, and more sites will be put on the radar in close future 

From a cultural point of view, the famous colonial city of Cartagena and the carnival of Barranquilla have been frequently visited by tourists for a long time. There are also interesting and low explored destinations as indigenous experiences with the Wayuu tribe in La Guajira and musical experiences in Valledupar, the city of Vallenato music a popular folk music genre of the Colombia’s Caribbean region. Vallenato literally means “born in the valley”, which makes reference to the city of Valledupar.  Its name, Valle de Upar (Valley of Upar), was established in honor of the Amerindian cacique who ruled the valley; Cacique Upar… but let’s not get off topic.

The Caribbean Tropical Dry Forest

According to Colombia’s Instituto Humboldt, the tropical dry forest is a dense forest with palms and tall trees where epiphytes, ferns and vines abound. The tropical dry forests in Colombia were originally extensive. They covered much of the geographic valleys of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers, the Caribbean Coast, and the Llanos Orientales; today they are on the verge of disappearing. Only 8 % remain.

In the Caribbean region, the tropical dry forest is distributed in the sector of the Guachaca River, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta ecoregion (Magdalena) with 45,000 hectares. It also distributes in the sector of the Caribbean coastal plain in Montes de María and Piojó (at Atlántico and Bolívar Departments), Cartagena, Caracolcito, Ariguani-Cesar, Baja Guajira-Alto Cesar (in La Guajira and Cesar Departments). This region is known as the Pre-Caribbean Arid Belt and has an area of 6’046.376 hectares.

The Colombian Caribbean region is part of the “Endemic Bird Area Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela“, including tropical dry forests from the lowlands of the Guajira peninsula, Alto – Cesar, the bases of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the Bolivar and Atlantic departments in Colombia.

Importance of the Caribbean Tropical Dry Forests of Colombia

Although this is one of the most threatened ecosystems, it is also one of the least known. Many do not know that, for example, the passion flower used as a sedative, or the cactus and its tunas, cocoa, corn, beans and totumo are part of this biome.

According to studies conducted by the NGO Alliance for Critical Ecosystems (ALPEC), the remnants of tropical dry forests are key areas because of their great potential for the conservation of migratory birds. Because of their geographical location, these islands of natural habitat are strategic places for these birds as they are seasonal and refuge points on their way to the Andes or to the east of the continent. The tropical dry forests are the first forest ecosystem to be found by millions of terrestrial migratory birds (60 species) after their journey over the Caribbean Sea on the Colombian Caribbean coast.

Ecotourism has recently been used as an additional economic source by local communities that receive support from NGOs and government entities for their development. Infrastructure improvements (trails, observation towers, accommodation) have been made in some protected areas, and educational material has been produced. It is expected that the promotion and marketing of local artisanal products and ecotourism, associated with conservation, will ensure the functioning of protected areas to improve natural resource management and to protect the habitat of migratory birds in the long term.

Our Visit to the Caribbean Tropical Dry Forest for Birding

We had the opportunity to visit these places thanks to the collaboration of  our local partners in each of the regions. We thank the support of the association Atlántico Birding, Yaneth Bautista, as well as the Government and the Secretary of Tourism in the Atlantic. Also we thank the support of Gabriel Utría in Magdalena, José Luis Pushaina in La Guajira and, last but not least, of Luis Ropero and Tomás Darío Gutiérrez in Cesar.

Atlántico Department

Visiting Usiacurí and Luriza Reserve in the company of our local partners and the local community.

With the help of local authorities & guides, we first explored the reserves of Luriza and Los Charcones. Both are relatively close to the city of Barranquilla and host a number of interesting species of the northern Colombia’s dry forest biomes. 

Both these reserves still lack a bit of infrastructure for visiting birders, but big efforts are undertaken by privates and the government to promote birding tourism at these places. 


Usiacuri is a small picturesque town. It is known as the Nativity of the Atlantic Department. There, the crafts are made from iraca palm (Carludovica palmata) and are the livelihood of many families who, by weaving, sustain an ancestral tradition learned from the indigenous people who inhabited the region.

Usiacurí is located 40 minutes from Barranquilla along the Via Cordialidad. It is 95 meters above sea level and its average temperature is 28°C. A quiet place, which has recently been catalogued as a sustainable tourist destination.

722Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church. Usiacurí is a municipality and town in the Colombian department of Atlántico.

In Usiacurí there is a monument called the Weaver Muse (Musa Tejedora), a monument made of stainless steel that commemorates the town’s artisan tradition and is inspired by the poem La Araña (The Spider) by Julio Flórez.

Usiacurí must be visited on foot, because in its streets you can find its inhabitants walking on donkeys, or simply passing by a house where the crafts are being woven, or observing the landscape and the greenness of the forest.

You can visit the mineral wells of Usiacurí, very close to the main square of the town. This is a natural trail surrounded by dry forest that borders a stream that leads to the healing wells that made Usiacurí famous in the early 20th century. The waters of these mineral wells cannot be drunk, but they can be used for various medicinal treatments. Bird watching is also possible on this trail.

You can enter the Iraca palm handicraft shops where local artisans sell multicolored products such as bags, chests, hand fans, baskets, placemats, necklaces… which the inhabitants of Usiacurí make with their own hands, and which you can buy to help the local economy and keep this beautiful tradition alive.

Finally, we recommend visiting the church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, which stands on a hill and from where it is possible to observe the geography of the whole town. Also visit the house museum of the poet Julio Flórez, who died in the village and went to live there in search of the medicinal waters.

Regional Integrated Management District Luriza

The name of the protected area honors the spring that crosses it and has the same name as the “Luriza” village.

It is located in the municipality of Usiacurí, 6 kilometers from the center of Usiacurí town. It has an extension of 837.17 hectares where approximately 17 families live. This a magical place is surrounded by giant trees and howler monkeys with mineral water wells. The Luriza Natural Reserve is an ideal destination for bird watching and hiking.

Red Howler Monkey – Alouatta seniculus. Observed at Luriza.

The management plan of this area, among its conservation objects, contemplated the artisan tradition as one of the main activities to protect. These artisan activities  depend on the fibers of species such as the iraca palm (C. palmata). This species used to be in decline due to over-exploitation, but today it is protected. Other objects of great importance for conservation are the Carreto tree species (Aspidosperma polyneuron), the typical bird communities of the Tropical Dry Forest, the bodies of water, and the ancestral knowledge of medicinal plants.

Birding at Luriza

The access trail is steep in the beginning, leading through scruby area with scattered trees. Black-crested Antshrike, White-whiskered Spinetail & Glaucous Tanager were spotted. By the time we made it to the lower parts of the reserve it was already past 9 a.m. and hot. The forest in this area is taller, in better condition and there are trails that run along a nice creek and elsewhere into dry forest.

Without doubt birding potential there is great. Endemics like Chestnut-winged Chachalaca and Chestnut Piculet both occur. Every now and then the attractive Lance-tailed Manakin called from the forest undergrowth. These dry forests host a variety of good Tyrant-Flycatchers, too. Slender-billed TyrannuletVenezuelan FlycatcherPale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher to name but a few. 

We heard the beautiful song of Rufous-and-white Wren, eventually we coaxed one out into view. We were offered a nice lunch at a newly established “visitor center” run by local families. 


The next day we travelled to the town of Piojó. Piojó is a town with an agricultural economy. The municipality was founded long before the arrival of the Spaniards by the indigenous people of the Mocaná tribe. Before the Spanish invasion, the region was ruled by Cacique Phión, which gave rise to the current name, Piojó.

The territory has the highest elevations in the department of Atlántico, with Cerro de la Vieja standing out at 530 meters above sea level, which corresponds to the last extensions of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Civil Society Nature Reserve “Los Charcones”

The Civil Society Nature Reserve “Los Charcones”, is the first and only one in the department of Atlantico, registered and recognized by Natural National Parks of Colombia as a Civil Society Nature Reserve. Know more about Colombian Civil Society Nature Reserves here.

Civil Society Nature Reserve Los Charcones – Caribbean Tropical Dry Forest

Los Charcores Nature Reserve is located two kilometers from the rural area of the municipality of Piojó, and 46 kilometers from the urban area of the city of Barranquilla, on the highway to the sea. It has a total of 42.98 hectares of Tropical Dry Forest, with water alternation, and relics of secondary forest in good state of conservation. It is located in the middle of a topography full of mountains, hills and rocks. It has excellent trails and natural pools up to 7 meters deep.

Its main water supply is the underground water of the Municipality of Piojó, a system called ‘Lagunaje’, where freshwater and springs flow. Without a doubt, a jewel of nature of unquestionable landscape, environmental and ecological importance.

Protecting this relict of the forest was the initiative of a group of citizens from the municipality of Piojó concerned about the situation of poverty, low quality of life, lack of opportunities and stagnation of progress of its inhabitants. They took the decision to the implementation of the creation of the reserve, with the aim of preserving the environment, and in turn provide the opportunity for sustainable development to local communities.

Birding at Los Charcones

This reserve reaches slightly higher elevations than Luriza, is larger and a bit more varied. While eating some breakfast outside the reserve, we logged some Keel-billed ToucansProthonotary Warblers and Grey KingbirdsOur group visiting the site quickly expanded to about 20 or so, mostly non-birder people, much to the chagrin of our local guide. He did his best to show some chosen few (including me) a family group of Chestnut-winged ChachalacaA pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamar posed for pictures. 

Rufous–tailed Jacamar – Galbula ruficauda

Then totally unexpectedly, the local guide’s enthusiasm for the reserve and exploring spirit broke through with him. He dragged parts of the party through pathless, thorny scrub forest to show us some remote parts of the reserve. As the morning processed and the sun bashed mercilessly on us, some people rebelled to go any further and insisted to get back! What a relief… We saw many Crested Oropendolas flying by, but nothing else. 

Once we crawled back to the ridge, we persuade our local guide to do one of the established trails of the reserve where we could focus on some birding. There we logged Pale-tipped TyrannuletWhite-bellied Antbird and a vocal Striped CuckooThe non-birders of our group, opted from some refreshing (and well deserved) dip into water pools 

A delicious soup and typical dishes of the region were offered for lunch and a little siesta in a hummock rounded off this unexpectedly adventurous visit to Los Charcones. 

Magdalena Department

The most known birding destination in the department of Magdalena is Minca, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We will talk about it in another blog, since it no longer corresponds to tropical dry forest.

Vía Parque Isla Salamanca

However, we can visit the tropical dry forest in the Vía Parque Isla Salamanca. This area, together with the Flora and Fauna Sanctuary of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, was declared in 1998 as a Ramsar Site of world importance. In November 2000, it was also declared as a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Both constitute the core zone of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Lagoon Complex Biosphere Reserve because they are representative of the Magdalena River delta, considered a strategic ecosystem.

The island of Salamanca is an extraordinary group of beaches, marshes and forests that occupy the old estuary of the Magdalena River. The coastal mangroves are one of the last refuges for the critically endangered South-American ManateeIt is crossed longitudinally by the road that connects the cities of Barranquilla and Santa Marta, so its lake and mangrove landscapes can be perfectly appreciated on the way. It is for this reason that it has been given the category of “Via Parque”, unique in the System of National Natural Parks of Colombia.

Birding at Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca

The next day we dawned at Salamanca Island Road Park (Spanish: Vía Parque Isla de Salamanca) national parkIt’s only about a 40-minute drive from Barranquilla. This small site offers some easy access to a mix of habitats. It encompasses the typical dry forest of the area along with access to mangrovesvia wooden boardwalk. 

Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes and Tringa melanoleuca at Via Parque Isla de Salamanca

A Northern Scrub-Flycatcher sang, and on a small pond we compared Greater– and Lesser Yellowlegs, alongside a Spotted Sandpiper side by side.  Wwere shown a singing Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, a taxon of much debate. Some consider it to be a hybrid with Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, others claim it to be a plumage stage of latter species. Hopefully, further studies will clarify its taxonomic status soon. Despite seeing the bird at close range, we were unable to discern any colors because of bad light, thus incapable of checking the few known identification criteria. But according to the park guard the individual we saw, was one of the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird’s known steak out perches. 

Putative Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird – Lepidopyga lilliae at Via Parque Isla de Salamanca

In the mangroves we observed Golden-green-, Red-crowned-, Red-rumped-, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Straight-billed Woodcreeperan obliging Pied Water-Tyrant, Prothonotary-, Yellow WarblerBicolored Conebill. Aquatic birds abound too. We spotted 5 Heron-species, LimpkinWoodstork and Large-billed Terns. Russet-throated Puffbirds are always a treat to look at. 

Pied Water-tyrant – Fluvicola pica at Via Parque Isla de Salamanca
Prothonotary Warbler – Protonotaria citrea at Via Parque Isla de Salamanca

Mid-morning, we visited a small marsh near Palomino where we found a typical scatter of that habitat. We were looking for Northern Screamer but no cigar… 

La Guajira Department


East of the Santa Marta Mountains & famous Tayrona National Park, the Guajira Peninsula extends to Colombia’s most northern point, bordering Venezuela. This (together with the Tatacoa Desert) represents the country’s driest area. Tropical Dry forests – in parts the area appears almost like a desert – are the main habitat there. Several near-endemic species only to be found in this part of the country, are the main targets.  

Most of the Guajira Peninsula and the areas interesting for birders lie within the territory of the Wayuu-tribe – the largest indigenous tribe in Colombia. Their territory extends well into Venezuela. The communities here are among the poorest in Colombia. It is advisable to visit all sites with the aid of local guides. Several of them have been trained by the Audubon Society and are among the most experienced local guides in Colombia! 

Birding at Camarones & Flamencos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary

With the help of Jose Luis Pushaina, a local birding guide, we started the day early at Camarones. In a fruiting tree we saw Trinidad Euphonia and Green-rumped Parrotlet. 

Green-rumped Parrotlet – Forpus passerinus
Trinidad Euphonia – Euphonia trinitatis
Glaucous Tanager – Thraupis glaucocolpa

Little later we’ve seen the regional endemic birds Buffy HummingbirdChestnut Piculet (national endemic), Orinocan SaltatorVermillion Cardinal & Glaucous Tanager alongside with White-whiskered SpinetailSlender-billed Tyrannulet and Russet-throated Puffbird

Access to the beach at the hamlet of Camarones provided us with views of Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher Semipalmated Plover and SemipalmatedLeast Sandpiper, SanderlingWilletBlack SkimmerRoyal-Caspian- and Sandwich TernIn the afternoon we checked a large brackish lagoon where – depending of the time of year – large numbers of American Flamingo gather. They commute between here and their breeding site in the Venezuelan Maracaibo-Basin! We tried for Tocuyo Sparrow, too. But no luck at this time of the day. 

Fauna and Flora Sanctuary Los Flamencos

There’s a new communal-based project in Camarones hosting visiting birders. The recently opened Mar Azul lodge is the first and so far only site, where birders can stay overnight within the park’s limit. It’s right next to the sea and they set up feeders where Buffy HummingbirdsVermilion CardinalOrinocan Saltator, Yellow Oriole & more visits! 

Vermilion Cardinal – Cardinalis phoeniceus
Orinocan Saltator – Saltator orenocensis
Buffy Hummingbird – Leucippus fallax

Cesar Department

Ten kilometers from Valledupar, in the direction of Patillal, is one of the great attractions of this department. It is neither a colonial monument nor a modern building, but something even more relevant: the natural reserve of the civil society Ecoparque Los Besotes. Established in 1993 by the lawyer and historian Tomás Darío Gutiérrez, the ecological park is the result of an extraordinary, almost individual, effort by a man passionate about nature.

In its 20 years of life, the park has known a successful growth and has always maintained a philosophy of independence and rigor. This has facilitated that 92% of the territory is dedicated to conservation, and that the secondary regeneration forest, which comprised approximately 40% of the area, takes more than 10 years to recover naturally.

Ecoparque Los Besotes, department of Cesar, Colombia

Key plant species that can be found at the park are Caracolí (Anacardium excelsum), Camajón (Sterculia apetala), Ceiba blanca (Hura crepitans), Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra), Guaímaro (Brosimun alicastrum), Indio desnudo (Bursera simaruba), Guayacán (Bulnesia sp) and Pivijay (Ficus sp).

Among the fauna, the following stand out: Jaguar (Pantera onca), Puma (Pantera concolor), Tiger (Felis pardalis), Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), Red brocket deer (Mazama americana), Taíno (Tayassu tajacu), Cattle monkey (Alouatta seniculus), Capuchin monkey (Cebus capuchino), Night monkey (Aotus lemurinus). The following threatened mammal species have been recorded: Panthera onca (NT), Tapirus terrestris colombianus (VU), Aotus lemurinus griseimembra (VU).

Birding at Ecoparque Los Besotes

Los Besotes Ecopark

We visited and toured the park with our local guide Jose Luis Ropero. The more than 1000 hectares distributed between the townships of Los Corazones and Rio Seco, offer a dense and varied vegetation of Tropical Dry Forest, that hosts more than 250 species of birds (migratory and native) throughout the year.

The 14 kilometers of trails that run through the park like small veins allow visitors to travel through the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif, between Mount Murillo and Mount Los Besotes, and access points almost 2,000 meters high on the top of the Condor. Each of these trails offers unexpected gifts for visitors: viewpoints, observatories, forests, hills, streams and waterfalls that fill visitors with joy and amazement.

The presence of the Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti), the Military Macaw (Ara militaris) and the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is noteworthy. Another species are Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens), Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis), among others.

Within the unique registry of protected areas in Colombia (RUNAP), Los Besotes Ecopark has the category of Regional Natural Park. It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.

IBAs are sites of international importance for bird conservation:

  • They are practical tools for biodiversity conservation.
  • They should provide, where possible, all the requirements for the bird populations for which they have been identified.
  • They are different in character, habitat or ornithological importance from the surrounding land.
  • And. IBAs are part of an integrated and broader approach to biodiversity conservation, BirdLife’s conservation strategy, which also includes species and habitat protection.
Shining–green Hummingbird – Lepidopyga goudoti

If you want to know more about birding trips in Colombia, stay tuned or contact us!


  • National Parks of Colombia Website
  • Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute Website
  • Critical Ecosystem Alliance ONG Website
  • BirdLife International ONG 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.

#1 Birding Destination in Cesar: Cerro Pintado and Perijá Mountain Range

The Perijá mountain range is located in the north of Colombia and is a territory of great biological importance for the country and humanity due to its unique characteristics and the environmental services it provides in the region.

In addition, it has great cultural importance since it has reservations of the Yuko-Yupka and Bari indigenous peoples, almost extinct ethnic groups.

The economy of the region is based on agriculture and mining. In the agricultural part, permanent crops of oil palm, coffee, cocoa, and livestock stand out. On the other hand, mining focuses on the extraction of coal but it pollutes the sources of water, soil, and air.

The rural population, which suffers from high rates of poverty, has been the main affected by the armed conflict in the past. Community-based tourism, rural tourism, and bird watching tourism are economic alternatives for these communities that, until recently, became peace territories.

Perijá Mountain Range (Serranía del Perijá)

The The Perijá Mountain Range (or Serranía del Perijá) is an isolated, northern extension of Colombia’s East Andean Cordillera. It borders Venezuela for the whole of its north-south alignment.

Due to its independent orogeny from the Andes and other close Mountain Ranges, it hosts highly interesting avifauna and some endemism, although not to the same extent as the Santa Marta Mountains.  

The area is almost completely lacking ornithological coverage and very few expeditions have been undertaken to study the area. This is mainly because of the inaccessibility of the area due to a long and ongoing guerilla presence, enhanced by the Venezuelan crisis and illegal crop plantations.

Efforts of the Colombian military, at least parts of the Colombian side of the mountain range have become accessible to tourists but are still rarely visited by birders.  

While forests on the Colombian side of the accessible areas have been partly cleared, the areas on the Venezuelan have declared a National Park. Although, the ProAves Foundation has established the Perija Bird Reserve that protects some of the most interesting areas higher up in the Sabana Rubia sector. 

Cerro Pintado at Perijá Mountain Range

Cerro Pintado, Perijá Mountain Range, Manaure, Cesar

Cerro Pintado is located in northeastern Colombia, on the western slope of the Perijá mountain range. This area has unique characteristics allowing a vast diversification of different groups of fauna and flora. Its proximity to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and being the transition zone between the Guajira peninsula and the eastern Andes, makes it so special.

The vast majority of the hill is covered by premontane and montane forests which in the higher areas are replaced by paramos. At present, there are strong pressures of colonization, mainly from the lower parts to the higher ones, through the expansion of agriculture and livestock.

This site has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA), with around 15.000 hectares. It holds significant numbers of globally threatened species, a significant population of range-restricted species, and holds a significant component of the group of species whose distributions are largely or wholly confined to one biome-realm (Know more at Birdlife International Website).

We all were stunned by the beauty of this remote area. The Cerro Pintado delineates the border with Venezuela and stood in the backdrop of the untouched forest below us! 

A Famtrip with Ropero Aventuras

In this perspective, it was a big privilege to visit the area on the Sula Fam Trip in December 2018 for a good 3 days. We were accompanied by Jose Luis Ropero from Ropero Aventuras, who knows the area very well.

If visiting the area as an individual, it is absolutely mandatory to hire a local guide! During our trip, we explored the altitude gradient available from the Colombian side from 800m a.s.l. – 3100m m.a.s.l. 

Vereda San Antonio

On our first morning, we explored the foothills around Manaure and found the beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager singing, seconds later posing for pictures sitting in a bush. Climbing the road up to Vereda San Antonio, where we stayed for the night, we found little activity. 

Rosy Thrush–Tanager – Rhodinocichla rosea, Balcón del Cesar, Cesar

The owner of the Finca has serious plans to convert the place into a hotel. During our stay there, several mountain bikers explored the area, and it was nice to see (again, and again), how many parts of Colombia tourism are taking flight.  So many local people put in effort, as they recognize it as a viable and sustainable economy. 

Vereda San Antonio still lacks some basic infrastructure but with the often boundless enthusiasm and energy people put into such projects, this could change very soon… And their location would be exquisite as there are very few other options in the area. 

During our two evening and late morning excursions in the close vicinity of the Finca, we birded some small but very productive woodland patches. We saw the regional endemic Perija TapaculoGrey-throated WarblerPerijá Brushfinch and ssp. nigrifrons of Yellow-breasted Brushfinch (a good species under IOC Taxonomy = Black-fronted Brushfinch). 

The Paramo Area

One morning, we devoted to the search of the little known Perijá Thistletailregional endemic Furnariid of high altitudes. We reached the Paramo-like habitat very early on a chilly but cloudless morning. And most important: almost no wind, and actually quite a rare occasion up here! 

Tawny-breasted Tinamou sang in the Valley below. Little trails leading into the forest were very tempting, but we didn’t have time to explore them. The song of Perija Thistletail immediately caught our attention, instead.

With the help of a little playback, we lured the bird completely out into the open. Camilla took an excellent photos of this individual, and I was able to take immaculate sound recordings.

As the morning progressed, the first rays of light warmed us and general bird activity increased. An Andean Pygmy-Owl sat out in the open and was mobbed by Perijá MetaltailsWhite-throated Tyrannulets2 Chestnut-breasted ChlorophoniasCommon ChlorospingusSlaty BrushfinchLacrimose Mountain-Tanager (ssp. pallididorsalis) and Blue-backed Conebill! What a flock.

Close by we saw Mountain Wren and heard the very distinct (and different to other populations) song of Rufous Antpitta. Rumor has it, that finally after almost 30 years of research, the split in the Rufous Antpitta complex is neigh! The saltuensis ssp. of the Perija Mountains will surely be elevated to species level. Further down activity dwindled but we saw a beautiful Golden-breasted Fruiteater 


Unfortunately, it was time to wrap up things at Vereda San Antonio and head back to Manaure. Here we stayed at the charming Villa Adelaida for the night. Around their garden, we logged a scatter of common species like Red-crowned WoodpeckersBicolored WrensCrested OropendolasRufous-capped Warblers and Black-headed Tanagers.

But the best bird here was definitely the beautiful Golden-winged Sparrow. This was as well, our last excursion the highly memorable and interesting FamTrip with Sula. A difficult call, but for me, maybe the visit to the Perija Mountains ornithologically-wise constituted the highlight of this trip. Always save best for last, right?  

We fared well to our guide José Louis Ropero, and the next morning we hit the road back to Bogotá on a long and unexpectedly long journey. But that’s a different story just watch the video!

  • Serranía del Perijá: Geografía, capital humano, economía y medio ambiente. Author María Aguilera Díaz. Banco de la República (read here)
  • BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cerro Pintado (Serranía de Perijá). Downloaded from on 25/08/2020.
About the authors

Jérôme Fischer

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

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.