The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamú Birding is a natural reserve 15 km away from the city of Manizales, in the village of San peregrino. More than 40 years ago, in the heart of the coffee region in Colombia, Tinamu Birding was a coffee farm. Over the years, the Londoño Jaramillo family allowed their coffee and banana plantations to become a forest.

The family started supporting the planting of native trees in the region, protecting and reforesting a small part of the sub-Andean forest in the department of Caldas. This resulted in a high density of fauna and flora, concentrated in a land completely surrounded by open coffee and fruit tree plantations, becoming a refuge for local wildlife.

Origins of the Tinamú Birding Lodge

The real story begins just six years ago, in 2014, when Mauricio Londoño, its owner, made the decision to build a bird lodge. Since then, it became a successful and unique project in the country, competing internationally with eco-lodges and bird-lodges in countries like Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Costa Rica, which have a longer trajectory in birding and nature tourism. Since that time, ecotourism has been one of the main sources of self-financing for the reserve. They are specialized in offering a high level of service for birding tourists, who seek comfort and at the same time all the facilities to observe and photograph birds in their natural habitat.

According to Mauricio, a lot of perseverance and discipline was needed, because one of the main challenges was to adapt the facilities around the lodge to attract the birds. As is well known, the installation of bird drinkers and bird feeders requires a daily commitment to maintenance, to ensure the presence of the birds, but most of all, the health of the birds.

Tinamu Birding Visitors

Initially the bird lodge received hardcore birders, and still does, if not all of them have already passed through this place. As time went by, it became specialized in receiving people interested in having contact with nature and, at the same time, having the best possible comfort and attention. Today, Tinamú Birding is oriented to travelers looking for quality and comfort, and does not receive backpackers or outlanders. Just so you know, even camping is forbidden and no buses are accepted that bring more than 10 people.

Bird photographers at Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve
Bird photographers at Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve

Eventually, Tinamu specialized to hosting bird photographers. Bird photographers are a particular segment of bird watching tourism, who generally carry photographic equipment that can weigh up to 15 kilograms. These people do not walk much, but rather sit and wait for the perfect conditions to photograph the birds.

Facilities for bird photographers and bird watchers at the Tinamú Birding Lodge

Steely-vented Hummingbird at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The facilities offered for bird photographers at the Tinamu are concentrated on attracting the birds with food and water to scenarios well suited for bird photography. These locations are native plant gardens, with feeders and waterers installed around them. There are several natural perches installed there suitable for bird photography.

Around the lodge you can observe around 60 species of birds, among them the Gray-headed Dove, and the Little Tinamou itself, which gives the name to the reserve, has been baited to facilitate its observation. Some sectors even have hides for photographers.

Hide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Accommodation and staff

Highlights at a glance:

Tinamu offers a high level of service, from food, lodging, cleaning in the lodge and in the forest. All the employees are from rural families who live nearby, and are trained in the love of service and the appreciation and respect for the clients, and so provide a qualified service. There are 9 staff members in charge of providing the best attention in all the services of cooking, lodging, guidance and maintenance of the reserve.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

The lodge has large rooms of between 25 and 30 square meters, with comfortable beds, designed for a senior and family segment, so that people receive good service and feel good. The bathrooms are very spacious, with hot water, and are safe and functional for the senior tourist.

Accommodation capacity in the Tinamu is reduced to guarantee peace in the natural environment, allowing wild animals to come close. For this reason there are no dogs, cats, television or radio that can disturb the tranquility. It is a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of nature.

Accomodation at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Today, the recovery of the forest has been so successful that, only 3 months ago, Tinamu Birding Lodge was declared as a Civil Society Nature Reserve (CSRR 031-19 before Colombian National Natural Parks NNP according to resolution 056 of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development). Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve is proudly rising as one of the most important private wildlife conservation centers in the region, and becoming a national reference for others who are beginning to understand and follow its example.

Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve, notice it is a refuge in the middle of a highly fragmented landscape.

Today, the reserve guarantees the regeneration and restoration of the ecosystems within its 12.6 hectares. It protects a strategic habitat in the middle of the agricultural zone. This habitat is a refuge for 227 species of resident birds and 33 species of migratory birds. Also, different types of mammals, reptiles, insects, and attractive butterflies and moths, as well as many plants and fungi. Check out the gallery of wildlife you can photograph at Tinamu at the end of this post.

Sustainable Practices at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Their new goal is to increase their environmental education programs focused on children and youth living in the surrounding area, people with disabilities, and the elderly. They are also looking for alliances with institutions, schools and universities, and agreements with ornithological associations in the country, to develop research projects for the conservation and biodiversity of nature.

Children from San Peregrino at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Among the main activities carried out in the reserve for the protection of the forest are:

  • The use of native trees for reforestation.
  • The creation of artificial nests for birds and mammals.
  • Research of the avifauna by carrying out permanent bird censuses.
  • Day and night monitoring of species with camera traps, videos, sound recording and photographic records.
  • Free workshops for children and young people in the San Peregrino area with emphasis on water, nature and bird care.
  • Workshops for groups of blind and disabled people with a focus on awareness and care of the environment.
  • Invitation of international experts, through PROCOLOMBIA and other institutions, as advisors for the preservation of the environment.
Juan Pablo Culasso at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Birds and Coffee at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve

Within the reserve there are also some relics of the coffee plantations of the past. These trees have been left to grow along with the native species from the reforestation. The banana is also kept, but this time for the maintenance of the birds’ food. The coffee and banana plantations are maintained naturally as they do not receive any agricultural treatment. Birds like the tinamou and some species of grallarias are very attracted by these mixed covers of coffee and forest.

Recently Tinamú created the Café de las Aves, a completely organic coffee, roasted in Chichiná, Caldas which is offered to visitors during their stay, and for sale in general. The production is not industrial, and the profits from the sale of this coffee are destined to the maintenance of the food for the birds. If you want to know more about the relationship between birds and coffee read our entry Did you know birds can be saved by the coffee you drink?

What has been happening at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve during Covid-19 pandemia?

During the pandemic, Tinamu has taken care of the people and their jobs. The lovely staff have prepared all the necessary biosecurity protocols to receive you with all the care you need. At the moment they only recommend you to #stayhome. If you like to know how to visit the reserve, write to us and we will be happy to design your trip.

Fernando Galvis – Birdwatching Guide at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve
Verónica Echeverry – Receptionist at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
James Martínez – Gardener Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Dorany García – Housekeeper Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.
Nancy and Natali -Chefs Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve.

Fauna and flora you can find at Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve (Photo gallery)

Pieridae Butterfly
Blue-headed Parrot
Zingiberaceae Plant
Bee pollinating a passion fruit flower.
Water lily.
White-bearded Manakin
Western Emerald
Spectacled Owl
Bamboo mushroom
Earthstar mushroom
Berthold’s bush anole.
Long-tailed weasel.
Tent-making bat.
Moustached Puffbird.
Gray-headed Dove.
Nine-banded armadillo.
Stump-tailed porcupine.
Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth.
Crab-eating fox.
Western basilisk.
Bay-headed Tanager.

Sula thanks Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve for the visual material shared for the publication of this post. Also for receiving us at the reserve to know first hand everything they have to offer. This allows us to give the best information to our clients about this destination.


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. 


Brief Overview about Bird Photography for Beginners

This blog entry does not address the ambitious and advanced bird photographer, nor the complex technical aspects of the topic. It’s a more basic, personal approach from a birder, who likes to take casual pictures & videos. It emphasizes giving the interested beginner a brief overview of what options there are for bird photography.

Brief overview about Bird Photography

Not so long ago, taking high-quality bird pictures for publications was exclusively reserved for the professional photographer. The equipment used was invariably extremely expensive and exquisite. But with the rise of digital photography some 15 years ago, things drastically changed.

Digital Technology

Digitalization has leveled the field for birders, beginners, and amateur photographers alike, who have the ambition – and now the opportunity – to shoot high-quality pictures with affordable equipment. Nowadays, people with very basic knowledge of photography (like me) are able to take excellent pictures and videos of birds – something that was unthinkable a decade ago.

Bird Photography Market

Bird photography has become quite a market. There’s a large offer of workshops, guided photography tours, as well as many publication opportunities e.g. social media platforms and public databases. Although birders and bird photographers focus on the same subject, the two fields are different pairs of shoes. 

Anyway, many people like to combine both and recognize modern technologies as useful tools. Whether it’s to document a very rare bird on your excursion, capture a picture or video of a dramatic and spontaneous encounter, or taking pictures to compare, learn and study species – it’s true that today almost every birder is carrying some sort of photographic equipment in the field!

But what kind of equipment?

That’s where the potential headache starts for people completely new to the subject. Photography (no matter what genre and level) is a science, and the market offers a myriad of options to pros and beginners alike.

To start with, it’s essential to ask yourself in what environment and for what purpose you consider using your equipment. If you aim to take good pictures of rare, cryptic rainforest understory species, you will need – no matter what – adequate, expensive high-end equipment.

In rainforest understory, you definitely don’t need a big 600/800 mm lens. But if you want to take pictures of waders, birds in open habitat, distant birds from a canopy platform, then you have to consider exactly that. But for this purpose, you have several more alternatives and options for compromises.

As well, if you publish your photos exclusively on platforms and databases that compress picture quality drastically, you don’t need the fanciest gear! Nowadays there’s something for everyone, for every need. But no system will be capable to cover all application fields at the same time.

Systems widely used for Bird Photography

The options presented below are the most acclaimed and widely used for bird photography. Still, the best system with the technically best picture results are:

1. Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras and their accompanying lenses.

But this is mainly for the advanced and ambitious bird and wildlife photographer. With this system, you’ll always carry (at least) two different parts: Camera body + lens, the most weight, and spend the most cash.


For a long time now, the industry leaders for DSLRs are Nikon and Canon. The most significant advantages of DSLR cameras compared to other systems are: They have the best autofocus, have very high frame rates, perform excellent at high ISO, and are the most robustly built.

The price of good DSLR cameras ranges between 700 USD up to 6000 USD. Consider buying them second-hand. There’s a huge market for this. For an overview of Nikon and Canon camera bodies:


Accompanying one of the high-end camera bodies, are high-end telelenses of the same brands. For bird photography, you need at least a 300mm lens (or a 100-400mm zoom). Nikon & Canon offer fixed focal lengths of 400/500/600mm with apertures F/2.8, F/4, F/5.6 suitable for bird photography.

You can combine these lenses either with camera bodies with crop factor or converters in order to get more magnification with smaller focal lengths (300/400,) or incredible magnification with 500/600mm lenses. Using converters will usually (slightly) diminish picture quality. For taking pictures with such high magnification, you need good tripods and tripod heads…

Bird photographers love warm, low-angle sunlight in the early morning and late evening. Often, this ideal light is not available. If you take pictures in dark environments, you’ll need sophisticated flashes too, which tend to alter natural colors significantly.

You see, once you move into this league, you’ll have to add all different (yes, innumerable) kinds of accessories. All the above-mentioned will result in staggering expenses starting at about 12000 USD, and you dragging around lots and heavy gear into the field.

Having said this, Nikon just released the new Nikkor 500mm F/5.6 PF ED VR telelens. This very compact, light (1.5 kg!), “cheap” (3900 USD) lens offers incredible quality and could set THE standard of what many photographers will use in the future.

2. Digital, mirrorless Cameras

The mirrorless camera technology is following the above-mentioned DLSR-System hot on its heels in several aspects. With this system, you still carry two parts – the camera body and lens.

The newest releases of the industry leaders Sony and Olympus apparently approach or even match the image quality and versatility of DSLR cameras. Nikon and Canon produce mirrorless cameras too.

Mirrorless cameras lack obviously – as the name implies – a mirror. This means that one is looking through an electronic viewfinder, instead of an optical one. The imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times and creates a digital image reproduced in the electronic viewfinder or an LCD screen on the back of the camera.

Advantages of mirrorless cameras

They are small and light, still somewhat cheaper, are excellent for taking videos, and they are compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Tamron lenses.

Disadvantages of mirrorless cameras

Most of the mirrorless cameras have somewhat slower autofocus, are less tolerant to high ISO, and have significantly less battery life.

If you have a little extra cash, you might want to consider Sony’s high-end telelens, a 600mm/F.4 for about 13000 USD.

So, is there something in between the two? Absolutely!

3. Bridge cameras

Bridge cameras are mirrorless, single-lens cameras. The name “Bridge Camera” derives from “bridging the gap” between point-and-shoot cameras and single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) There you go: You have camera and lens united in one piece!

The ones best suited for bird photography have zoom lenses ranging between 25-400mm, 25-480mm or 25-600mm. These cameras are also well suited for taking videos and are extremely compact and light!

Although image quality is excellent on computer screens and by any means good enough to publish your pictures on Facebook etc., it never matches the quality of good DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Furthermore, they are not resistant to humidity and shock, they focus and shoot slower and are far less tolerant to high ISO settings.

In my opinion, they offer by far the best price-performance ratio for beginners who like to take good quality pictures and videos of birds. The large zoom range of the integrated lens makes them very versatile and useful for many other photographic purposes.

Sony & Lumix currently produce the best bridge cameras:

4. Digiscoping

Here you simply attach a point-and-shoot camera or even a smartphone (with a corresponding adapter) to your telescope. Depending on your equipment you can achieve focal lengths of 1000-3000mm and even more, not possible with any of the above-presented systems. Furthermore, a good telescope produces amazing detail with a forced depth of field and is tremendous in low-light situations.

In turn, with such a powerful focal length you’ll have considerable problems focusing on close and especially moving objects.

Although people have been digiscoping since the early 1990s, probably no one back then believed that it would be possible to take high-quality pictures with a telephone! And more: Make them instantly and easily accessible to the whole community.

Conclusions and recommendations

Advances in technology and optics have provided us new opportunities for photography, probably few have dared to think of a short while ago. Remember: The most expensive equipment is worth little if you don’t know how to handle it properly.

Whatever camera system you use: Learn to handle it well. Of course, basic technical knowledge is essential to take good pictures. Practice and experiment with your gear as much as you can.

Birds rarely pose long enough and wait until you finished fumbling around with buttons and camera settings. But: Pure technical knowledge can limit you in some ways, not helping you to take interesting pictures. And: How often has the same bird been photographed technically perfect on the same branch and the same feeder, not even causing you to raise an eyebrow anymore…

Study your subject – the birds – as well as possible. Profound knowledge about them and the environment they are living in will enhance the chances of taking extraordinary pictures – whatever kit you use!

About the author

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.