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: http://www.northerncolombiabirdingtrail.com/

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. 

Accomodation

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. 

Itinerary

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 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

References 
 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.

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! 

References

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.

#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 

Manaure

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!

References
  • 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 http://www.birdlife.org 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.