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From Opus

Revision as of 01:17, 20 December 2010 by Globalbirder (Talk | contribs)



With almost 1900 species, Colombia is the world's most bird-rich nation. It also boosts 76 endemics and 109 near-endemics of the 1,880 species recorded. So why is this not the Mecca of the birding world? Since the 1960s a narco-guerrilla war across Colombia has deterred all visitors and given Colombia a bad reputation. However, for the past decade Colombians voted in hard line politicians that have turned the country around and largely destroyed the guerrilla, pushing them back into the most remote areas (like what Peru did in the 1990s). Recent years has seen a large resurgence of birders safely visiting sites across Colombia, with over 20 national and international birding companies [1] leading the way.

Colombia has so much to offer, not just spectacular landscapes and more birds than any other country! What is most impressive about Colombia is the people - despite suffering decades of bloody war (the longest running civil conflict in the Americas no less) they are the most friendly people, embracing and welcoming foreigners and visitors. Now is the time to start birding in Colombia.

Despite few foreign birders visiting Colombia, Colombians have been busy birding and build up a long list of birding sites to find rare and endemic birds. Facilities at many sites remain quite rustic and it is not as comfortable as birding in Ecuador, Kenya and other typical tropical birding destinations.

As there is no guide to the birding sites in Colombia, this page will be dedicated to the top "must visit birding sites" with the most specialist species to help guide first visitors to Colombia. We have asked experienced members of the forum to recommend and detail their top five birding sites in Colombia one should/must visit with the highest number of endemics, but also considering birding facilities, e.g. trails, proximity to hotels/lodges, etc. Based on forum member recommendations, we shall detail the top sites and provide future visitors with extra information.

Top five birding sites in Colombia:

Based on recommendations from many birders and public contributions from Robert Giles, Avery Bartels and Trevor Ellery, the following five areas are the places to visit to see Colombia's many endemics:

1. El Dorado Bird Reserve and Lodge in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains (21 endemics) 2. Las Tangaras and Colibri del Sol Reserves in Antioquia/Choco (16 endemics) 3. Cerulean Warbler and Pauxi Pauxi Reserve in Santander (12 Endemics) 4. Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve in Antioquia (9 Endemics) 5. Paujil Reserve in Boyaca (6 Endemics)

Secondary areas: 6. Parque La Florida, Bogota: 3 endemics (BogotĂĄ Rail, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Apolinar's Wren) 7. Monterredondo, Cundinamarca: 2 endemics (Cundinamarca Antpitta and Brown-breasted Parakeet). 8. Bahia Solano: one key endemic (Baudo Oropendola). Plus many other great sites with endemics and good facilities, for example: La Suiza lodge, El Paujil reserve, Rio Blanco reserve, Colourful Puffleg reserve, La Victoria, El Cairo, Fuertes reserve, La Florida park, Los Flamencos sanctuary, Chingaza national park, etc., with species overlapping at sites above.

El Dorado Bird Reserve and Lodge

Without any doubt, this is the top birding site in Colombia if not the entire tropics - where can you find 22 endemics within a stones throw of a wonderful birding lodge? This wonderful reserve with great facilities is perched on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains - the highest coastal mountain on earth - the views are unparalleled. Whatsmore, this reserve can easily be combined with visiting Minca (lowland dry to subtropical wet forests) and the north coast of Colombia (Guajira endemics).

Endemic and notable birds 21 endemics (all but one Sierra Nevada endemic [Santa Marta Wren]), 18 threatened species, 333 bird species, with a birding lodge, trails, hummingbird and antpitta feeders. Endemics that can be seen in the reserve and around the lodge: 1. Santa Marta Parakeet 2. Santa Marta Screech Owl 3. Blossomcrown 4. Black-Backed Thornbill 5. White-tailed Starfrontlet 6. Santa Marta Woodstar 7. Santa Marta Sabrewing 8. Rusty-headed Spinetail 9. Streak-capped Spinetail 10. Santa Marta Foliage Gleaner 11. Santa Marta Antpitta 12. Brown-rumped Tapaculo 13. Santa Marta Tapaculo 14. Santa Marta Bush Tyrant 15. Santa Marta Mountain Tanager 16. Colombian Brush Finch 17. Santa Marta Brush Finch 18. Yellow-Crowned Whitestart 19. White-lored Warbler 20. Santa Marta Warbler 21. Santa Marta Toucanet Another Colombian endemic, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca (22), can be found fairly easily near Santa Marta airport.

Access and Facilities Barranquilla Airport - 4 Hours (flights from Miami and Panama City) Santa Marta Airport - 3 Hours. It is possible to take a taxi from either airport or from the City of Santa Marta to the town of Minca. From Minca a 4x4 jeep is needed to the lodge.

El Dorado Bird Lodge has excellent facilities including: --6 spacious Rooms (4 more under construction) for groups of 16 or more. --Dining Room, Pub and Observation Balcony --Great Food --Small library --Plethora of Hummingbird feeders (4 endemic hummers visiting) --Fruit feeders with great photo opportunities --Antpitta feeding station (attracting SM Antpitta and Colombian Brush Finch) --Compost Heap - especially favoured by Black-fronted Wood Quail and both endemic Brush Finches. --Crab-eating Foxes visiting nightly. --Night Monkeys sometimes visit fruiting tree opposite lodge balcony.

Further information

Birding Colombia website [2]

A video of the reserve [3]

The spectacular view form the lodge video [4]

Las Tangaras and Colibri del Sol Reserves and area

Located along the department boundary of western Antioquia and eastern Choco, these two reserves are 40 miles apart but span the entire western Cordillera and Choco ecosystems, from Paramo to tropical rainforest with all the endemics found here and on route between sites. The combined total of El Dorado and the Las Tangaras area is 38 endemics. This is half of Colombia’s endemic birds!

Endemic and notable birds 16 endemics

1. Colombian Chachalaca (on route) 2. Chestnut Wood Quail (Las Tangaras) 3. Yellow-eared Parrot (Las Tangaras and nearby in Jardin) 4. Dusky Starfrontlet (Colibri del Sol) 5. Greyish Piculet (Cauca Valley) 6. Fenwick’s Antpitta (Colibrí del Sol) 7. Paramillo Tapaculo (Colibrí del Sol) 8. Alto Pisonus Tapaculo (Las Tangaras) 9. Apical Flycatcher (on route) 10. Munchique Wood-Wren (Road to Urrao) 11. Black-and-Gold Tanager (Las Tangaras) 12. Gold-ringed Tanager (Las Tangaras) 13. Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Colibri del Sol) 14. Crested Ant-Tanager (Las Tangaras) 15. Red-bellied Grackle (Las Tangaras) 16. Flame-rumped Tanager (Las Tangaras)

Las Tangaras birds: This new reserve is one of the most spectacular birding sites in Colombia. It protects Colombia two endemic Bangsia Tanagers, the Black-and-Gold being particularly abundant and along the ridges, the Gold-ringed Tanager. Other endemics include Chestnut Wood Quail, Alto Pisonus Tapaculo (reasonably common), Crested Ant Tanager (Fairly Common) and Red-bellied Grackle. A large flock of Yellow-eared Parrots were located in January 2010 perhaps emanating from the population in Jardin. Flame-rumped Tangers occur in the pastures leading up to the reserve. Tangaras is perhaps almost as famous for its large selection of Choco specialties. Such mouthwatering species as Choco Vireo, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Black Solitaire, Star-chested Treerunner and Purplish Mantled Tanager can all be found fairly commonly and often together in large mixed feeding flocks. Further attractions include great hummer feeders and skulkers such as Olive Finch and Yellow-breasted Antpitta.

Colibri del Sol Reserve birds: may involve some logistical challenges but provides the opportunity to see several key endemics which are not available elsewhere. The newly described Fenwick’s Antpitta visit a worm feeding station by the lodge, the spectacular Dusky Starfrontlet is common at feeders on the edge of the Paramo. Paramillo Tapaculo (also newly described) and Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer are also frequently found on the Paramo edge. Other highlights could include Rufous-banded and White-throated Screech Owls, Rusty-faced Parrot, White-capped Tanager, Dusky Piha, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Slate-crowned Antpitta and Chestnut-naped Antpittas , Purple-backed Thornbill and Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Access and Facilities Las Tangaras: Just 4 hours from Medellin, a lodge is under construction in the reserve beside the Medellin to Quibdo highway. It should be ready early next year. 4x4 is recommended to get to the highest part of the reserve.

Facilities at Colibri del Sol: A basic cabin at 2800m provides bunk bed accommodation with space for up to 12 guests. Their is no heating and visitors should expect to take suitable clothing for cold and possibly wet conditions. Blankest are plentiful and all daily meals can be provided plus the help of a Forest Guard. The reserve is accessed via the town of Urrao which is around 4 Hours from Medellin or 3 hours from El Carmen. To reach the lodge it is necessary to walk or ride for 2 hours uphill with some steep sections. Horses can be provided for guests and luggage. While the Antpitta and many good species can be found around the lodge, to see three of the endemics it is necessary to climb up to the Paramo at 3300m. This involves a one hour steep horse ride (2 or more hours of walking depending on fitness). It is quite feasible to bird back down on foot with the forest guard taking the horses down separately. It is also possible to walk back down from the lodge with horses taking the luggage and to bird the forest around and below the lodge.

Further information A short video of Las Tangaras [5] Birding Colombia website: [6] A short video of Colibri del Sol Reserve [7]

Cerulean Warbler and Pauxi Pauxi Reserve

Endemic and notable birds 12 endemics (13 threatened, 359 species, with a bird lodge, trails, hummingbird feeders (with Chestnut-bellied Hummer); 3-4 hours from Bucaramanga airport.

Access and Facilities

Further information

Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Endemic and notable birds 9 endemics, 14 threatened, 254 species, with a bird lodge, trails, hummingbird feeders; 4 hours from Medellin.

Access and Facilities

Further information

Paujil Reserve

Endemic and notable birds 6 endemics

Access and Facilities

Further information

Companies offering tours to these areas

Pending information


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