24 July 2017

The Best Birding Experiences in Colombia's Coffee Region

Posted in Blog

Birds and coffee are two things that can be enjoyed while traveling in Colombia. UNESCO recognised the region as a World Heritage Centre. However, there’s more to this beautiful part of the country than just coffee and lovely landscape.

The three departments that make up the region – Risaralda, Quindio, and Caldas – are home to more species of birds than almost any other part of the country. So here are the best birding experiences you can have on a visit to the Coffee Region of Colombia:

 

Otun Quimbaya

This lovely little natural reserve lies just a couple of hours from the departmental capital of Risaralda, the city of Pereira. With nice facilities, and a good network of hiking trails, birding in Otun Quimbaya is always a pleasurable experience. What’s even better is the sheer number of bird species: endemic Cauca Guans abound here, as do the otherwise tough-to-spot Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. The real Holy Grail bird is the Hooded Antpitta – it might take a day of skulking in the undergrowth to spot one, but it’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime tick.

Yellow-eared Parrots in Quindio

The rare and highly endangered Yellow-eared Parrot can only be seen in a handful of spots in the whole of Colombia and, as this species is endemic, the whole of the world! Most of these areas are around the Coffee Region, as the species prefers to nest in Wax Palms, which are also endemic to the area. The best spot for seeing these rare parrots is in the mountains above the lovely little coffee town of Pijao (worth a visit even for non-birders).

Los Nevados National Park

This gorgeous Colombian National Park is located in the north of the Coffee Region, alongside “the City of Open Doors,” Manizales. It offers a number of highly restricted and difficult bird species that can be hard to tick-off elsewhere in Colombia, and, as if that weren’t enough, it’s an incredibly picturesque spot in which to grow your bird list. The real big money bird here is the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest hummingbird, which is satisfyingly easy to spot feeding on the frailejones around the park offices. Other top ticks are Tawny Antpitta and Andean Condor, while the hummingbird feeders at the nearby Termales Hotel can yield up to ten species of the fast-moving little treasures.

Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco has become famous for birders worldwide for one simple reasons: it’s the best place, maybe in the entire world, to observe Antpittas in the wild. These are shy, ground-dwelling birds, often heard but rarely seen, which, until comparatively recently were treated as an almost mythical family of birds. At Rio Blanco, up to five species of Antpittas now come to various clearings in the forest to feed on worms placed there by local guides. The real gems are the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta, and the near-endemic Bicoloured Antpitta. The reserve is just half an hour from Manizales, so it’s easy to pay it a quick visit.

Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary

This isn’t a spot for the hardcore birders, but anyone with a passion for nature will want to visit this little hummingbird feeder station during the hike around the Cocora Valley. It’s a short uphill detour away from the main trail, but those who make the effort are rewarded with close-up views of some truly lovely hummingbirds, including the Black Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, and White-bellied Woodstar. There aren’t really any especially rare species to be seen at Acaime, but for bird photographers it is paradise, and who can resist close-up views of hummingbirds?!

You can visit some of the destinations mentioned above, including Rio Blanco, Otun Quimbaya and a hummingbird sanctuary, during a 15-day Colombia Birding Tour. English-speaking birding and local guides lead this exciting birding tour in the East, Central and Southwest Andes regions of Colombia.

This tour departs from Bogota, Colombia February 2018 and July 2018. To ensure a better experience, group sizes are limited to a maximum of eight people per tour. Email hello@uncovercolombia.com to learn about the full itinerary and how to receive a 15 percent discount.  

Pin for later! 

Chris Bell

About the author:

Chris Bell is a British travel journalist who has been exploring Colombia for four years as the editor of the award-winning Colombia Travel Blog. He has visited 30 of Colombia's 32 departments (those last two are just around the corner), and was named by El Espectador newspaper as "the Englishman who teaches you to travel in Colombia." His main passion, aside from exploring Colombia, is birding - his Colombia list is already approaching 800 species. Chris' 2017 goals: 32 departments and 1,000 species! You can follow his Colombian adventures at colombiatravelblog.com.