June 1, 2020, 11:31 pm
Colombia has many well-established birding destinations to enjoy: El Dorado Lodge in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Cerro Montezuma in Risaralda, Rio Blanco, Otun Quimbaya and El Paujil to name but a few. However, there are an equal number of awesome birding destinations that rarely get mentioned beyond knowledgeable birding circles, so here are the best off-the-beaten-track birding destinations in Colombia:
The Holy Grail of off-the-beaten track Colombian birding spots is the isolated jungle town of Mitú in Vaupés department. Bordering Brazil, and home to extensive white-sand, varzea, and terra-firme forests, Mitú and its surrounding trails is the site of some of the best Amazon birding on the entire continent, with a host of rare and range-restricted species possible. Highlights include the Fiery Topaz, Tawny-tufted Toucanet, Red-fan Parrot, Chestnut-crested Antbird, Pompadour Cotinga, Imeri Warbling Antbird, and Brown-banded Puffbird.
Pasto-Tumaco Highway, Nariño
The long road between the high Andes of Nariño and the Pacific coast has the potential to become one of the great birding roads in Colombia, and even South America. Much of the region was considered extremely unsafe for a time, and while Tumaco is still suffering from drug-related violence, the excellent trio of reserves – La Nutria, La Planada, and Río Ñambí – closer to Pasto are truly exceptional birding sites. The key species for the region include Moss-backed Tanager, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Choco Vireo, Golden-chested Tanager, and White-faced Nunbird.
Serrania del Perija, Cesar
A former hotspot for guerrilla activity, the Perijá Mountains straddle the border of Colombia and Venezuela near the Caribbean coast, and have some excellent endemic species that can be seen fairly easily with some time and effort. It’s still not the easiest place to visit, but truly rewarding for the serious birder. Endemics like the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Antpitta, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Tapaculo and Perijá Brushfinch are all relatively new species for science, and would make a fine addition to any serious lister’s life tally.
The southern region of Putumayo is quickly developing a reputation as one of the great up-and-coming birding destinations in Colombia. With a fine combination of foothill forest, lowland jungle, páramo in the high Andes, and some truly unexplored natural reserves, Putumayo’s birding possibilities seem practically limitless at the moment. La Isla Escondida, a new bird reserve near the little town of Orito owned by bird guide Jurgen Beckers, may just be the most exciting reserve in the country at the moment, even boasting an impressive canopy tower.
Mirador de los Tucanes, Caqueta
Like Putumayo, Caquetá is another region of Colombia that was practically off-limits to birders for many years due to the conflict, but is fast opening up to ecotourism in the wake of the peace process. There are many parts of the department with excellent birding, but the old road from Huila department down the mountains to Caquetá’s capital, Florencia, is a real highlight. Known as the Mirador de los Tucanes, the cloud forest road boasts important regional specialties such as Wire-crested Thorntail, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Golden-eared Tanager, and the endemic Red-bellied Grackle, which is common along the stunning mountainous road.
If you’re a birder interested in visiting Colombia, take a look at the various birding tours in Colombia. With local and expert birding guides leading the way, these tours are specifically designed for bird enthusiasts.
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