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Why Your Next Birding Tour Should Be in Nariño, Colombia

July 1, 2019, 4:02 pm

Nariño department, in southwest Colombia on the border with Ecuador, has not traditionally been a major birding tour destination in Colombia. However, with remarkable bird diversity and a variety of ecosystems including wetlands, Pacific jungle, Andean and Amazonian sectors. Nariño has a vast amount to offer birders. Here are five reasons why your next Colombia birding tour should include Nariño:

Diversity

As any beginner or serious bird lister knows the key to a great bird-list is habitat diversity, and man, does Nariño have some serious diversity! In a short birding visit to the department, birders can experience Pacific Ocean and jungle, high Andean peaks and paramos, wetlands and lakes, and cloud forest, among others. It’s also full of Important Bird Areas, such as: El Pagan, Rio Ñambi and La Planada which offer the opportunity to spot various endemic bird species. La Planada, for example, offers the chance to see the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, an extremely rare bird for Colombia, and found only in this small corner of Nariño! This remarkable natural diversity is what makes Nariño such a special destination for birding in Colombia.

Laguna de la Cocha

Colombia’s second largest natural freshwater body is also recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) – this beautiful high-altitude lake (sitting at 2,800 m.a.s.l.) is less than 2 hours drive from departmental capital Pasto, and is home to some excellent bird species. There are no less than 50 reserves around the lake. All together they protect about 2,000 ha of wetland and forest. Birders can expect sightings of otherwise rare species for Colombia, including Yellow-billed Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Andean Gull and Slate-colored Coot. With luck (and maybe a ‘scope) you may even add Silvery Grebe to your list.

Colombia Birding Tours La Cocha

The ‘Pangan’

‘Pangan’ is the local name for the spectacular Long-wattled Umbrellabird, perhaps one of the most-wanted birds in the world for avid birders. It’s also the name of a stunning Pro Aves reserve in the Pacific jungles of Nariño, where the Umbrellabird can be reliably found. One of the most biodiverse areas in Colombia, with 49 Chocó endemic species recorded, El Pangan is a must for any serious Colombia birders. In addition to the Umbrellabird, important species in the reserve include Moss-backed Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager, Club-winged Manakin, and Tooth-billed Hummingbird. And that’s just scratching the surface: a few days in this reserve can easily yield a bird list of well over 100 species!

Hummingbirds!

Colombia is home to more species of hummingbird than any other country on earth, with 165 species recorded! And Nariño is home to one of Colombia’s top hummingbird spots: Rio Ñambi Nature Reserve. This IBA is home to 31 species of hummingbird, including White-whiskered Hermit, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, and Violet-tailed Sylph. If hummingbirds are your dream bird, then Rio Ñambi is your dream birding destination in Colombia!

You’ll be quite the pioneer!

Nariño has some of Colombia’s best birding potential (as we’ve hopefully proven over the previous 4 points), but doesn’t see anything like as many visits from birders as nearby departments like Chocó and Valle del Cauca. In many ways Nariño is still something of a blank canvas for Colombia birding, and those jungles on the Ecuador border are almost certainly harbouring some new species for Colombia’s growing bird list (1,937 and counting). So consider Nariño for your next Colombia birding tour, as you can see, it has a hell of a lot to offer!

Check this interesting Colombia birding tour including Nariño.

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Chris Bell
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Bell

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! 

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