November 22, 2018, 9:56 am
Colombia is a birder’s paradise: the country with the highest number of recorded species on earth, more than 80 endemic species to be seen, and a remarkable variety of ecosystems to explore. But where are the best destinations for birding in Colombia? Here are five of the best places to discover the magic of Colombian birding:
El Dorado Reserve
The flagship reserve of Colombia’s ProAves organization, El Dorado sits high in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and is home to more endemic species than anywhere else in the country. A couple of mornings, birding can easily produce bird lists into the hundreds, with up to 20 endemic species seen regularly. Key birds include Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antpitta and Santa Marta Sabrewing. For those with less money to invest in birding, the nearby traveller town of Minca has some wonderful trails, with Keel-billed Toucan, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and Lineated Woodpecker particular highlights.
In the west of Risaralda department, as the Western Andes collapse into the Choco Pacific lies Tatama National Park – this stunningly biodiverse cloud-forest reserve is one of Colombia’s most remarkable birding spots, and the Montezuma reserve is the best place for birding in Tatama. Bursting with Choco endemic species such as Toucan Barbet, Gold-ringed Tanager, Beautiful Jay and Black Solitaire, this reserve will be the highlight of any birding trip to Colombia.
This small cloud-forest reserve in the central Andes is a haven for birds and mammals alike (howler monkeys and tapirs are regularly seen). With a well-appointed lodge and excellent trails, Otun Quimbaya is the perfect place for beginners or experts. The birding highlights are the amazingly easy Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (rare and hard to see elsewhere), the endemic and recently rediscovered Cauca Guan (also easy to tick off here), and the elusive and rarely seen Hooded Antpitta. Large mixed tanager and flycatcher flocks add many potential species to your list.
The Eastern Plains of Colombia, comprising the departments of Arauca, Casanare and Meta are a birder’s paradise for sure: during the dry season thousands of ducks, geese, herons and storks flock to small bodies of water, making for a truly unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. Key aquatic species include the towering Jabiru, Orinoco Goose, Scarlet Ibis and the enigmatic Boat-billed Heron. Gallery forest also provides regular views of Macaws, Toucans, Jacamars and Aracaris, whilst the chance to see wild capybaras, anaconda and even Jaguars will excite even the most casual nature lover.
This lovely little coffee town in southern Antioquia is the perfect place to hardcore birders or first-timers – an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek just a 10-minute walk from the edge of town is genuinely one of the best places in South America to observe these surreal bright red show-offs. In the mountains above the town is a spectacular reserve dedicated to protecting the rare and endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, which can be seen relatively easily in the surrounding mountains. Other key species include the White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-crested Cotinga and the Tanager Finch.
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