October 6, 2018, 4:45 am
Birding is a really subjective hobby. On one hand, you have the hard-core birders, the ones who have seen thousands of species and are only interested in spotting rare antbirds skulking in the undergrowth. On the other hand, there are the hobbyists, casual birders who only really care if they see something beautiful (I like to think I’m right in the sweet-spot between the two, but I may secretly be more of the former).
Colombia has something to offer both kinds of birder, but some species – I’m thinking toucans, hummingbirds, flamingos – are far more emotive and exciting than others. So here’s a list of the coolest Colombian bird species and where to spot them:
Colombia is home to many different species of toucan, toucanet, and aracari (all of which are collectively part of the toucan family), and very few of them are rare and hard to spot. The best place to see large toucans (with the heavy bills, like the Guinness bird) is Minca, where you can often spot the attractive Keel-billed Toucan in treetops at dawn, and the Amazon regions, where Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans are generally common. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see a toucan, birder or not!
Colombia has more species of hummingbird than any country on earth, with over 150 and counting. Seeing a hummingbird in Colombia isn’t tricky- they visit flowers in Bogota gardens – but to get really up-close-and-personal with the buzzing little birds you can visit one of the country’s excellent hummingbird observatories. The best of these are the Observatorio de Colibries near La Calera, El Jardin Encantado in San Francisco, and Acaime on the Cocora Valley hike near Salento.
There are two species of cock-of-the-rock and they are both, conveniently enough, found in Colombia. The simpler of the two species to see is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock which, although typically shy and retiring, can be seen almost embarrassingly easily at a display site just outside the pretty southern Antioquia town of Jardin. The other species – the much more orange Guianan Cock-of-the-rock is restricted to rocky jungle outcrops, but can be seen with some effort near San Jose del Guaviare, Mitu, or in Tuparro National Park in Vichada department.
Flamingos are pretty much amazing to everyone, and there are very few people who would turn down the chance to see one in the flesh (and beak and feathers). Luckily, there’s a spot on the Colombian Caribbean coast where they can be seen easily. The Los Flamencos Sanctuary is located near the fishing village of Camarones in La Guajira department, and is home to a large population of the comical pink birds. You can hire a local boatman to sail out on the brackish coastal lagoon where they live for nice close views.
The iconic Resplendent Quetzal, with its ludicrously long tail feathers, sadly doesn’t reside in Colombia; however, there are four species of these bright red and green birds to spot in this country. Heard much more than they are seen, Quetzals tend to inhabit dense cloud forests, with the exception of the shy Pavonine Quetzal, which is restricted to Amazonian regions (and is best seen around Mitu or at La Isla Escondida Reserve near Orito in Putumayo). The most easy to see is the Golden-headed Quetzal, which is present on the slopes of all three Andean ranges (try Recinto del Pensamiento near Manizales for a good chance at spotting one), while the most wanted by birders is the near-endemic White-tipped Quetzal, which is usually fairly easy to pick up around El Dorado Reserve above Minca. The fourth species, the Crested Quetzal, is trickier, but can be seen in the woods of Chicoral near Cali.
Our Colombia birding tours take you to many of the destinations where these cool birds are found. Learn more about our birding tours in Colombia on our birding tour page.
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