July 6, 2020, 4:59 pm
Colombia isn’t just the No. 1 country on earth for birds, it’s also one of the best places to see rare and endemic species – Colombia counts on around 80 endemic species, many of which are sadly threatened and extremely rare.
The good news for birders though is that many of these species can be seen in Colombia with a little hard work and a lot of patience. So here are four examples of some extremely rare bird species that you can only see right here in Colombia:
Also known as the Blue-knobbed Curassow, this endemic species is limited in range to just a few scattered locations on the Caribbean coast and the middle-Magdalena Valley. A large, turkey-like ground-dweller, the Curassow is extremely endangered and threatened by critical habitat loss: so much so, that it is classed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Redlist. In fact, generous estimates suggest that fewer than 1,000 curassows remain in the wild. The key areas to observe the species are Tayrona National Park (easily accessed from nearby Santa Marta) and El Paujil ProAves reserve (located near the town of Puerto Boyacá, on the frontier of Boyacá and Santander departments) – in fact, a pair of curassows regularly visit the lodge at the latter site, making this extremely rare endemic relatively easy to spot with some time and patience.
These large, macaw-like parrots were once so critically endangered that in 1999 there were estimated to be only 81 individuals left in Colombia. Their critical decline mirrored the deforestation of wax palms, a species which the birds depend on for nesting. After an intensive conservation effort, their numbers have bounced back to around 1,500 individuals, located in a number of key sites around Colombia. These endemic parrots are still classed as endangered though, and are one of Colombia’s most desirable species for international birders: the best place to observe them in the wild is the ProAves Yellow-eared Parrot reserve in the forests above the town of Jardin in southern Antioquia, located around four hours by road from Medellín.
Another Colombian endemic species, the Cauca Guan is also classed as endangered by IUCN, with an estimated population of fewer than 1000 birds, located in just four key areas. The principal stronghold for these tree-dwelling, chicken-like birds is the Otun-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary in Risaralda department; it is also the easiest place to observe them in the wild for birders keen on seeing one of Colombia’s rarest species. Located close to the departmental capital of Pereira, and containing a comfortable lodge and well-marked trails, a visit to Otun-Quimbaya should lead to sightings of the Guan, which is not exactly a shy and retiring bird! But with its small sub-populations declining from habitat loss, take some time to see the Cauca Guan in the wild now, before it’s too late.
Santa Marta Parakeet
This beautiful endemic parakeet is limited in range to the coastal mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and is another species sadly classed as endangered, with habitat loss causing a slow rate of decline in its numbers. A small parakeet, mostly green in colour, but dashed with delightful splashes of blue, orange, red and yellow, seeing the bird in the wild is a Colombian highlight for any enthusiastic birder. And the good news is that it’s relatively easy to observe this endangered endemic for yourself – a visit to the ProAves El Dorado Reserve, in the high mountains above the village of Minca, is the best way to see the Santa Marta Parakeet. An early morning hike along the San Lorenzo ridge often yields sightings of noisy little groups of the parakeets feeding on berries or flying past. The area is accessed from Santa Marta, via Minca, and can also be visited as a (long) day-trip from Minca with a guide and 4x4.
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