July 4, 2019, 2:40 pm
With 561 reported species in the municipality, Cali is officially the Colombian city with the greatest bird diversity. This astonishing number represents more than 25 percent of all the bird species recorded in Colombia and, even more remarkably, about 5 percent of all known species on earth! And that doesn’t even include the hundreds more species registered in Valle del Cauca department, of which Cali is the capital.
What we’re saying is Cali, Colombia is a stellar spot to go birding, so here are some of the best birding places in and around Cali:
Finca Alejandria "El Paraiso de los Colibries"
Located alongside a forest corridor near Cali’s KM. 18 rest stop, Finca Alejandria is arguably one of the best places in Colombia for close-up views of hummingbirds and tanagers. With over 20 hummingbird feeders and fully stocked banana tables, the finca attracts some remarkable species, including the endemic Multi-coloured Tanager, and lovely hummers such as the Booted Racket-tail and Bronzy Inca. The forest itself also offers great birding, with the likes of Ornate Hawk-Eagle and Golden-headed Quetzal always a possibility.
La Minga Ecolodge and Chicoral
Another top spot for birders and photographers alike, La Minga is located near Dapa, less than an hour from the urban centre of Cali. The unpaved road through the forest of Chicoral leading up to La Minga itself is a paradise for more hard-core birders, while casual observers will fall in love with the jam-packed bird tables and hummingbird feeders. Multi-coloured Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, and Black-capped Tanager are all regular visitors to the bananas, while lucky visitors may even spot the elusive Crested Quetzal in the trees around the lodge.
El Descanso Dona Dora
This little roadside rest-stop on the old highway from Cali to Buenaventura (also known as Dona Dora after the lovely lady who owns it) has become known as a paradise for birds - and birders - in the Colombian ornithological community in recent years. Located in a stunning biological corridor of the Chocó biosphere, Dora’s feeders attract rarities like the Chocó Brush-Finch, while the giant ficus tree in her yard is a haven for near-endemic species such as the Toucan Barbet, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia. When the tree is in fruit it’s a remarkable sight, as tropical rarities practically queue up to feed.
Laguna de Sonso
This RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance is located just 10 minutes outside the pretty colonial Heritage Town of Buga (about an hour’s drive from Cali), and is a haven for dry-forest and wetland species, including a couple of Colombian endemics. The wetlands and reedbeds are home to such species as Snail Kite, Least and Pinnated Bitterns, and all three Colombian species of Whistling-Duck, while the forest trails will yield Common Potoo, Jet Antbird, and the endemics Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. Just make sure to pack bug spray as the mosquitoes there can be a nightmare!
The Pance River is a popular weekend retreat for the people of Cali, as they flock to the cool mountain river to enjoy a swim, traditional Colombian food and a few beers. However, it’s a secret birder’s paradise as well – the forests around Pance are home to an array of tropical species, while there is an excellent stakeout spot for both Golden-collared and Striped Manakins (the latter perhaps one of Colombia’s most underrated birds in terms of its beauty). Lastly, the lovely Balcon de los Colibries Hummingbird Observatory is a real treat, with the usually tough to spot Long-billed Starthroat a regular visitor.
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