Who would have thought it? Colombia is on the road to becoming the hottest destination for birders and birdwatchers wanting to visit South Latin America. Possessing the most extensive bird list of any country on earth, Colombia is a birder's dream – whether you’re a casual (yet passionate) “birdwatcher,” or a more devoted “birder” intent on adding more species to your sightings list. Though only about ninth the size of the United States, this Caribbean/South American nation is home to more than twice as many bird species as its northern counterpart. And of its enormous list of 1,890 bird species, about 74 are endemics found nowhere else on the planet. All of this is now opening up to birding enthusiasts. Colombia is rapidly overcoming its poor image from years past. The old drug cartels of the 80’s are now largely dismantled, and political stability has been re-established in the nation – which means that the previous risks to traveling here are no longer such obstacles. Indeed, most areas are now just as safe as other birding destinations in Central or South America. This particular 15-day/14-night expedition is one of the most popular birding tour in Colombia. It will take you from the lowlands of Magdalena Valley and the nearby Santa Marta Mountains – the perfect habitat to more of 500 species – to visit one of the endemic hot-spots of the world. This will add to your hit-list by giving you the chance to spot amazingly exotic species. You will visit other fantastic natural reserve ecosystems such as Chingaza National Park, Monterredondo Cloud Forest, Sumapaz National Park, Chicaque National Park, Rio Claro Reserve, Cerulean Warbler Reserve, and several others. A true birding delight!
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After arriving in Bogota, you will be transferred to the town of Santa Maria, in Boyacá department (a 3-4 hour drive). The afternoon will be spent owling along the Cachipay Trail in search of Black-and-white owls, Mottle owls, Spectacled owls, Crested owls, Tawny-bellied screech owls, Striped owls and others. You will spend the night in Santa Maria at the La Esmeralda Hotel.
Today we will visit two different locations in the Santa Maria area: Almenara Reserve & Cachipay Road. At these sites, it will be possible to sight bird species that include rare and enigmatic Spot-winged parrotlets, as well as Violeaceus quail-dove, Grey-chinned hermits, Blue-fronted lancebills, Violet-fronted brilliants, Violet-headed hummingbirds, Golden-tailed sapphire, White-chinned jacamars, Gilded barbets, Chestnut-ear aracari, Crimson-bellied woodpeckers, Fasciated antshirkes, Dusky antbirds, Blue-rumped Manakins, the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Golden-collared honeycreepers, Northern slaty antshirkes, Cinereous antshirkes, Rufous winged antwrens, White-browed antbirds, Spot-winged antbirds, White-faced antbird, Shirke-like cotingas, Cinereous becards, Black-and-white becards, Violaceus jays, Speckled tanagers and others. At the end of the day, you will be driven back to Bogota to spend the night.
This morning we will head out early for the Chingaza National Park, having breakfast and later lunch in the field. Our focus will be this park’s many important birds, such as Brown-breasted parakeets, Silvery-throated spinetails, Blue-throated starfrontlets, Matorral tapaculos, Golden-fronted whitestarts, Coopery-bellied pufflegs, Rufous-browed conebills, Purple-backed thronbills, Paramo seedeaters, Plush-capped finch, Pale-naped brush-finch, Smoky bush-tyrants, Black-billed mountain toucan, Black-headed hemispingus and many more. In the afternoon, we will visit La Calera Hummingbird Garden, where you can enjoy some amazing species that include the Black-tailed trainbear, the Sword-billed hummingbird, Glowing pufflegs and others. We will return to Bogota at the end of the day, again spending the night at a comfortable inn.
Today’s search for even more bird species will take us to Monterredondo, a location in the cloud forest of the eastern Andes. After a scenic 3-hour drive from Bogota, you should find some of the most important birds of the mountain range. Birds of interest on this day will include Cundinamarca antpittas, East Andean antbirds, Andean pygmy-owls, Golden-crowned tanagers, Andean guans, Green-and-black fruiteaters, Glittering-throated emeralds, Green-bellied hummingbirds, Crimson-mantlet woodpeckers, Blackish tapaculos, Black collared jays, Buff-breasted mountain-tanagers, and many more. In the late afternoon, we will head back to Bogota to review your birding list and get a good night’s sleep.
Today we will search birds in the amazing and strikingly beautiful Sumapaz National Park or the Paramo de Sumapaz, where the landscape as well as the diversity of birds and plants are the attractions. At either destination, you will be able to see fascinating birds like Green-bearded helmetcrests, Bogota rails, Apolinar´s marsh wren, Bronze-tailed thronbills, Red-rumped bush-tyrants, Red-crested cotingas, Black-chested buzzard eagles, Many-striped canasteros, Chestnut-winged cinclodes, Plain-capped ground-tyrants, Tawny antpittas, Andean ruddy ducks, and many more. Later this afternoon we will return to your hotel in Bogota.
After a hearty breakfast, we will visit the famous Chicaque Nature Reserve, where you can view some important birds at hummingbird feeders and in the incredible cloud forest on the western slope of eastern Andean ridge. Some interesting birds this day include Golden-bellied starfrontlets, Matorral tapaculos, Golden-fronted whitestarts, Rufous-breasted flycatchers, Moustached brush-finch flavescen flycatchers, Brown-billed scytebills, Flame-faced tanagers, Smoky bush-tyrants, Grass-green Tanagers, Blackish tapaculos, Andean pygmy-owls, Glowing pufflegs, Palen-naped brush-finches, Streak-capped tree-hunters, String-billed woodcreepers and may more. At the end of the day, we will travel to the city of Ibague to check in and spend the night at a pleasant city inn.
This will be a whole day of birding deep in the wonderful cloud forest and the dramatic surroundings of El Silencio, Juntas, the El Nevado del Tolima Volcano and Combeima Canyon. We will also visit the hummingbird feeders of the Ukuku Lodge, where you will witness a host of outstanding species. In the afternoon we will look for birds in San Jorge Botanical Garden, outside the city of Ibague. Some of the possible bird sightings will be those of Tolima doves, Tolima blossomcrowns, Yellow-headed brush-finches, Indigo capped hummingbirds, Agile Tit-tyrants, Scrub tanagers, Spillmann’s tapaculos, Ocellated tapaculos, Black-collared jays, Buff-breasted mountain-tanagers, Masked saltators, Golden-plumed parakeets, Gray-breasted mountain-toucan, Sword-billed hummingbirds, Hooded mountain tanagers, Red-hooded tanagers, Dusky piha, Chestnut-breasted chlorophonias, Andean siskins, White-capped tanagers and many more. Heading back to town, you will spend another well-deserved restful night.
Early in the morning, we will going birding along Doima Road, an area of dry forest and cereal fields to the north of the city of Ibague. In the afternoon we will drive to the village of Mariquita (Laguna del Hato), where we will search for some of the birds of the dry forest there. The most fascinating birds we expect to see today include Velvet-fronted euphonias, Apical flycatchers, Lance-tailed manakins, Blue-ground doves, Pileated finches, Crested bobwhites, Pearl kites, Ruddy ground-doves, Common ground-doves, Yellow-crowned parrots, Dwarf cuckoos, White-collared swifts, Short-tailed swifts, Barred puffbirds, Western slaty-antshrikes, White-fringed antwrens, Jet antbirds, Vermilion flycatchers, Fork-tailed flycatchers, Panama flycatchers, Scrub greenlets, Pale-breasted thrush, Buff-breasted wren, Rufous-capped warblers, Buff-rumped warblers, White-eared conebills, Plain-colored tanagers, Grassland sparrows; and Slate-colored, Ruddy-breasted, Gray- and Yellow-bellied seedeaters, as well as Blue-black grassquits and many more. At the end of the day, we will drive to the Rio Claro "Blue Morpho" Natural Reserve Eco-Lodge to spend the night.
We will search birds all day in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve, a place where you can enjoy an incredible tropical forest and amazing biodiversity. Some birds of interest here include White-mantled barbets, Sooty-ant tanagers, Colombia chachalacas, Beautiful woodpeckers, Magdalena antbirds, Antioquia bristle-tyrants, Saffron-headed parrots, Moustached brush-finch, Citron-throated toucans, Black-bellied wren, Black-headed tody-flycatchers, Marble wood quail, Chestnut-backed antbirds, Stripe-throated hermits, Ruby topaz, Purple-crowned fairies, Western white-tailed trogon, Pied puffbirds, Barred puffbirds, White-whiskered puffbirds, Cinnamon woodpeckers, Jet antbirds, Pacific antwrens, Brown-capped tyrannulets, Southern bentbills, Long-tailed tyrants, Rufous pihas, Blue cotingas, Black-chested jays, Rufous wren, Scarlet-browned tanagers, Plain-colored tanagers, Golden-hooded tanagers, White-ear conebills, Slate-colored seedeaters, Thick-billed seed finch, Large-bellied seed finch, Masked yellowthroats, Orange-crowned orioles, Fulvous-vented euphonias and many more.
All morning, we will make more birds sightings in the Rio Claro Reserve. After lunch we will transfer to El Paujil Natural Reserve in Serrania de las Quinchas. On the way, we will make stops in search of important birds of the Magdalena Savannahs. Some of these sightings should include Northern screamers, the Black-capped Donacobius, Blue and Yellow macaw, Chestnut-fronted macaw, Large-billed seed-finches, Red-breasted blackbirds, Rufescens tiger-herons, White-throated crakes, Long-winged harriers, and Laughing falcon. You will later spend the night at the Paujil Nature Reserve Eco-lodge.
Will we spend all day searching for birds in the Paujil Natural Reserve and visiting the curassow feeders. We will walk through the tropical forest of Magdalena Valley and the amazing Ermitaño Rover border, where almost anything is possible. Possible bird sighting today include those of Blue-billed curassows, Black-billed flycatchers, Scarlet-browed Tanagers, Black-breasted puffbirds, Choco screech-owls, Chestnut-mandible toucan, Marble wood-quail, White-fronted nunbirds, White-breasted wood-wren, White-thighed swallows, Buff-throated foliage-gleaners, Chestnut-winged foliage-gleaners, White-tailed trogons, Black-tailed trogons, Scaly-throated leaftosers, Bi-colored antbirds, Blue-lored antbirds, Bare-crowned antbirds, Black antshirkes, Cinnamon woodpeckers, Collared aracari, White-whiskered puffbirds, Purple-crowned fairies, Rufous-breasted hermits, Ruby-topaz hummingbirds and many more. We will do some owling this night on the main road to Paujil, finally turning in for some sleep in the comfortable cabins of the Paujil Eco-lodge.
We will continue birding in the Paujil Natural Reserve all morning, later driving to the eastern Andean village of San Vicente de Chucuri, which is close to both Yariguies National Park and the Cerulean Warbler Reserve. We will make a few stops on the road to see birds in the lowland wetlands of Magdalena Valley. Some interesting species of this area include Bare-faced ibis, White-collared hawks; Yellow-crowned, Orange-winged and Blue-headed parrots; Little blues; Capped, Cocoi and Striated heron; Neo-tropical cormorants, Black-bellied and White-faced whistling duck, and many more. We will spend the night in this village at a charming colonial hotel.
We will get up early for a one-hour drive in a 4x4 car to Yariguies National Natural Park and to the forest of the Cerulean Warbler Reserve. We will spend the whole day in these forests searching for a number of interesting birds while trekking along the “Lengerke Trail,” which was built 130 years ago. Some of the many birds we expect to see today include Gorgeted wood quail, Black incas, Parker’s antbirds, Magdalena tapaculos, Colombia mountain grackles, Double-banded greytails, Long-tailed tapaculos, Andean emeralds, Highland tinamous, Mustached Puffbirds, Red-headed barbets, Crimson-rumped toucanets, Spotted barbtails, White-bellied antpittas, Ochre-breasted antpittas, Yellow-throated spadebills, White-throated spadebills, Green and black fruiteaters, Pavonine cuckoos, Golden-wing manakins, Rufous-naped brush finches, Uniform antshirkes, Chestnut-crowned gnat-eaters and more. In the late afternoon, we will return to San Vicente de Chucuri to spend another night.
The Colombian coffee fields of San Vicente de Chucuri and the road to “La Germania” will be today’s destinations for some more exotic birding in the tree canopy and grasslands. In the afternoon we will travel to the area around the city of Bucaramanga, where we will try to spot the enigmatic and beautiful Recurved-billed bushbird. Some other important birds we hope to see today are the Russet-crowned Cake, Orange-billed nightingale-thrushes, Slaty spinetails, Cinereous becards, Bi-colored wrens, Band-back wrens, Sooty-headed tyrannulets, Striped cuckoos, Lemon-rumped tanagers, Large-billed seed-finches, Lineated woodpeckers, Rufous-naped greenlets and many northern migratory birds like Morning, Yellow, Cerulean, Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Blackburninan and Bay-breasted warblers. From Bucaramanga, we will fly back to Bogota for the night.
We will visit Lake El Tabacal, with its great secondary forest and captivating birds like Rusty breasted antpittas, Rosy thrust tanagers, Grey throated warblers, Stripe breasted spinetails and more. Afterwards, we will return to the Bogota international airport, where we will bid you farewell and see you off on your flight home after more than two weeks of some amazing Colombian birding.
Guides, drivers and cooks
“I enjoyed the scenery and the exotic wildlife on the islands very much. The airport transfers in both directions went smoothly and the service on board was very good.”