The South American country is home to 1,900 different types of bird – almost one in five of all the world’s species – making Colombia the number one birding destination on the planet.
The time has come to go birding Colombia. The country is now at peace, and tourism – especially people coming to see birds and wildlife – is booming.
Want to travel to see Colombia’s birds?
The local specialist tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife offer set departure or bespoke organised trips to the most important birding areas in Colombia. Enquire direct or book through Blue Sky Wildlife for the best deals.
There are few countries in the world more geographically varied than Colombia. It has rainforests and cloud forests, grasslands and savannahs, deserts and wetlands, snow-capped peaks and both Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The country is divided into five key regions: The Amazon, the Orinoco and its savannahs, the massive mountains of the Andes, the rainforests of the Chocó, and the permanently snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – each with its own unique avifauna.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Photo credit: Colombia Birdwatch
Together, these provide a wonderful range of bird and wildlife habitats, packed with an incredible range of different species, making Colombia the ideal place to promote nature tourism. Birders can visit more than a hundred Important Bird Areas, which together safeguard the places and habitats the country’s birds need.
Perhaps the first place on most visitors’ birding Colombia wishlist is the Amazon region, which holds no fewer than 750 different species of bird, as well as magical pink river dolphins; and the largest aquatic plant in the world, the giant water lily, whose leaves can grow as much as three metres across.
The top birds to see here include gaudy Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws, the rare and local Wattled Curassow, the Amazonian Umbrellabird, Ornate Hawk-eagle, and the bizarre Hoatzin, a pheasant-like creature with a punk haircut of a crest and staring eyes – the only bird in the world whose young have claws on their wings to help them cling on and avoid falling into the water.
Buffy Helmetcrest. Photo credit: Manakin Nature Tours
In complete contrast, the Andean region boasts a range of high-altitude habitats, including moorlands, mountain forests and wetlands. The region is home to more than 800 species of birds, including several endemics, found here and nowhere else on the planet: Cauca Guan, Gorgeted Wood-quail, Bogota Rail and a selection of rare hummingbirds with amazing names, such as Tolima Blossomcrown, Buffy Helmetcrest and Colourful Puffleg.
In the Risaralda department, famous for producing what many regard as the best coffee in the world, there are more than 300 species to enjoy while birding Colombia, including the spectacular Torrent Duck, Wattled Guan, Chestnut Wood-quail, Bronze-winged Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Multicoloured Tanager.
In the Antioquia Department, especially the municipality of Jardin, there are plenty more special birds, such as Yellow-eared Parrot, Flame-rumped Tanager and the orange-and-black Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, whose courtship lek – in which a number of males gather to try to impress the watching females – is one of the greatest natural spectacles on the planet.
Purple-throated Woodstar. Photo credit: ProColombia
Boyacá also stands out for its variety of species. At the El Paujil Natural Reserve you may come across the large and charismatic Blue-billed Curassow, though other rare and sought-after species, such as Beautiful Woodpecker and White-mantled Barbet, may take a degree of searching for.
The Colombian Caribbean has no fewer than eight natural parks, with more than 700 bird species. The Tayrona National Natural Park, located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, has some 370 species of birds. In the dry part you can see Ruby Topaz Hummingbird and Black-backed Antshrike, while in the humid areas look for White-chinned Sapphire, Lance-tailed Manakin and White-bellied Antbird. The park is also a very good place for birding Colombia to watch raptors.
The Orinoquía – one of the most unexplored regions of the country – offers travellers dreamy sunsets by the Orinoco river, along with a selection of 800 bird species. In Matarredonda and Rey Zamuro, Meta Department, specialities include King Vulture, Cocoa Thrush, Short-billed Leaftosser, Chestnut Woodpecker, Collared Forest-falcon, Spix’s Guan and the amazing Channel-billed Toucan.
The Colombian Pacific region boasts more than 650 species, inhabiting one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Species found here include Purple-chested Hummingbird, Spot-crowned Barbet, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Blue Cotinga, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Scarlet-and-white Tanager.
With all these avian riches, Colombia hopes to attract keen birders from both the United States and United Kingdom, to visit these incredible places and see the wonderful birds found there. In the past few years, the Colombian tourist trade has been booming, and now the country is fast becoming a world-class destination for the discerning traveller looking for something a bit different. The symbol of the dove of peace symbolises not only the beginning of a new era for birding Colombia, but is also an invitation for the entire world to come and discover this wonderful country.
If you have not been to Colombia, we invite you to come and see what you have been missing. Come and discover a new world full of unique experiences, and enjoy a multitude of amazing birds that are just waiting to be seen!
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Originally Published: 29 Jul 2019