Colombia Birding Tour: Avian Diversity at its Best
One of our most popular tours, this 15-day Colombia Birding Tour is designed to highlight Colombia’s astounding avian diversity at a comfortable pace, taking time to enjoy the rich history, culture, and gastronomic traditions the central and Western Andes has to offer.
Birdwatch Colombia believes it has struck the perfect balance with this exhilarating itinerary: From exploring the paramo ecosystems in the Los Nevados Park to the infamous Anchicaya Valley on the Pacific slope, to the pristine forests of the Montezuma Lodge. This tour packs in some of the best birding locations in Colombia without having to travel extremely long distances.
- Bird the Anchicaya Watershed, an area that inspired the first Bird ID guide for South America.
- Enjoy the feeders at KM 18, where more than 22 species of hummingbirds have been recorded.
- See 5 species of Antpittas at the feeders in Rio Blanco Reserve.
- Seek out some of the rarest species in Colombia at the Montezuma Lodge, including Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Woodwren and Gold-ringed Tanager.
- Stay at the stylish Araucana Lodge, owned and operated by Colombia Birdwatch and specially designed for birders.
- Visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek that is only a 20-minute hike.
- Take an exhilarating rail ride in the Pacific Lowlands where you will bird close to sea level in search of lowland species.
- Visit the surreal paramo ecosystem where you will bird above 3,500 meters in search of the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest.
Your Colombia birding tour begins when a representative meets you at the airport for your transfer to the hotel (40 minutes)
Lodging: Hotel Guadlajara de Buga
We will start early to take a 10-minute drive to the wetland gem of Sonso Lagoon. It is one of the only remaining wetlands in the Cauca Valley and is teeming with birds, making it one of Colombia’s best wetland birding locations. Here we will search the marshes and lagoons that line the Cauca River for Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Roseate Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Anhinga, Little Blue, Cocoi, and Striated herons, Snowy Egret, Black-necked Stilt and Snail Kite.
We are likely to find Wattled Jacana, which have a polyandry mating system, where females mate with many males within a breeding season. Polyandry is a fascinating adaptation that occurs in fewer than 1% of birds and is most common in shorebirds.
Other interesting species we might spot include the endemics Apical Flycatcher and Grayish Piculet, Jet Antbird, Blackish Rail, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, and Horned Screamer.
Along the riparian areas we may find Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara, Red-crowned and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, and Cocoa Woodcreeper. Greater Anis are fascinating because two to four unrelated pairs form a nesting group that build a single nest in which all the females lay their eggs and raise the young communally.
Lunch is at the hotel with time to prepare for a 5-hour drive to the Montezuma Lodge, which will require a transfer to 4x4 vehicles.
Lodging: Montezuma Lodge
The Montezuma Lodge offers unsurpassed hospitality and magnificent feeders and birding right from the lodge, and boasts a 13 km road of pristine forest that covers a 1,400m (4,500 ft) altitudinal gradient. A very early start will have us at the top of the hill by sunrise, in hopes of making the best out of a long day of birding.
Our targets at the higher elevation are the endemics Munchique Wood-wren and Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, which should be easy to see in the open areas of the top of the hill.
The long descent will provide opportunities for some nice species, including Flame-faced Tanager, Glossy-black Thrush, Barred Fruiteater, Tanager Finch, and Black-and-gold, Rufous-throated, and Golden-chested Tanagers.
We will have a picnic lunch along the way to maximise our birding, allowing time to get after forest skulkers such as Alto Pisones and Spillman’s Tapaculos and Yellow-bellied and Hooded Antpittas.
A long day of birding will end with the reward of an exquisite home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep.
Lodging: Montezuma Lodge
The Tatama National Park never fails to provide, and seeking out Colombian endemics such as Gold-ringed Tanager and Chestnut Wood-quail can be exhilarating.
If the weather is on our side we will have fantastic views of Cerro Tatama, with hopes of running into species such
as the endemic Beautiful Jay, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-faced Nunbird, Glistening-green Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Linnetaed Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Piha, and Indigo Flowerpiercer.
A river crossing will give us a chance of White-capped Dipper, and we won’t have to venture too far from the lodge to have chances for Toucan Barbet, Black Solitaire, Choco Vireo and the beautiful Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.
We will arrive at the lodge in time to scope out the hummingbird feeders for visitors such as Violettailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, and the near-endemic Purple-throated Woodstar.
Lodging: Montezuma Lodge
After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the banana feeders where Silver-throated Tanager, Buffthroated Saltator, and Golden-naped Tanagers take turns at the fruit in a semi-polite manner. Also, the kitchen staff put out maize for a population of Blackish Rail that live in a nearby wetland, affording great views of this usually hard-to-see bird.
Lodging: Hotel Varuna
The Rio Blanco Reserve is owned by Aguas de Manizales, the local water company, and is situated along an altitudinal gradient, therefore including a wide variety of ecosystems. We could possibly observe five antpitta species at feeders located within a short hike from the lodge, including the endemic and endangered Brown-banded, and the elusive Bicolored, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut-naped, and Slate Crowned Antpittas.
Other feeder visitors that can be sometimes hard to see include Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch.
Additional species observed in Rio Blanco include the uncommon and endangered Rufous-fronted and Golden-plumed Parakeets and the very rare and sought-after Masked Saltator.
The reserve boasts many interesting species that we may encounter, including Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Dusky Piha, Lachrymose and Buffbreasted Mountain-tanagers, showy Grass-green and White-capped Tanagers, Powerful Woodpecker, and the hard to see Ocellated, Blackish, and Spillman’s Tapaculos.
Other less common species that are possible are Long-tailed Black-billed Peppershrike, the handsome Plushcap, Red-hooded Tanager, Mountain Cacique, and the endangered Golden-plumed Parakeet.
Lodging: Hotel Varuna
Today there's a chance to visit the reserve’s several well-maintained hummingbird feeders that attract a great variety of hummingbirds. We hope to see Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Mountain Velvetbreast, the tiny, slow-flying White-bellied Woodstar, and the showy Long-tailed Sylph.
In the afternoon we will drive up the mountain to spend two nights at Hotel Termales del Ruiz, at 11,000 ft, where we can relax in mineral-rich, medicinal hot springs and enjoy scenic views of the central Andes.
Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz
Today we will explore Los Nevados National Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. We will wind through patches of forest that open up to paramo, an ecosystem of tropical grasslands above the treeline, toward the picturesque 5,300m (17,400 ft) volcano, Nevado del Ruiz.
The scenery in paramo is magical, with the velvety Frailejon plants adding to the surreal effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
The tour reaches elevations up to 3,950m (13,000 ft), so it will be cold. Here the goal is to find species adapted to high elevations, such as the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the near-endemic Rainbowbearded Thornbill, both of which sometimes forage on the ground.
Also possible are Viridian Metaltail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, the beautiful Golden-crowned Tanager, near-endemic Black-backed Bush-Tanager, and Glossy Flowerpiercer.
We may also find a variety of seedeaters in the paramo, including Plumbeous Sierra-Finch plus Paramo and Plain-colored Seedeaters.
Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz
The morning is spent searching for any targets that may have been missed on the previous day and enjoying the hummingbird feeders at the hotel. There is also a chance to look for the very rare and endangered endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet along a two-kilometre stretch of road that passes through elfin forest, an ecosystem of dwarfed plants.
We also hope to spot the very tame Tawny Antpitta, a common companion in this area. On the drive down to the Pereira airport the road passes by some interesting spots, including a glacial lake, Laguna Negra, where you can find goodies such as Many-striped Canastero, White-tailed Hawk, the rare Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Andean or Ruddy Duck, Andean Teal, Grass or Sedge Wren, and Palenaped Brush-Finch.
After lunch we will head towards the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, a 2-hour drive through the city of Pereira and winding along the Otun River to finally arrive at the locally run and rustic lodge.
The afternoon drive along the Otun River will be devoted to finding the infamous Torrent Duck.
Lodging: Yarumo Blanco Cabins
We will rise predawn to look for Choco endemic Colombian Screech-Owl, and then continue birding at the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, which is right on the doorstep of our hotel.
The Otun-Quimbaya Reserve is a flora and fauna sanctuary located on the west slope of the Central Cordillera and is home to the Wax Palm, the tallest palm in the world and the national tree of Colombia. These palms, unlike most other species of palm, thrive at high altitudes in the cool climates found there.
We will be greeted by the sounds of Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until the rediscovery of a population in 1990.
Otun-Quimbaya is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. We will search for endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail and recently described Stiles’s Tapaculo – and near endemics such as Moustached Antpitta, the handsome Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and brightly coloured Golden-fronted Whitestart.
Other impressive birds we hope to find include Three-striped, Russet-crowned, and Canada Warblers, Masked Trogon, Green Jay, Andean Motmot, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and Orange-bellied Euphonia.
We will also look for Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet,
Marble-faced and Variegated Bristle-tyrants, and Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercers.
After lunch at the lodge the afternoon is spent driving back to Cali and the exquisite Araucana Lodge.
Lodging: Araucana Lodge
Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 1800m (5,900 ft) pass 18km (11 miles) northwest of Cali along the road that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura.
Birding can be very productive here, and we will look for four endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Grayish Piculet and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager.
This area is a tanager paradise, where we have a good chance of seeing Purplish-mantled, Summer, Beryl-spangles, Flame-rumped, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped Tanagers as well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager.
We hope to be dazzled by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private house along the same road, including the beautifully ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Rackettail, Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin. Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit.
Birding the forest can also produce many near-endemics such as Scrub Tanager, Purple-throated Woodstar, Nariño Tapaculo, Purplishmantled Tanager and Yellow-headed Manakin.
Here we will also see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet.
We will listen out for species with interesting calls and songs, such as the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Peppershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean Solitaire.
Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, Montane Woodcreeper, Scalecrested Pygmy-tyrant, and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.
Lodging: Hotel La Araucana
Perhaps Colombia’s most famous birding location, the Anchicaya watershed is located along the edge of the Farallones National Park, one of the most diverse parks on the planet.
The birding begins just 40 minutes from the hotel via a paved road that can offer many of the Choco endemics that this mega diverse locality has to offer.
Our day on the Anchicaya road will allow time to enjoy its upper portion and some very well-maintained feeders at our breakfast spot where Rufous-throated, Glistening-green and Silver-throated Tanagers are known to occur.
The road is sure to yield many highly prized species such as Golden-collared Honeycreeper, White-whiskered Puffbird, Uniform Treehunter, Sooty-headed Wren, Green Thorntail and White-tailed Hillstar.
One of the main targets today is Toucan Barbet, sporting 5 different colours elegantly while maintaining a tough demeanour.
We will search the skies for Barred Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle and Swallowtailed Kites, whilst keeping an eye out for the attractive Ornate Flycatcher feeding on low branches. Another mega target is the recently described Pisones Tapaculo.
The road can be extremely productive and rarely disappoints. The lowers stretches can yield species such as Choco Trogon, Lita Woodpecker and Baudo Guan.
The tanagers can be quite a treat, with chances for Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, Gray-and-gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanagers, among many others.
Lodging: Araucana Lodge
We will spend the morning birding in the pristine cloud forest of the San Antonio Forest. Here we will may see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet.
We will again listen for species with interesting calls and songs, such as the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling Black-billed Peppershrike, and flute-like Andean Solitaire.
Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, Montane Woodcreeper, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.
At 2 pm we will visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek for some close-up views of this magnificent bird’s display. This 25-minute hike will take us down a steep trail to their lek near the river. After the lek we will make our way back to the lodge.
Lodging: Araucana Lodge
After a 2-hour drive to Zaragosa and a pleasant 20-minute ride on “brujitas” (motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails), we will arrive in the town of San Cipriano. The area is a protected reserve and is the source of drinking water for the nearby port city of Buenaventura.
Located in the Choco Bioregion, it is known for being one of the wettest places on Earth. Some of the birds that are possible include Choco Toucan, Stripe-billed Aracari, Black-tipped Cotinga (NE), Rose-faced (NE) and Blue-headed Parrots, Spot-crowned and Five-colored Barbet (NE), Broad-billed Motmot, Black-chested Puffbird and Purple-throated Fruitcrow.
The area is teeming with antbirds, with chances to see Ocellated, Jet, Stubtailed and Bicolored Antbirds. We will leave after lunch and drive 2 hours back to the hotel.
Lodging: Araucana Lodge
The end of a fabulous Colombia birding tour and a time to reflect on a much-enhanced life list!
|Black-backed Bush Tanager|
What is included?
- Professional Bilingual Bird Guide
- All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
- Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
- All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 15
- Snacks Throughout the Trip
- Entrances to Parks and Reserves
- Local Guides
- Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to
- Airport Drop-off
What is not included?
- Trip Insurance
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Airfare to Colombia
- Items of Personal Nature
We stand out from the rest because, as locals, we can provide a better value and our familiarity with Colombia, its avian diversity, customs, culture and gastronomy is unsurpassed. It is our privileged local access that will make your experience exclusive and unforgettable, and we thrive to support the local communities we visit. We are an efficient and reliable company, offering the highest level detail and service from start to finish.
One of the highlights of this tour is the fact that it ends at the brand new, stylish, world-class Araucana Lodge (www.araucanalodge.com), which we own and operate. The lodge offers farm to table meals and was designed specifically to meet the needs of nature travelers, with all the comforts you can imagine. Your first night is spend at the lovely, colonial Hotel Guadalajara de Buga and the Hotel Termales del Ruiz in the paramo ecosystems has some amazing hot-springs. Seven nights are spent at the basic but charming and comfortable Otun Quimbaya, Montezuma, and Rio Blanco Nature Reserves. There is a river near the lodge at Montezuma, a pool at the hotel in Buga, so pack your swim wear! Our hotel in Los Nevados has natural hot springs, but be advised it is situated at 11,000 feet in elevation. We expect relative comfort, hot showers, and excellent local food and provide a nice variety of snacks and purified or bottled drinking water available throughout the trip. Most of the tour will be done in either a 7 pax Hyundai van or a 17 pax Volkswagen or Mercedes van (depending on number of people on tour). Some sites require use of 4x4 vehicles, in which case we use a Renault Duster or Toyota Land Cruiser. In some cases Jeep Willys are used.
This tour only involves ground transportation, be it in a van or smaller 4X4 vehicle. In san Cirpiano, riding on train rails on a motorcycle-powered carts called a “bruijta” makes for an exhilarating ride!
We have the lowest group size in the industry with a maximum of 8 birders per group!
Yes, all airport transfers are included.
We very rarely have to change the tour leader, bus sometimes unforeseeable things happen. If we do, we will give you as much notice as we can.
Yes, single supplement for this tour is $600. We can most definitely cover a third person/family member and can offer a discount for triple occupancy.
Yes, all meals from breakfast on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 15 are included. We also include snacks and bottled water throughout the trip.
This tour is great year-round. Rain can occur at any time in the Colombian Andes (rains are somewhat heavier in April and May and Sept to early Nov), but participants should expect some rain, regardless of the time of the trip, as the Colombian Andes, generally, receive fairly high rainfall. However, this does not impact the quality of the birding.
We hope our travelers are able to walk 1 – 3 miles daily. This tour birds lightly travelled roads with support vehicles nearby except at the San Cipriano locality and there is one hike to the Andean-cock-of-the-rock lek that takes about 20 minutes each way, with steep terrain.
There is wi-fi in all hotels and lodges except for Otun Quimbaya. PLease keep in mind that wi-fi is only available in common areas in some places and that in more rural areas the connection is not always 100% reliable.
Colombia Birdwatch supports the local communities we visit in many ways. First, it is our policy to always hire local guides when available and make use of the services provided by the locals (meals, transportation, feeder sites, etc). Secondly, we support various programs and work closely with partners (Audubon Society, Procolombia, Chamber of Commerce, Cali Valle Bureau) in the areas we visit to promote bird tourism and to provide outreach and training in the local communities we visit. We also work closely with Fundacion Ecotonos to promote the conservation of the Bosque de San Antonio in the vicinity of the Araucana Lodge.
Yes, just let us know!
Yes, but we suggest you purchase trip cancellation insurance and your own travel insurance or make sure your insurance covers you while travelling.
A deposit of $1,000 USD (non-refundable) per person is due to confirm the trip and full payment is due 60 days prior to the start date of the tour. You can pay by wire transfer to our bank in United States or by Credit Card (3% fee).
The tour can be rescheduled within 1 year (no additional fees)
If you cancel before final payment is due a cancellation fee of your deposit will be charged. If you cancel after final payment is due there is no refund but you can reschedule the tour within a year.
REFILLABEL WATER BOTTLE Documents and Money: • Passport • Cash and credit cards • Airline tickets or E-ticket confirmation Clothing: • Waterproof rain jacket • Sweater or medium weight jacket • Three pairs of pants, at least one lightweight, plus cool long pants and shorts • Four long-sleeved • Four T-shirts • Ten pairs of underwear • Ten pair of socks • Pajamas • 1 pair of waterproof boots and 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes. • Shade hat and 1 bandanna • Bathing suit Toiletries: • Toiletries and washcloth • Personal first aid kit • Prescription drugs • Lip balm with sunscreen • Sunscreen • Soap for hand washing and universal sink stopper • Insect repellent (Chiggers, no-seeums and mosquitoes) and anti-itch ointment Gear: • Pack - for rain gear and water on walks • Plastic bags to put wet gear in case of rain • Sunglasses and extra prescription glasses • Water bottle - to refill throughout the trip • Camera • Binoculars • Alarm clock • Flashlight and extra batteries Optional: • Sandals • Field guides • Map • Spanish dictionary • Writing materials, paper, and pens • Laundry bag and a few clothespins
Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by Miles Mcmullan. R + N Editors, 2018. Birds of Colombia by Fernando Ayerbe Quinones. WCS, 2019.