Complete Birding Colombia Tour
This 33-day complete birding tour of Colombia is a journey through the most exciting and often, until recently, inaccessible parts of this richly biodiverse South American country. The birding tour takes in a huge range of habitats as it explores Colombia’s lush cloud forests and paramo ecosystem of the Andean Cordillera, the humid rainforests of the Choco Bioregion, the wetlands and dry tropical forests of the lowland valleys (Cauca and Magdalena), the dry scrub forests of the Caribbean Coast and the high-altitude mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Sierra de Perija.
With the prospect of seeing even a fraction of Colombia's almost two thousand species, this has to be a trip of a lifetime. So be prepared to be in awe of the spectacular avifauna on show.
- Enjoy the feeders at KM 18, where more than 22 species of hummingbirds have been recorded.
- Visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek that is only a 20-minute hike to reach.
- Enjoy the festival of tanagers in the Anchicaya Watershed, including Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, and Gray-and-gold.
- Ride the rails through pristine forests at the San Cipriano Reserve.
- 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 Wood-wren and Gold-ringed Tanager.
- Stay at the stylish Araucana Lodge, owned and operated by Colombia Birdwatch and specially designed for birders.
- Visit the surreal paramo ecosystem where you will bird above 3,500m in search of the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest.
- Bird the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to more than a quarter of the country’s endemics.
- Visit the dry forests of mythical Guajira peninsula in Northern Colombia in search of Vermilion Cardinal, Scarlet Ibis and Tocuyo Sparrow.
Guests will arrive in Bogota and be transferred to the hotel. Your local guide will meet you at the airport and begin talking about the birding adventure on which you are about to embark.
Lodging: Hotel Santa Fe Real
We will rise early and make our way to the high elevation Sumapaz National Park. Birding within the park will surely yield many endemics and specialties, and this is our chance to experience the unique Colombian paramo habitat.
Some of our targets will be the rare Blackheaded Hemispingus, Rufous and Undulated Antpitta, and the near-endemic Rufous-browed Conebill.
For those who have an affinity for hummingbirds there will be chances to view the endemic Green-beraded Helmetcrest. Coppery-bellied and Glowing Puffleg, Amethyst-throated Sunangel and the near-endemic Blue-throated Starfrontlet. Two other endemics on our target list include Silver-throated Spinetail and Pale-bellied Tapaculo.
An encounter with a mixed flock could yield Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Plushcap and the noisy Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager.
The uncommon and endemic Brown-breasted Parakeet is also a possibility, although an encounter will require some luck. We will then return to our hotel in Bogota for dinner and rest.
Lodging: Hotel Santa Fe Real
Today we will go to the Florida Regional Park, an urban wetland where we will look for endemics Bogota Rail and Apolinar’s Marsh-Wren. We may also find the Noble Snipe, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Subtropical Doradito, Spotflanked Gallinule, American Coot, Andean Duck and many other aquatic species in this urban park.
Having lunch on the road should have us at the Indigo-capped Hummingbird Reserve in time to enjoy the feeders. The main target here is the eponymous and endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird, as they visit the feeders regularly.
More than 20 species may also use these feeders - some only briefly, others nearly year-round. Possible species include White-bellied Woodstar, Green Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, White-vented Plumeteer, Andean Emerald and, with good luck, Gorgeted Woodstar.
We will spend the afternoon crossing the Magdalena Valley to the city of Ibague to enjoy our comfortable hotel.
Lodging: Hotel Santa Fe Rea
An impressive five endemics can be observed in the Combeima Canyon, including the mega targets Yellow-headed brush-finch, Blossomcrown and the very range-restricted Tolima Dove.
The trail along the Combeima River can yield pairs of Torrent Duck, whilst higher up the montane forest offers opportunities for Ash-colored Tapaculo, Superciliaried Hemispingus and Sword-billed Hummingbird.
Other species of interest include the spectacular Red-hooded Tanager, Agile Tit-tyrant, Crested Quetzal and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.
The afternoon will be spent driving along the Magdalena Valley to Honda, a small colonial town on the banks of the Magdalena River. The city was the main river port of the country in the late 1800s, and all the imported goods and articles for Bogotá passed through this port city.
Lodging: Hotel Posada Las Trampas
The Bellavista reserve only covers a small area but it is teeming with birds, many of them specialties that will surely satisfy your ornithological appetite.
The endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia, the tiny Tody Motmot, the intimidating Collared Aracari and the stunning Saffron-headed Parrot are only a few of the amazing species this site has to offer.
Five species of manakin can be observed at Bellavista: Striped, Blue-crowned, Golden-headed, White-bearded and White-bibbed. Black-faced Antthrush, Sooty Ant-tanager, Yellow-browed Shrikevireo, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Olivaceous Piculet and Violet-bellied Hummingbird - the list keeps growing!
The afternoon will be spend en route to the Rio Claro Reserve, with some birding once we arrive (time permitting).
Lodging: Hotel Los Colores
We take a short drive today to La Cueva del Condor, a cave that was named after those magnificent raptors. Sadly, no Condor inhabit the area now but there are other delights here. We will be on a search for an Oilbird., a very interesting nocturnal species uses sonar to navigate.
After visiting the cave we will bird in the vicinity and search out some very territorial wrens: Bay Wren, Black-bellied, Band-and-backed Wren.
Rio Claro is a hotspot for bird diversity and other birds we might encounter include the elusive Blue Cotinga, the endemic Magdalena Antbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Bay-breasted Warbler, Buff-rumped Warbler, Western White-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Rufous Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot, Slaty-winged Foliage-Gleaner, Western-Slaty Antshrike, Black-faced Antthrush, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Pacific Streaked Antwren, Checkered Antwren, Moustached Antwren, Yellow-backed Tanager, Tawnycrested Tanager, Orange-crowned Oriole, and many others.
We will devote all afternoon to the area and return to our hotel for dinner.
Lodging: Hotel Los Colores
A full morning of birding in Rio Claro will take us along a dirt road in search of specialties such as the endemic White-mantled Barbet and Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant and the very conspicuous Barred Puffbird.
Other birds we might encounter include Panama Flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Becard, One-colored Becard, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Chestnutmandibled Toucan, Citroen-throated Toucan, Collared Aracari, Olivaceous Piculet and Fulvous-vented Euphonia.
We will also have the opportunity to find two species of manakin: Western Striped and Whitebearded. And another target we will hope to encounter is the endemic Magdalena Antbird,
We will spend the afternoon driving up the central Andes to Sabaneta and our hotel, which is one of the closest to La Romera Park.
Lodging: Hotel La Extremadura
Our targets at the municipal La Romera Reserve will be the endemic Red-bellied Grackle and the near-endemic Yellow-headed Manakin. The reserve is small but, even so, we will have to spend some time trying to find the elusive manakin.
Our trip from Medellin to Jardin will take us into the unique canyon that the Cauca River has carved into the Andes Mountains. We will have the opportunity to explore the dry forests of The Cauca Valley, making a few stops during our drive hoping to net some of Colombia’s most range-restricted species.
Our main target will be the recently described Antioquia Wren, whilst taking advantage of the possibility of the endemic Apical Flycatcher and Grayish Piculet.
We will hope to arrive in Jardin by 5 pm, to experience what is becoming known as the best Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek on the planet. This sometimes hosts more than 20 individuals that display no more than 6 ft from the observation decks.
Lodging: Hacienda Balandu
Today and for the next two days, we will maximise our efforts to find the Yelloweared Parrot. This little-known species is severely threatened due to the disappearance of the wax palms where they roost and nest. Wax palms are the national tree of Colombia, and also an endangered species.
As we look for the parrot we will also keep our eyes and ears open for White-capped Tanagers, Rufous-chested Chat-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Rufous-headed Pygmy-tyrant, Handsome Flycatcher, Northern Mountain and Subtropical Cacique, Russet-backed Oropendola, Citrine Warbler and others.
Other targets for the day will be Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Tanager Finch, and the endemic Red-bellied Grackle.
A visit to a Rufous Antpitta feeder station is possible before descending back to Jardin to enjoy the pleasant town and a nice dinner.
Lodging: Hacienda Balandu
The morning will be well spent trying to nail any target species we may have missed in previous days, including the endmic Parker’s Antbird, Black-and-white Seedeaters, Striped Treehunter, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tanager Finch, Clay-coloured Thrush, and White-browed Spinetail.
The afternoon will involve driving to the Rio Blanco Reserve near Manizales, enjoying the scenic vistas of the coffee region of Colombia along the way. There's a chance to see King Vultures catching thermals, if you keep looking overhead.
Lodging: Rio Blanco Reserve
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: Rio Blanco Lodge
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 the night 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
Los Nevados National Park is located at the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. The road winds through patches of elfin forest, an ecosystem of dwarfed plants that opens up to the paramo's tropical grasslands above the treeline. Driving toward the picturesque 5,300m (17,400-ft) volcano of Nevado del Ruiz., the scenery in the paramo is magical, with velvety Frailejon plants adding to the surreal effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.
Birding is done at elevations up to 3,950m (13,000 ft), so it will be cold. Here we hope to find species adapted to high elevations such as the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the near-endemic Rainbowbearded Thornbill, both of which sometimes forage close to 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.
We will search for the very rare and endangered endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet along a 2km stretch of road that passes through elfin forest. We also hope to spot the very tame Tawny Antpitta, a common companion in this area.
We will stop at a nearby glacial lake, Laguna Negra, where we may find 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 Pale-naped Brush-Finch.
Lodging: Hotel Termales del Ruiz
A bit of after-breakfast birding for any missing species will precede a four-hour drive to the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve. We will travel through the city of Pereira and wind our way along the Otun River, finally arriving at the Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, where the lodge and tourist operation are superbly run by the local community group, Yarumo Blanco.
The lodge area can be birded on arrival, time-permitting. En route to Pereira, a stop at a roadside lake can add some aquatic species to the trip list, including Pied-billed Grebe, Masked Duck, and Blackish Rail.
Lodging: La Suiza Lodge Cabins
There is an early morning option for those who wish to look for the endemic Colombian Screech-Owl near the lodge before breakfast. After breakfast, you can easily bird the reserve right from the doorstep of the cafeteria.
Located on the west slope of the Central Cordillera, the reserve is part of the national park system, and 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 and in the cool climate found here. The area is also home to a colony of Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until 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 the 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, Bluenaped 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.
Lodging: La Suiza Lodge Cabins
This morning some time will devoted time to finding the famous Torrent Duck before beginning a long drive of four hours to Montezuma Lodge.
The next three nights will be spent at the lodge, which has unsurpassed local hospitality given by the Tapasco family. They run a great operation that allows birders from around the globe to enjoy the birds of Tatatma National Park.
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.
After lunch the next destination is the Cauca Valley, more specifically to the city of Buga, a pleasant city and one of the most important religious pilgrimage centres in Colombia.
The colonial hotel, which has been recently remodeled, has a large swimming pool and impressive architecture.
Lodging: Hotel Guadalajara 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.
After lunch at the hotel, the afternoon will be spent driving towards Cali and then ascending the western Andes to the Km 18 area. If time permits we can start birding for some of the targets of the cloud forests close to the lodge.
Lodging: Hostal Santa Eulalia
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: Hostal Santa Eulalia
We will spend the day on the Anchicaya road with lots of time to enjoy the upper portion and some very well-maintained feeders at our lunch spot. The road will surely yield many highly prized species, including Silver-throated Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, and White-whiskered Puff-bird.
The main target will be Toucan Barbet, which sports five different colours elegantly while maintaining a tough demeanour. We will search the skies for Barred Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle and Swallow-tailed Kites, whilst keeping an eye out for the attractive Ornate Flycatcher feeding on low branches.
Another mega target is the recently described Alto Pisones Tapaculo. The road can be extremely productive and we will surely go back to our birding lodge with a long list of new birds!
Lodging: Hostal Santa Eulalia
Depending on your arrival time to Barranquilla, an afternoon of birding in search for the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca is possible near town. This is one of the most attractive chachalacas in Colombia and possibly all of South America.
The dry forests on the outskirts of the town will also provide opportunities for species such as the very photogenic Russet-throated Puffbird and the common Brown-throated Parakeet.
Lodging: Hotel Barranquilla Plaza.
We will rise early and spend the morning birding at Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from Barranquilla, where we will follow the newly rebuilt walkways through the mangroves in search of Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Bicolored Conebill, the common Brown-throated Parakeet, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail, among many others. We will also have time to bird some wetlands in the area in search of Northern Screamer and other specialties.
After a morning of birding we will embark on a two-hour drive to Minca, a quaint little town with nice lodgings along the river. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Minca is a great location to bird for lower elevation species.
We will arrive in town and visit some hummingbird feeders at lunchtime where Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, the near-endemic Redbilled Emerald and Violet-crowned Woodnymph can be found.
We will also have time to explore the surroundings in search of birds such as Black-backed Antshrike, Scaled Piculet, Swallow Tanager, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, and Whooping Motmot.
Lodging: Hotel Sierras Sound
This day will have us birding at a great altitudinal gradient, exploring different elevations along the road to El Dorado Lodge. Birding up the mountain will surely yield a large number of species, including Golden-winged Sparrow, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, the recently described Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently coloured Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-capped Warbler.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
We will rise early and head up to higher elevations, towards Cerro Kennedy, in search of these endemics: Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta Bush-tyrant and Brown-rumped Tapaculo, among many others.
We will have a picnic at high elevation with great views of the Sierra Nevada and bird along the road on our way
down, hoping to run into awe inspiring species such as Swallow Tanager, Grove-billed and Santa Marta Toucanet, Black-chested Jay, the endemic White-lored Warbler, Golden-breasted Fruiteater and the near endemic White-tipped quetzal.
After dinner we will scout for the endemic and recently described Santa Marta Screech-owl.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the well-maintained feeders at the lodge. Hummingbirds that visit the feeders include the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, White-vented Plumeteer, and Long-tailed Hermit.
The bananas attract the endemic Santa Marta Brush-finch and also the endemic Colombian brushfinch, and the many flowers in the garden attract White-sided and Black Flowerpiercer.
We will spend some time trying to see Santa Marta Antpitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work to find.
A day of birding near the lodge will have its rewards, a special treat being the near-endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visits the lodge's compost pile in the afternoon.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
We will spend the day birding the road en route to our next stop - a hotel beside a beautiful beach. We will pause along the way to catch any birds we missed on the way up.
Finca Barlovento, our accommodation for one night, is an exquisite lodge right on the beach that is touted as one of the best places to stay in Colombia.
Lodging: Finca Barlovento
We will have a morning visit to the Tayrona National Park and, if all things align for us, the Blue-billed Curassow could show up. Otherwise, this is a great place to see some species that we are not as likely to see elsewhere on the trip.
One abundant bird that is easiest to see here than anywhere else is the stunning Lance-tailed Manakin. Sometimes it can be found with its relative, the White-bearded Manakin.
The birds at this location are varied, from Crane Hawk and Boat-billed Heron to Greater Ani, White-necked Puffbird and Rufous-tailed Jacamars. Blue-headed Parrot is common, and Lineated Woodpeckers are impressive to see as they forage on the large trees in the area.
White-bellied Antbirds belt out their song from the understorey and if you are lucky they will even show themselves.
The complex songs of Buff-breasted and Bicolored Wrens are heard in the forest, along with the repetitive songs of Scrub Greenlets, nasal sounds of Barred Antshrikes and loud calls of Boat-billed and Streaked Fycatchers. It is an active area, full of birds!
Crimson-backed Tanagers and the gorgeous Redlegged Honeycreepers give a lot of colour to the local flocks. While you are birding here it is common to see the Cottontop Tamarin, a gorgeous little monkey that is dwarfed by the less common White-fronted Capuchin.
While our visit to Tayrona will be brief we will see a lot, and we will enjoy the company of our trained guides who have their fingers on the pulse regarding where to find the birds.
The afternoon will be spent driving to Riohacha, with a stop at a spot where it is known that Double-striped Thick-knees are often seen. Our hotel is again right on the beach.
Lodging: Hotel Taroa
Very close to the city of Riohacha is Los Flamencos and the village of Camarones. This is the west edge of the Guajira desert, where dry forest becomes shorter and sparser and bare dry earth separates the trees from each other.
However, before you have the mistaken idea that this is a parched world, Los Flamencos is on the coast and it has shallow waterbodies that fill as the rains come but evaporate during the dry season.
These evaporating ponds concentrate salt and then the brine shrimp bloom, which brings in the birds that give their name to the park – American Flamingos!
Their numbers vary depending on water levels, but they can be here in their hundreds on a good day. Then, if you have not had enough pink, how about the even brighter Scarlet Ibis? These birds concentrate here as well, with their very close relatives, the White Ibis. Relations are so close, in fact, that every once in a while a hybrid Pink Ibis is seen here. Gulls, terns and many migratory shorebirds are also to be found at Los Flamencos.
Retreating to the forest, you can find a series of very attractive regional specialities. In this drab desert habitat there are wonderful dry forest birds to be found.
The sole South American offshoot of what is really a North American group, the Vermilion Cardinal in one of these. Nothing prepares you for the striking red of this species, even if you are familiar with Northern Cardinals. The Vermilion also has an overdone crest and a very different look to its close relatives from the north.
On the ground, the White-whiskered Spinetail is one heck of a good looking Spinetail - a member of a group that is usually very drab and brown - and tends to bring a "wow" from the crowd.
Pecking in the branches in the forest, and trilling away, will be a tiny and colourful woodpecker, the Chestnut Piculet. And there are specialities that are more somber in tone, such as the Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannulet), and White-tipped Inezia.
A Santa Marta birding tour favourite is the Russet-throated Puffbird (the Bobo, or fool bird as the locals call it) that will sit and stare back at you as hard as you stare at it.
The less common Orinoco Saltator is another good looking bird to find here, standing out, as it does, from the general saltator group that tend to be relatively greenish, greyish and nondescript birds,
After lunch we will spend the afternoon driving to the Perija Lodge.
Lodging: Perija Reserve Lodge
The Sierra de Perijá is an isolated offshoot of the Eastern Andes and forms the border with Venezuela. It is one of the least explored areas of Colombia. Much of the country suffered from internal strife that lingered for decades and Perijá was a final stronghold.
Since 2009 the area has thankfully been clear of any political problems, and birders are now venturing to this amazing range of endemic-rich mountains. A new birding lodge, ProAves’s Chamizero del Perijá Reserve, started to receive tourists from May 2015. It is a small, comfortable lodge surrounded by amazing montane forest.
Currently, the Sierra de Perijá is considered to have four endemic species, the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and the newly described Perijá Tapaculo. Yet, this is where things get interesting!
This area was out of reach to birders and scientists for decades. Now, even a cursory visit to the area has revealed that many of what were thought of as common species, such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local Rufous Spinetail version of breasted Brushfinch, are in fact endemic species!
And th0se are just the common ones, many new discoveries await as birders and biologists increase their visits to Perijá. There is a spinetail there that could be a new species, but so little is known of it a decision on its exact status has not yet been reached.
This area may never rival birding in Santa Marta in the number of endemics it offers, but it will come close once taxonomy has been updated for these birds.
This is a unique area, still being discovered, gorgeous to look at and wonderful to be in. The morning views across the valley to the Sierra Nevada are breathtaking.
Other birds to be found here include Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager.
A unique looking form of Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager is common in the higher areas, as well as another unique endemic that may one day be a full species - the local form of the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.
Hook-billed Kites are relatively easy to see and, with luck, White-rumped Hawk or even Black-and-chestnut Eagle may fly through.
The road that reaches the Perija reserve continues into páramo habitats, where Rufous-breasted Chattyrants abound and Páramo Seedeater may be found, as well as many Tyrian Metaltail and a few of the stunningly purple-tailed, endemic Perijá Metaltail.
Lodging: Perija Reserve Lodge
We will spend the morning birding down the road towards Valledupar and will then catch an afternoon flight to Bogota.
Lodging: Hotel Habitel
The end of an epic complete birding tour of Colombia - truly a South American birding trip of a lifetime!
|Santa Marta Screech-Owl|
|Santa Marta Parakeet|
|Santa Marta Brush-Finch|
What is included?
- Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
- Snacks Throughout the Trip
- All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 33
- All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
- Entrances to Parks and Reserves
- Local Guides
- Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to Airport Drop-off
- Internal Flights (Cali-Barraqnuilla and Valledupar- Bogota)
What is not included?
- 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 spent 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. In the Caribbean, This tour features two Conservation Alliance (Proaves) lodges in remote areas, the world-class El Lodge and the more basic Perija Lodge. In hotels in cities range between three and four stars and you will spend two nights at Ecohabs Los Naranjos lodge on a beach-front property with access to one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. One night will be spent at Hotel Minca, which is basic but caters to birders and has some very nice feeders. 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 involves ground transportation, be it in a van or smaller 4X4 vehicle. In The San Cipriano, riding on train rails on a motorcycle-powered carts called a “bruijta” makes for an exhilarating ride! This tour also includes several internal flights which are included in the price of the tour. This tour also involves three internal flights, each one less than one hour (included in price).
This tour is run as a private tour and priced base don the number of people YOU chose to be on the tour.
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 $1200. We can most definitely cover a third person/family member and can offer a discount for triple occupancy.
Do you include meals?
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.
Packing List: Please note that this is a general packing list and is not all-inclusive. 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.