A birding tour designed for taking you to the most representative birding hotspots in Colombia.

An itinerary specially focused  on photography locations.

COLOMBIA, THE BIRDIEST COUNTRY.

Colombia is the land of the birds, 20% of the birds of the world -1913 species and counting- have in Colombia their home. This amazing number is due to the intrincate geography of the country: tree Andean ranges –Cordilleras -, two inter-andean valleys: Cauca & Magdalena, rainy forests in the Pacific/Chocó region, tropical dry forests in the Caribbean coast and in the Magdalena & Cauca river’s valleys, the huge savannah of the Orinoco region, the always giant amazon basin plus the Santa Marta mountains -which hosts the highest concentration of endemic birds of Southamerica-, and two oceans  with several islands and archipelagos spreaded  through them, make of Colombia a magical place where with travelling just a few hours is possible to move from a Páramo ecosystem over 4000 masl to the tropical dry forest in the Cordilleras’ foothill below 1000 masl, one of the most endangered terrestrial ecosystems in the world.

Colombia’s position privilege the country, making it the access door for migrants who come from both extremes of the continent.

A complex state-owned protected area’s network where the National Natural Parks are the main ones, join with private and community conservation initiatives, where the researching and environmental education have been increasing in the last years, locating Colombia as a megadiverse country.

TOUR DETAILS
TOUR DETAILS

Type of tour: Photography/Birding

Duration: 20 days

Ecosystems covered: 

Andean and subandean forests.

Cloud forest.

Tropical dry forest.

Páramo.

Rain forest.

Shade grown coffee plantations.

Marshes.

Tour leader:

Johnnier Arango

SUMMARY

Lengh: 20 days

Starting city: Cali

Ending city: Medellín

Physical difficulty: low

Focus: Photography

Keywords:

(E) Endemic, (NE) Near endemic

Day 0. Arrival: arriving to Cali's international airport in the Valle del Cauca department. Night at Cali.

Day 1-2. KM 18 & Finca Alejandría. 1900 masl.

Located 1 hour away of Cali on the ridge of the Western Andes, the KM 18 is one of the classic birding hotspots and one of the best places for bird photography in the region. The Finca Alejandría, also known as the "Hummingbirds paradise" has a incredible set of over 40 hummingbird feeders and it's the best location for photographing the endemic and superb Multicolored Tanager. Feeders here attract: (E) Colombian Chachalaca, Beryl-spangled, (NE) Flame-rumped, (NE) Scrub, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, Bay-headed, and Golden-naped tanagers,  Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager also attends the feeder. Other beauties include Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Black-winged Saltator, Summer Tanager (migrant), Hepatic Tanager, Red-headed Barbet among others.

 

The hummingbird feeders are visited by hundreds of Hummers. Species include Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Booted Racket-tail, Blue-headed Sapphire, Lesser Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Brown Violetear, Crowned Woodnymph, (NE) Purple-throated Woodstar and Greenish Puffleg. Two species of hermits visit the heliconias in the surroundig garden, these are the Tawny-bellied and Green Hermit.

Birding the forest can also produce many specialties as (NE) Nariño Tapaculo, the endemic and skulking Chestnut Wood-Quail, Scaled and Green-and-black Fruiteaters, Chestnut-capped, White-naped and Yellow-breasted Brush-finches, Gray-throated Toucanet and some interesting understory birds like Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streak-capped and Striped Treehunters, and the always nice woodpeckers: Yellow-vented, Acorn and Golden-olive.

Both, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals are often seen in the forest near Finca Alejandría.

At the end of the day we will head to the small town of El Queremal, the main access to the impressive Anchicayá Canyon. Driving time 1.2 hours. Night at Hotel El Campanario.

ENDEMIC Multicolored Tanager
By Sebastián Moreno. CC License
Golden-headed Quetzal
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 3. High Anchicayá Canyon. 1300 - 1100 masl.

The Anchicayá Canyon is the place where the well known American ornitholgist Steven Hilty built the basis of his research which led to the publishing of the first colombian field guide in 1986. Thirty years later, the area remains as one of the best colombian birding hotspots. With an easy access paved road, great views at canopy-level and also hummingbird feeders, is a great location for exploring and for getting introduced to the avifauna of the Chocó region, one of the most biodiverse ecoregions of the world.

We will start the day walking along the paved road which leads to the city port of Buenaventura in the Pacific coast. The high elevations of Anchicayá host several specialties as: (E) Tatamá Tapaculo, (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Crested Ant-tanager, (E) Parker’s Antbird, (NE) Toucan Barbet, (NE) Rufous-throated tanager, NE) Chocó tapaculo, (NE) Uniform Treehunter, (NE) Orange-breasted fruiteater, (NE) Club-winged Manakin, (NE) Sooty-headed Wren, (NE) Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, (NE) Ochre-breasted tanager, (NE) Black Solitaire, (NE) Glistening-green Tanager, (NE) White-whiskered Hermit, and (NE) Yellow-collared Chlorophonia.

At 1100 masl is located "El Descanso", a familiy restaurant which has a place dedicated to tanagers and hummingbirds. Some of the specialties mentioned above come to feed on the bananas plus others like Black-headed and Tricolored Brush-finch, Tick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias, Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, (NE) Empress Brilliant, (NE) Brown Inca among others.

Oter specialties in the area include Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Torrent Duck, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Olive Finch, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Russet Antshrike, White-headed Wren, and  Chestnut-crowned Gnateater.

Night at hotel El Campanario in El Queremal.

Day 4. High and mid Anchicayá canyon. 1300 - 600 masl

This day we will start exploring the mid section of the canyon lookink for specialties as Lemon-rumped Tanager (the local subspecies of the near endemic Flame-rumped Tanager), Silver-throated Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Bright-rumped Atilla, Golden-collared Manakin, White-headed Wrens, and Chestnut-headed Oropendola. Three species of toucans are possible here such the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Collared Aracari and the very restricted Choco Toucan. Other birds of interest are Spot-crowned Barbet, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Dusky-faced, Tawny-crested and Rufous-winged Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Long-tailed Tyrant among many other birds that are representative of this rich region. This afternoon we will leave to the historic city of Buga in the heart of the Cauca river's valley. 

Driving time: 3 hours. Night at Hotel Guadalajara

Toucan Barbet
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Ornate-hawk Eagle
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 5. Sonso Lagoon. 800 masl.

The Sonso lagoon is the last big lagoon of the Cauca river's valley, is the remaining of a complex of wetlands and marshes. As a protected area it preserves habitat for many migrants and resident birds. In its tropical dry forest is possible to see 2 endemics: The Grayish Piculet and the Apical Flycatcher. Other specialties here include (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, Dwarf Cuckoo, Jet Antbird, Common Potoo, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Striped Cuckoo and Spectacled Parrotlet. The wetland section hosts Fulvous, White-faced & Black-bellied whistling ducks, blue-winged teal, Buff-necked Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Comb Duck, Black-crowned Night-heron amomg others. Birding here is easy with open areas,clear trees and good views of the aquatic vegetation, all them adequate conditions for photographing.

After a morning here we will drive to the Parque de la Uva (The grape park. Driving time 1.2 hours) where is possible to photograph in a stationary location: Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Black-throated Mango, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Western Emerald plus some other tropical dry forest species.

In the mid afternoon we'll head towards the mythical Tatamá NP in the transition between Western Andes and Chocó bioregion. Driving time 3 hours. Night at Montezuma lodge.

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
ENDEMIC Grayish Piculet
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 6. Montezuma lower section and feeders.

Certainly Montezuma is one of the best locations for birding in the colombian Andes. Its privileged location laying on the north side of the Tatamá NP just in the transition between two of the main bioregions of Colombia:Chocó and Tropical Andes, make of this place a real hotspot for birding and other nature watching activities. Here we will spend 3 full days and one half morning trying to achieve mostly of the targets. In this case our targets are the jewels of Tatamá NP, a set of rare, colorful and range restricted birds found here. 

 

The first day we will spend the best light of the morning photographing hummingbirds in the feeders, a number of up to 16 species can be seen here including Chocó specialties as (NE) Violet-tailed Sylph,  (NE) Velvet-purple Coronet, (NE) Purple-throated Woodstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, (NE) Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar and (NE) Brown Inca, some other hummingbirds here are Western Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, Andean Emerald and White-necked Jacobin among others. Tanager feeders also attract common but cute species of the region. The surroundings of the lodge are good for seedeaters like Slate-coloured, Variable and Gray seedeaters, Large-billed Seedfinch is also possible here. The feeders allow you to modify and set flowers, perchs and flashes as you desire as long as other birders are not affected.

Purple-throated Woodstar
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Velvet-purple Coronet
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 7. Montezuma high section. 2400 - 2000 masl

The Montezuma hill wich lies within the Tatamá NP, is often divided in 3 altitudinal sections. This day we will explore the best spots of the high part in the quest for many of the specialties with stops at 2 feeders set at 2200 and 2400 masl where is possible to see some extra hummingbirds as Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast among others seen in the lower section.

 

The endemics list here contains Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren and Gold-ringed Tanager, the endemic with the most restricted range in Colombia and an iconic bird of the country.

Other specialties here are (NE) Tanager Finch, (NE) Black Solitaire, (NE) Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, (NE Orange-breasted Fruiteater, and (NE) Beautiful Jay.  We will look for the best locations acording to the light and visibility, the guide will lead you to natural corridors where mix flocks use to move in their search of food.

Depending on the day's weather conditions and the requirements of the photographers we will evantually return to the main feeders for resting and continuing shooting. The plan here is completely flexible in order to satisfy all needs.

Day 8. Montezuma mid-lower section. 1800-1350 masl.

This day will start in the mid level, considered the most biodiverse of the three sections. Here we'll have chances to see the endemic Black-and-gold Tanager, Olivaceous Piha, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Glistening-green Tanager, (NE) Dusky Chlorospingus, (NE) Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Crested Quetzal, Olive Finch, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Tricolored Brush-Finch, Yellow-collared and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias and Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant. Other interesting birds are Barred Hawk, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and some interesting antbirds as (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, Zeledon's Antbird, (E) Parker's Antbird, Slaty, Rufous-rumped and Yellow-breasted Antwrens.

 

As the day before we can dedicate time for remaining targets or specific photographic plans. Night at Montezuma lodge.

ENDEMIC Gold-ringed Tanager
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Beautiful Jay
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Orange-breasted Fruiteater
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 9. Montezuma - Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.

This morning we will spend some few hours birding in the lower section or feeders. Then we'll drive to Otún-Quimbaya FFS (Driving time 4 hours) with some road stops where we will attempt to find Torrent Ducks along the Otun river. Once arrived we'll spend the rest of the afternoon birding around the lodge which is surrounded by a pristine subandean forest with a big open garden and short trees that create a very good environment for photographing birds as the Endemic Cauca Guan, the scarce Red-ruffed Fruitcrow plus some colorful tanagers as Blue-necked, Bay-headed and Beryl-spangled tanagers. Hummingbirds of interest include (NE) Western Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared Incas and the superb Green-fronted Lancebill.

At night there are chances to see the (NE) Colombian Screech-owl and the more common Tropical Screech-owl and Mottled Owl. Night at Otún lodge.

Day 10. Otún-Quimbaya FFS.

Otún-Quimbaya is another famous location with a long tradition promoting birding through a community-based tourism strategy led by the Yarumo Blanco Community Association.

It's also the best place for some restricted birds like the endemics Cauca Guan, Crested Ant-tanager, Stile's Tapaculo and Multicolored Tanager. Other specialties here include: (E) Grayish Piculet, (NE) Moustached and Hooded Antpitta, (NE) Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Torrent Duck, White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Wattled Guan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Streak-capped Treehunter, Bronze-olive Pygmy-tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers, Cerulean Warbles and Whiskered Wren among others. Biridng here is easy with a flat unpaved road which has good spots for photography where we will spend mostly of the day. 

In the afternoon we can spend more time around the lodge or visiting nearby spots for remaining specialties. 

Night at Otún lodge.

Red-ruffed Fruitcrow
By Francesco Veronesi. CC License here
White-capped Tanager
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
ENDEMIC Cauca Guan
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 11-12. Otún - Hotel Tinamú.

After a breakfast at Otún lodge we will drive to the Hotel Tinamú Birding Nature Reserve. This private protected area has been preserving a mix between tropical dry forest and subandean forest in the west slope of Central Andes and is only 25 minutes away from Manizales, our next destination.

 

Here we will spend 2 days working on the feeders and trails that are carefully designed for allowing the best opportunities for photographers. 

A complex of subandean and dry forest species is found here: Little tinamou, (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, Great and Western-slaty Antshrikes, Scaled Antpitta, Whiskered and Scale-breasted Wrens, Grey-headed Dove, Dwarf Cuckoo, Moustached Puffbird, Brown-throated and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets among others. 

Tanager and humminbird's feeders are specially located for photographing including hides and allowing to set perches and flowers for a better photographic experience.

 

Hummingbirds of interest include Long-billed Starthroat, Rufpus-breasted Hermit, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Sparkling Violetear, Green hermit, White-vented Plumeleteer and White-bellied Woodstar. Hummingbirds already found in previous locations are also present here giving more and more chances to get great images.

Nights at Tinamú Hotel

 

Andean Motmot
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Bay-headed tanager
By Francesco Veronesi. CC License here

Day 13. Páramo del Ruiz and los Termales road.

Páramo ecosystem is undoubtely one of the best habitats for birding in Colombia, although the number of species is lower compared with other habitats, Páramo allows to have great points of view over the dwarf vegetation and the light is often much better that in the forest. 

Here we will spend 2 days exploring the border of Los Nevados National Park between 4100 - 3300 masl. 

Starting in the upper elevation (4100 masl) we will go for specific highland targets as the endemics Buffy Helmetcrest and Rufous-fronted Parakeet. Other specialties will show up as we descend, these are: White-chinned Thistletail, Andean Tit-spinetail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Black Flowerpiercer, Plain-capped Ground-tyrant, Páramo Seedeater, Sedge Wren, Tawny Antpitta and eventually a Black-chested Buzzard-eagle could come to scan the area.

Just below the threeline (3600 masl) other set of specialties are found: Paramo Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Ash-coloured Tapaculo, Andean Pygmy-owl, Mountain Avocetbill and Black-backed Bush-Tanager.

The Termales del Ruiz hotel will provide us with one of the best hummingbird feeders of Colombia. No big numbers are seen here but all of them are highland specialties as (NE) Black-thighed Puffleg, (NE) Golden-breasted Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Viridian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Purple-backed Thornbill. Here we will spend the rest of the day with time for going to the hotel's surrounding gardes for Pale-naped Brush-finch, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager and (NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart.

Night at Manizales.

ENDEMIC Buffy Helmetcrest
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Black-chested Buzzard-eagle
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 14. Páramo del Ruiz and los Termales road part 2

This day we will focus on targets missed the day before or spending more time around feeders.

Los termales road which goes down to Manizales (3500 - 2400 masl) also offer great chances for watching some specialties as: Black-chested, Hooded, Lacrimose and Buff-breasted Mountain-tanagers, Black-collared Jay, Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Purple-backed Thornbill, Hemispingus as Black-headed, Superciliared, Oleaginous, Black-capped and Black-eared, Crowned, Rufous-breasted, Yellow-bellied and Slaty-backed Chat-tyrants.

Grass-green tanager, Pearled treerunner and Powerful and Bar-bellied Woodpeckers are also part of the rich birds list of this location.

 

​Night at Manizales.

 

Day 15-16. Río Blanco reserve. 2550-2300 masl.

Río Blanco is one of the oldest and better known birding hotspots of Colombia. Was the first in stablishing antpitta feeders where is possible to spot at least 4 species, (E) Brown-banded, Chestnut-crowned, Slate-crowned and (NE) Bicolored antpittas.

Feeders are strategically placed close to the lodge and next to the main road, photographic chances are the best here. In addition to this, there are hummingbird feeders wich attracts species previously seen but with a different environmemt and light conditions: Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Bronzy Inca, Lesser and Sparkling Violetears, Speckled hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet and White-bellied Woodstar amon others. Andean emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant and (NE) Western Wedge-billed Hummingbird are found in a second feeder station in the main entrance to the reserve.

Tanagers feeders attract Buff-breasted and Blue-winged Mountain-tanagers, Slaty Brush-finch, Masked Flowerpiercer and others. Walking in the road is possible to see the much wanted and rare Masked Saltator, Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Tanager, Golden-plummed Parakeet, Montane, Tyrannine and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Rusty-faced Parrot, Dusky Piha, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-hooded Tanager and Black-billed Mountain Toucan among others.

2 full days here will allow us to get amazing views of this superb birds. Easy walk, broad trails, feeders and a bunch of species will make of Río Blanco one of the best locations of the tour.

Nights at Río Blanco lodge.

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Golden-plumed Parakeet
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Long-tailed Sylph
By tour leader Johnnier Arango
Black-billed Mountain-toucan
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 17. Río Blanco - Jardín. 1900 masl.

After a morning in Río Blanco we will head towards the colorful town of Jardín in Antioquia department (driving time 4.5 hours). Jardín is very well known because is home of the once Critically endangered Yellow-eared Parrot which being extinct in Ecuador is actually a colombian endemic.

This day we will arrive straight to the best Andean Cock-of-the-rock's lek of the country which is located only ten minutes away of the town. Here we will enjoy of a close up show while the males display only 4-5 meters away of us. Other interesting birds here are (E) Colombian Chachalaca, Black-chested Jay, Golden Tanager, Black-capped Tanager and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

​Night at hotel La Casona in town.

 

Day 18. Jardín, Ventanas peak and Yellow-eared Parrot reserve. 3000 - 2500 masl.

Early in the morning at dusk we will drive straight to the Ventanas peak with one main target: the endemic Yellow-eared Parrot. The parrots come out of their roosting places after sunrise flying low and forming big groups. With a bit of luck we will see some pairs close enough for photographing them. After the parrot's show and a nice field breakfast we will go for others specialties of the place: Rufous and Chestnut Antpittas, Black-throated tody-flycatcher, Rufous Spinetail, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Red-hooded Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, the endemic Red-bellied Grackle, Mountain Cacique, Ocellated Tapaculo and others. In the afternoon we will finish our day birding in the lower part looking for semi-open vegetation species like Golden-rumped Euphonia, Metallic-green Tanager, Green-fronted Lancebill, Yellow-backed Oriole, Squirrel Cuckoo, Russet-backed Oropéndola and Saffron-crowned Tanager among others.

Night at hotel La Casona in town.

ENDEMIC Yellow-eared Parrrot
By Francesco Veronesi. CC License here
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
By Francesco Veronesi. CC License here
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
By tour leader Johnnier Arango

Day 19. Jardín. Morroamarillo and shade-grown coffee farm. 1900 masl.

After a exhausting day at Ventanas area today we will pass the day at feeders surrounded by the colombian most well known symbol: Coffee. The shade-grown coffee crops are a bird-friendly agroecosystem which hosts dozen of species. We'll have more and better photography opportunities for many species, some of them could have been seen before and some others will be new for the list. Toucanets as Gray-throated and Crimson-rumped inhabit this ecosystem, warblers as Canada, Blackburnian and Black-and-white are also present here.

Night at Hotel la Casona in town.

 

Day 20. Jardín - Cacuca river's tropical dry forest - Medellín.

The last day of our trip will be split in 2 sections. First we will work on an open plan around Jardín: Ventanas, Coffee farm or Cock-of-the-rock lek, then before lunch time we will drive 1 hour to one of the last remaining tropical forest patches of the region. There we will try to find the recently described and endemic Antioquia Wren who shares habitat with the endemic Grayish Piculet. Other interesting birds here include: Northern-fringed Antwren, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcer, White-breasted Wood-wren, Moustached Puffbird and others.

1.5 hours of drive to Medellín will mark the end of the trip.

Night at hotel in Medellin or International flight.

jarango@andeanbirder.com

theandeanbirder@gmail.com

Mobile phone: +57-316 416760

Whatsapp: +57-312 7706889