Your essential guide to bird watching and bird sites in Colombia

Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi)

Photo by: julian londono

Colombia is paradise for bird lovers. Thousands of visitors flock to the country every year to take advantage of its incredible diversity and observe the endemic, resident and migratory birds that nestle in its branches.

Why Colombia?

Colombia is home to more than 1,900 bird species with new birds being identified all the time. That’s almost 20% of the world’s bird species and they make Colombia’s skies so busy the country now holds the world record for the highest number of bird species spotted on a single day. Bird watchers often make several trips to Colombia, seeking endemic, resident and migratory birds including more than 150 hummingbird species, 200 flycatchers and 140 tanagers in bird sites as diverse as vast tropical rainforests and the high-altitude Andes mountains.

Where should I go?

Some of Colombia’s most popular bird watching sites include the wetlands close to its capital, Bogotá, the tropical rainforests of the Pacific coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains lining its Caribbean shores. Bird watchers also travel to identify birds and visit bird sites in Chocó, Valle de Cauca, the eastern plains, the coffee cultural landscape and the Amazon rainforest, which is why they often make multiple visits.

What should I see?

Among Colombia’s many bird species there are a few celebrities, including Fuertes’s Parrot, which was rediscovered at the Mirador Reserve in Quindío and the Dusky Starfrontlet, which has its own reserve in Antioquia. The El Dorado reserve in Minca, Santa Marta is home to several endemic species while Santander’s Cerulean Warbler reserve also attracts the rare Gorgeted Wood Quail, the White-mantled Barbet and the Black Inca hummingbird. The Paujil reserve in Boyacá and Santander is ideal for identifying birds including the elusive Blue-knobbed Curassow, the Sooty Ant-tanager and the Beautiful Woodpecker while Nariño’s Pangán reserve is home to endemic species including the Chocó Vireo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird and the Banded Ground-cuckoo.

Are there many migratory birds?

Hundreds of migratory birds arrive in Colombia every year and many have migrated more than 10,000km from their breeding grounds. Some migratory birds are particularly loyal to Colombia, including the Mourning Warbler, the American Redstart and Swainson’s Thrush. Mourning Warblers and Swainson’s Thrush have both been seen returning to the same coffee plantation in Antioquia while other Mourning Warblers have been seen returning to the Cerulean Warbler reserve in Santander. Colombia’s shady coffee plantations and its forests and mangroves are particularly popular sites for bird migration and the Sierra Nevada mountains are a “take off” point for many birds returning north.

 

When is the best time to go?

The best times to go bird watching and visit bird sites in Colombia are its two driest periods, from January to March and from June to mid-September, although many migratory bird species are spotted from October to January. Don’t forget your binoculars! 10x45 are best for jungles, which need as much light as possible.