Colombia: Andean Endemic Paradise - Birding Tour
The great Andean mountain range splits into three chains as it traverses Colombia, resulting in a very high degree of endemism (70+ endemic bird species). Colombia is blessed with an extensive system of reserves that protect many of these species, and we will visit many of them on this tour. Among the many targets on this tour are numerous spectacular birds including Buffy and Green-bearded Helmetcrests, Yellow-eared Parrot, White-mantled Barbet, Black-and-gold, Gold-ringed, and Multicolored Tanagers, Turquoise Dacnis, and many more. This trip is in two parts that link together seamlessly, or can be taken separately, as superb, shorter trips.
*This tour is run in two parts, please see "Tour Details" below for more information.
Part 1: 6 - 13 March ($3450; single supplement $320)
Part 2: 13 - 25 March ($5750; single supplement $320)
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 19 Days (Part 1: 8 Days, Part 2: 13 Days)
Starting City (Part 1): Bogotá
Ending City (Part 1): Medellín
Starting City (Part 2): Medellín
Ending City (Part 2): Bogotá
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Group size: 8 + 1 leader
Part 1: The Eastern Andes and Magdalena Valley
Day 1: Bogotá
The tour starts this evening in Bogotá. You will be transferred to a hotel in Colombia’s vibrant capital, where we will spend the first three nights.
Day 2: Sumapaz
Leaving early, we drive into the mountains south of the city to Sumapaz National Park, where beautiful páramo dominates the landscape. We’re after two very localized hummers here, the spectacular Green-bearded Helmetcrest and the odd Bronze-tailed Thornbill, along with Apolinar’s Wren, Bogota Rail, and Pale-bellied Tapaculo. We’ll also see a nice selection of more common high Andean species such as Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Teal, and Andean Duck.
Day 3: Bosque Guajira and Hummingbird Observatory
This morning will see us birding cool cloudforest northeast of Bogota, especially targeting the threatened Brown-breasted Parakeet, a very local endemic. Other birds we will seek include Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Black-collared Jay, Mountain Cacique, Slaty Brushfinch, Blue-backed Conebill, and numerous other species. In the afternoon, we will stop at one of the best set of hummer feeders in all of Colombia, where we will likely get great views of some truly amazing birds including Blue-throated Starfrontlet, both Black-tailed and Green-tailed Trainbearers, Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, and Coppery-bellied Puffleg.
Day 4: Laguna Pedro Palo and the Magdalena Valley
We’ll pack up this morning and head west into the Magdalena Valley, stopping along the way at Laguna Pedro Palo. Forested side roads here have some easy and excellent birding with great chances to see Black Inca, Turquoise Dacnis, Moustached Brushfinch, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Scrub and Black-capped Tanagers, Spectacled Parrotlet, and many more. Continuing our journey, we’ll cross the mighty Magdalena River, the longest river in Colombia. In the afternoon, we will bird dry forest, searching especially for two more endemics: Apical Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Euphonia. We’ll have one night in the city of Ibagué.
Day 5: Combeima Canyon to Rio Claro
The scenic Combeima Canyon is a great spot for several more endemics: Yellow-headed Brushfinch, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Tolima Blossomcrown, and the shy Tolima Dove. We’ll then have a fairly long drive north along the Magdalena Valley, but we can break the trip up with birding stops for species like Russet-throated Puffbird, Savanna Hawk, Wattled Jacana, Large-billed Tern, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-headed Caracara, Pied Water-Tyrant, Black-capped Donacobius, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail. We spend two nights in a lodge near Rio Claro.
Day 6: Rio Claro area
A morning in the lush rainforest in and around the Rio Claro will hopefully produce several endemics such as Magdalena Antbird, Sooty Ant-Tanager, White-mantled Barbet, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, and Beautiful Woodpecker among other more widespread species like Barred Puffbird, Bay Wren, and Olivaceous Flatbill. The bizarre and unique Oilbird, in its own monotypic family, is also a huge draw for casual and world birders alike. We’ll make an afternoon visit to one of their nesting caves. We may have to wade through a stream, but it will be well worth it to see these neat birds. The trail is also a chance to see other scarce birds like Brownish Twistwing and White-whiskered Puffbird, and birding forest edge may get us various tanagers, oropendolas, woodpeckers, and other species.
Day 7: Rio Claro to Medellín
Another morning visit to Rio Claro will give us a shot as the endemic Magdalena Antbird, scarce Gray-cheeked Nunlet, and another chance at anything else we still need in the area. We’ll then drive to the city of Medellín, where we spend a single night on the slopes above the city. Time permitting, we will have a first visit to the nearby La Romera Reserve (see Day 1 of part 2).
Day 8: Departure
For those not joining Part 2, the tour ends this morning with transfers to Medellín’s international airport. If your flight is not super early, you can join us for the morning birding at La Romera.
Part 2: The Central and Western Andes
Day 1: Arrival day for those not joining Part 1
A transfer will be provided from Medellín's international airport to our hotel on the slopes above the city, where you will meet up with the rest of the group in the evening.
Day 2: La Romera to Jardín
La Romera is a small reserve on the outskirts of Medellín. The stunning Red-bellied Grackle is usually the star bird here, but we’ll also look for Stiles’s Tapaculo and the rare Yellow-headed Manakin. Later, we will drive for several hours to the pleasant mountain town of Jardín, where we will spend two nights. Time permitting, we will visit a superb Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, where several males can usually be seen at close range despite being only a few hundred meters from the center of town.
Day 3: Jardín Area
We'll depart early in 4×4 vehicles to the mountains above Jardín. Yellow-eared Parrots are making a comeback here thanks to good local conservation efforts protecting the wax palms they rely on. We’ll head up a rough road early in the morning to their reserve, and should enjoy nice views of them flying to their feeding grounds. We’ll spend the rest of the day birding the forest, searching for some scarce montane birds including White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Powerful Woodpecker, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Andean Pygmy-Owl, and Barred Fruiteater among a slew of more common species.
Day 4: Cauca Valley to Manizales
Leaving Jardín, we’ll stop for an hour or two near the Cauca River to look for the endemic Grayish Piculet, Antioquia Wren, and for another shot at Apical Flycatcher, before driving several hours south to the city of Manizales, where we will spend two nights.
Day 5: Rio Blanco Reserve
This municipal reserve protects the water supply for the nearby city of Manizales. Rangers maintain several antpitta feeding stations near the lodge, and we will stop at all of them during this morning. The antpittas