Colombia! The richest area for birds on the planet! Close to 1900 species have been recorded in this amazing country, with no fewer than 73 endemics.
Our Colombia birding tour covers central and western Colombia, from Bogota and its high altitude specialties north through the Magdalena Valley and its very bird-rich reserves, to the western Andes near Manizales, Pueblo Rico/Montezuma and Cali. We will encounter a host of exciting species – trogons, tanagers, wrens, toucans, and more – the list seems endless.
Colombia has now opened her doors to tourists and naturalists alike; where we go is safe, somewhat rugged, but exciting. We stay primarily in or near reserves, where new accommodations facilitate birding groups, birding can be astounding, and the reserves often protect the last remaining habitats of several range-restricted, endangered birds.
You can combine this tour with our Colombia: Santa Marta birding tour extension, an area of high endemism.
Day 1: Arrival in Bogotá
Our Colombia birding tour starts with a welcome dinner at our hotel in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. If you are joining from our Colombia: Santa Marta birding tour, welcome to Bogotá! If you are just arriving, welcome to Colombia! Night in Bogotá.
Day 2: Birding from the Bogotá region north and transfer to Río Claro
Temperatures will be mostly pleasant in the morning (Eastern Andes) but will become warmer at each stop as we drive to Río Claro in the Nechí Lowlands. We will leave our hotel with a box breakfast to eat on the road. Our first birding will be in La Florida Park right in Bogotá (near the airport), where we’ll bird from around 6 to 745 am searching for Rufous-browed Conebill, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Black Flowerpiercer and the endemic Bogotá Rail, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Apolinar’s Wren.
Next will be Jardín Encantado (“Enchanted Garden”) and Laguna El Tabacal, both about an hour and a half’s drive from Bogotá. Jardín Encantado, where we’ll be from around 10 to 11, is a house whose garden attracts many species of hummingbirds, the most likely that we will find being Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Gorgeted and White-bellied Woodstars, Red-billed, Short-tailed, and Andean Emeralds, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, and Brown Violetear. We will have an early lunch at a restaurant nearby, and then bird from around 115 to 245 at Laguna El Tabacal, where we will walk along a rural road and quiet forest trails searching for Bay-headed, Scrub and Plain-coloured Tanager, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Speckle-breasted and Black-bellied Wren, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, and Spectacled Parrotlet.
The whole afternoon will be driving the 3.5 to 4 hours to Río Claro. Night in Río Claro.
Day 3: Río Claro
All day will be spent in the warm Río Claro area. The birdlife here is very different from what we will find elsewhere on the tour, with species such as Long-billed and Pale-bellied Hermits, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, White-mantled Barbet, Olivaceous Piculet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Saffron-headed Parrot, Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaner, Magdalena and Bare-crowned Antbirds, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Blue Cotinga, Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, Sooty Ant-Tanager, perhaps Black Oropendola, and even there is a cave were we can see hundreds of Oilbirds emerging at dusk. We may also be fortunate to see the endemic Silvery-brown Tamarin Monkey. Night in Río Claro.
Day 4: Río Claro and transfer to Termales del Ruíz.
This morning we will do some more birding in warm Río Claro, specially looking for the specialty species we may not have seen yet. After mid-day, we’ll do the 4-5 hour drive to cool Termales del Ruiz hotel and spa at 3600 m elevation near Manizales. Termales del Ruiz has wonderful hummingbird feeders with a set of species that we will not see elsewhere, particularly Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Black-thighed Puffleg, Viridian Metaltail, Sword-billed Hummingbird and Shining Sunbeam. Night at Termales del Ruiz.
Day 5: Los Nevados and Hacienda del Bosque
In the morning we will bird the hotel and the nearby Los Nevados National Park. This park has páramo (alpine grassland) with martian-looking Espeletia plants— home to Buffy Helmetcrest, White-chinned Thistletail, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Plain-colored Seedeater and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Tawny Antpittas can be quite approachable as well. The stunted forest nearby is home to Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Páramo Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager and Black-backed Bush-Tanager. The marshy areas and water ponds will also give us a chance for Andean Teal. In the afternoon we will visit Hacienda del Bosque at 2800-3000 meter elevation. This site has wonderful hummingbird feeders, antpitta feeders and tanager feeders in addition to forest trails. Some of the species we will be looking for here are Purple-backed Thornbill, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Grey-bellied Mountain-Toucan, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Ocellated Tapaculo, Black-collared Jay, Rufous Wren, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Plushcap, and Capped Conebill. Night one hour’s drive away at Manizales.
Day 6: Rio Blanco Reserve
The Rio Blanco reserve not only provides quality water to the city of Manizales but is habitat to many marvellous bird species that can be seen along gently sloping tracks through the cool forest. Hummingbird feeders attract Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph, Wedge-billed Hummingbird and White-bellied Woodstar. A couple of antpitta feeding stations are visited by Brown-banded, Chestnut-crowned, Bicolored, Undulated and Chestnut-naped Antpittas, and Gray-browed Brush-Finch. We also have a chance to see Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Pearled Treerunner, Striped Treehunter, and Blackish, Ash-colored and Spillman’s Tapaculos. In the afternoon we head back down to our hotel in Manizales. Night in Manizales.
Day 7: Tinamú Nature Reserve and transfer to Otun Quimbaya
We will spend the morning in the Tinamú Nature Reserve. At an elevation of 1300 m, temperatures will be pleasant to slightly warm. This reserve one hour’s drive from Manizales comprises a patchwork of shade coffee, second-growth and patches of native forest; there are bird feeders, drinking fountains and forest trails for species that do not visit the feeders. Guira, Bay-headed, Scrub and Blue-necked Tanagers, Moustached Puffbird, Andean Motmot, Jet Antbird, Great Antshrike, Grey-fronted Dove, Scaled Antpitta, Spectacled Parrotlet, Red-headed Barbet, and Colombian Chachalaca.
In the afternoon we will drive to Otun Quimbaya, at an elevation of 2000 m, stopping near Pereira to look for Torrent Duck. Night in Otun Quimbaya.
Day 8 and 9: Otun Quimbaya
We will spend a day and a half at this delightful reserve in mostly pleasant temperatures, walking along beautiful trails through pristine forest where we look for the endemic Cauca Guan (long thought to be extinct until a healthy population was rediscovered in 1989), Chestnut Wood-Quail, Streak-capped Treehunter, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrants, Chestnut-breasted Wren, White-capped Tanager, Crested Ant-Tanager and the breathtakingly gorgeous and aptly named Multicoloured Tanager. If there is sufficient interest, in the second morning we may leave the hotel an hour before sunrise to drive to a special spot where there is a chance to see Mountain Tapir and Hooded Antpitta.
After the second morning’s birding and lunch at Otun Quimbaya Reserve, we make the 3-4 hour drive to cool Montezuma in the western Andes, with birding stops on the way. First night in Otun Quimbaya, second night in Montezuma.
Days 10 and 11: Montezuma
The Montezuma Nature Reserve is part of the buffer zone of the Tatama National Park and consists mainly of a 14-kilometer road that goes from the lodge to a military base at the top of Cerro Tatama. Many restricted and endemic bird species occur in this lush tropical rainforest and cloud forest. Montezuma is one of the best birdwatching sites in Colombia and is managed by the Tapasco family, headed by mother Leopoldina and 5 of her daughters. Bird species we will be particularly looking for include the endemic Black-and-gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers, Munchique Wood-Wren, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Tatamá Tapaculo, and Crested Ant-Tanager. Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Western Emerald, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Barred Hawk, Toucan Barbet, White-faced Nunbird, Lanceolated Monklet, and Golden-headed Quetzal. The diversity here is staggering. We’ll likely find other exciting species such as Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Choco Tapaculo, Beautiful Jay, Nariño Tapaculo, Black Solitaire, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Tanager Finch, Barred, Scaled and Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, Olivaceous Piha, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia and maybe Choco Vireo. The feeders at the lodge will keep us busy near meal time. We’ll likely spend one day working the upper part of the road and the other on the lower stretches. Nights in Montezuma.
Day 12: Transfer to the Cali area
Most of the day will be taken up transferring to the Cali area, with birding stops on the way. In the afternoon the main stop will be in warm Laguna del Sonso. Some of the target birds that we will be looking for in Laguna del Sonso and surrounding tropical dry forest are Apical Flycatcher, Greyish Piculet, Horned Screamer, Jet Antbird, Masked duck, Great Antshrike, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Dwarf Cuckoo, Buff-necked Ibis, and Snail Kite. Night in Araucana Lodge.
Days 13 and 14: Cali area
We will spend one day and a half visiting a few places in the Cali area where we should expect to find a different set of birds in pleasant to slightly warm temperatures. We will be birding in the Anchicaya Canyon where some of the species we will be looking for are Baudo Guan, White-whiskered Hermit, Tooth-billed and Purple-chested Hummingbirds, Choco Toucan, Lita Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Barbet, Thicket Antpitta, White-tailed and Blue-tailed Trogons, White-whiskered Puffbird, Russet Antshrike, Barred Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Black-chested Jay, Lemon-spectacled, Golden-chested, Scarlet-and-white, Grey-and-gold and Scarlet-browed Tanagers, Purple Quail-Dove, Greenish Puffleg, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Fasciated Antshrike, Golden-winged Manakin, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and Orange-breasted Fruiteater.
Near Anchicaya Canyon we will also be visiting Dora’s hummingbird-feeders and tanager-feeders in Queremal, where some of the birds we will be hoping to see are Empress and Fawn-breasted Brilliants, Green Thorntail, Booted Racket-tail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Toucan Barbet, Red-headed Barbet, Silvery-throated, Rufous-throated, Glistening-green, and Golden-naped Tanagers, and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager.
Another spot where we will be spending time is “kilometer 18” and the nearby Finca Alejandría hummingbird garden, where some of the birds we will be looking for are Multicolored tanager, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Colombian Chachalaca, Golden-naped, Metallic-green and Saffron-crowned Tanager, Blue-headed Sapphire, Bronzy Inca, and Andean Emerald.
In the afternoon of the second day we will fly to Bogotá and have our farewell dinner at the hotel. First night at Araucana Lodge, final night in Bogotá.
Day 15: Departure
Our Colombia birding tour ends today. Participants can depart anytime.
Departures & Prices
- All accommodations (Generally good and modern, some more simple and basic)
- All meals
- Ground transportation (bus or van with driver)
- EET guide and local guide with 4 - 8 participants
- Park entry / tour fees
- Gratuities to local guides and drivers
Tour Does Not Include
- Flights to and from start/end location
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
What to Expect
What to Expect
On our Colombia birding tour, we typically begin birding before breakfast, as everywhere in the tropics it is desirable to be in good habitat by daybreak when bird activity and song are at their peak. We concentrate on “edge” birding until light is good enough to enter forest trails. We have several travel days; we sometimes rise very early to give ourselves plenty of time to reach our destinations. After lunch we may have time for a siesta or enjoy watching hummingbirds at feeders at lodges. In the late afternoon we venture again to the forest. We will schedule optional walks for nocturnal species spotlighting in the forest at night.
Our tour takes in national parks and nature reserves renowned for their diversity. Birding will be mainly along quiet roads, and we enter forest areas on relatively wide and easy-to-follow trails. Trails may be muddy, therefore good walking footwear is always recommended. At higher elevation, we bird along the roadside a short distance from the vehicle. On most days we travel short distances with most time being spent outdoors, however, there will be some long drives during transfer days. Accommodations vary from basic to modern, and all will be comfortable.
Weather varies greatly with elevation, and we should be prepared for a range of temperatures from cool forties to hottest eighties. Layers and a windbreaker are the solution in the mountains. At all altitudes, we should remember to have adequate protection from the sun. Drizzle and rain are likely, therefore stout, waterproof footwear, a light rain jacket and waterproof hat are recommended. Mosquitoes and other biting insects should not be a problem on this tour; however, bring insect repellant. We enjoy excellent meals provided by the various lodges’ dining facility. Some lunches will be a lunch box in a nice setting; occasionally we dine in local eateries. In the evening, after dinner, we discuss the day’s events and sightings, and list birds and other wildlife seen.
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer
- Munchique Wood-Wren
- Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant
- Brown-banded Antpitta
- Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
- Red-ruffed Fruitcrow
- Rufous-browed Conebill
- Velvet-purple Coronet
- Rufous-gaped Hillstar
- Gold-ringed Tanager
- Crested Ant-Tanager
- Scarlet-and-white Tanager
Past Tour Checklists & Reports
Past Tour Checklists
View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.