Birding Colombia - The Andean Endemics Tour

11birdRecurve-billed BushbirdPhotographer: Silverio Duri

Colombia is one of the three most diverse countries for birds on the planet along with Peru and Brazil. North of Ecuador the Andes branches into 3 distinct mountain chains, separated by the Cauca and Magdalena valleys, each with its endemic avifauna. We know that for a long time birders have looked longingly at Colombia’s ever growing list of birds and of the great number of endemics—over 60 of them— found only within the country, plus there are many other near-endemics in the west that barely extend beyond Colombia’s borders into Panama and Ecuador. Mention of Colombia conjures images of Emeralds, Coffee, Vallenato music, Guerillas and Cocaine, but the country is now back to normal and as safe as almost anywhere one can travel in Latin America. A few areas, notably along the frontier with Ecuador, and east of the Andes remain problematic, but we do not visit these areas or areas anywhere near them. We were the first Birding company to return in 2007 having been monitoring the situation form just over the border in Peru and we have run at least one tour a year ever since! We make no excuse for concentrating on endemics in the Colombian Andes, and the tour does not concern itself with common coastal and Amazonian birds, though the route we take we do not ignore anything that pops up in front of us. The trip is based on visits to reserves that protect the last remaining forests and habitats of some of the most endangered birds in the world. The areas and reserves we visit are in safe areas and we have scouted the areas very well with our friends from the Colombian NGO ProAves who keep us informed day by day of any changes in the political climate. Colombians are open and friendly people, and this coupled with the endemics we will see make it a must-do trip.

By travelling with us and staying in the reserves part of YOUR money is going to save some of the most endangered birds in Latin America

Day 1: Arrival in Bogotá and transfer to our hotel. Your tour leader will meet you at the Hotel.
Day 2: We will begin our trip with a visit to the Chingaza National Park, a large and spectacular park east of Bogotá. We'll be biridng at around 3000 meters elevation. This beautiful park serves as a major watershed and water source for the city of Bogotá and, as such, preserves a wonderful cross section of mid- and high-elevation humid forest and also distinctive páramo vegetation which is covered in parts with Espeletia sp. (frailejón), a fuzzy-leaved Asteraceae. In these plants we'll look for the enigmatic and endemic Green- bearded Helmetcrest. The park provides refuge for the threatened Brown-breasted Parakeet (Endemic) Other species we may see include Glowing and Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Bronze-tailed Thornbill (endemic) Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle; Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Tyrian Metaltail; Amethyst-throated (Longeumares) Sunangel, White-chinned Thistletail; the endemic Silvery-throated Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner; Strong-billed Woodcreeper; Eastern Tawny Antpitta (endemic); an un-described endemic form of Rufous Antpitta Pale-bellied Tapaculo (endemic); Ocellated Tapaculo,Black-capped Tyrannulet; White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets; Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant; Gray-breasted Wood-Wren; Rufous Wren, Superciliaried and Black-capped Hemispingus; Scarlet-bellied, Golden-crowned and Buff-breasted Mountain-tanager; Rufous-browed Conebill (endemic); Blue-backed Conebill; Glossy Flowerpiercer; Slaty, Pale-naped, and Gray-browed Brush-finch; Golden-faced Whitestart (Endemic) and Black-crested Warbler and Northern Mountain Cacique. In the afternoon we'll stop at some gravel pits to have our first chance at Bogota Rail, Noble Snipe and a variety of waterfowl heading north. We return to Bogota for the night. B:L:D
Day 3:Early field breakfast. Dawn to 9:00 am we shall visit La Florida Park in search of Apolinar's Wren (endemic) and Bogotá Rail (endemic) and common Andean wetland birds. We'll also be on the lookout for Rufous-browed Conebill and Silver-throated Spinetail if we have not already seen them. We’ll head to the airport for a flight to Medellin and drive to the Arrierito Antioqueño Reserve B:L:D
Day 4:This reserve named Arrierito Antioqueño is home to the recently described Chestnut-capped Piha (endemic) and we'll be actively searching for it. Other birds here include Stile's Tapaculo, Red-bellied Grackle (endemic), Multicolored Tanager (endemic), Black-and-gold Tanager, Parker's Antbird (endemic). Black Tinamou, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Cinnamon Screech Owl, Colombian Chachalaca (endemic) Red-faced Spinetail, Uniform Antshrike, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Western Striped Wood-haunter, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Scarlet and White Tanager, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Mustached Puffbird, Sooty-headed Wren, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Stile’s Tapaculo (endemic), Indigo Flowerpiercer our first chance at White-mantled Brabet (endemic) and much more. Chestnut Wood-Quail can sometimes be seen at a feeder. The lodge Hummingbird feeders have Crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant, Red-billed Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Andean Emerald and Brown Violetear. Fruit feeders attract Black-winged Saltator, Scrub and Speckled Tanagers. Stygian Owl and Lyre-tailed Nightjar are around. Night in the reserve. B:L:D
Day 5: A full morning is birding along the Motmot and Bangsia trails looking for what we have missed and leave the reserve after an early lunch and arrive at El Carmen (7 hours from Piha reserve). On the way we'll stop on a side road and look for the newly described and endemic Antioquia Wren and our first shot at the endemic Apical Flyctacher & Grayish Piculet. B:L:D
Day 6: A full day at the Las Tangaras Reserve which holds many Choco specialties. We'll bird the road at dawn with Narino Tapculo and the "soon be described" Alto Pisones Tapaculo calling. Toucan Barbet often joins us along the road. We will spend all day walking slowly up a well maintained trail to a ridge top – short distance with well placed benches to rest up and wait for flocks – we'll have a picnic lunch somewhere along the ridge. This moss laden forest is home to some very special birds including Crested Ant Tanager (endemic) Black Solitaire, Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Choco Tyrannulet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-headed Wren, the endemic Black and Gold and Gold-ringed Tanager's, Blue-whiskered & Scarlet and White Tanager's and Indigo Flowerpiercer It is probably one of the best two place in the world to see the recently described Choco Vireo. Others include Black-chinned, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, Silvery-throated and Purplish-mantled Tanagers White-headed Wren, Olive Finch, Scaly-throated Foliage –gleaner and much much more. In the late afternoon we’ll vist some Hummingbird feeders that attract White-tailed Hillstar, Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Velevet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph and Purple-throated Woodstar. Night at Las Tangaras Lodge B:L:D
Day 7:Morning at the Las Tangaras reserve birding – we drive to an area of Cloud Forest on the road to Urrao. Here we have had great success is seeing two endemics – Munchique Wood-Wren and Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer. Tanager Finch and Chestnut crested Cotinga is here too as are many other mixed flock species including White-capped Tanager. After lunch we'll drive to the picturesque town of Jardin in the heart of Antioquia, the traditional economical and cultural heart of Colombia. B:L:D
Day 8:We'll take Jeeps to Yellow-eared Parrot reserve which is the critically endangered species of the area. Once occurring all the way down into central Ecuador, this species is now only known from a couple sites in the western and central Andes of Colombia. A new 130 hectare reserve has been acquired to protect some of the prime forest for the parrot, but the birds wander widely throughout the area in search of food, making it impossible to buy up all the habitat. Public awareness programs have been essential to protect this species, and ProAves has done a great job with this. Local people are now aware of the parrots and are proud to have them on their land. The wax palm tree, which the Yellow-eared Parrots use for nesting, has nearly been wiped out, since their leaves are highly sought-after for use in religious ceremonies. Some of the other birds we may see here include Tawny-breasted Tinamou, Purple-throated Woodstar, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Spillman's and Ocellated Tapaculo, Rufous-naped and the locla form of Rufous Antpitta, Handsome Flycatcher, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Citrine Warbler, Ocellated Tapaculo Sharpe's Wren, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Black-collared Jay, Tourmeline Sunagel, Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Rufous Spinetail, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, and Tanager Finch. Tanagers include Lachrymose Hooded, golden-crowned and Purplish-mantled and Buff-breasted, Leaving in the afternoon we'll travel to Pereira nd we may stop for Apical Flycatcher and Greyish Piculet –both endemics and then to the Quimbaya reserve. After dark we’ll look for Colombian-Screech-Owl. Night in the Otun Quimbata Reserve . FB:L:D
Day 9: A full mornings birding at La Suiza in pristine forest along a little traveled track. Our priority here is the endemic Cauca Guan It was at this site that this previously thought-to-be-extinct cracid was rediscovered during the 1990's. Also to be found are Chestnut-Wood-Quail (endemic), Crested Ant Tanager (endemic) Wattled Guan, Bar-crested Antshrike, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Flame-rumped and Multicoloured Tanagers (endemics), Black-winged Saltator, and Chestnut-breasted Wren. Dense brush at the forest edge holds the inconspicuous and very hard-to-see Mustached Antpitta and the recently-described Stiles's Tapaculo. Others include Collared Trogon, Slaty Antwren, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, plumbeous-crowned andd Ashy-headed Tyrannulet,Rusty-winged Barbtail, Strong-billed Woodcreeper and Inca Jay. Along the river, we are very likely to find a superb pair of Torrent Ducks alongside rather less impressive Black Phoebes and Torrent Tyrannulets. Here is our best chance at Multicoloured Tanager. Bronze-winged Parrot and Golden-plumed Parakeet are possible after a late lunch we'll drive to the bustling town of Manizales with a stop at a spot for Grayish Piculet (endemic) if we have not seen it and a lot of other birds. B:L:D
Day 10:A full day at the Rio Blanco Reserve. Protecting an important watershed for the city of Manizales, the important Rio Blanco reserve holds some of the rarest and most threatened species in Colombia such as the Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet and the skulking and hard to see Brown-banded and Bicolored Antpittas. But here we have habituated Antpittas coming into worm feeders!! and usually Brown-banded, Bicolored and Chestnut crowned are fairly reliable, Chetnut-naped and Slate-crowned somewhat less so but we have seen all 5 in a morning. This si a good place for Ocellated Tapaculo and Dusky Piha Also here are the Jay-like White-capped Tanagers are here too, one of the oddest members of its family and probably not even a tanager at all. There are good Hummingbird feeders here where we may see Tourmaline Sunangel. Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet and the tiny White-bellied Woodstar. Other species that we will hope to see here include Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Long-tailed Antbird, Dusky Piha, Flammulated Treehunter, Red-hooded Tanager, Rufous- crowned Tody-Tyrant, Black-capped and White-tailed Tyrannulets, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Pale-edged and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, Glossy Flower-piercer, Capped Conebill (here with a white cap), Grass-green and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Gray-browed Brush-Finch and Black-winged Saltator. We will also seek out bamboo specialists such as Black-eared Hemispingus and Plushcap, Yellow-billed Cacique or Masked Saltator.. Encountering a mixed species flock here which we do is an incredible experince and there are too many species to mention here. We’ll have a bit of a drive and arrive late at our hotel in the Nevados National Park but it will be worth it!!!! B:L: D
Day 11:Morning on the Paramo and the Los Nevados National Park above 3000 meters in the high temperate zone where patches of forest give way to the paramo. Here we may see the endemic and much localized Rufous-fronted Parakeet, which is very hard to find. One of our main targets here is the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest in the espeletia patches. Western Tawny Antpitta is common and tame. In the forest patches we will look out for Paramo Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested mountain Tanagers and Black-backed Bush-Tanager. In the more open areas and around a wetland we shall look for Andean Teal, White-tailed Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, the localized Stout-billed Cinclodes, the attractive Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Paramo Wren, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, and a variety of seedeaters including Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Paramo and Plain-coloured Seedeaters. Flowering bushes attract a number of colourful hummingbirds but now at the well developed feeders at the hotel we will gte greta views and photos of Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Shining Sunbeam. On occasion, the somewhat nomadic Black-thighed Puffleg can be present in some numbers, but at other times it is largely absent. Others Rainbow-bearded and Purple-backed Thornbill’s, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Shining Sunbeamand Sword-billed Hummingbird. After lunch and the feeders we'll head for Libano and our comfortable hotel. B:L:D
Day 12: 15 minute drive to fragmented, remnant forest near Libano for looking for endemics and others, which include Crested Ant –Tanager (endemic), Olive-headed Brush-Finch (endemic),, Andean Blossomcrown (endemic),, Tolima Dove (endemic), Red-billed Emerald (endemic), Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Andean Emerald. Bronzy Inca, Andean Motmot, Olivaceous Piculet, Mountain Elaenia, Slate-headed Tody-tyrant, Whiskered Wren, Yellow-throated Brush Finch, Black-winged Saltator, Rufous-napedGreenlet, Rufous-capped Warbler, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Scrub Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Bar-crested Antshrike, (endemic); Golden-winged Manakin; Golden-faced Tyrannulet; Dusky-capped Flycatcher; Mountain Elaenia; Blackburnian Warbler; Canada Warbler, American Redstart (all common winter migrants from North America). In the afternoon we'll visit a nearby locality specifically for the endemic Apical Flycatcher and the endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia, but there are many others to see here including White-bellied and Jet Antbird as well as Barred Puffbird and Spectacled Parrotlet. Night in Mariquita B:L:D
Day 13:Morning at the La Victoria watershed reserve, here we have our first chance at Sooty Ant Tanager, Beautiful Woodpecker here also White-mantled Barbet plus Western Striped, white-bearded, Golden-headed and White-bibbed Manakin and Black-bellied and Bay Wren. This is our best shot for the endemic Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant. Commoner fare includes Clay-colored Thrush, Black-capped Antshrike, Red-rumped Woodpecker, ochre-belllied and Sepia-capped Flycatchers We’ll make a special stop for the endemic Magdalena Antbird and then we'll drive four hours to the El Paujil reserve. Once off the main road and on the access road to this reserve we'll look for Northern Screamer and Bare-faced Ibis. Here also we'll look for Large-billed Seed-Finch, White-throated Crake, the endemic Colombian Chachalaca and Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Black-capped Donacobious and others. In B:L:D In the late afternoon we’ll arrive at the charming lodge accomodations with air con. B:L:D
Day 14-15:El Paujil Reserve. We'll spend 2 days at this reserve which has a well developed trail system and a lovely stretch of little traveled road on the outside of the reserve. The reserve was created to protect the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow, a species thought to be nearly extinct until a ProAves expedition located a viable population here in 2003 and has a pleasant rainforest feel to it with en suite air conditioned rooms. Blue-billed Currasow is a main target here and we have had good luck on the traisl but laos wild birds come to a feeding station near the captive release pens. Other birds we'll look for over the next 2 days include White-mantled Barbet (endemic),, Black Antshrike (endemic),, Beautifull Woodpecker (endemic), Magdalena Antbird (endemic), Black-billed Flycatcher (endemic),Colombian Chachalaca (endemic),, Red-lored and Saffron-headed Parrot, Pale-bellied and Stripe-throated Hermit, Gartered and White-tailed Trogons, Barred and Black-breasted Puffbird, Black-mandibled Toucan, Citron-Throated Toucan, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Black-striped and Cocoa Woodcreeper, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant (endemic), Black-crowned Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Bare-crowned Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Western Striped Manakin, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Cinnamon Becard, Black-bellied Wren, Sooty Ant Tanager(endemic),, Plain-colored Tanager and more. B:L:D
Day 16:A travel day. Early birding at El Paujil reserve and then we'll leave around 9:00 am for a 7 hour drive with a lunch stop to the town of San Vicente and the Reinita Cielo Azul (Cerulean Warbler) Reserve. We'll make some stops along the way to stretch our legs and do some birding. Transferring to jeeps we'll complete the drive in to the reserve accommodations – spacious rooms with a large roomy balcony from which endemic Lemon-rumped Tanager and Indigo-capped Hummingbirds are common and the very rare Turquoise Dacnis can be seen. The Hummingbird feeders attract many species including the endemic Chestnut –bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Lazuline Sabrewing, Red-billed Emerald and more. Night at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve B:L:D
Day 17:Full day at Reinita Cielo Azul Reserve with picnic lunch. We'll head for the forest at first light and spend all day birding here. Several threatened Colombian endemics also occur here, including Gorgeted Wood-Quail, Parker's Antbird, White-mantled Barbet, Turquoise Dacnis, and Black Inca. Mountain Grackle occurs in temperate forest just above the reserve. Also here is Mustached Brush Finch, Yellow-breasted Brush Finch, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Mustached Puffbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Uniform Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, White-bellied Antpitta, the endemic Magdalena Tapaculo, Ornate Flycatcher, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Yellow-throated Spadebill. Other more widespread species include Barred Forest-Falcon; Wattled Guan; Band-tailed Pigeon; Lined Quail-Dove (mainly voice), Rufous-bellied Nighthawk; White-tailed Nightjar; Chestnut-collared and White-tipped swift; Green Hermit; Lazuline Sabrewing; all three violet-ears; Short-tailed Emerald; Rufous-tailed Hummingbird; Andean Emerald; Speckled Hummingbird; Green-crowned Brilliant; Long-tailed Sylph; Collared Trogon; Golden-tailed Quetzal; Olivaceous Piculet; Smoky-brown Woodpecker; Azara's Spinetail; Spotted Barbtail; Montane and Lineated foliage-gleaner; Streak-capped Treehunter; Strong-billed and Olive-backed Woodcreeper; Uniform Antshrike; Plain Antvireo; Slaty Antwren; Rusty breasted Antpitta; Green-and-black Fruiteater; Golden-winged Manakin; Olive-striped Flycatcher; Variegated Bristle-Tyrant; Rufous-browed Tyrannulet; Sooty-headed Tyrannulet; White-throated Spadebill Night at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve B:L:D
Day 18:Morning walk down through coffee plantations, which should be packed with boreal migrants depending on the time of year. We should see the endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and Nicifero's Wren here as well as Large-billed Seed-Finch, Bar-crested Antshrike, White-eared Conebill ( endemic) Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo and Double-banded Graytail then onto Ocaña a 5 hour drive and stay in town at Plaza Real Hotel. B:L:D
Day 19: Full day at the Hormiguero de Torcoroma reserve (Recurve-billed Bushbird). We'll be in the bamboo and walking the trails at dawn through to lunch. Our target is of course the Bushbird, which we have seen well on many occasions. Other interesting species include the endemic Gray-throated Warbler, Moustached Brush-Finch, Lined Quail Dove, the almost endemic Klage’s Antbird, Lazuline Sabrewing, Red-billed Emerald, Gray-throated Toucanet, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-legged, Chestnut-btreasted, Bare-eyed Thrushes Thrush, Speckled Tanager, Black-headed Tanager, and Black-fronted Wood-Quail. If the morning is successful we may visit another nearby locality in the afternoon Night in Ocaña. FB:L:D
Day 20:Transfer to Bucaramanga for the late afternoon flight to Bogota arriving at 5:30 and connections home or this trip can be combined with an extension to the Santa Marta Mountains. B

CAN BE COMBINED WITH THE TRIPSBirding Colombia - Santa Marta Endemics and Guajira Peninsular

Customer Testimonials

Raymond Jeffers - UK

I have returned to the UK from Colombia via a week in Cyprus. Many thanks to you for putting together and executing a great trip. It will live long in the memory with some great highlights. The leader was great in getting us on to most of the endemics.

Robin Leong - California

Folks are still asking about my trip. Having the pictures of some of the stars of that we saw are definite a plus when telling them about what we saw. Barry thanks for providing seamless transportation logistics. I fully appreciate how you "trained" the drivers to be on time.

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Folks are still asking about my trip. Having the pictures of some of the stars of that we saw are definite a plus when telling them about what we saw. Barry thanks for providing seamless transportation logistics. I fully appreciate how you "trained" the drivers to be on time.

I have returned to the UK from Colombia via a week in Cyprus. Many thanks to you for putting together and executing a great trip. It will live long in the memory with some great highlights. The leader was great in getting us on to most of the endemics.

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