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Andean essentials birding trip

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+57 3164196760

[email protected]

13 days
Availability : All year
Bogotá DC
Medellin - Bogotá
Max People : 8

This trip is the best way to get introduced to the amazing Colombian avifauna.
500-600 species on a journey through the Andes mountains of Colombia.

Tour Details

Welcome to the birdiest country: Colombia!

This tour is designed for getting the best of the birding in the Andes of Colombia. In this tour, you will explore key hotspots for birdwatching in Eastern, Central, and Western Andes with a bit of the Cauca inter-Andean valley between the Central and Western Cordillera. The high diversity of ecosystems is the main reason for the incredible number of species you can see in this trip: 600 species in a good birding exercise. 

This tour is the perfect way to get introduced to the amazing Colombian avifauna. With a slow pace and few long drives is perfectly comfortable and accessible to most types of birders.

Departure & Return Location

Bogotá, Colombia. El Dorado international airport – Medellín. José María Córdoba international airport with connection to Bogotá for international departures when necessary.

Price Includes

  • Expert birding bilingual tour guide
  • Hotel accomodation from day 0 to day 13
  • 1 domestic flight (extra domestic flight depends on departure airport)
  • Terrestrial transportation: Van/mini bus and 4 WD transportation when required
  • Entrance fees to parks, farms and reserves
  • 3 complete meals, water, snacks and other freebies

Price Excludes

  • Tips
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Mini bar expenses
  • Laundry and/or room service
  • Other items not mentioned above
What to Expect

Colombia is a megadiverse country, not only because of its biodiversity but their landscapes and culture too. In this trip, you will find yourself exploring a cloud-forest in the morning and a tropical rain-forest in the afternoon, watching colorful tanagers or spotting aquatic birds in the marshes along the Cauca river valley. This tour includes a little bit of the most important places in the Andes of Colombia. 

  • Several ecosystems: tropical dry forest, rain forest, cloud forest, páramo (moorlands), all levels of andean forests (sub-andean, hig-andean, elfin/dwarf) and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Calm pace and easy-to-walk trails and/or roads.
  • Comfortable and calm lodges near or within the areas of interest.
  • Flexible trip style: small groups, independent, species seekers, couples, families.
  • Modify this trip based on your needs and desires.
  • Physical demand: low to intermediate depending on the trip style you've defined.
  • Nature and culture interpretation by our expert guides.
Itinerary

Day 0Arrive to Cali - Km 18

Upon arrival in Cali, a company representative will pick you up at the airport and will drive you to the hotel to meet with the tour guide. We will have a welcome dinner and will go through intros, house rules, Q&A, and logistics for our first day of birding.

Night in: Cali, 1000 m, 26°C

Day 1Km 18 and the Alejandría Farm

Located 1 hour away from 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 an incredible set of over 40 hummingbird feeders and it’s the best location for photographing the endemic and superb Multicolored Tanager. Feeders here also 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 (Toothed) 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 surrounding 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, Grey-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: El Queremal. 1300m. 22°C

Day 2High Anchicayá canyon

The Anchicayá Canyon is the place where the well known American ornithologist Steven Hilty built the basis of his research which led to the publishing of the second Colombian field guide in 1986. Thirty-three 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 and tanager 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 used to lead to the city of Buenaventura on 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 m is located “El Descanso”, a family restaurant which has a place dedicated to tanagers and hummingbirds. This place is very well known for being the only place in Colombia where the near-endemics Toucan Barbet, Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Glistening-green, and Rufous-throated Tanagers come to feed on the fruit feeders. Some other specialties also attend the feeders like Black-headed and Tricolored (Chocó) Brush-finch, Tick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias. Hummingbirds of interest here are Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, (NE) Empress Brilliant, and (NE) Brown Inca, among others.

Other specialties in the area include Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Olive Finch, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Russet Antshrike, and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater.

Night: El Queremal. 1300m. 22°C

Day 3High and mid Anchicayá canyon. 1300 - 800 m

This day we will start exploring the mid section of the canyon looking 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-mandible 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.

After lunch at El Descanso, we will drive to Buga.

Night: Buga. 950m. 26°C

Day 4Sonso lagoon forest. Drive to Montezuma

This morning we will visit a public nature reserve area next to the city of Buga: the Sonso lagoon. Here we will look for local specialties along the Cauca river and in forest patches of tropical dry forest. When it has rained enough, sections get flood and many aquatic birds visit the place. Among the specialties, it is possible to find: (E) Grayish piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, Cinereous Becard, Dwarf Cuckoo, Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, Horned Screamer (uncommon), Comb duck, Grey-headed dove, Jet Antbird, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Striped Cuckoo, Blackish Rail, Spectacled Parrotlet, Fulvous, White-faced & Black-bellied whistling ducks, Blue-winged teal, Buff-necked and Glossy Ibises, Lesser Nighthawk, Common Potoo and others.
Around lunchtime we will start our way to the mountains of the Western Andes again, but this time around the famous Tatamá National Park. Driving time will be of 3.5 hrs approximately.

In the town of Pueblo Rico, we will switch to 4WD vehicles for the last 40 minutes of driving. We will arrive in the mid or late afternoon with some time for exploring the hummingbird feeders where the first endemics of the Chocó region are found.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 5Montezuma High-mid section. 2440 - 1800m

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 2 full days and one-half morning trying to achieve most 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 Montezuma hill which lies within the Tatamá NP, is often divided into 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.
The endemics list here contains the Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren, and Gold-ringed Tanager, the tanager 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, (NE) Beautiful Jay, (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, (NE) Yellow-breasted Antpitta, (NE) Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, (NE) Purplish-Mantled and Glistening-green Tanagers, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Ochre-breasted Antpitta; Furnarids are also present here with a good party representing them: Olivaceous, Spotted and Montane Woodcreepers, Brow-billed and the very rare Greater Scythebill, four Fruiteaters are often seen here: Green-and-black, Barred, Scaled and the Chocó endemic, Orange-breasted Fruiteater.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 6Montezuma mid-lower section. 2000-1350 m

This day will start at 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.

Night: Montezuma lodge. 1350m. 20°C

Day 7Montezuma lower section. Drive to Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary.

This morning we will explore the lower section of the Montezuma hill in search of missing targets and after lunch, we will head to the Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary which lies on the west slope of the Central Andes. Driving time 3.5 hrs. On the road and depending on our time, we will have some stops looking for Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper.

Night: Otun lodge. 1950m. 17°C

Day 8Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary

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 the very rare Hooded Antpitta, (NE) Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Torrent Duck, White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Wattled Guan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Tyrannine and Black-banded Woodcreeper, (NE) White-throated Wedgebill (Chocó Dagerbill) Streak-capped Treehunter, Bronze-olive Pygmy-tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Golden-winged, and Cerulean Warblers, among others

After lunch, we will drive to the city of Manizales and spend some time in the lower elevations of Los Termales road.

Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 9Río Blanco reserve

Río Blanco is one of the oldest and better-known birding hotspots of Colombia. Was the first in establishing 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 that attract common and colorful species of the Colombian Andes: Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Bronzy Inca, Lesser, and Sparkling Violetears, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, and Fawn-breasted Brilliant among others. Andean emerald Green-fronted Lancebill and (NE) White-throated Wedgebille are found in a garden at 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, Grey-throated (Southern Emerald) Toucanet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Black-collared Jay, Yellow-vented and Bar-bellied Woodpeckers are also present in this reserve, Plushcap Finch, Chestnut-crowned Tody-flycatcher, Mountain Cacique, Capped Conebill, Pearled Treerunner, and many other species will give us such great times there.

Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 10Paramo del Ruiz and Los Termales road

Today we will explore Los Nevados National Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. We will wind through patches of forest that open up to Paramo, a montane ecosystem above the treeline dominated by espeletia (frailejon), and grasses. We will reach elevations up to 4100 meters, so it will be cold and we will take all precautions to avoid elevation sickness.

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 (Grass) Wren, Tawny Antpitta and eventually a Black-chested Buzzard-eagle or an Andean Condor could come to scan the area for food.

Just below the treeline, (3600 m) another 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 in 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, and Tyriant Metaltails, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, and Purple-backed Thornbill. At the hotel’s surrounding gardens is possible to see Pale-naped Brush-finch, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied, and Lacrimose Mountain-tanager, and (NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart (Endemic Yellow-fronted Withestart in the BirdLife International/HBW Taxonomy).

Night: Manizales. 2200m. 16°C

Day 11Drive to Jardín. Lower section of Ventanas Peak. Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek

This will be the only morning used for driving. The 5 hours drive to Jardin will take us along the highway to the City of Medellin turning to the west 2 hours before this city going through the mountains of the Western Andes again. The colorful and colonial town of Jardin will be our headquarter for the next 2 days. This afternoon after we arrive, we will drive to the lower part of the Ventanas peak forest and look for the endemic Red-bellied Grackle and others like Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Russet-backed Oropendola. By the mid-afternoon, we will visit the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek next to the town of Jardin where at least 15 males join for displaying every afternoon.

Night: Jardín. 1950m. 18°C

Day 12Jardín: Yellow-eared Parrot reserve and Ventanas peak.

Today we will have an early start and make our way to Alto Ventanas. 20 years ago, this place became famous because the discovering of the largest population of the endangered and endemic Yellow-eared Parrot and to now is still the best place for watching these parrots. Probabilities on this day include: (E) Chestnut Wood-quail, (NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and (NE) Tanager Finch. Other specialties: Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, White-rumped Hawk, Purple-backed Thornbill, Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Spillman’s Tapaculo, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Striped and Flammulated Treehunters, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, White-capped Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, Black-collared Jay, and Powerful Woodpecker.

The newly established feeders along the way to the town of Riosucio Caldas, offer unique opportunities to see the endemic Chestnut Wood-quail, Highland Tinamou, Ocellated Tapaculo, and of course, the starts of the place: “Belleza”, the Chestnut-naped Antpitta, and the recently split and endemic Chamí (Rufous) Antpitta too.

Night: Jardín. 1950m. 18°C

Day 13Cauca river's tropical dry forest. Drive to Medellín

This morning on our way to Medellín, we will visit one of the last remanents of the very endangered tropical dry forest where 4 endemics are found: (E) Antioquia Wren, (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher, and (E) Colombian Chachalaca. This fragmented forest also hosts other specialties as (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Jet Antbird, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Moustached Puffbird, Spectacled Parrotlet, Cinereous Becard, Long-billed Starthroat, Guira Tanager, Plain Antvireo, Black-crowned Antshrike, Striped Cuckoo, Black-striped Sparrow, Spectacled Parrotlet and Sulphur-rumped Myiobius (Flycatcher).

After a morning here we will start our way to Medellín/airport for the end fo the tour.
Driving times: to Medellin: 1.5 hrs. To the Airport 3 hrs
Optional night: Medellín: 1500m. 22°C

Map