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Southern Colombia Birding Trip

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jarango@andeanbirder.com

9 days
Availability : All year
Bogotá DC
Bogotá DC

Colombia’s Andes mountains are a haven for high bird endemism. Because of the geographic isolation of each range and the altitudinal variation of each mountain, multiple species specialized in various habitats have evolved.

The Putumayo department is a brand new birding destination. It has a variety of ecosystems that provide the ideal setting for a successful birding trip, including terra firme forests, foothills, sub-Andean and Andean forests, and Paramo and dwarf forest highland vegetation. Putumayo is an all-inclusive experience that blends well with the departments of Huila to the north and Nariño to the west. This last one can extend your birding adventure by a week by going down to the Pacific foothills and coast to find birds from the Chocó region as well as many others from Ecuador and northwest Peru.

Tour Details

Welcome to the birdiest country: Colombia!

Embark on an expertly crafted journey designed to offer an immersive birding adventure. Spanning diverse habitats, our tour ensures sightings of numerous species. Starting from the lush landscapes of Huila, we venture south towards the Andes’ foothills in Putumayo (Colombian massif), culminating in the highlands of Nariño. Delve into the rich bird diversity exclusive to the Andean east slope foothills on this unforgettable tour.

View of the Trampolin road in the Putumayo deparment
The trampolin road, craddle of birds

Departure & Return Location

Bogota. El Dorado International Airport

Price Includes

  • Expert bilingual birding tour guide
  • Hotel accomodation from day 0 to day 13
  • 2 domestic flights: Bogota - Pitalito, and Pasto-Bogota
  • 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

  • International flights
  • Tips
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Mini bar expenses
  • Laundry and/or room service
  • COVID-19 test
  • Other items not mentioned above
What to Expect

Experience Colombia’s megadiverse landscapes and vibrant culture firsthand!

Embark on a journey where mornings unveil the enchanting mysteries of cloud forests, while afternoons immerse you in the lush tapestry of tropical rainforests. Witness the kaleidoscope of colorful tanagers in Andean reserves or marvel at the graceful marsh birds adorning Putumayo’s marshlands. From the warm and humid foothills to the chilly highlands, every moment promises a new adventure in this diverse paradise.

  • An average of 400 species
  • Several ecosystems: tropical dry and humid forest, rain forest, cloud forest, paramo (moorlands), Amazonian foothills, all levels of Andean forests (sub-Andean, high-Andean, elfin/dwarf)
  • Comfortable and calm lodges near or within the areas of interest.
  • Physical demand: low to medium
  • Nature and culture interpretation by our expert guides
Itinerary

Day 0 Arrival in Bogota. Transfer to hotel

Upon arrival in Bogota, our guide will pick you up at the airport and will drive you to the hotel. We will have a welcome dinner and will go through the most relevant information on the trip.

Night in Bogota. 2600 meters. 15°C

Day 1Chingaza National Park - Hummingbird Observatory

Today we get up early and drive to the small town of La Calera. The Elfin forest and Paramo habitat begin ten kilometers from La Calera, as does the birding. Chingaza National Park, one of two high-Andean national parks close to Bogotá, is an excellent place to begin this journey. We’ll spend the morning here looking for Páramo and elfin forest specialists before heading to the airport for our afternoon flight to Pitalito in the Huila department. We’ll be taken to the El Encanto reserve once we arrive.

Night in El Encanto reserve. 1350 meters. 19°C

Target species

  • (E) Silvery-throated Spinetail
  • (E) Muisca Antpitta (recent splif from Rufous Antpitta)
  • (NE) Matorral/Pale-bellied Tapaculo
  • (NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart
  • (NE) Coopery-bellied Puffleg
  • (NE) Rufous-browed Conebill
  • (NE) Bronze-tailed Thornbill
  • Purple-backed Thornbill
  • Paramo Seedeater
  • Plush-capped Finch
  • Smoky Bush-Tyrant
  • Black-billed Mountain-toucan
  • Andean Pygmy-Owl
  • Black-headed Hemispingus
  • Glowing Puffleg

Blue-throated Stafrontlet by Johnnier Arango

Day 2El Encanto reserve

El Encanto is a family reserve that has been in the ecotourism business for over ten years. It eventually became one of the most important birding spots in this part of the country. The area has been specifically designed for birders. There are various tanager and hummingbird feeders where you can see a variety of uncommon species. The trails pass through areas of shade-grown coffee that are also excellent habitats for all of the species mentioned above, giving new meaning to the term “bird-friendly coffee.”

 

Night in El Encanto reserve. 1350 meters. 19°C

  • Golden-eared Tanager
  • (E) Tolima Dove
  • (E) Indigo-capped Hummingbird
  • (E) Dusky-headed Brush-Finch
  • (E) Colombian Chachalaca
  • (E) Apical Flycatcher
  • (E) Velvet-fronted Euphonia
  • (NE) Red-billed Emerald
  • Shining-green Hummingbird
  • Short-tailed Emerald
  • Gorgeted Woodstar
  • Ash-browed Spinetail
  • Cerulean Warbler

Golden-eared Tanager by Johnnier Arango
Golden-eared Tanager by Johnnier Arango

Day 3La Drymophila reserve

In the search for a concrete action of conservation and, of course, an additional place for birding, the owners of El Encanto reserve purchased an important portion of forest above their farm and named it “La Drymophila,” which is the scientific genus for a group of montane antbirds like the endemic East-Andean Antbird, an endemic bird with a very limited range, making this reserve the best place to see it.

Not only is the Antbird possible here, but the place also has the only feeders for the rare and enigmatic Schwartz’s Anttrush, the always elusive White-bellied Antpitta, and the very uncommon Hooded Antpitta.

The very rare Black-chested Fruiteater is another of the birds that are possible in the trail, and passing groups of the endemic race of the Maroon-Tailed Parakeet (and a very possible split, the Huila Parakeet) are common around there.

Other birds at the hummingbird, corn, and banana feeders include:

  • (E) Tolima Dove
  • (E) Red-bellied Grackle
  • Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush
  • Green (Inca) Jay
  • White-throated Quail-dove
  • Chestnut-capped Brush-finch
  • Magpie Tanager
  • Violet-fronted Brilliant
  • (E) Tolima Blossomcrown
  • Lazuline Sabrewing
  • Gorgeted Woodstar

Night in El Encanto reserve. 1350 meters. 19°C

Hooded Antpitta at the feeders of the reserve. Photo by Johnnier Arango

Day 4Pitalito-Mocoa road

This morning, we’ll drive the 115 kilometers from El Encanto reserve to Mocoa, in the Putumayo department. This road passes through a pristine forest in the Amazonian foothills ecoregion. This drive will allow us to see:

  • Black-throated Brilliant
  • Russet Antshrike
  • Orange-eared Tanager
  • Wire-crested Thorntail
  • Lined Antshrike
  • Black-billed Treehunter
  • Dusky Spinetail
  • Wattled Guan
  • Speckled Tanager
  • Blue-fronted Lancebill
  • Black-streaked Puffbird
  • White-streaked Antvireo
  • Cream-colored Woodpecker

 

Night in Mocoa. 600 meters. 22°C

Black-streaked Puffbird by Johnnier Arango

Day 5The Trampolin road

Mocoa is the capital of the department of Putumayo. It is located in the foothills of the Colombian massif and is one of the entrance gates to Colombia’s Amazonian forest lowlands. From here, we will travel along the famous road that connects the Andean city of Pasto with the Amazonian region.

This road, formerly known as “El Trampolin de la Muerte,” is now well known as one of the best birding routes in the country’s south. Starting at around 3500 meters and descending to around 800 meters, the road passes through important highland ecosystems such as Paramo and High-Anden forests before ending above Mocoa with subtropical forests in the Andes foothills.

On this day, we’ll visit the most important spots along the lower section of the road in search of specialties like:

  • Deep-blue Flowerpiercer
  • (E) Red-bellied Grackle
  • Coppery-chested Jacamar
  • Black-streaked Puffbird
  • White-rimmed Brush-finch
  • Black-and-white Becard
  • Blue-browed Tanager
  • Grey-mantled Wren
  • Yellow-throated Tanager
  • Black-billed Treehunter
  • Western Fire-eye
  • Bronze-green Euphonia
  • Wire-crested Thorntail
  • Orange-eared Tanager

Night in Mocoa. 600 meters. 22°C

White-rimmed Brushfinch by Johnnier Arango

 

Day 6Campucana trail

The Campucana trail (also known as the Sacha Mates trail) or Schultes’ Trail connects Mocoa to the Sibundoy Valley in the mountains. The trail winds through a well-preserved forest and is the best place to see the rare Black Tinamou, which can be found early in the morning on the trail.

This trail is also ideal for locating the range-restricted:

  • Coppery-chested Jacamar
  • Gray-mantled Wren
  • Black-billed Treehunter
  • Ecuadorian Tyrannulet
  • Crimson-bellied Woodpecker
  • Blue-rumped Manakin
  • Black-streaked Puffbird
  • Foothill Stipplethroat
  • Western Fire-eye,

Night in Mocoa. 600 meters. 22°C

Coppery-chested Jacamar by Johnnier Arango

Day 7El Escondite reserve

El Escondite reserve is another popular birding destination in the Putumayo department. This reserve protects an important area of humid forest and wetlands where rare and interesting birds can be found.

  • Plum-throated Cotinga
  • Rufous-headed Woodpecker
  • Golden-collared Toucanet
  • Bare-necked Fruitcrow
  • Large-headed Flatbill
  • Cream-colored Woodpecker
  • Opal-crowned Tanager
  • White-chinned Jacamar
  • Point-tailed Palm-creeper
  • Black-banded and Ash-throated Crakes
  • Cinnamon Attila

We'll spend the entire day here before heading to the nearby town of Puerto Asis for our first night there.

Night in Puerto Asis. 250 meters. 25°C

Yellow-bellied Dacnis by Johnnier Arango

Day 8Puerto Asis: Playa Rica trail

Puerto Asis is a typical Amazonian town, surrounded by patches of forest where wildlife can find refuge. On this day, we’ll go to Playa Rica, a well-organized community where an important community ecotourism process has been taking shape in recent years. We’ll look at semi-open and forested habitats, as well as small wetlands. The following are the house specialties:

  • Black-spotted Bare-eyed
  • Plumbeous Antbird
  • Amazonian Umbrellabird
  • Horned Screamer
  • Long-billed Woodcreeper
  • White-shouldered Antbird
  • Black-banded Crake
  • Rufous-headed Woodpecker
  • Riparian Antbird
  • Mottle-backed Elaenia
  • Riparian Parrotlet
  • White-eared Jacamar

Night in Puerto Asis. 250 meters. 25°C

White-chinned Jacamar by Johnnier Arango

Day 9Km 5 and Puerto Asis's urban birding trail

Km 5 in Puerto Asis is a complex of semi-open and forested areas on the outskirts of the town. With very little effort, it is possible to see many of the specialties related to this kind of ecosystem. The place is also a good spot to see the charismatic Pygmy Marmoset, the smallest monkey of the continent. Some of the targets here are:

  • Plum-throated Cotinga
  • Riparian Parrotlet
  • Masked-crimson Tanager
  • Chestnut Woodpecker
  • Cream-colored Woodpecker
  • Great Potoo
  • Scarlet-crowned Barbet
  • Masked Tanager
  • Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch
  • Caqueta Seedeater
  • Peruvian Warbling-Antbird
  • Cinamon Attila
  • Yellow-bellied Dacnis

After lunch, we’ll explore the forested areas in the town for missing species and have a more relaxed afternoon. By the end of the afternoon, we’ll head to the town of Mocoa to prepare for our next morning.

Night in Mocoa. 600 meters. 22°C

Hoatzin by Johnnier Arango
Peruvian Warbling-Antbird by Johnnier Arango
Riparian Parrotlet by Johnnier Arango

Day 10Trampolin road high section

Today we will begin our journey through the mountains that the Trampolin road traverses. Long known for the high number of traffic accidents caused by its steep geography, narrow steps, and changing climate, the Trampolin road is now better known as a biodiversity emporium that, at the end of its journey through the jungle, meets the beautiful and peaceful Sibundoy valley, a conglomeration of four villages where we will spend the night and prepare for the next day.

Night in Sibundoy. 2200. 14°C

Targets species this day are:

  • White-rimmed Brush-finch
  • Dusky Piha
  • Long-tailed Tapaculo
  • Short-billed Chlorospingus
  • Green-backed Hillstar
  • Chestnut-breasted Coronet
  • Black-billed Mountain-toucan
  • White-capped Tanager
  • Yellow-throated Tanager
  • Golden-headed Quetzal
  • Bar-bellied Woodpecker
  • Black-collared Jay
  • Andean Cock-of-the-rock

White-capped Tanager by Johnnier Arango
The upper part of the Tampolin road

Day 11Paramo de Bordoncillo and La Cocha lake

The Páramo de Bordoncillo is the natural boundary that separates Putumayo from Nario. The road ascends from the Sibundoy valley until it reaches dwarf forests before continuing through the paramo. Not long ago, a population of the extremely rare Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, one of South America’s most sought-after birds, was discovered there.
Crossing this Páramo is Lake Guamuez, also known as Laguna de la Cocha, Colombia’s second-largest Andean lake. El Puerto, a small tourist town on its shores, is built in the best Swiss style, with houses and chalets. We’ll spend the last night of our trip here after a successful day of birding.

Night in El Puerto. 2300. 13°C

Other targets species this day are:

  • Masked Mountain-tanager
  • Rainbow-bearded Thornbill
  • Agile Tit-tyrant
  • Equatorial Antpitta
  • White-chinned Thistletail
  • Black-thighed Puffleg
  • Paramo Tapaculo
  • Golden-crowned Tanager
  • Andean Gull
  • Yellow-billed Pintail
  • Slate-colored Coot
  • Cinereous Harrier
  • Ecuadorian Rail
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Sierran Elaenia
  • Andean Duck

El Puerto is the town adyacent to La Cocha lake
La Cocha (Guamuez) lake
Yellow.billed Pintail
Yellow-billed Pintail by Johnnier-Arango
Agile Tit-tyrant by Karl F. Sjölund
Agile Tit-tyrant by Karl F. Sjölund
Chestnut-bellied Cotinga by Johnnier Arango
Chestnut-bellied Cotinga by Johnnier Arango

Link this tour with these two amazing extensions!

La Isla Escondida reserve

Isla Escondida is a haven for both rare birds and the daring. It has three observation towers and kilometers of trails where you can see rare species from the two ecosystems that meet here: the Amazon and the Andes foothills.

3-5 days. Intermediate level

Nariño: from the Andes to the ocean

Nariño has it all: cold paramos where rare birds watch us from the vegetation, the lush and humid Chocó region’s jungle, and coastal ecosystems facing the Pacific Ocean. Add this extensión to your tour and get the most of southern Colombia!

5-6 days. All levels.

Map

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