Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia

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Birdwatchers and nature lovers, welcome to paradise! Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. And with more than 2.300 recorded bird species, Colombia is the best destination in the world for birding!

Birdwatching in Colombia is one of the country’s fastest-growing nature activities, so why not take advantage of your trip to observe the world’s most beautiful bird species?

And here’s one more reason to confirm the ranking of the famous National Geographic magazine, which places Colombia among the best destinations for families to visit in 2023. Your kids will love birdwatching in Colombia (we know it’s not just for kids!)

In this post alone, you’ll find 50 different bird species (badly) photographed by us! Join us on a tour of Colombia’s most beautiful birds.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

Colombia: a paradise for birding

Where to go birdwatching in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Hummingbirds – Pijao (Quindio)

For the past 5 years, during Global Big Day, a meeting organized by Cornell University during which scientists and birdwatchers from all over the world go out to observe as many birds as possible, Colombia has been the number 1 destination, with 20% of the world’s species observed.

20% of the world’s total species

Colombia is the country with the greatest diversity of birds in the world.

According to the SIB Colombia (Information System on Biodiversity in Colombia), there are officially 2.363 bird species in the country, representing over 20% of the world total! This places Colombia at the top of the list of countries with the highest number of bird species on the planet.

By way of comparison, there are only 824 bird species in USA, 725 in Australia, 426 in Canada, and 267 in United Kingdom.

82 endemic species

According to the SIB, Colombia has 82 endemic bird species, i.e. birds that can only be seen in Colombia.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta stands out for its isolation: it is home to 36 of Colombia’s 82 endemic species

Only 8% migratory birds

According to the Humbolt Institute, an estimated 159 species of migratory birds travel long distances depending on the season, seeking refuge, food and breeding sites in Colombia.

The majority of birds present in Colombia do not migrate. Some move between regions, but for the most part they remain in the same areas throughout their lives.

8.000 specific ecosystems

According to Colombia’s IDEAM, there are 98 general ecosystem types and over 8.000 specific ecosystems in Colombia!

Beaches, marshes, mangroves, savannahs, rivers, deltas, wetlands, deserts, tropical rainforests, dry forests, Andean forests, cloud forests, gallery forests, paramos, glaciers… ecosystems ranging from the coldest to the hottest climates, from the driest to the wettest.

It is this immense variety of habitats in Colombia that supports the presence of thousands of different bird species.

The best destinations for birdwatching in Colombia

Where to see birds in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Choco Toucan – Arusi (Choco)

According to a recent study carried out by the Humboldt Institute in Colombia, in the current distribution of the more than 2.300 bird species recorded in the country, the 10 departments with the most bird species observed are:

Everywhere

While these departments represent the areas with the greatest concentration of birds in Colombia, it’s fair to say that a wide variety of species can be observed throughout the country. Even in the least endowed regions, there are between 200 and 500 species… that’s plenty of room to see them all!

There are, however, some regions that will require a great deal of preparation and logistics to facilitate birdwatching. We’re thinking in particular of regions that are difficult to access and will require the presence of local guides and specific organization.

Of course, a département is a big place. So if this list and these maps give you some clues, they don’t necessarily give you any ideas about where you can increase your chances of birdwatching in Colombia.

In Colombia, there are many nature reserves entirely dedicated to the protection and conservation of birds. These are the ideal places if you want to see as many birds as possible, as easily as possible.

ProAves reserves

ProAves is a bird protection NGO that decided several years ago to purchase land in Colombia and convert it into nature reserves dedicated to the protection and conservation of birds in Colombia.

It is possible to visit these reserves and to stay in some of them, although the price is quite high ($80 per night in a double room – $40 in a dormitory), but you can be sure that these places will be ideal for birdwatching!

  • El Dorado Reserve – Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
  • Las Tángaras Reserve – Carmen de Atrato, Choco
  • The Arrierito Reserve – El Limon, Antioquia
  • El Paujil Reserve – Puerto Pinzón, Boyaca
  • Reinita Cielo Azul Reserve – San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander
  • Chamicero de Pejira Reserve – Manaure Balcón del Cesar, Cesar

Northern Putumayo and Caqueta

Between Mocoa and Florencia, straddling the departments of Putumayo, Cauca and Caqueta, lies a unique environment where Amazonian rainforest meets Andean mountains, ideal for birdwatching.

From Florencia (Caquetá), you can visit the old Huila road, the Mirador de Los Tucanes and the Posada de los Andakíes reserve. From Mocoa, we recommend you visit the Sibundoy Valley, El Fin del Mundo, or the Serranía de los Churumbelos National Park, one of the colombian national parks with the highest concentration of birds in the country.

San José del Guaviare

If you’ve been following our travel blog for any length of time, you’ll know that San José del Guaviare is one of our favorite regions in Colombia. Located on the geographical border between the eastern plains and the Amazon rainforest, it is home to many Llanos species as well as a wide variety of Amazonian species. Over 550 species have been recorded in the department of Guaviare.

Guaviare’s main bird species include: the Guiana cock (Rupicola rupicola), found only near the rocky outcrops of the Guiana Shield, the orange falcon (Falco deiroleucus), perhaps South America’s rarest bird of prey, the chalybeate coquette (Lophornis chalybeus), the variegated canary (Tangara velia), among many others.

Serranía de Perijá National Park (César)

The Serrania de Perija is at the northern end of the Andes mountain range, marking the border with Venezuela. It is a unique ecosystem that favours biodiversity and the presence of numerous bird species.

Located in the department of César, this territory has long been, like the Guaviare, an uninhabitable conflict zone. Today, projects to reconvert ex-combatants into tourism are being developed locally, in particular around birdwatching, and whole swathes of mountain, untouched by human presence, are now open to birdwatchers.

Los Nevados National Park and the coffee region (Quindio)

Los Nevados National Park, one of Colombia’s most famous national parks, is home to hummingbirds, eagles, parrots and condors. Among the birds you can see at the hotel are the paramun hummingbird (Aglaeactis cupripennis), Andean terlaca (Andigena hypoglauca), gallo inca (Coeligena lutetiae), black-legged calzoncitos (Eriocnemis derbyi) and collared inca (Coeligena torquata).

In the coffee region around the Los Nevados National Park, for example in Quindio, some fincas may be ideal for birdwatching in villages such as Salento, Filandia or Pijao.

Montezuma rainforest (Risaralda)

Cerro Montezuma is home to 11 endemic and 40 near-endemic Colombian bird species, which can be seen along the trail. They include typical Andean species as well as a wide variety of species from the Chocó region. The area is also home to a large number of wild orchids.

Doña Leopoldina Tapasco’s Montezuma Ecolodge has established itself as one of Colombia’s top ornithological sites.

Hatos du Casanare

Situated in the Llanos region, in the department of Casanare, the hatos are huge cattle farms that can be considered true nature reserves, and which today naturally welcome tourists who love nature and wildlife.

Here you can observe an immense variety of birds (Toucans, Colibris, Raptors, Kamichi and the sublime Guacamayas (Aras), and thousands of wading birds such as the American Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), one of the largest birds in the world, the Llano storks, numerous species of Ibis… not forgetting an incredible wildlife (monkeys, anteaters, capybaras, jaguars, anacondas…). The best-known is certainly Hato La Aurora, but there are many others to discover, such as Hato Berlin and Hato Las Gaviotas.

Rio Blanco Nature Reserve (Caldas)

This is one of the world’s finest birdwatching sites, not only because of its 4.343 hectares of beautifully preserved Andean forests or its 380 recorded species, but also because, for some years now, the reserve’s local guides have been feeding and coaxing some of the world’s most elusive birds: the Grallariidae. In total, there are 7 species of Grallariidaes in the reserve, a staggering number that testifies to the uniqueness of this place.

A good place to stay is the Hacienda Venecia, where you can enjoy 226 of the 900 or so species found in this coffee-growing region.

Utria National Park (Choco)

Between mangrove swamps, jungle-covered mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the geographical particularity of Choco (and the whole Pacific coast for that matter) makes it a global biodiversity hotspot. The Utria National Park, between Nuqui and Bahia Solano, is one of the places where you can easily observe the many species of birds found in the region.

Of course, you can also take the opportunity to discover this incredible region and observe the abundance of local flora and fauna.

San Antonio and the Anchicaya Valley (Cauca Valley)

On the road between Cali and Buenaventura, around the village of Dagua, there are several fincas open to birdwatching enthusiasts. We’re facing the Cloud Forest de San Antonio, designated an important bird conservation area by the American NGO Birdlife International.

The best known is certainly the finca of Doña Dora Londoño near El Queremal. Its reputation is well established in the world of birdwatching, and what could be better than eating a small empanadas while observing the country’s most beautiful birds, including the Cabezon toucan (Semnornis ramphastinus)!

Los Flamencos and La Macuira (La Guajira)

Who said there were no birds in the desert? On the contrary, Guajira is a region where a number of nature reserves offer ideal spots for birdwatching. These include the Los Flamencos nature reserve and the Macuira nature park.

Chingaza and Sumapaz national parks (Cunidamarca)

Chingaza and Sumapaz national parks, close to the capital Bogotá, are among the richest national parks in Colombia in terms of bird species diversity. Rivers, marshes, paramos, Altiplano wetlands… these water-rich ecosystems attract a wide variety of fauna and large numbers of birds. In July and August, when the flowers of the frailejones bloom, the spectacle of hummingbirds foraging at altitudes of over 3.000 m is breathtaking.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Magdalena)

With its mountain range culminating at over 5.000m and its feet dipping into the Caribbean Sea, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta offers all the thermal floors within a very short distance. This topography has allowed nature to develop in a unique way, and species of flora and fauna to thrive here endemically. This is why the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is home to a large number of endemic bird species. As we’ve seen, one of the best-known places for birdwatching in the Sierra Nevada is the El Dorado reserve above the village of Minca.

The most common birds

Birdwatching in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Melancholic Flycatcher – San Agustin (Huila)

According to the SIB, the 10 most easily and frequently observed birds in Colombia are :

Granted, this list isn’t exactly the stuff of dreams – it’s a bit like making a list of robins, blackbirds, pigeons, crows and so on. And even if these most common birds of Colombia are really pretty, isn’t it the rarity of a species or the difficulty of observing one that makes birding so interesting?

The most beautiful birds in Colombia

Birdwatching in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Caribbean Motmot – Salento (Quindio)

Quetzals, Motmots, Toucans, Hummingbirds, Macaws, Trogons – these are just some of the spectacular birds you can see all over Colombia. Some species are so incredibly colorful that their beauty is unreal!

As you can imagine, we’re not going to give you a list of the 2.300 birds found in Colombia. But we can offer you a short list of some of the most beautiful birds to be seen in Colombia:

  1. Caribbean Motmot (Momotus subrufescens-
  2. Cabezon Toucan (Semnornis ramphastinus)
  3. Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima)
  4. Downy Woodpecker (Dryocopus Lineatus)
  5. Cayenne rail (Aramides Cajanea)
  6. Blue-headed Pione (Pionus Menstruus)
  7. Squirrel Piaye (Piaya Cayana)
  8. Red-rumped toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus)
  9. Rouverdin callistar (Tangara gyrola)
  10. Red-headed cabezon (Eubuco bourcierii)
  11. Azure-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii)
  12. Red Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)
  13. Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia)
  14. Blue toucan (Andigena hypoglauca)
  15. Peruvian cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus)
  16. Septicolored canary (Tangara chilensis)
  17. Antisian quetzal (Pharomachrus antisianus)
  18. Trogon rosalba (Trogon collaris)
  19. Scarlet macaw (Ara macao)
  20. Green gea (Cyanocorax yncas)

Colombia’s most beautiful endemic birds

Birding in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Hartlaub’s Dacnis – Laguna Pedro Palo (Cundinamarca) – credit: Nick Athanas

If it’s impossible to list the 2.300 birds in Colombia, it’s even harder to list the 82 species of birds endemic to Colombia!

Nevertheless, we’re going to make you salivate by presenting some of the country’s most beautiful endemic species.

  1. Multicolored canary(Chlorochrysa nitidissima)
  2. Red-crested Habia (Habia cristata)
  3. Hartlaub’s dacnis(Dacnis hartlaubi)
  4. Splendid woodpecker(Melanerpes pulcher)
  5. Red-fronted toui(Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons)
  6. Brown-breasted conure(Pyrrhura calliptera)
  7. Helmeted hummingbird(Oxypogon guerinii)
  8. Fuertes’s quail(Hapalopsittaca fuertesi)
  9. Cassin’s cassowary(Psarocolius cassini)
  10. White-tailed Inca (Coeligena phalerata)

Colombia’s most beautiful hummingbirds

Where to see birds in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Flavescent hummingbird – Cocora Valley (Quindio)

Another TOP 1 for Colombia! Colombia is home to the largest number of hummingbird species in the world. There are some 350 species of hummingbird in the world, 165 of them in Colombia!

Here are some of the most beautiful hummingbirds to be seen in Colombia:

  1. Jacobean hummingbird (Florisuga mellivora)
  2. Helmeted hummingbird(Oxypogon guerinii)
  3. White-tailed Inca (Coeligena phalerata)
  4. Corinne’s hummingbird (Heliomaster longirostris)
  5. Wetmore inca (Coeligena orina)
  6. Porphyry Inca (Coeligena helianthea)
  7. Purple-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis)
  8. Sapphire-winged hummingbird (Pterophanes cyanopterus)
  9. Jardine hummingbird (Boissonneaua jardini)
  10. Fairy hummingbird (Heliothryx barroti)

Colombia’s most “remarkable” birds

Birding in Colombia

Colombia Birdwatching travel guide: where to do birding in Colombia
Hoatzin – Laguna negra (San Jose del Guaviare)

Not all birds are interesting for their aesthetics alone. Some are interesting for their gigantic size, or for their ferocity, or for their strangeness. The funny thing is, when you look at the list, you realize that many of these strange birds can be found in the Llanos region!

Here are some of Colombia’s most remarkable birds

  1. Andean Condor(Vultur gryphus)
  2. American Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria)
  3. Hoazin (Ophisthocomus hoazin)
  4. Fierce harpy (Harpia harpyja)
  5. Crested harpy (Morphnus guianensis)
  6. Sarcoramphe roi (Sarcoramphus papa)
  7. Horned kamichi (Anhima cornuta)
  8. Grey ibijau (Nyctibius griseus)
  9. King fanfish (Onychorhynchus coronatus)
  10. Helmeted coracine (Cephalopterus penduliger)

Documentary “The birders

Birdwatching in Colombia

And to reward you for seeing this post through to the end, here’s the documentary “The Birders”, which takes up some of the themes raised here and shows the incredible natural and ornithological wealth of northern Colombia.

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Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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