Colombia is home to many incredible things: jaw-dropping scenery, gorgeous colonial architecture, some of the world’s best secluded beaches, but perhaps the greatest draw Colombia has is its unique flora and fauna. It is one of the world’s most bio diverse countries.
However, it is Colombia’s remarkable birdlife which is the focus of this post. Put simply, it is one of the best countries on earth to watch birds. Colombia has the largest bird list (the number of different species which have been recorded in the country, not including any extinct species) of any country in the world, at 1,871, and the list continues to grow. In fact, as we mentioned in a previous post, Colombia is set to become to the first country in history to reach 1,900 species, which it is expected to do in the next two years. Colombia is a bird-lovers paradise: thousands of exciting, exotic species spread out over some of the most diverse habitats imaginable, from high Andean páramo to wet coastal jungle. El Dorado may have been the name the Spanish gave to the lost city of gold, but Colombia’s riches are of a different nature.
Perhaps the best part about all of this is that Colombia also counts 74 endemic species amongst its bird list. In other words, there are over 70 types of bird in this country which are found nowhere else on earth! You have to come to Colombia in order to see them. Among these endemic species are the rather wonderfully named Blue-knobbed Curassow, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, and the Santa Marta Sabrewing. It makes ‘woodpigeon’ sound pretty boring, doesn’t it?!
Among the best regions to observe some of Colombia’s most stunning species are the wet, lowland forests of El Chocó, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (enjoy the beaches of Tayrona, but if you want really great bird sightings, head inland and uphill) the high páramos of El Cocuy and Los Nevados, and, naturally, the Amazon basin in the very south of the country. A trip to any of these areas, with a good pair of binoculars (go with a 10×45 for the best results, as viewing birds in jungle conditions requires as much light as possible), and an extreme amount of patience will yield sightings of once-in-a-lifetime species.
It’s not all hacking through virgin jungle with a vicious looking machete either: there is a wealth of exciting birdlife in the big cities for those who care enough to search for it. Both Bogotá’s Parque Simon Bolivar and the Botanical Gardens in Medellín are great spots for the incredibly popular modern pastime of ‘Urban Birding’. A walk around either of these parks will yield sightings of exquisite hummingbirds, vermillion flycatchers and many other species which would take too long to list here.
All of this isn’t just for the serious birdwatcher either – there is plenty to enjoy for those who just like to observe beautiful spectacles. The Flamingos Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, on the road to La Guajira, offers sightings of over 1,000 flamingos in season, Tayrona National Park and the surrounding mountains are teeming with toucans, parrots and the rare and beautiful quetzal, whilst any trip to the Amazon is incomplete without the sight of a flock of Scarlet Macaws arrowing overhead, screeching exotically. That is the beauty of birdwatching in Colombia: unlike in some countries the most rare and striking species have chosen to live in stunning places instead of, say, a sewage works or a nuclear plant. I’m looking at you, Dungeness!
Tailor-made birding trips to Colombia are becoming more and more common as the world wakes up the fact that not only is Colombia getting safer and safer for travel, it is also probably the best country in South America for birdwatching. Maybe even the best in the world…