Colombia Birdwatch



Colombia Birdwatch
The Western Andes, Cauca Valley, Santa Marta Mountains and
Caribbean Coast
July 15 - 26, 2016
Colombia is the birdiest country on earth,
Where else can you go and have a chance to see
and this is not in dispute! There are more species of
three species of quetzal? Well here you do.
birds in this country than on any other. It is easy to
see why. Colombia is tropical, yet it also has ample
mous KM 18, search for a variety of species as well
elevation changes due to the Andes, furthermore
as visit an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek. The birding
it has both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The
is amazing, with mixed-species flocks of Multicol-
Andes become complex in Colombia, splitting into
ored, Purplish-mantled, Scrub and Golden-naped
three ranges, which increases habitat diversity, as
Tanagers foraging among the mist-laden trees
well as rain shadow valleys between the moun-
along side Green-and-Black and Scaled Fruiteaters,
tains. Colombia also comprises a vast portion of
Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia and Golden-head-
the amazon and the Orinoquia region. Lots of differ-
ed and Crested Quetzal.
ent habitats ensure an abundance of bird species.
Amid the cloud forests surrounding the infa-
Spend time at a prolific wetland area in
Santa Marta Mountains
search of an assortment of shorebirds and waterbirds in the Cauca Valley. The Sonso Lagoon is one
of Colombia’s largest wetland reserves and home
to Bare-faced Ibis, Cocoi Heron, White-throated
Crake, Blackish Rail and Wattled Jacana. With luck
you may encounter rare species such as Pinnated
Bittern, Bar-crested Antshrike, and the endemics
Apical Flycatcher and Grayish Piculet. Keep your
eyes open for Horned Screamer – a large bird that
can be described as a cross between a turkey and a
Then board flights towards Colombia’s Carib-
bean coast. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is
the highest coastal mountain in the world and one of
the most important endemism centers in the world,
with 22 species of birds restricted to it. Join us on a
search for many of these endemics including Santa
Marta Screech-owl, Antpitta, Mountain-tanager,
Tapaculo, Foliage-gleaner, Brush-finch, Parakeet,
Sabrewing, Bush-tyrant, Seedeater, Warbler, and a
plethora more!
This trip will also take us to Isla Salamanca
and Flamencos National Parks, where birding
through mangroves and coastal wetlands, along
the ocean and in dry scrub forest should yield species such as the near endemic Buffy Hummingbird,
the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Russetthroated Puffbird, the near endemic Chestnut Piculet, Bicolored Conebill and Panama Flycatcher.
COST: $3.590 per person, double occupancy, not
including international airfare, singles extra.
Single Supplement: $700
Crested Quetzal
AIRFARE: Approximately $900 from the USA, or
$1400 from London, depending on origin, (quoted
June 2015). Must arrive in Cali by July 15, 2016.
Multicolored Tanager
bia, founded Colombia
Birdwatch to promote
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Depart Cali on or after July 26, 2016.
responsible ecotourism, and devotes his
time to various nonprofit conservation
GROUP SIZE: Maximum 8 participants, not includ-
groups and local com-
ing leaders. Minimum group size is 4 participants.
munities. His family
Chris Calonje
and friends in Colombia have welcomed numerous
NUMBER of DAYS: 12 days total, including esti-
tour groups to their properties in all regions of Co-
mated travel time.
LEADERS: Christopher Calonje and/or Gabriel
Gabriel Utria is a
biologist from the
Universidad de Santa
Christopher Calonje was born and raised in Co-
Marta, and grew up
lombia where his grandfather and parents instilled
in the San Lorenzo
an appreciation for the beautiful birds of Colombia
reserach station in the
from a young age. He graduated with a degree in
Sierra Nevada. His
Natural Resources Planning at Humboldt State
mother ran the lodge,
University, located in Northern California, and
so he grew up birding trecking in the area. Gabriel
worked ten years as an environmental consultant in
has participated in the design and implementation
the Pacific Northwest. Chris specializes in wetland
of bird conservation strategies in Colombia’s Carib-
science, botany, and environmental education. He
bean region, emphasizing his efforts on dry tropical
began leading groups in 2008 in his native Colom-
Gabriel Utria
Greend-black Fruiteater
forest ecosystems. Most recently, Gabriel has been
mer, Golden, near endemic Scrub, Metallic-green,
guiding tours for various internationally tour opera-
Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped tanagers as
tors. He is also involved in a project to identify criti-
well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Blue-
cal habitat for migratory species that visit the Sierra
winged Mountain-Tanager. We hope to be dazzled
Nevada de Santa Marta.
by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private
house along the same road, including the beautifully
Day 1 ~ Arrive in Cali
ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar,
Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-
Day 2 ~ El 18 and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek
breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, and
White-necked Jacobin. We also hope to find some
Today we spend the morning around the
famous El 18, located on an 1800-meter (5,900-
hummingbirds that lek in small groups such as the
foot) pass 18 kilometers (11 miles) northwest of
Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit.
Cali along the road that connects Cali with the port
city of Buenaventura. We will spend the day bird-
beautiful moss and fairy garden that also offers
ing near the hotel along a road that passes through
great birding opportunities. Nearby we will stop at a
fragments of cloud forest usually with good mixed
few bridge crossings over the Felidia River search-
flock activity. Birding can be very productive here,
ing for more endemics – Crested Ant-tanager, Gray-
and we will look for four endemics – Chestnut
ish Piculet, and Apical Flycatcher.
Wood-Quail, Grayish Piculet, handsome Flame-
rumped Tanager, and the spectacular Multicolored
of-the-rock lek for some close-up views of this mag-
Tanager. This area is a tanager paradise, where
nificent bird’s display. This short, 20-minute walk
we have a good chance to observe some stunning
will take us down a steep hill to their lek near the
birds like Choco endemic Purplish-mantled, Sum-
river. Then we will drive back to Cali for dinner and
Our next stop is Bichacue Yath reserve, a
At 3 pm we will visit an active Andean Cock-
Sonso Lagoon
rest. Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton
woodcreeper, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Choco
endemic Nariño Tapaculo, and hyperactive Cinna-
Day 3 ~ San Antonio Forest and Travel to Buga
mon Flycatcher.
We will spend the morning birding in the
Then we will make our way towards Buga, a
pristine sub-Andean cloud forest of the San Antonio
marvelous city and one of the most important reli-
Forest, near El 18. Here we will bird along small
gious pilgrimage centers in Colombia. Our colonial
gravel roads where we might see striking birds such
hotel has a large swimming pool and impressive
as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted
architecture. Lodging: Hotel Guadalajara de Buga
Chlorophonia, and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted
Day 4 ~ Sonso Lagoon and Flight to Barran-
Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-
winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and noisy,
inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet. We will also
to the wetland gem, Sonso Lagoon. This lagoon
listen and search for species with interesting calls
is one of the only remaining wetlands in the Cauca
and songs, like the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled
Valley and is teeming with birds, making it one of
Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Pep-
Colombia’s best wetland birding locations. Here
pershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean
we will search the marshes and lagoons that line
Solitaire. Other species we may find are Chestnut-
the east bank of the Cauca River for Fulvous and
breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, large Montane
Black-bellied whistling-ducks, Anhinga, Neotropical
We will start early to take a 10-minute drive
Multicolored Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-tanager
Cormorant, Little Blue, Cocoi, and Striated herons,
related to geese and have some bizarre morpho-
Snowy Egret, Black-necked Stilt, gregarious Bare-
logical features such as spurs on their wings used
faced Ibis, and Snail Kite. We are likely to find
for fighting and air sacs in their legs used to make
Wattle Jacana, which have a polyandry mating sys-
sounds. Along riparian areas we may find Southern
tem, where females mate with many males within a
Lapwing, Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crested
breeding season. Polyandry is a fascinating adap-
and Yellow-headed Caracara, Spot-breasted Wood-
tation that occurs in less than 1% of birds, and is
pecker, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Mouse-co-
most common in shorebirds. We also will look for
loured Tyrannulet, Yellow Warbler, hard to visually
species that spend the non-breeding season in Co-
identify Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Grey and Ruddy-
lombia, such as locally rare Glossy Ibis, Cinnamon
breasted Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquit, and
Teal, Lesser and Greater yellowlegs, and Spotted
Cinereous Becard. Greater Anis are fascinating
and Least sandpipers.
because two to four unrelated pairs form a nest-
ing group that build a single nest in which all the
Other rare species we might spot include
Pinnated Bittern, endemic Apical Flycatcher, Ro-
females lay their eggs and raise the young commu-
seate Spoonbill, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, and
Horned Screamer. Horned Screamers are closely
Spectacled Parrotlet
In nearby oxbows (called madres viejas in
Bar-crested Antshrike
Jet Antbird
Black-fronted Wood-quail
Colombia) we hope to observe handsome birds such as Jet Antbird, Orange-crowned Euphonia, and Fiery
Topaz plus Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher. We will have lunch at the hotel and prepare for our afternoon flights
to Barranquilla. Lodging: Hotel Barranquilla Plaza
Day 5 ~ Isla Salamanca and drive to Minca
We will rise early and spend the morning birding at Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from Bar-
ranquilla, where we will bird the newly rebuilt walkways through the mangroves in search of Saphire-throated
Hummingbird, the common Brown-throated Parakeet,
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, and Yellow-chinned
Spinetail among many others. After a morning of birding we will embark on a 2-hour drive to Minca, a quaint
little town with nice lodging along the river. Located
in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta,
Minca is a great location to bird for lower elevation
species. We will arrive in town and visit some hummingbird feeders for lunch where Rufous-breasted
Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat,
Santa Marta Woodstar, Red-billed emerald and violet-
Santa Marta Warbler
Santa Marta Mountain-tanager
crowned woodnymph can be found. We will also
Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Tapaculo,
have time to explore the surroundings in search of
Black-backed Antshrike, the magnificently colored
birds such as Black-backed Antshrike, Rufous-tailed
Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the attractive Rufous-
Jacamar, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, and
capped Warbler. Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
Whooping Motmot. Lodging: Hotel Sierras Sound
Day 7 ~ El Dorado to Cerro Kennedy. Day 6 ~ Minca to El Dorado Lodge
evations towards Cerro Kennedy, in search of these
.This day will have us birding through a big
We will rise early and head up to higher el-
altitudinal gradient, birding different elevations
endemics: Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta War-
along the road to El Dorado Lodge. Birding across
bler, Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta
a vast altitudinal gradient will surely yield a large
Bush-tyrant and Brown-rumped Tapaculo, among
number of species, including Golden-winged Spar-
many others. We will have a picnic at high eleva-
row, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Rusty-headed Spine-
tion with great views of the Sierra Nevada, and bird
tail, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, the recently described
along the road on our way down, hoping to run into
awe inspiring species such as Swallow Tanager,
Blue-naped Chlorophonia
Santa Marta Parakeet
Playa Los Angeles
Grove-billed and Santa Marta Toucanet, Black-chested Jay, White-bellied Antbird and the near endemic
White-tipped quetzal. After dinner we will certainly scout for the endemic and recently described Santa Marta
Screech-owl. Lodging: El Dorado Lodge
Day 8 ~ Birding in the vicinity of El Dorado. After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the well-maintained feeders at the lodge. Hummingbirds that
visit the feeders include the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, White-vented Plumeteer, and Long-tailed Hermit. The bananas attract the endemic Santa Marta Brush-finch and also the endemic Colombian brush-finch,
and the many flowers in the garden attract White-sided and Black Fowerpiercer. We will spend some time
trying to see Santa Marta Anptitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work. A day of birding near the lodge
will have its rewards, a special treat being the near endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visit the lodges
compost pile in the afternoon.
Day 9 ~ El Dorado Lodge to Tayrona National Park
We will spend the day birding the road en
route to our beach-side hotel to enjoy the
beautiful beaches. We will concentrate on any
missing species for our list.
Day 10 ~Tayrona National Park and travel to Riohacha. Night in Riohacha at Hotel Barbacoas.
We will have a morning visit to the park, and if
all things align for us, the Blue-billed Curassow could
show up for us. Otherwise, this is a great place to
see some species which we are not as likely to see
elsewhere on the trip. One abundant bird that is easiest to see here than anywhere is the stunning LanceVermilion Cardinal
tailed Manakin. Sometimes it can be found with its
relative, the White-bearded Manakin. The birds here
are varied, from Crane Hawk and Boat-billed Heron
to Greater Ani, White-necked Puffbird and Rufoustailed Jacamars. Blue-headed Parrot is common,
and Lineated Woodpeckers are impressive to see as
they forage on the large trees.
White-bellied Antbirds belt out their song
from the understory, if one is lucky they will even
show themselves. The complex songs of Buffbreasted and Bicolored wrens are heard in the forest, along with the repetitive songs of Scrub Greenlets, nasal sounds of Barred Antshrikes or loud
calls of Boat-billed and Streaked flycatchers. It is an
active area, full of birds! Crimson-backed Tanagers
and the gorgeous Red-legged Honeycreepers give
a lot of color to the local flocks. While birding here
Green-rumped Parrotlet
it is common to see the Cottontop Tamarin, a gorgeous little monkey dwarfed by the less common
White-fronted Capuchin. While our visit to Tayrona
will be cursory, we will see a lot, and enjoy the company of our trained guides here who will have the
pulse on where the birds are. The afternoon will be
spend driving to Riohacha to our hotel just minutes
Very close to the city of Riohacha is Los
Flamencos and the village of Camarones. This is the
west edge of the Guajira desert, where dry forest becomes shorter and sparser and bare dry earth separates the trees from each other. But before you have
from the beach.
a mistaken idea of a parched world, Los Flamencos
Day 11 ~Los Flamencos National Park and drive
fill as the rains come, and evaporate during the dry
to Santa Marta to catch flights to Cali.
is on the coast and it has shallow waterbodies that
season. These evaporating ponds concentrate salt,
Russet-throated Puffbird
and then brine shrimp bloom which brings in the namesake bird of the park – American Flamingos! Their numbers vary depending on water levels, but they can be here in the hundreds on a good day. If you have not had
enough pink, how about the even brighter Scarlet Ibis? They concentrate here as well, with their very close
relatives White Ibis. They are so close in fact that every once in a while a hybrid “Pink Ibis” is seen here. Gulls,
terns, and many migratory shorebirds are to be found at Los Flamencos.
Retreating to the forest though, one is quite surprised that a series of very attractive regional special-
ties are found here. The sole South American offshoot of what is really a North American group, the Vermilion
Cardinal can be seen here. Nothing prepares you, even if you have backyard Northern Cardinals, for the striking red of this species, the overdone crest and the very different look to its close relatives from the north. On
the ground, a member of a group that is usually very drab and brown, may elicit “wows!” from the crowd – the
White-whiskered Spinetail is one heck of a good looking Spinetail. Pecking in the branches and trilling away is
a tiny and colorful woodpecker, the Chestnut Piculet. Sure there are specialties that are more somber in tone,
such as the Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannulet), and White-tipped Inezia. A crowd favorite is the Russet-throated
Puffbird (the Bobo or fool bird as the locals call it) who will just sit there, staring back at you as hard as you
stare at it. In a crowd of what tend to be relatively greenish or grayish and nondescript birds, the saltators, the
uncommon Orinoco Saltator is quite a good looking bird. Don’t ask why there are so many good looking birds
in this drab desert habitat, just enjoy these wonderful dry forest birds. Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton
Day 12 ~ Flights Home
Guests will be taken to the airport to catch flights home. Fly out July 26, 2016.
Trip Includes:
Internal Airfare: Cali-Barranquilla, Santa Marta - Cali
Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
Snacks Throughout the Trip
All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on
Day 12
All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
Entrances to Parks and Reserves
Local Guides
Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to
Airport Drop-off
Does not include:
Alcoholic Beverages
Airfare to Colombia
Indigo-capped Hummingbird
Santa Marta Sreech-owl
Chestnut-winged Chachalaca
Santa Marta Brush-finch

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