The Florida Keys Audubon Society is heading to Colombia, the birdiest country on earth. There are more than 1,950 species of birds in Colombia – twenty percent of the world’s total.
Colombia is experiencing a historical transformation politically, making it one of the safest travel destinations in Latin America, and our Colombian compatriots are eager to show off the biological, cultural, ethnic and gastronomic diversity the country has to offer. You can’t be disappointed.
Colombia is tropical, yet it also has ample elevation changes due to the Andes. Furthermore it has both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Lots of different habitats ensure an abundance of bird species. Where else can you go and have a chance to see three species of quetzal?
Travel with Florida Key Audubon to Explore the highs and lows of this amazingly environmentally diverse country.
Isla Salamanca National Park• El Dorado Lodge • Tayrona National Park
Los Flamencos National Park • KM18 Cloudforest area • The Anchicaya Valley
$3,100 per person, double occupancy. Does not include international airfare or incidentals such as alcohol and souvenirs. (Single supplement $475)
Day 1 (Mar. 10)
Arrive in Barranquilla.
Lodging: Barraqnuilla Plaza (D)
Day 2 (Mar 11)
Depart Barranquilla for Isla Salamanca National Park, 35 minutes from the city. Isla Salamanca is an Important Bird Area as well as a REMSAR site. It consists of several lagoons, wetlands and a well preserved mangroves. Nearby is the lightly traveled Km 4 road, which bisects a series of pastures and inundated fields that are superb for birding. There is the potential to see such birds as Saphire-throated Hummingbird, Saphire-bellied Humminbird, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Bicolored Conebill, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, and Northern Screamer.
Arrive late in the day at El Dorado.
El Dorado Reserve is run by the Colombian NGO ProAves , and is named after the legendary city of gold. Spanning 2,175 acres between 3,000 - 8,500 ft in elevation, over 350 birds have been recorded at the site. The vast altitudinal gradient allows for several days of birding, which different specialties found along the very lightly travelled dirt road. The lodge sits at 6,500 ft, and was the first in Colombia to cater specifically to international birders, so it is very comfortable and well run.
We will enjoy the well-maintained feeders at the lodge which are often visited by the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, White-vented Plumeteer, and Long-tailed Hermit. Bananas attract the endemic Santa Marta Brushfinch and also the endemic Colombian Brushfinch, and the many flowers in the garden attract White-sided and Black Fowerpiercer. There is also a chance of Santa Marta Antpitta, a skullker that will definitely take some work, as well as the near endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail that visit the lodges compost pile in the afternoon.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 3 (Mar 12)
We will rise early and head up to higher elevations towards Cerro Kennedy, in search of these endemics: Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta Bush-tyrant and Brown-rumped Tapaculo, among many others. We will have a picnic at high elevation with great views of the Sierra Nevada, and bird along the road on our way down, hoping to run into awe inspiring species such as Swallow Tanager, Grove-billed and Santa Marta Toucanet, Black-chested Jay, White-bellied Antbird and the near endemic White-tipped quetzal. After din- ner we will certainly scout for the endemic and recently described Santa Marta Screech-owl.
Lodging: El Dorado Lodge (B, L, D.)
Day 4 (Mar 13)
We will depart El Dorado this morning and spend the day birding the road en route to our beach-side hotel to enjoy the beautiful beaches. We will make stops to catch any birds we missed on the way up. We will spend one night at Finca Barlovento, an exquisite lodge right on the beach that is touted as one of the best places to stay in Colombia.
Lodging: Finca Barlovento (B, L, D)
Day 5 (Mar 14)
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 Lance-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 Rufous-tailed 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 Buff-breasted and Bi-colored 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 ocks. While birding here 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 spent driving to Riohacha, with a stop at a known spot where Double-striped Thick-kneee are often seen. Our hotel is right on the beach.
Lodging: Hotel Taroa (B, L, D)
Day 6 (Mar 15)
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 a mistaken idea of a parched world, Los Flamencos is on the coast and it has shallow waterbodies that fill as the rains come, and evaporate during the dry season. These evaporating ponds concentrate salt, 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 specialties 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. After lunch we will spend the afternoon driving to Santa Marta to catch a flight to Cali.
Lodging: Hotel Hampton by Hilton (B, L, D)
Day 7 (Mar 16)
Today we will bird on the old Buenaventura Road, which descends from the western Andes to the Pacific Ocean along the Anchicaya River watershe. It is one of Colombia’s newest destinations to open up to birding. The birding along this gradient of insurmountable diversity is such that it inspired Steve Hilty to start work on Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia, the first ornithological field guide for South America. Along the edge of the Farallones National Park, the road winds through Andean cloud forests, humid tropical forests all the way down to the Pacific lowlands. One can easily bird the area for four days searching for a plethora of the Choco endemics that this mega-diverse locality has to offer. Approximately 450 species have been recorded along the road.
Lodging: Hampton by Hilton (B, L, D)
Day 8 (Mar 17)
Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 5,900-foot pass 18 kilometers (11 miles) northwest of Cali along the road that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura. Birding can be very productive here, and we will look for four endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Grayish Piculet and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager. This area is a tanager paradise, where we have a good chance to see Purplish-mantled, Summer, Beryl-spangles, Flame-rumped, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped tanagers as well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager.
We hope to be dazzled by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private house along the same road, including the beautifully ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Rackettail, Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin. Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit. Birding the forest can also produce many near-endemics such as Scrub Tanager, Purple-throated Woodstar, Nariño Tapaculo, Purplish-mantled Tanager and Yellow-headed Manakin.
Lodging: Hampton by Hilton (B, L, D)
Day 9 (Mar 18)
After breakfast, our agent will transfer you to the Cali Airport, or you may choose to extend your stay to see more amazing sites in South America.