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COLOMBIA: FROM THE CHOCO TO AMAZONIA

Colombia Birding Tours: our Choco to Amazonia Colombia bird watching holiday is specifically designed to dovetail with our classic Colombia tour; the two tours combined giving an unparalleled coverage of this stunning country. Whilst our classic tour covers the more accessible endemic-rich areas, our Choco to Amazonia Colombia birding tour itinerary covers the remaining ‘hot spots’. By covering an even wider variety of sites and habitats than our classic Colombia tour, not only will we see a staggering variety of endemics and rarely-seen specialities, we will also notch-up one of the biggest species totals of any Birdquest tour, rivalling Ultimate Kenya and Ultimate Ecuador for overall avian diversity!

Monday 22nd January — Monday 12th February 2018
(22 days)


Colombian Amazonia: Mitú Extension: Monday 12th February — Sunday 18th February (7 days)

Leaders: Dani López-Velasco and a local bird guide

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking for the most part and comfortable to fairly simple accommodations

The gorgeous Dusky Starfrontlet is one of many endemics targetted on this fantastic tour (Pete Morris)

The gorgeous Dusky Starfrontlet is one of many endemics targetted on this fantastic tour (Pete Morris)

This very special adventure has been carefully designed to complement our Colombia tour; the two combined giving a good shot at virtually all of the available endemics and specialities to be found in this wonderful birding country. Whilst our regular Colombia tour gives an excellent introduction to Colombia’s exciting avifauna, with an excellent crop of endemics, this specially designed tour focuses on an impressive suite of endemics and specialities not found on that tour. Not only that, but by travelling from the Andes to the Choco and to the Amazonian lowlands, we will amass a quite staggering number of species!

Colombia is an immense country with an almost unimaginable variety of landscapes, floras and birds. It is now at peace, having improved dramatically in the last fifteen years, such that today Colombia is a clean, safe, modern and friendly country with great infrastructure. Indeed things have turned around so far that Colombia is now one of the safest and most popular South American destinations! Add to this its enviable distinction of having the highest number of bird species recorded for any country and Colombia must be a priority for any birder: nearly 1900 species have been recorded to date, with more being added every year, including species new to science!

One of the great things about birding in Colombia is that just about anywhere one stops, even along roadsides, there are a seemingly endless procession of good birds to be found! Quite apart from providing home to nearly twenty percent of the world’s birds, Colombia has within this number an exciting selection endemics: in this it is equalled only by Brazil and Peru in South America, and our two tours to Colombia, between them, give an excellent chance of finding nearly all of the ‘available’ endemics.

We will begin our adventure close to the capital city of Bogotá, where in remnant patches of moss-clad forest, amongst a host of interesting species, we will make a concerted effort to find the poorly know Cundinamarca Antpitta and colourful Brown-breasted (or Flame-winged) Parakeet, both of which are endemic to the eastern cordillera.

Moving on, we will head north to Soatá and explore a spectacular forested ridge in search of a suite of endemics that includes Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Niceforo’s Wren and the endangered Mountain Grackle, along with the rare Rusty-faced Parrot. A relatively short distance west is the famous Cerulean Warbler reserve. As nice as this migrant visitor from North America is, it is not the main focus of our attention as we will be seeking out another exciting selection of endemics including the retiring Gorgeted Wood-Quail, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, the smart Black Inca, Parker’s Antbird, Upper Magdalena Tapaculo and the delightful Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager, as well as other specialities which may include Yellow-throated Spadebill and Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo.

Next we will descend to the Magdalena valley and make the longish drive north to the Reserva Hormiguero de Torcoroma (or Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve), a protected area that has been created specially for this enigmatic bird. As well as this charismatic species, which skulks in dense bamboo, we should also find the near-endemic Grey-throated Warbler.

Our mission accomplished, we will retrace our steps southwards along the Magdalena Valley to the Reserva El Paujil (or Blue-billed Curassow Reserve). As we pass along the valley through marshy swamplands and open country we should find the huge near endemic Northern Screamer and a wide variety of more widespread species. El Paujil was set up to protect a healthy population of the elusive Blue-billed Curassow. In recent years, due to fantastic conservation efforts, this species has become much easier to see, and we will have an excellent chance of finding this rare cracid. There are also a considerable number of other exciting species in this magnificent area including Saffron-headed Parrot, the aptly-named Beautiful Woodpecker, Citron-throated Toucan, Black-breasted Puffbird, White-mantled Barbet, Black Antshrike, the rare Black-billed Flycatcher and the superb endemic Sooty Ant-Tanager, amongst others.

We then again head south to explore some areas in the upper Magdalena Valley where a number of other rarely seen species can be found including the rare endemic Tolima Dove, Apical Flycatcher, Yellow-headed Manakin and the endemic Yellow-headed Brush-Finch. In more open habitats we shall look for the endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia while a short stop at the Bella vista reserve gives us an opportunity to look for the rare Tody Motmot before we head west to Medellin.

Next we will head for the newly established Reserva Colibri del Sol (Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve) near Urrao in search of another suite of endemics. This truly remote reserve is set in stunning paramo, and it was here that the recently discovered Urrao Antpitta is found along with the rare Dusky Starfrontlet, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer and Paramillo Tapaculo, and together with a superb supporting cast of cloud forest specialities. After our all too short stay here, we return to Medellin (stopping for the recently described Antioquia Wren on the way).

Finally we will take a flight to the Pacific coast at Bahia Solano in order to visit the El Valle area and Utria National Park. Although our main reason for our visiting this remote area will be to find the rarely seen Baudo Oropendola there is an excellent supporting cast of Choco species including the poorly-known Humboldt’s Sapphire, Sapayoa (sometimes considered a family in its own right), Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas, and Scarlet-and-white Tanager, as well as a large number of other scarce species such as the rare Brown Wood-Rail, Spot-crowned Barbet, Rose-faced Parrot, the impressive Great Green Macaw, Black-headed Antthrush and Thicket and Streak-chested Antpittas, to name just a few! The tour concludes back at Medellin.

The optional extension will see us travel to the far southeast of Colombia, to Amazonas and the bird-rich Amazonian lowlands. Our base will be Mitú, from where we can access the little-explored birding areas close to town. It is an incredibly rich area, but we will be focussing our attention on a number of localized specialities. Perhaps the most spectacular is the impressive Chestnut-crested Antbird, but the supporting cast of so-called Imeri endemics and white sand specialists is quite mouth-watering and includes such goodies as Orinoco Piculet, the delightful Tawny-tufted Toucanet, the rarely-seen Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, Bronzy Jacamar, Yellow-throated Antwren, localized Grey-bellied and Imeri Warbling Antbirds, Cherie’s and Yellow-throated Antwrens, Blackish-grey Antshrike, Yellow-crowned and Black Manakins, the rare Azure-naped Jay, the extremely localized White-naped Seedeater, the elusive White-bellied Dacnis and the attractive Plumbeous Euphonia.

Birdquest has operated tours to Colombia since 1998.

Colombian Amazonia: Mitú-only Option: You may opt to take just the Mitú section as a stand-alone tour.

Sooty-capped Puffbird Option: The leader will be happy to accompany anyone wishing to visit the far northwest of Colombia in the Bocas del Atrato area in order to see poorly-known endemic Sooty-capped Puffbird, which was recently discovered in this area where it seems to be relatively common and easy to see. There is also a good chance of the poorly known endemic Sapphire-bellied Emerald, as well as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Black Antshrike. A visit to the area would take three or four days (two or three nights), depending on flight schedules. Cost will depend on numbers and duration. Please contact the Birdquest office if you are interested in such an extension.

San Andres & Old Providencia Option: The leader will also be happy to accompany anyone wishing to visit these seldom explored islands. Belonging to Colombia, these two islands, situated off the Nicaraguan coast, both harbour an endemic vireo, the San Andres (or St Andrew) Vireo and Providencia Vireos respectively. As well as these two vireos, there is a distinctive form of Tropical Mockingbird (the ‘St Andrew Mockingbird’) and we will see a number of other species not seen on the tour. These may include Caribbean Dove, White-crowned Pigeon, Mangrove Cuckoo, Green-breasted Mango, Caribbean Elaenia, Thick-billed Vireo and Jamaican Oriole. The local forms of the dove and oriole may represent distinct species. There are likely to be a number of North American migrants present too, and these could include Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Grey Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated, Magnolia, Worm-eating, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers. A visit to the islands would take three days (two nights). Cost will depend on numbers. Please contact the Birdquest office if you are interested in such an extension.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and lodges are mostly of good or medium standard, but at El Paujil and Colibri del Sol the accommodation is pleasant but of a more rustic quality. At Colibri del Sol (one night) there are just a few rooms with a number of beds in each and bathroom facilities are shared. Transport is by small coach or minibus, and 4x4 vehicles, and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort is mainly easy, sometimes moderate. At the Cerulean Warbler Reserva, and possibly at El Paujil, one or two of the optional hikes are harder.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny in the eastern and central Andes, while in the Choco and in Amazonia it may be wet. It is hot and humid in the Choco and Amazonian lowlands. At higher elevations it will be cool, especially at night, and there will be rain, which can be heavy and persistent at times.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Tour Price: £5990, €6830, $7850 Bogotá/Medellin. Single Room Supplement: £406, €463, $532. Deposit: £750, €900, $980.

Colombian Amazonia: Mitú taken as an extension: £1850, €2100, $2420 Medellin/Bogotá. Single Room Supplement: £108, €123, $141. Deposit: £250, €300, $330.

Colombian Amazonia: Mitú taken as a stand-alone tour: £1750, €1990, $2290 Bogotá/Bogotá. Single Room Supplement: £108, €123, $141. Deposit: £250, €300, $330. (This price excludes the Medellin-Bogotá flight.)

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Medellin-Bahia Solano-Medellin, Medellin-Bogotá, Bogotoa (or Villavincencio)-Mitú-Bogotá (or Villavincencio).

There are only a limited number of rooms at the Reinita Azul, El Paujil and Hormiguero de Torcoroma reserves, where we spend a total of eight nights. There is no single supplement at these locations, but singles are provided free of additional charge if available at the time (they often are, but not always for everyone who wants one).

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The recently described Urrao Antpitta will be high on our want list (Pete Morris)

The recently described Urrao Antpitta will be high on our want list (Pete Morris)

The smart endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer is another rare endemic we should see (Pete Morris)

The smart endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer is another rare endemic we should see (Pete Morris)

Although not an endemic, the stunning Northern Screamer has a restricted range and is likely to be another highlight of the tour (Pete Morris)

Although not an endemic, the stunning Northern Screamer has a restricted range and is likely to be another highlight of the tour (Pete Morris)

The superb Citron-throated Toucan is a regular sight at El Paujil (Pete Morris)

The superb Citron-throated Toucan is a regular sight at El Paujil (Pete Morris)

The noisy White-capped Tanager is a firm favourite wherever it occurs (Pete Morris)

The noisy White-capped Tanager is a firm favourite wherever it occurs (Pete Morris)

With luck we will see the rare Great Green Macaw in Utria National Park (Pete Morris)

With luck we will see the rare Great Green Macaw in Utria National Park (Pete Morris)

The incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird (this is the female) is a regular performer at the feeders at Urrao (Pete Morris)

The incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird (this is the female) is a regular performer at the feeders at Urrao (Pete Morris)

The delightful White-bellied Woodstar, another  regular performer at the feeders at Urrao (Pete Morris)

The delightful White-bellied Woodstar, another regular performer at the feeders at Urrao (Pete Morris)

On the Choco coast, the much-wanted Sappayoa is a distinct possibility (Pete Morris)

On the Choco coast, the much-wanted Sappayoa is a distinct possibility (Pete Morris)

The endemic Bronze-tailed Thornbill occurs in the high paramo near to Bogota (Pete Morris)

The endemic Bronze-tailed Thornbill occurs in the high paramo near to Bogota (Pete Morris)

In the same areas we should find the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill (Pete Morris)

In the same areas we should find the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill (Pete Morris)

If time permits around Bogota, we should also find the smart endemic Bogota Rail (Pete Morris)

If time permits around Bogota, we should also find the smart endemic Bogota Rail (Pete Morris)

At El Paujil, as well as the fabulous Blue-billed Curassow, the striking Bare-crowned Antbird is regular (Pete Morris)

At El Paujil, as well as the fabulous Blue-billed Curassow, the striking Bare-crowned Antbird is regular (Pete Morris)

As is the endemic Sooty Ant-Tanager (Pete Morris)

As is the endemic Sooty Ant-Tanager (Pete Morris)

The splendid endemic Beautiful Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

The splendid endemic Beautiful Woodpecker (Pete Morris)

The endemic White-mantled Barbet is also likely there (Phil Tizzard)

The endemic White-mantled Barbet is also likely there (Phil Tizzard)

... the localized Black Antshrike (Pete Morris)

... the localized Black Antshrike (Pete Morris)

... as well as more widespread species such as Broad-billed Motmot (Pete Morris)

... as well as more widespread species such as Broad-billed Motmot (Pete Morris)

The localized endemic Apical Flycatcher will be one of many endemics that we will target  (Pete Morris)

The localized endemic Apical Flycatcher will be one of many endemics that we will target (Pete Morris)

On the Mitu Extension, will look for a number of northwest Amazonian specialities such as Bronzy Jacamar (Pete Morris)

On the Mitu Extension, will look for a number of northwest Amazonian specialities such as Bronzy Jacamar (Pete Morris)

... Brown-banded Puffbird (Pete Morris)

... Brown-banded Puffbird (Pete Morris)

... the smart Spotted Puffbird (Pete Morris)

... the smart Spotted Puffbird (Pete Morris)

... the unusual-looking Yellow-crested Manakin (Pete Morris)

... the unusual-looking Yellow-crested Manakin (Pete Morris)

... and the smart Citron-bellied Attila, as well as many, many more! (Pete Morris)

... and the smart Citron-bellied Attila, as well as many, many more! (Pete Morris)

Scarce but widespread Andean species such as Dusky Piha will be on our radars (Pete Morris)

Scarce but widespread Andean species such as Dusky Piha will be on our radars (Pete Morris)

As will scarce lowland species such as Tiny Hawk (Pete Morris)

As will scarce lowland species such as Tiny Hawk (Pete Morris)

The superb male Sword-billed Hummingbird is hard to beat! (Pete Morris)

The superb male Sword-billed Hummingbird is hard to beat! (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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