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CLASSIC COLOMBIA

Colombia Birding Tours: our Classic Colombia bird watching holiday is a classic South American bird watching trip. Our Classic Colombia birding tour is the single best itinerary in the country and records more Colombian endemics in three weeks than any other. Right up there with Ecuador and Peru in terms of species diversity, Colombia is far richer than either in terms of the number of endemic birds. On this tour we regularly record 50 or 60 endemic species and about the same number of near-endemic birds. A staggering 200-220 regional specialities and other rarely seen birds are typically seen on this fantastic tour. A visit to this amazing country is a must for all birders interested in Neotropical birding and this tour is probably the single best choice, especially if you plan to visit Colombia once in your lifetime!

Sunday 24th February — Monday 18th March 2019
(23 days)


Leaders: Trevor Ellery and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and comfortable accommodations

Colombia is an amazing destination, with new species still being discovered, like this Santa Marta Screech Owl which has still not been formally described (Pete Morris)

Colombia is an amazing destination, with new species still being discovered, like this Santa Marta Screech Owl which has still not been formally described (Pete Morris)

To most people Colombia conjures up images of the finest coffee in the world, emeralds, cocaine, and swinging salsa and merengue music, but for birders it offers the richest avifauna on earth!

Colombia has had a complex history. Once encompassing all of adjacent Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador, the early republic soon shrunk in size, but even today we are still left with an immense country with an endless variety of scenery, habitats and bird communities.

Colombia has the enviable distinction of having the greatest number of bird species recorded for any country in the world: over 1950 species have been recorded to date! Upon entering from Ecuador, the mighty Andean Cordillera soon divides into three huge ranges, Colombia’s ornithologically-famous Western, Central and Eastern Andes. In between are the wide Cauca and Magdalena Valleys that eventually reach the Caribbean Coast. Here, one of the planet’s most awesome mountain ranges, the snow-clad Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, rises abruptly out of the ocean. This fascinating geography makes Colombia so diverse and the hotbed of mainland endemism in South America.

Only rivalled by Peru for the diversity of its avifauna, it is not only the sheer number of species that are impressive about Colombia, but also the extraordinary number of endemics found within its boundaries. Faced with the impossibility of covering all of this vast country in a single three week tour, this tour concentrates on the more readily accessible sites, with mostly easy walking conditions, for the unique endemic species occurring in the Western and Central cordilleras and the isolated Santa Marta Mountains.

We will start out in the scenic mountains around the capital, where we will be concentrating on finding as many endemics and near-endemics as possible. Our main targets will include such exciting endemic species as Bogota Rail, Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Silvery-throated Spinetail and Apolinar’s Wren, and near-endemics like Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Coppery-bellied Puffleg Pale-bellied Tapaculo and Rufous-browed Conebill. Also few interesting local forms and potential splits will also attract our attentions, including as the alticola form of the Tawny Antpitta, the East Andean ornatus form of the Golden-fronted Whitestart (with a distinct white cheek patch and sometimes called Yellow-fronted Whitestart) and the bogotensis form of the Yellow-hooded Blackbird.

Our next port of call will be the temperate forests above Ibague in search of more endemics as the shy Tolima Dove, the rare Tolima Blossomcrown and the endangered Yellow-headed Brushfinch. The Tolima Blossomcrown is a recent split and very few locations for the species are known.

Later we climb further into the Central Andes to Otun Quimbaya. This very wet area has a fantastic selection of birds and we will be hoping to see some more Colombian endemics like Cauca Guan and the elusive Chestnut Wood Quail, as well as the recently-described Stiles’s Tapaculo and the superb Multicoloured Tanager. This is one of the only known locations for the near-endemic Hooded Antpitta, as well as some other great birds like Chestnut-breasted Wren and Yellow-crowned Manakin. In the Santa Rosa area we will look for the rare and critically endangered Fuertes’s Parrot.

Continuing on to Manizales, we make an in-depth exploration of areas bordering Los Nevados National Park. These include the excellent Rio Blanco Reserve and the nearby Nevado del Ruiz where, amongst others, we hope to find such specialities as the endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Buffy Helmetcrest and Brown-banded Antpitta. Other special, range-restricted birds in this area include White-throated Screech Owl, Black-thighed and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Bicoloured Antpitta, Paramo and Ocellated Tapaculos, Masked Saltator and White-capped Tanager.

Next we will explore the very wet Pacific slope of the Western Andes, known as the Chocó, where we visit the Montezuma region. Visiting this remarkable area is like being in Alice’s Wonderland for birders and we will be after more endemics such as Dusky Starfrontlet, Parker’s Antbird, Tatama Tapaculo, Munchique Wood Wren, the stunning Gold-ringed and Black-and-gold Tanagers, Crested Ant Tanager and the localized Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer. Here we can also find other colourful and rare Chocó endemics, such as Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl, Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, Purple-throated Woodstar, Toucan Barbet, Star-chested Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Bicoloured Antvireo, Choco and Narino Tapaculos, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Club-winged Manakin, Choco Vireo, Beautiful Jay, Black Solitaire, Purplish-mantled, Glistening-green and Rufous-throated Tanagers, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Tanager Finch, Dusky Bush Tanager, Ochre-breasted Tanager and Chestnut-breasted and Yellow-collared Chlorophonias.

Travelling along the Cauca valley towards Jardin, we will explore dry habitat for more Colombian endemics such as Greyish Piculet, the recently described Antioquia Wren and Apical Flycatcher. Near Jardin we will visit a reserve on a forested ridge in search of the critically endangered endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, while additional goodies could include Chestnut-crested Cotinga and Tanager Finch. Nearer the picturesque town itself we shall visit a spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek, reputed to be one of the best in the country.

Crossing the low hilly country of the northern central Cordillera we enter the wide Magdalena Valley, where the humid forests at Rio Claro hold such endemic specialities as White-mantled Barbet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Magdalena Antbird, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant and Sooty Ant Tanager. We will also visit an Oilbird cave here and will be searching for other spectacular species like Saffron-headed Parrot, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Bare-crowned Antbird, Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaner, Southern Bentbill, Western Striped Manakin, Russet-winged Schiffornis and Plain-coloured Tanager.

Returning to Medellin, we make a special effort to see the rare Yellow-headed Manakin and the gorgeous endemic Red-bellied Grackle.

Moving on to the far north of the country, we will first visit the Santa Marta region, where we will climb the impressive Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for some terrific birding whilst simultaneously enjoying some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery! Our prime focus will be on the endemics of this remarkable area, including Santa Marta Parakeet, the recently described Santa Marta Screech Owl, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Black-backed Thornbill, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Woodstar, Streak-capped and Rusty-headed Spinetails, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Antpitta, Brown-rumped and Santa Marta Tapaculos, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant, Hermit Wood Wren, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Sierra Nevada and Santa Marta Brushfinches, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, White-lored Warbler and Santa Marta Warbler.

In the foothill area of the range we will search for spectacular birds like Military Macaw, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Golden-winged Sparrow. Additional specialties include Pale-bellied Hermit, Coppery Emerald, Black-backed and Black-crested Antshrikes, Coopmans’s Tyrannulet and Rufous-breasted Wren.

We then descend to the arid littoral exploring the Guajira Peninsula. Here we will look for some restricted-range species only shared with neighbouring Venezuela, such as Bare-eyed Pigeon, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Buffy Hummingbird, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Slender-billed and Pale-tipped Inezias, Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant, Orinocan Saltator, Tocuyo Sparrow and Vermilion Cardinal.

On our final day we explore a mosaic of coastal habitats in search of the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird and Bronze-brown Cowbird.

Birdquest has operated tours to Colombia since 1998.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and lodges are of good or medium standard throughout. Transport is by small coach or minibus, and 4x4 vehicles where necessary. The roads are generally good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy to moderate. At Rio Claro we walk along a stream bed to the Oilbird cave repeatedly crossing the shallow waters.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny. It can be quite hot and humid in the lowlands, whilst at higher elevations it can be quite cool, especially at night. There may be some rain which at times can be heavy and persistent.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

CLASSIC COLOMBIA BIRDING TOUR: PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all flight costs and all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately: £330, €380, $460.

2019 confirmed prices

£6390, €7280, $8880 Bogotá/Baranquilla. Deposit: 10%.

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

Also includes this flight: Medellin-Santa Marta.

Single Room Supplement: £504, €575, $701.

There are only a limited number of rooms at San Lorenzo (El Dorado). There is no single supplement at this location, but singles are provided free of additional charge if available at the time (they often are, but not always for everyone who wants one). At Montezuma there are also relatively few rooms and it is possible that not all those requesting singles will be able to have them. Any unexpected sharing at Montezuma will result in an appropriate refund.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

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 stunning Gold-ringed Tanager is one of several superb specialities that we will be looking for during the tour (Pete Morris)

The stunning Gold-ringed Tanager is one of several superb specialities that we will be looking for during the tour (Pete Morris)

We'll also see its near relative, the attractive Black-and-gold Tanager (Pete Morris)

We'll also see its near relative, the attractive Black-and-gold Tanager (Pete Morris)

The endemic Munchique Wood-Wren was first recognized by our very own Paul Coopmans (Pete Morris)

The endemic Munchique Wood-Wren was first recognized by our very own Paul Coopmans (Pete Morris)

As well as endemics we'll look out for scarce Andean species such as Chestnut-crested Cotinga (Pete Morris)

As well as endemics we'll look out for scarce Andean species such as Chestnut-crested Cotinga (Pete Morris)

Colombia is a brilliant country for antpittas, and we have seen 11 species on our recent tours! This is the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta (Pete Morris)

Colombia is a brilliant country for antpittas, and we have seen 11 species on our recent tours! This is the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Chestnut-naped Antpitta (Pete Morris)

The Cauca Guan is another of the endangered endemics that we should see (Pete Morris)

The Cauca Guan is another of the endangered endemics that we should see (Pete Morris)

Bogota Rail - always a favourite at the start of the tour, and surprisingly easy to see... (Pete Morris)

Bogota Rail - always a favourite at the start of the tour, and surprisingly easy to see... (Pete Morris)

The cute little Greyish Piculet is another endemic (Pete Morris)

The cute little Greyish Piculet is another endemic (Pete Morris)

The fantastic jay-like White-capped Tanager is a likely favourite (Pete Morris)

The fantastic jay-like White-capped Tanager is a likely favourite (Pete Morris)

... as is the superb Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan (Pete Morris)

... as is the superb Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan (Pete Morris)

We've now added the beautiful Golden-bellied Starfrontlet to the tour (Pete Morris)

We've now added the beautiful Golden-bellied Starfrontlet to the tour (Pete Morris)

... and regularly see the recently split Buffy Helmetcrest (János Oláh)

... and regularly see the recently split Buffy Helmetcrest (János Oláh)

White-whiskered Spinetail is always a favourite on the north coast (Pete Morris)

White-whiskered Spinetail is always a favourite on the north coast (Pete Morris)

The amazing Northern Screamer is relegated to a roadside bird in Colombia! (Pete Morris)

The amazing Northern Screamer is relegated to a roadside bird in Colombia! (Pete Morris)

We'll have opportunities to see the remarkable Sword-billed Hummingbird (Pete Morris)

We'll have opportunities to see the remarkable Sword-billed Hummingbird (Pete Morris)

Widespread but desirable species likely on the tour include the spectacular Rosy Thrush-Tanager (Pete Morris)

Widespread but desirable species likely on the tour include the spectacular Rosy Thrush-Tanager (Pete Morris)

... the smart Torrent Duck (Pete Morris)

... the smart Torrent Duck (Pete Morris)

... and our visit to an Oilbird cave will be another unforgettable experience (Pete Morris)

... and our visit to an Oilbird cave will be another unforgettable experience (Pete Morris)

The tour ends in the magnificent Santa Marta mountains which rise from the sea to over 5000m (Pete Morris)

The tour ends in the magnificent Santa Marta mountains which rise from the sea to over 5000m (Pete Morris)

It's a well kept secret that Colombia has one of the most amazing and photographable Andean Cock-of-the-Rock leks anywhere! (Pete Morris)

It's a well kept secret that Colombia has one of the most amazing and photographable Andean Cock-of-the-Rock leks anywhere! (Pete Morris)

As well as endemics, expect some great rarities such as the Yellow-eared Parrot (Pete Morris)

As well as endemics, expect some great rarities such as the Yellow-eared Parrot (Pete Morris)

The marshes around Bogota are home to specialities including Apolinar's Marsh Wren (Pete Morris)

The marshes around Bogota are home to specialities including Apolinar's Marsh Wren (Pete Morris)

A fine selection of specialities and endemics occur around Bogota such as Rufous-browed Conebill (Pete Morris)

A fine selection of specialities and endemics occur around Bogota such as Rufous-browed Conebill (Pete Morris)

In the Chocó we can expect to find stunners such as Black Solitaire (Pete Morris)

In the Chocó we can expect to find stunners such as Black Solitaire (Pete Morris)

... Beautiful Jay (Pete Morris)

... Beautiful Jay (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Purplish-mantled Tanager (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Purplish-mantled Tanager (Pete Morris)

We'll have a brief foray into the lowland around Rio Claro where as well as some localized endemics, we see more widespread goodies such as Barred Puffbird (Pete Morris)

We'll have a brief foray into the lowland around Rio Claro where as well as some localized endemics, we see more widespread goodies such as Barred Puffbird (Pete Morris)

At the top end of the Central Andes we should find the stunning endemic Red-bellied Grackle (Pete Morris)

At the top end of the Central Andes we should find the stunning endemic Red-bellied Grackle (Pete Morris)

... the excellent Multicoloured Tanager (Pete Morris)

... the excellent Multicoloured Tanager (Pete Morris)

... as well as the more subtle Sooty-headed Wren (Pete Morris)

... as well as the more subtle Sooty-headed Wren (Pete Morris)

Chestnut-capped Piha is another recently recognised species (Pete Morris)

Chestnut-capped Piha is another recently recognised species (Pete Morris)

The antpitta experience at Rio Blanco is quite extroadinary, and, as well as Brown-banded and Chestnut-naped Antpittas, may include Bicoloured Antpitta (Pete Morris)

The antpitta experience at Rio Blanco is quite extroadinary, and, as well as Brown-banded and Chestnut-naped Antpittas, may include Bicoloured Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... and Slate-crowned Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... and Slate-crowned Antpitta (Pete Morris)

Here, we may also see the rare Masked Saltator (Pete Morris)

Here, we may also see the rare Masked Saltator (Pete Morris)

The rare Rufous-fronted Parakeet is one of the tougher endemics to see (Pete Morris)

The rare Rufous-fronted Parakeet is one of the tougher endemics to see (Pete Morris)

There are some brilliant hummers in Colombia with stunners including Velvet Purple Coronet (Pete Morris)

There are some brilliant hummers in Colombia with stunners including Velvet Purple Coronet (Pete Morris)

... Violet-tailed Sylph (Pete Morris)

... Violet-tailed Sylph (Pete Morris)

... Empress Brilliant (Pete Morris)

... Empress Brilliant (Pete Morris)

... the rare endemic Black-backed Thornbill (Pete Morris)

... the rare endemic Black-backed Thornbill (Pete Morris)

... the spectacular endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet (Pete Morris)

... the spectacular endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet (Pete Morris)

... and the critically endangered Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Pete Morris)

... and the critically endangered Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Pete Morris)

The dry Guajira peninsula provides quite a contrast with specialities including Vermilion Cardinal (Pete Morris)

The dry Guajira peninsula provides quite a contrast with specialities including Vermilion Cardinal (Pete Morris)

... the attractive Chestnut Piculet (Pete Morris)

... the attractive Chestnut Piculet (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Russet-throated Puffbird (Pete Morris)

... and the superb Russet-throated Puffbird (Pete Morris)

The lower slopes of the Santa Marta Mountains are home to goodies such as Golden-winged Sparrow (Pete Morris)

The lower slopes of the Santa Marta Mountains are home to goodies such as Golden-winged Sparrow (Pete Morris)

Whilst higher up, some great endemics include the skulking Santa Marta Antpitta (Pete Morris)

Whilst higher up, some great endemics include the skulking Santa Marta Antpitta (Pete Morris)

... and the attractive Santa Marta Parakeet(Pete Morris)

... and the attractive Santa Marta Parakeet(Pete Morris)

... and we should also see the attractive Black-fronted Woodquail (Pete Morris)

... and we should also see the attractive Black-fronted Woodquail (Pete Morris)

Many of the 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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