The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Colombia Tours

COLOMBIA: CHOCO TO AMAZONIA – Andes, Magdalena Valley, Bahia Solano & Mitú

Wednesday 18th November – Wednesday 9th December 2020

Leaders: Trevor Ellery and local bird guides

22 Days Group Size Limit 7
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension

Wednesday 9th December – Tuesday 15th December 2020

7 Days Group Size Limit 7
Thursday 11th November – Thursday 2nd December 2021

Leaders: Trevor Ellery and local bird guides

22 Days Group Size Limit 7
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension

Thursday 2nd December – Wednesday 8th December 2021

7 Days Group Size Limit 7

Birdquest’s Colombia: Choco to Amazonia tours are specifically designed to complement our Classic Colombia tours; the two tours combined giving an unparalleled coverage of this stunning country. While our Classic Colombia tour covers the more accessible endemic-rich areas, our Colombia: Choco to Amazonia birding tour covers the remaining ‘hot spots’. By covering an even wider variety of sites and habitats than our Classic 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 Ecuador for overall avian diversity!

This birding adventure has been carefully designed to complement our Classic 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 Classic Colombia tour provides a superb overview of Colombia’s exciting avifauna, with an excellent crop of endemics, this special 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 finally to the Amazonian lowlands, we will amass a quite staggering number of bird species! (Although sheer numbers are not the main aim on our tour, since it is quality that counts most in the Birdquest philosophy, it is always fun to see such variety.)

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 Colombia: Choco to Amazonia tour at Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Not far from the city, 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.

Continuing on, we will reach the very northern end of the Central Andes at the Arrierito Antioqueño Reserve near Anori, where our prime targets will be two species which have been discovered and described relatively recently; Parker’s Antbird and Chestnut-capped Piha. We should also see the spectacular Black-and-gold Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle in this part of the country. After our stay here, we head for 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 to our Colombia: Choco to Amazonia tour 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 Colombia tours since 1998.

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 4×4 vehicles, and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Colombia: Choco to Amazonia tours 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 during our Colombia: Choco to Amazonia tours are worthwhile.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Medellin-Bahia Solano-Medellin, Medellin-Bogotá and Bogotoa (or Villavincencio)-Mitú-Bogotá (or Villavincencio).

Deposit: 10% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2020: £6630, $8190, €7450, AUD12530. Bogotá/Medellin.
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension: £2090, $2590, €2350, AUD3960. Medellin/Bogotá.
2021: £6630, $8190, €7450, AUD12530. Bogotá/Medellin.
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension: £2090, $2590, €2350, AUD3960. Medellin/Bogotá.

Single Supplement: 2020: £470, $590, €530, AUD900.
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension: £120, $150, €130, AUD220.
Single Supplement: 2021: £480, $600, €540, AUD910.
Amazonian Colombia: Mitú Extension: £120, $150, €130, AUD220.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

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).

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.


Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 1  Our tour begins in the evening in Bogotá, where we will stay for three nights.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Days 2-3  Our stay in the Bogotá region will allow us an in-depth exploration of the scenic Chingaza National Park. Access to this superb park is via a number of tracks and trails along its western and southern edges. Our first morning here will take us through more open country before we leave the main highway at Monte Redondo and climb up to the type locality for the recently discovered Cundinamarca Antpitta. As with most members of the Grallaria genus, this rather smart endemic is shy and retiring, but we will give it a good shot and with a little luck we will see this elusive rarity.

In nearby forest and bamboo patches we may well encounter a number of interesting species such as Booted Racket-tail, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle Tyrants, Great Thrush, Inca Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Thick-billed Euphonia, Slate-throated Whitestart, Blue-necked Tanager and the near endemic Ochre-breasted Brush Finch. During the boreal winter, migrants such as Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian and Canada Warblers, American Redstart and, with luck, Cerulean Warbler are also present.

We will also explore an area of higher elevation forest in another sector of the park where we have an opportunity to see the colourful endemic Brown-breasted (or Flame-winged) Parakeet, and other endemics including Silvery-throated Spinetail, Pale-bellied (or Mattoral) Tapaculo and the infrequently observed Bronze-tailed Thornbill. Mixed flocks here may produce White-browed Spinetail, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Black-headed, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispinguses, Blue-backed Conebill, Plush-capped Finch, Rufous Wren and the pretty Golden-fronted Whitestart (here the nominate white-cheeked race).

Other interesting species we may well encounter while exploring this diverse park include Andean and Sickle-winged Guans, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scaly-naped Amazon, Chestnut-collared Swift, an array of colourful humming birds including Amethyst-throated Sunangel (the local form is sometimes split-off as Longuemare’s Sunangel), Long-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, colourful Glowing and Coppery-bellied Pufflegs, Bronzy and Collared Incas, the rare Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Masked Trogon, White-throated Toucanet (split from Emerald Toucanet), Azara’s Spinetail, Montane and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, the elusive Rufous Antpitta, Ash-coloured and Blackish Tapaculos, Mountain Elaenia, White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets, the delightful Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant , Streak-necked, Slaty-capped, Rufous-breasted, Flavescent and Cinnamon Flycatchers,  Smoke-coloured Pewee, Brown-backed Chat Tyrant, the interesting Red-crested Cotinga, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Barred Becard, Blue-and-white and Brown-bellied Swallows, Sharpe’s (or Sepia Brown) Wren, the musical Andean Solitaire, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-collared Jay, Oleaginous Hemispingus, colourful Hooded, Scarlet-bellied and Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers, Grass-green Tanager, the localized Golden-crowned Tanager, Blue-and-black, Beryl-spangled and Flame-faced Tanagers, White-sided, Bluish and Masked Flowerpiercers, Grey-browed, Pale-naped and Slaty Brush Finches, Citrine, Black-crested, Three-striped and Russet-crowned Warblers and Northern Mountain Cacique.

As we travel around the metropolis of Bogotá, between sites we will also encounter a number of other more widespread species such as Western Cattle Egret, Turkey and Black Vultures, White-tailed Kite, Roadside and Broad-winged Hawks, American Kestrel, Southern Lapwing, Eared Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Tropical Kingbird, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, Scarlet, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, Purple Honeycreeper, Blue-black Grassquit, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Shiny Cowbird, Eastern Meadowlark and Russet-backed Oropendola.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 4  After some early morning birding we shall head north to Soatá for a two nights stay. If time permits, we will visit a wetland close to Bogotá where we may look for two more endemics, the secretive Bogota Rail and the perky Apolinar’s Marsh Wren. In addition, the reeds here are alive with noisy Yellow-hooded Blackbirds and we shall scan the open water and its fringes for Black-crowned Night-Heron, Andean Duck, Blue-winged Teal (boreal winter only), Purple and Spot-flanked Gallinules, Common Gallinule and American Coot. If we are fortunate, we will also come across the scarce Subtropical Doradito.

We will probably make a few other stops en route to Soatá, depending on what we need to see, and may arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 5  Our time in the Soatá area will focus on several rare and localized endemic species which are hard to find elsewhere. In particular, the attractive Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, the secretive Niceforo’s Wren and the endangered Mountain Grackle, and we have an excellent chance of seeing all three. Other rare and localized species we may find may well include the rare Rusty-faced Parrot, the stunning Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill and the localized and attractive Moustached Brush-Finch.

The birding here is very varied, with forest and open country species of mid and low elevation habitats. A mix of widespread and more localized species may include Merlin, White-tipped Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Acorn, Golden-olive and Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, the furtive Uniform Antshrike, the retiring Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, the scarce Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Great Kiskadee, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Bicoloured Wren, Black-billed Thrush, Blue-capped Tanager, the sneaky Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Fawn-breasted and Tooth-billed (or Highland Hepatic) Tanagers, Common Bush-Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Tennessee and Black-and-white Warblers (boreal winter only), Golden-crowned Warbler, Tropical Parula and Yellow-backed Oriole, a great mix of birds!

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 6  After a last morning around Soatá we shall make our way to the famous Cerulean Warbler (or Reinita Azul) Reserve.

Providing we have done well in the Soatá area, we will have the time to stop at a couple of sites en route. The first of these is the spectacular Paramo de Siscunsi. Here, in amazing scenery, birds are thin on the ground, but we will search hard for the recently split endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest, and other birds we may find in this surreal landscape include Green-tailed Trainbearer, Sedge Wren and the secretive Paramo Tapaculo. We will also endeavour to call in at the Rogitama reserve, which was made famous by the recent discovery of a ‘Blue’ Sylph, thought initially to be the long lost Bogota Sunangel. Here we will search the flowering shrubs for this intriguing hummingbird, and whilst looking will hope to find the endemic Black Inca, the spectacular Lazuline Sabrewing and the scarce Short-tailed Emerald, as well as Common Tody-Flycatcher and the attractive Yellow-breasted Brush Finch. Finally we will arrive at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve, our base for three nights.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Days 7-8  Although the reserve is named after the attractive North American wintering warbler, which we will be happy to see on visits during the boreal winter, it will not be the main focus of our attention here, for the reserve harbours a good number of excellent species, including a number of rare and attractive endemics.

On the hummingbird feeders around the accommodation, the attractive Indigo-capped Hummingbird is common, and we will have another chance to see the endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird  while in the surrounding trees we will look for the colourful endemic Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager, the attractive White-mantled Barbet and the near endemic Bar-crested Antshrike.

We will need to walk above the reserve centre to reach the forest, passing though pasture land where Russet-crowned Crake is common (but much easier to hear than to see). On entering the forest we will look for, the usually elusive, Gorgeted Wood Quail, which sometimes comes to a feeder here. Highland Tinamou is regular here, and with some luck we will manage to  see one. As we walk through the forest, along a historically important paved road built by a German engineer in the 18th century, we should also see more endemics including another chance for the smart Black Inca, Parker’s Antbird and the recently described Upper Magdalena Tapaculo. The usually secretive Lined Quail-Dove can be surprisingly easy to see here and other sought-after species we have a chance of here include the gorgeous Golden-winged Manakin, the localized Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, the rare Yellow-throated Spadebill and skulkers including Ochre-breasted and White-bellied Antpittas, and Long-tailed Tapaculo.

We will also encounter a number of other new species during our wanderings. Mixed flocks are likely to hold an excellent array of Andean species including Ash-browed Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Plain Xenops, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Olive-backed and Montane Woodcreepers, the sneaky Brown-billed Scythebill, Slaty Antwren, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Ornate and Olive-striped Flycatchers, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant and the localized Rufous-naped Greenlet.

Hummingbirds are plentiful at the reserve, and either at the hummingbird feeders or elsewhere, we should have plenty of time to enjoy such jewels as, Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Red-billed Emerald, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, and perhaps the scarce Wedge-billed Hummingbird.

Other species possible in this superb reserve include Plain-breasted, Short-tailed and Barred Hawks, Ruddy Ground Dove, Tropical Screech-Owl, White-tipped Swift, Collared Trogon, Red-crowned, Smoky-brown and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Rusty-margined and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Whiskered Wren, Yellow-legged and Pale-breasted Thrushes, Black-capped, Metallic-green, Golden, Bay-headed, Scrub, White-lined, Crimson-backed and Lemon-rumped Tanagers, Ash-throated Bush Tanager, the colourful Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Buff-throated, Greyish and Streaked Saltators, Bananaquit, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow-bellied and Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Chestnut-capped Brush Finch, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Yellow-bellied Siskin and Giant Cowbird. During the boreal winter, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Mourning Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are also present.

With luck, we will also encounter a few of the less common forest inhabitants such as Little Tinamou, Green-fronted Lancebill, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Rusty-winged Barbtail, or the attractive Golden-winged Warbler.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 9  Today after some early morning birding we start the long drive to the Reserva Hormiguero de Torcoroma (or Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve) for a two nights stay. On the way down from the Cerulean Warbler Reserve we will make an effort to see the attractive Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, and, if we need to, we will have another chance to look for the endemic Niceforo’s Wren.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 10  Our primary target today will unquestionably be the amazing Recurve-billed Bushbird, which until recently was barely known in real life, but we should also see some other interesting species, including the range-restricted Grey-throated Warbler and the attractive Chestnut-bellied Thrush. Other species may include Band-tailed Guan, Scaled Pigeon, Stripe-throated Hermit, the elusive Moustached Puffbird, the secretive Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Plain Antvireo and the scarce Pale-vented Thrush. If time and luck permit, we may also see the little-known Todd’s Parakeet (a distinctive form which is still lumped by most authorities in Painted Parakeet). Around town, the successful Caribbean Grackle is a recent colonist!

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 11  This morning we shall drive south along the Magdalena Valley to the Reserva El Paujil (or Blue-billed Curassow Reserve) for three night stay. Leaving the main highway we head for Puerto Pinzon passing through some interesting landscapes as we go. Parrots are common here, and we are likely to encounter Yellow-crowned, Orange-winged and Red-lored Amazons, Blue-headed Parrot and smart Chestnut-fronted Macaws, whilst the small wetlands that we pass may conceal Capped Herons or perhaps a smart Rufescent Tiger-Heron.

Other species likely on the journey include Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Cocoi Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue and Striated Herons, Bare-faced Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Muscovy Duck (uncommon), the impressive King Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Swallow-tailed and Pearl Kites, the scarce Long-winged Harrier, Great Black Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Northern Caracara, Wattled Jacana (represented here by an interesting black race), Greater Yellowlegs (boreal winter only), Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Pale-vented Pigeon, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-capped Donacobius, Pied Water-Tyrant, the attractive White-headed Marsh-Tyrant and Long-tailed and Cattle Tyrants.

As we approach Puerto Pinzon, we shall scan the nearby marshes for the rare and much-wanted Northern Screamer, a species which is readily found here, before continuing to the reserve. We will arrive in time for some initial birding around the lodge.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Days 12-13  The El Paujil Reserve protects an important area of lowland forest, and here, our main target will be the very rare Blue-billed Curassow, after which the reserve takes its Spanish name. The species is not common and is usually extremely shy in its remaining localitoies in Colombia owing to the excessive hunting pressure that has been put on the species in recent decades. However, recent conservation efforts have led to the habituation of a few of these magnificent birds and, as a result, our chances of setting eyes on the ultimate prize are very much increased!! The reserve also hosts several other endemics which we shall be targeting during our stay and these include Colombian Chachalaca, the aptly-named Beautiful Woodpecker, the striking White-mantled Barbet (a second chance for this gem) and the stunning Sooty Ant Tanager.

Other localized species found in the reserve include the striking but elusive Saffron-headed Parrot, the amazingly colourful Citron-throated Toucan, the stolid Black-breasted Puffbird, the smart Bare-crowned Antbird, Black Antshrike, the rare and poorly-known Black-billed Flycatcher, the bizarre Southern Bentbill and the fabulous Western Striped Manakin.

Whilst searching for these species we should find a number of other new species for the trip which may include Plumbeous and Double-toothed Kites, White Hawk, the impressive Laughing Falcon, Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons, the huge Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Spectacled Parrotlet, Greater Ani, Short-tailed Swift, Rufous-breasted and Long-billed Hermits, gorgeous Violet-bellied and Blue-chested Hummingbirds, White-vented Plumeleteer, Purple-crowned Fairy, Long-billed Starthroat, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, colourful White-tailed, Gartered and Black-throated Trogons, Whooping, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Barred and White-whiskered Puffbirds, White-fronted Nunbird, Collared Aracari, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Lineated, Red-rumped and attractive Cinnamon Woodpeckers, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Plain Xenops, Olivaceous, Wedge-billed, Plain-brown, Cocoa, Northern Barred, Black-striped and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Great, Barred and Western Slaty Antshrikes, Checker-throated, White-flanked and Dot-winged Antwrens, elusive Jet, Chestnut-backed and Bicolored Antbirds, Forest Elaenia, Sooty-headed, Brown-capped, Mouse-coloured and Yellow (of the interesting and distinctive leucophrys subspecies) Tyrannulets, Ochre-bellied, Sepia-capped, Yellow-olive, Black-tailed, Piratic, Social, Streaked, Boat-billed and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Olivaceous Flatbill, Long-tailed Tyrant, Tropical Pewee, Rufous Mourner, Flammulated Attila, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakins, the elusive Russet-winged Schiffornis (a split from the former Thrush-like Schiffornis complex), Black-crowned and Masked Tityras, Cinnamon Becard, Scrub Greenlet, Black-chested Jay, White-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted Martin, Black-bellied Wren (a brilliant vocalist), colourful Golden-hooded, Scarlet-browed, Yellow-backed, Grey-headed, White-shouldered, Tawny-crested and Plain-coloured Tanagers, the unique Swallow-Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Purple, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Blue-black Grosbeak, Slate-coloured Grosbeak (this colourful saltator is easier to hear than see), the vociferous Buff-rumped Warbler and Fulvous-vented Euphonia. During the boreal winter, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Kingbird are also present.

Although the birding can be slow at times, and hard going, the forests here are very diverse, and there are a number of other scarce and difficult species that we could encounter including Great Tinamou, Marbled Wood Quail, Red-throated Caracara, the shy Ruddy Quail-Dove, the sneaky Little Cuckoo, White-tipped Sicklebill, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Rufous-crested Coquette, Great Jacamar, Black-faced Antthrush, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-margined and Northern Royal Flycatchers, Southern Nightingale Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Half-collared and Long-billed Gnatwrens, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Orange-crowned Oriole and Black-striped and Orange-billed Sparrows.

At dusk, Pauraques call around the lodge, and other nightbirds present include both Crested Owl and Vermiculated Screech Owl and Common and Great Potoos, though all can be tough to see in the forest here.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 14  After a final morning at El Paujil, we shall drive south along the Magdalena Valley to Libano for an overnight stay. Travelling along the valley we may find Crested Caracara, Groove-billed Ani, Scrub Greenlet, Buff-breasted Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Giant Cowbird.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 15  Early this morning we shall climb up to explore drier habitats and open scrubby woodlands for two of the valley’s endemics; the strange looking Yellow-headed Brush Finch and the much more elusive Tolima Dove. We also have a reasonable chance of finding three other rarely seen and exciting species: the near endemic Yellow-headed Manakin; the striking and recently split Andean Blossomcrown (split from Santa Marta Blossomcrown) and the stunning Crested Ant-Tanager, though all of these can be tough to come by. Other new species possible in this area include Highland Motmot, Olivaceous Piculet, Streak-capped Treehunter, White-bellied and Blue-lored Antbirds, Rufous-capped Warbler, the localized Black-winged Saltator and Black-faced Grassquit, and if we are lucky, the skulking Rosy Thrush-Tanager.

In the afternoon we will drive north to Vitoria on the east flank of the western cordillera of Colombia for an overnight stay. The drier forests found in the valley en route give us the opportunity of seeing the distinctive Apical Flycatcher and the colourful and endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia. We may also find the Black-striped Sparrow, of an odd-looking race and perhaps deserving of specific recognition. While Tropical Mockingbirds broadcast their scratchy notes from the dry bushes we will also listen for the chirps and trills of the skulking Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant and Pearly-vented Tody Tyrant, and keep an eye out for the attractive Southern White-fringed Antwren and Yellow Oriole.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 16  Exploring the Bellavista reserve this morning should produce a number of good birds. This excellent reserve perched up on the east facing slope of the western cordillera protects some superb forests which give us a good chance of seeing the rare Tody Motmot and another chance of seeing the beautiful Sooty Ant Tanager and White-mantled Barbet.

Afterwards we will head north to Anori for a two nights stay at the Arrierito Antioqueño reserve. We may possibly stopping at Rio Claro to break the journey. If time permits a short walk at Rio Claro could produce a few good birds such as Band-backed Wren and perhaps even the endemic Antioquia Bristle Tyrant.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 17  Our main focus at Arrierito Antioqueño will be the rare Chestnut-capped Piha, which was described as recently as 2001, the recently-described Parker’s Antbird, the superb Black-and-gold Tanager and the spectacular Red-bellied Grackle. We have a good chance of finding all of these, although the piha can prove elusive. We will also have another chance for Stiles’s Tapaculo and Multi-coloured Tanager if we missed them earlier.

Other species we may well find here include Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Red-headed Barbet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Western Woodhaunter, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, the aptly-named Ornate Flycatcher, the superb but secretive Sooty-headed Wren, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager and the shy Yellow-throated Brush-Finch, and we may also come across the attractive Rufous-rumped Antwren, the scarce Pale-eyed Thrush, and Guira, Black-faced, Speckled, Silver-throated, Lemon-rumped and White-winged Tanagers. Night birding here may produce Lyre-tailed Nightjar or even the rare Cinnamon Screech Owl.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 18  After some final birding in the Anori area we will we will travel to Medellin for an overnight stay. En route we will make a stop in some dry forest where we will attempt to find the recently discovered Antioquia Wren, hopefully being alerted to it by its musical song. In the same area we may well find the endemic Greyish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher, and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets regularly screech overhead.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 19  This morning we shall take a short flight to Bahia Solano and then take a drive south through splendid, forested hills to our lodge at El Valle where we will spend three nights. On the way we will begin our birding along the excellent and partially forested road that connects Bahia Solano Airport to El Valle. We are likely to bird this road on several occasions and here we may see the range restricted Black-breasted and Pied Puffbirds, Black-striped Woodcreeper the delightful Blue and Black-tipped Cotingas and the fabulous Golden-collared Manakin.

Other specialities and new species we may find along the road include Grey-headed Chachalaca, the elusive Tiny Hawk, Common Black Hawk, the diminutive Bat Falcon, Black-cheeked and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, the hyperactive Rose-faced Parrot, Stripe-billed Aracari, the impressive Choco Toucan, the range-restricted Spot-crowned Barbet, Dusky Antbird, the scarce White-ringed Flycatcher, the kingbird-like Western Sirystes, Lesser Greenlet, the localized and colourful Blue-whiskered and Rufous-winged Tanagers, the stunning Scarlet-and-white Tanager and the superb Scarlet-thighed Dacnis.

In the wetter and more open areas we will try to find White-throated Crake, Amazon Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Red-breasted Blackbird, Pacific Cacique, Chestnut-headed Oropendola and Variable Seedeater, whilst overhead we can look out for Band-rumped, Grey-rumped and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts.

Our lodge is set right on the beach, and just by looking along the coast right by the lodge, we can find a number of common and widespread coastal species such as Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird and Wilson’s Plover. We may also see a Blue-footed Booby passing by. At some times of year, Western Osprey, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and Royal, Elegant, Cabot’s (split from Sandwich) and Common Terns. Elegant Tern are also present.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Days 20-21  Our time around El Valle will be split between three areas: the forested road between El Valle and Bahia Solano (mentioned above), Utria National Park and an old logging track running south from El Valle. All three offer extremely exciting birding and a great number of specialities. Priority will be given to the very rare endemic Baudo Oropendola, and a concerted effort should see us getting good views of this rare and impressive speciality, perhaps displaying, shimmering its wings and hanging down as it makes its bizarre call!

On one of our full days, we will take a boat south along the coast to the headquarters of Utria National Park, from where we can explore a series of short trails and a boardwalk through the mangroves. Here, an early priority will be the rare and secretive Brown Wood Rail, and we have a reasonable chance of finding this cracking bird. The nearby mangroves are home to the rare Humboldt’s Sapphire and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird as well as Prothonotary Warbler, and around this area we also have a good chance of finding Dusky Pigeon and the exciting Saffron-headed Parrot. Whilst at the park, we will venture along a small trail where we are likely to encounter some good feeding flocks which may well hold the highly-desired Sapayoa, as well as other specialities including Western Woodhaunter, Spotted Woodcreeper, the subtle Spot-crowned Antvireo, Pacific Flatbill, Stripe-throated Wren, and chunky Lemon-spectacled and Dusky-faced Tanagers. We may also be lucky to find a lekking Tooth-billed Hummingbird.

On another day we will take the trail south of town which runs through patchy forest with clearings and some good primary forest. Here, if we are fortunate, we will come across the endangered Great Green Macaw. Other interesting new species for the trip may include Black Hawk Eagle, Blue Ground Dove, Grey-chested Dove, noisy Mealy and Red-lored Amazons, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Pacific Antwren, the smart Spotted Antbird, the secretive Black-headed Antthrush, colourful Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakins, the tiny Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Sulphur-rumped and Ruddy-tailed Flycatchers, One-coloured Becard, Bay Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, the charismatic Tawny-faced Gnatwren and Bay-breasted Warbler

The whole area is relatively poorly known, and a number of rare and desirable species have been occasionally recorded. With luck, we will bump into one or two of these such as Choco Tinamou, Baudo Guan, Great Curassow, Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, Tawny-faced Quail, Plumbeous Hawk, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Choco and Lita Woodpeckers, Great Jacamar, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Thicket and Streak-chested Antpittas, Pacific Royal Flycatcher or maybe the spectacular Ocellated Antbird or the rare Rufous-crowned Antpitta.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia: Day 22  We will return to Bahia Solano and catch a morning flight to Medellin, where the main section of our tour ends.


Colombia: Choco to Amazonia (Mitú): Day 1  From Medellin we will take an early evening flight to Bogotá for an overnight stay. (Anyone joining the Mitú section as a stand-alone tour will join the tour at our Bogotá hotel, or at the airport if more convenient.)

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia (Mitú): Day 2  This morning we will travel to Mitú for a five nights stay. Mitú is situated in Vaupes department in the heart of the Amazonas province of Colombia, close to the Brazilian border. (Sometimes there are flights to Mitú from Bogotá, on other occasions it is necessary to drive three hours to Villavicencio and fly to Mitú from there. The same applies on the return leg. As flight schedules are not fixed far ahead, we will not know in advance.)

This fantastic birding location in eastern Colombia has become better-known in recent years, and the town of Mitú is within easy reach of excellent white sand, varzea and terra firme forests. Located at the edge of the Guianan Shield the verdant forest is interspersed by wide rivers, whilst the canopy is punctuated by high Tepuis and basalt outcrops. The avifauna is an interesting mix of Guianan Shield specialities (the so-called Imeri endemics) and more widespread Amazonian species, and in a week it is possible to rack up an impressive list of over 300 species while based at Mitú. Being now Amazonia, the majority of these will be new for our Colombia tour list. Later today we will begin our exploration of this magnificent area.

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia (Mitú): Days 3-6  During our stay in Mitú, we will head out in different directions to explore the variety of habitats on offer. In such a diverse part of Colombia, with so many potential species on offer, we will necessarily target a suite of species which are difficult to come by elsewhere. High on our want list will be the spectacular Chestnut-crested Antbird, a localized species which is regularly found here, alongside the equally local Grey-bellied Antbird.

The poorer white sand forests and more open habitats are home to a large number of specialties. Here we will search for the impressive Azure-naped Jay, the colourful Yellow-crowned Manakin and the superb Bronzy Jacamar as well as the smart Brown-banded Puffbird, Spotted Puffbird, the dashing Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Blackish-grey Antshrike, Cherrie’s Antwren, the furtive Rufous-crowned Elaenia, the interesting duidae subspecies of Fuscous Flycatcher, the vocal Citron-bellied Attila, Black Manakin, the localized Brown-headed Greenlet, the unusual Plumbeous Euphonia and the rare White-naped Seedeater.

In more humid areas, a number of other rarities occur. The gorgeous Fiery Topaz is frequently seen and other rare hummers include Streak-throated Hermit and Black-bellied Thorntail. The rarely seen Orinoco Piculet is frequent, as is the superb Tawny-tufted Toucanet. The secretive Black Bushbird occurs in some of the wetter areas and other interesting antbirds may include the rare Black-headed Antbird, the range-restricted Yellow-throated Antwren and Imeri Warbling Antbird, Spot-backed and Stipple-throated Antwrens, and the attractive Pearly Antshrike. Cotingas are well-represented, and as well as having an excellent chance of seeing the amazing Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, we may also come across colourful Purple-breasted, Pompadour and Spangled Cotingas.

Several generally scarce but widespread Amazonian species are frequently seen here too including the impressive Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, Slender-billed and Rufous-tailed Xenops, and the difficult to come by White-bellied Dacnis, and other goodies we hope to find include Chestnut-capped Puffbird, the speedy Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Festive Amazon, the amazing Red-fan and colourful Orange-cheeked Parrots, the ant-loving White-chinned Woodcreeper, secretive Rufous-rumped, Chestnut-winged and Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaners, the smart Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant, White-eyed Tody Tyrant, the water-loving Amazonian Inezia and Amazonian Black Tyrant, the retiring Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin and Brown-winged Schiffornis (another species resulting from the splitting of the former Thrush-like Schiffornis), and the river-loving Black-collared Swallow.

There are many other more widespread species new for the tour that we may well see (sorry for the long list, there really are just so many birds!). Amongst the non-passerine species, we will keep a lookout for  Speckled Chachalaca, Green Ibis, Black and ear-splittingly noisy Red-throated Caracaras, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, the spectacular Scarlet Macaw, the scarce Sapphire-rumped and Dusky-billed Parrotlets, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Black-headed Parrot, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Straight-billed and Reddish Hermits, Amethyst Woodstar, Blue-tailed Emerald, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Versicoloured Emerald, White-chinned Sapphire, the spectacular Pavonine Quetzal, Black-tailed and Amazonian Trogons, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, the furtive Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Yellow-billed and Paradise Jacamars, Gilded and Lemon-throated Barbets, Lettered, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracaris, splendid White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, and Yellow-tufted, Red-stained, Yellow-throated, Scale-breasted, Chestnut and Red-necked Woodpeckers.

Passerines are even better represented, and amongst the bewildering array of new species we will search for Ruddy Spinetail, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, the furtive Eastern Woodhaunter, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner, Amazonian Barred, Striped, Ocellated and Lineated Woodcreepers, an impressive array of antbirds including Fasciated, Plain-winged, Mouse-coloured, Amazonian, Spot-winged, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes, Rufous-tailed, Pygmy, Moustached, Plain-throated, Long-winged and Grey Antwrens, Grey, Black-faced, Yellow-browed, Black-chinned, Silvered, Spot-winged, Black-throated, Sooty, Bicoloured and pretty Scale-backed, Dot-backed and Spot-backed Antbirds, the furtive Rufous-capped Antthrush, White-lored and Slender-footed Tyrannulets, Rusty-fronted, Spotted and Yellow-browed Tody Flycatchers, Grey-crowned and Ochre-lored Flatbills, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Drab Water Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Greyish Mourner (actually a tyrant-flycatcher), Short-crested, Grey-capped, Crowned Slaty and Sulphury Flycatchers, the tiny Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, White-crowned Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, Cinereous Mourner (this one is a Cotinga rather than a tyrant flycatcher!), Lemon-chested and Tawny-crowned Greenlets, Coraya Wren, Hauxwell’s Thrush, Magpie, Fulvous-crested, Green-and-gold, Yellow-bellied, Masked and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Black-faced Dacnis, the scarce canopy-loving Short-billed Honeycreeper, Lesson’s, Lined and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Green and Olive Oropendolas and White-vented and Rufous-bellied Euphonias.

During our stay we will also hope to see a few of the tougher and rarer species which have been found here such as White-throated, Grey-legged, Cinereous and Variegated Tinamous, Sungrebe, Lined and Collared Forest Falcons, Dark-billed Cuckoo, White-chested Puffbird, the colourful Gould’s Jewelfront, Short-billed Leaftosser, Spot-throated Woodcreeper, Spotted and Thrush-like Antpittas, the tricky Cinnamon Neopipo, Ringed Antpipit, Collared Gnatwren, Guianan Gnatcatcher, or even the amazingly rare Red-billed Ground Cuckoo!

Colombia: Choco to Amazonia (Mitú): Day 7  After some final birding at Mitú, we will travel back to Bogotá, where the tour ends this afternoon or this evening (depending on flight schedules).


by Dani López-Velasco

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