The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Colombia Tours

COLOMBIA: FROM THE CHOCÓ TO AMAZONIA – little-known endemics and specialities


Birdquest’s Colombia with a Difference 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 with a Difference 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 do we achieve 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 is a seemingly endless procession of good birds to be found! Quite apart from providing a home to nearly twenty per cent 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 with a Difference 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.

From the capital, we take a flight to Valledupar in northern Colombia. Here, we will enjoy a wonderful opportunity to explore the mountains of the little-visited Serranía de Perijá, home to a suite of endemics (shared with adjacent Venezuela, but historically inaccessible in that country) that include Perija Metaltail, Perija Thistletail, Perija Antpitta, Perija Tapaculo and Perija and Black-fronted Brushfinches, as well as the restricted-range Klage’s Antbird.

Next, we will visit the Reserva Hormiguero de Torcoroma (or Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve), a protected area that has been created especially 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.

From the Ocana area, we descend to the Magdalena valley and make the longish drive south to 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, Niceforo’s Wren and the delightful Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager, as well as other specialities which may include Yellow-throated Spadebill and Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo.

Our mission in the far north accomplished, we will continue 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.

Travelling onwards, we will reach the very northern end of the Central Andes at the Reserva Arrierito Antioqueño (or Chestnut-capped Piha 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).

From the city of Medellin, we will take a flight to the Pacific coast at Bahia Solano 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 (now a monotypic bird family), 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!

Finally, in the Medellin area, where the main section of our tour concludes, we will go in search of the rare endemic Antioquia Brushfinch.

The optional extension to our Colombia with a Difference 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 & Dusky-backed Jacamar Extension Option: The far northwest of Colombia in the Bocas del Atrato area is a good place for the poorly-known endemic Sooty-capped Puffbird, which was recently discovered in this area where it seems to be relatively common and easy to see, as well as the near-endemic Dusky-backed Jacamar.  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 involve two or three extra nights in Colombia, depending on flight schedules. The cost will depend on the number of participants. Please contact the Birdquest office if you are interested in participating in this extension, which would take place before the main tour.

San Andres & Providencia Extension Option: Belonging to Colombia, these two seldom-explored islands, situated off the Nicaraguan coast, both harbour an endemic vireo, the San Andres (or St Andrew) Vireo and the Providencia (or Providence) Vireos respectively. As well as these two species, there is a distinctive form of Tropical Mockingbird (the ‘St Andrew Mockingbird’) and we will see a number of other Caribbean specialities such as 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 involve a total of two or three nights, depending on flight schedules. The cost will depend on the number of participants and the necessary duration. Please contact the Birdquest office if you are interested in participating in this 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 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/passenger van, and also by 4×4 vehicles, and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Colombia with a Difference tours is mainly easy, sometimes moderate. At the Cerulean Warbler Reserve there is one harder optional walk to the upper levels.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny in the eastern and central Andes, while in the Choco and 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 with a Difference tours are worthwhile.


  • Visiting a series of more off the beaten track sites for a series of stunning endemics and specialities
  • Seeing a huge total of species as the itinerary covers habitats from the Choco lowlands, across the Andes and down to the Amazonian lowlands
  • Watching the rare Cundinamarca Antpitta and Brown-breasted (or Flame-winged) Parakeet around Bogota
  • Having the opportunity to explore the remote, little-visited Serranía de Perija and see its suite of endemic specialities
  • Scouring the bamboo clumps of Ocana for the unique Recurve-billed Bushbird
  • Visiting the delightful Cerulean Warbler reserve for scarce endemics such as Black Inca, the stunning White-mantled Barbet, Niceforo's Wren and the delightful Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager
  • Coming face to face with the wonderful Blue-billed Curassow at El Paujil
  • Having the chance to find the Beautiful Woodpecker, Citron-throated Toucan and amazing Sooty Ant Tanager as well as some great nightbirding at El Paujil
  • Searching for the recently described Parker’s Antbird and Chestnut-capped Piha north of Medellin, where we should also see the spectacular Black-and-gold Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle
  • Watching gorgeous Blue and Black-tipped Cotingas in the remnant lowland forest
  • Visiting the remote Utria National Park where we could find poorly known species such as Brown Wood Rail, Humboldt’s Sapphire, and even Sapayoa and a number of other elusive lowland denizens
  • Flying over large tracts of unspoilt Amazonian forest to the remote outpost of Mitu, a great base for exploring a variety of nearby sites
  • Looking for white-sand specialities including Orinoco Piculet, Azure-naped Jay, Cherrie’s Antwren and Blackish-grey Antshrike
  • Finding tough to see elsewhere megas including Tawny-tufted Toucanet, Bar-bellied Woodcreeper and Yellow-crowned and Black Manakins
  • Seeing a good number of stunning antbirds including specialities of the region including Yellow-throated Antwren, the rare Grey-bellied Antbird, Imeri Warbling Antbird and the amazing Chestnut-crested Antbird


  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Bogotá.
  • Day 2: Bogotá region (but different sites as compared with Classic Colombia).
  • Day 3: Bogotá region, then fly to Valledupar in northernmost Colombia.
  • Day 4: Exploring the Serranía de Perijá. Overnight at Perijá Lodge.
  • Day 5: Exploring the Serranía de Perijá. Overnight at Valledupar.
  • Day 6: Valledupar area, then drive to Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve.
  • Day 7: Recurve-billed Bushbird (or Hormiguero de Torcoroma) Reserve
  • Day 8: Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve, then drive to Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
  • Days 9-10: Cerulean Warbler (or Reinita Azul) Reserve.
  • Day 11: Cerulean reserve area, then drive to the Blue-billed Curassow (or El Paujil) Reserve.
  • Days 12-13: Blue-billed Curassow (or El Paujil) Reserve.
  • Day 14: El Paujil, then drive to Arrierito Antioqueño (or Chestnut-capped Piha) Reserve at Anori.
  • Day 15: Arrierito Antioqueño reserve at Anori.
  • Day 16: Anori region, then drive to Medellin.
  • Day 17: Morning flight to Bahia Solano in the Chocó region. Drive to El Valle.
  • Days 18-19: El Valle area/Utria National Park.
  • Day 20: Return to Bahia Solano. Flight to Medellin.
  • Day 21: Medellin area. Afternoon tour end at airport.
  • Day 1: Afternoon or early evening flight from Medellin to Bogotá.
  • Day 2: Flight frtom Bogotá to Mitú, or drive to Villavicencio and fly from there.
  • Days 3-6: Mitú region.
  • Day 7: Mitú region, then return to Bogotá airport (via Villavicencio if need be). Afternoon/evening tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


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 Bogotá (or Villavincencio)-Mitú-Bogotá (or Villavincencio).

Deposit: 20% 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)

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 with a Difference: Day 1  Our tour begins in the evening in Bogotá, where we will stay for two nights.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 2  During our stay in the Bogotá region we will explore 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 journey 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 just a little luck we will see this elusive rarity.

In nearby forest and bamboo patches, we may well encounter the near-endemic Ochre-breasted Brushfinch as well as a number of other species such as White-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 and Blue-necked Tanager. During the boreal winter, migrants such as Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian and Canada Warblers, and American Redstart are also present.

We will also explore an area of higher elevation forest where we have an opportunity to see the colourful endemic Flame-winged (or Brown-breasted) Parakeet, and other endemics including Silvery-throated Spinetail, Pale-bellied (or Mattoral) Tapaculo and the infrequently observed Bronze-tailed Thornbill.

Mixed flocks may produce White-browed Spinetail, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Black-headed, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispinguses, Blue-backed Conebill, Plushcap, Rufous Wren and the pretty Golden-fronted Whitestart (here of the nominate white-cheeked race).

Other species we may well encounter while exploring this diverse park include the near-endemic Longuemare’s Sunangel, the rare, near-endemic Blue-throated Starfrontlet, the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill and the localized Golden-crowned Tanager, as well as Andean and Sickle-winged Guans, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scaly-naped Amazon, Chestnut-collared Swift, Long-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, colourful Glowing and Coppery-bellied Pufflegs, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Masked Trogon, White-throated Toucanet, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Merlin, Azara’s Spinetail, Montane and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, the elusive Rufous Antpitta, Ash-coloured and Blackish Tapaculos, Mountain Elaenia, White-banded, White-throated and perhaps Tawny-rumped 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 Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, the musical Andean Solitaire, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-collared Jay, Oleaginous Hemispingus (uncommon), colourful Hooded, Scarlet-bellied, Blue-winged and Buff-breasted Mountain Tanagers, Grass-green, Blue-capped, Blue-and-black, Beryl-spangled and Flame-faced Tanagers, White-sided, Bluish, Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercers, Grey-browed, Pale-naped and Slaty Brushfinches, Plain-coloured Seedeater, 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 more widespread species such as Western Cattle Egret, Turkey and Black Vultures, Roadside and Broad-winged Hawks, American Kestrel, Southern Lapwing, Eared Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Sparkling Violetear, Tropical Kingbird, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, Purple Honeycreeper, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Shiny Cowbird and Eastern Meadowlark.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 3  This morning we will take a flight to the town of Valledupar, situated at the base of the Serranía de Perijá in northernmost Colombia. From there we ascend the beautiful Serranía de Perija for a two nights stay at Perijá Lodge, birding en route.

We will be seeking out our first Perijá endemic, the Perija Brushfinch, at lower levels. Other interesting birds in this area include the restricted-range Klage’s Antwren, Coopmann’s Tyrannulet and Grey-throated Warbler, as well as Rufous-and-white Wren, Golden-winged Sparrow and the smart Rosy Thrush-Tanager (now treated as a monotypic bird family).

Additional species we are likely to encounter include White-tipped Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Black Phoebe, Great Kiskadee, Bicoloured Wren, Tennessee Warbler (boreal winter only), Golden-crowned and Rufous-capped Warblers and Tropical Parula.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 4  At higher altitudes in the Serrania de Perijá, all the rest of the endemics are on the menu, including Perija Metaltail, Perija Thistletail, the soon-to-be split Perija Antpitta (the only more tricky species among the endemics), Perija Tapaculo and Black-fronted Brushfinch. Another good bird in this area is the near-endemic Spectacled Tyrannulet.

A good number of species have endemic forms in the Perijá range, some of which are potential candidates for splitting. Probably the most likely of these is the form consita of the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, but unfortunately it is both uncommon and erratic.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 5  After spending most of the day in the Serranía de Perijá, we will return to Valledupar for an overnight stay. This evening we will go out and look for Rufous Nightjar.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 6  We will explore the Valledupar area early this morning, with likely species including Red-legged Tinamou, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, the restricted-range Grey-throated Warbler and Yellow Oriole.

Afterwards, we will drive south to the Reserva Hormiguero de Torcoroma (or Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve) near Ocana for a two nights stay. We will spend much of the afternoon birding the reserve.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 7  Our primary target here 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 restricted-range Grey-throated Warbler and the attractive Chestnut-bellied Thrush. Luck permitting, we will also see the little-known Todd’s Parakeet (a distinctive form which is still lumped by most authorities in Painted Parakeet).

Other species may well include Band-tailed Guan, Scaled Pigeon, Stripe-throated Hermit, the elusive Moustached Puffbird, Golden-olive Woodpecker, the secretive Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Plain Antvireo, the scarce Pale-vented Thrush, Tooth-billed Tanager, Common Bush Tanager and Moustached Brushfinch. Around town, the successful Caribbean Grackle is a recent colonist.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 8  After some final birding at the bushbird reserve, we shall make our way to the famous Cerulean Warbler (or Reinita Azul) Reserve for a three nights stay.

Colombia with a Difference: Days 9-10  Although the Cerulean Warbler 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 many excellent species, including a number of rare and attractive endemics.

On the hummingbird feeders around the accommodation, the attractive endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird is common and there is also the possibility of seeing the uncommon 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. In the shade coffee habitat below the reserve, a major target will be the endemic Niceforo’s Wren.

We will need to walk above the reserve centre to reach the forest, passing through 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 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.

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 we could well encounter in and around this superb reserve include Plain-breasted, Short-tailed and Barred Hawks, Ruddy Ground Dove, Tropical Screech Owl, White-tipped Swift, Collared Trogon, White-mantled Barbet, Olivaceous Piculet, Red-crowned, Smoky-brown and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Uniform Antshrike, Blue-lored Antbird, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Vermilion Flycatcher, Rusty-margined and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Whiskered and Band-backed Wrens, Yellow-legged, Black-billed and Pale-breasted Thrushes, Tropical Mockingbird, 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, Black-winged Saltator, Yellow-bellied and Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Russet-backed Oropendola, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Thick-billed Seed Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Yellow-backed Oriole and Giant Cowbird. During the boreal winter, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Black-and-white and Mourning Warblers and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are also present, not to mention Cerulean Warbler of course.

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 with a Difference: Day 11  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.

After reaching the Magdalena Valley, we shall head south towards the Reserva El Paujil (or Blue-billed Curassow Reserve) where we will stay for three nights.

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 El Paujil reserve. We will arrive in time for some initial birding around the lodge.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 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 localities 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 well 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, and Lineated, Red-rumped and attractive Cinnamon Woodpeckers.

Passerines include 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, the elusive Jet Antbird, 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, 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, Sooty Ant Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Purple, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Blue-black Grosbeak, Slate-coloured Grosbeak (this colourful saltator is easier to hear than see), Black-striped Sparrow, 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 with a Difference: Day 14  After some early morning birding at El Paujil, we shall drive to Anori for a two nights stay at the Reserva Arrierito Antioqueño (or Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve). At first, we travel along the Magdalena Valley, where we should find Crested Caracara, Striped Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Scrub Greenlet, Buff-breasted Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Giant Cowbird.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 15  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, Streak-capped Treehunter, 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 Brushfinch, 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 with a Difference: Day 16  After some final birding in the Anori area 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, as well as Highland and Tody Motmots, Yellow-headed Manakin, while Scarlet-fronted Parakeets regularly screech overhead.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 17  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 restricted-range 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, Subtropical 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 the year, Western Osprey, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and Royal, Elegant, Cabot’s and Common Terns are also present.

Colombia with a Difference: Days 18-19  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 (sole member of its family), 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 a few of these species, which include 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 and even the spectacular Ocellated Antbird and the rare Rufous-crowned Pittasoma (now considered to be a relative of the gnateaters rather than an antpitta).

Colombia with a Difference: Day 20  Today we will return to Bahia Solano and catch a flight to Medellin for an overnight stay.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 21  Not far from Medellin is the area where the Antioquia Brushfinch was recently rediscovered and we will try and find this interesting endemic this morning. Afterwards, we will head for Medellin airport, where the main section of our tour ends early this afternoon.



Colombia with a Difference (Mitú): Day 1  From Medellin we will take an afternoon or 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 the airport if more convenient.)

Colombia with a Difference (Mitú): Day 2  This morning we will travel to Mitú for a five nights stay.

Mitú is situated in the Vaupes department in the heart of the Amazonas province of Colombia, close to the Brazilian border. Often enough 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 to the return leg. As flight schedules are not fixed far ahead, we will not know in advance.

Later today we will begin our exploration of the marvellous Mitú area.

Colombia with a Difference (Mitú): Days 3-6  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 landscape is also punctuated by high Tepui-like hills 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 in Amazonia for the first time, the majority of these species will be new for our tour list.

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 particular 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 localized Grey-bellied Antbird.

The white-sand forests and more open habitats are home to a large number of specialities. 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. 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, the 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, and the river-loving Black-collared Swallow.

During our stay, we should also see a few of the tougher and rarer species which have been found here, which include 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, the thinly-distributed Guianan Gnatcatcher, or even the very rare but amazing Red-billed Ground Cuckoo!

There are also many widespread species new for the tour that we may well see around Mitú (sorry for the long list, there are just so many new birds in the Amazonian lowlands!).

Amongst the non-passerine species, we will keep a lookout for  Speckled Chachalaca, Green Ibis, Black Caracara, the ear-splittingly noisy Red-throated Caracara, 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 are 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 and Bicoloured Antbirds, the 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, Ochre-loredand Rufous-tailed Flatbills, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Drab Water Tyrant, Greyish Mourner, 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.

Colombia with a Difference (Mitú): Day 7  After some final birding at Mitú, we will travel back to Bogotá airport, where our tour ends this afternoon or evening (depending on flight schedules).


by Dani López-Velasco

View Report


by János Oláh

View Report


by Pete Morris

View Report

Other unmissable 'blockbuster' birding tours in South America by Birdquest include: