The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Colombia Tours

COLOMBIA WITH A DIFFERENCE – little-known places and little-known specialities

Saturday 8th January – Thursday 27th January 2022

Leader: Trevor Ellery and local bird guides

20 Days Group Size Limit 7
Chocó Lowlands Extension

Thursday 27th January – Monday 31st January 2022

5 Days Group Size Limit 7

COLOMBIA WITH A DIFFERENCE: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Colombia with a Difference tours are specifically designed to complement our Ultimate Colombia tours; the two tours combined giving an unparalleled coverage of the endemic and near-endemic birds of this stunning country. Indeed, the two tours combined give a good shot at virtually all of the available endemics and important near-endemics to be found in this wonderful birding destination! While our Ultimate Colombia tour covers many of the best-known birding sites, our Colombia with a Difference tour covers a series of little-visited, often remote areas in search of  Colombian endemics and near-endemics that cannot be seen on that tour.

Colombia is an immense country with an almost unimaginable variety of landscapes, floras and birds. It is now at peace, having improved dramatically in recent decades, 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 birding 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 1950 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 a huge selection of endemics: in this, it is exceeded only by Brazil and Peru in South America.

We will begin our Colombia with a Difference tour at Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Not far from Bogotá, 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 Flame-winged Parakeet, both of which are endemic to the eastern cordillera of the Andes.

Soon we head off into the wide blue yonder as we journey to the remote town of Soatá. This area holds three very special endemic birds, the endangered Colombian Mountain Grackle, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and Niceforo’s Wren, and all three are very reliable here, unlike in other areas. A fine supporting cast of endemics and near-endemics includes the rare Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Longuemare’s Sunangel, Apical Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Conebill and Moustached Brushfinch.

Eventually, we enter the wide Magdalena Valley where the humid forests at the Reinita Azul (Cerulean Warbler) reserve holds such endemic specialities as the magnificent Colombian Chachalaca, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, White-mantled Barbet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Magdalena Tapaculo, Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo and Turquoise Dacnis. Our Magdalena journey ends with the wonderfully bizarre Recurve-billed Bushbird near Ocaña.

Next, we continue northwards to the Valledupar region in northernmost 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 near-endemic Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Klage’s Antbird, Black-backed Antbird, Slender-billed Inezia, Grey-throated Warbler and Vermilion Cardinal.

Next, we will visit Cartagena where, in addition to admiring the wonderful Spanish colonial architecture of the old city, we will enjoy seeing the endemic Turquise-winged Parrotlet.

Moving further to the southwest along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, we come to the remote Apartado area, where our three prime targets are the very localized endemic Sooty-capped Puffbird and the near-endemic Dusky-backed Jacamar and Viridian Dacnis. Other great birds include the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca and Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, the sought-after Rufous-crowned Pittasoma, the near-endemic Black Oropendola and the rare endemic Baudo Oropendola.

After taking a flight to the city of Medellin, we head for the locality where the endemic Antioquia Brushfinch.  was only recently rediscovered after long being feared extinct.

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 endemic species which have been discovered and described relatively recently; Parker’s Antbird and Chestnut-capped Piha. We should also see the spectacular endemic Black-and-gold Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle, and near-endemic Sooty-headed Wren and Purplish-mantled Tanager in this part of the country. After our stay here, we head for Medellin, stopping for the recently-described endemic Antioquia Wren and the endemic Greyish Piculet on the way.

From 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 most important reason for visiting this remote area will be to find the rarely seen endemic Baudo Oropendola, there is an excellent supporting cast of Choco specialities including the poorly-known Humboldt’s Sapphire, Sapayoa (now a monotypic bird family), Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Choco Toucan, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas, and Scarlet-and-white, Blue-whiskered and Lemon-spectacled Tanagers, as well as a large number of restricted-range species such as the rare Brown Wood-Rail, Black-breasted Puffbird, Spot-crowned Barbet, Rose-faced and Saffron-headed Parrot, the impressive Great Green Macaw, Black-headed Antthrush and Thicket and Streak-chested Antpittas, to name just a few!

Finally, after returning to Medellin area, we will go in search of the rare, near-endemic Yellow-headed Manakin and the endemic Colombian Chachalaca.

Birdquest has operated Colombia tours since 1998.

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 there are 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 involves a total of two or three nights, depending on flight schedules. The cost would depend on the number of participants and the duration. Please inform the Birdquest office at the time of booking if you are interested in visiting the islands.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and lodges are of a good or medium standard, but at the ranch in the Apartado area the accommodation is is pleasant but rustic. Transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van, and also by 4×4 vehicles where necessary. The 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 will be a harder walk to the upper levels. There is a short but steep hike up to the ranch in Apartado region, or you can ride a horse if you prefer.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny in the eastern and central Andes, and along the Caribbean coast while in the Chocó region there will be more of a mix of sun and cloud. It is hot and humid in the Caribbean and Choco lowlands. At higher elevations, it will be cool, especially at night. There will surely be some rain, which can be heavy and persistent at times.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Colombia with a Difference tours are worthwhile.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visiting a series of more off the beaten track sites for a series of stunning endemics and specialities.
  • Watching the rare Cundinamarca Antpitta in Chingaza National Park.
  • Exploring the remote Soatá area, with such special endemics as Colombian Mountain Grackle, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and Niceforo's Wren all likely.
  • Watching Indigo-capped Hummingbirds and Tuquise Dacnid at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve
  • Hiking up into the forest at Cerulean in search of Beautiful Woodpecker, White-mantled Barbet, Magdalena Tapaculo, Sooty Ant Tanager and even Gorgeted Wood Quail.
  • Encountering the bizarre Recurve-billed Bushbird near Ocaña.
  • Having the opportunity to explore the remote, little-visited Serranía de Perija and see its suite of endemic specialities.
  • Enjoying the wonderful Spanish colonial old city of Cartagena and, even more importantly the endemic Turquoise-winged Parrotlet.
  • Travelling by boat to find the endemic Sooty-capped Puffbird.
  • Seeking out Dusky-backed Jacamar followed, hopefully, by Viridian Dacnic, Rufous-crowned Pittasoma and even the rare endemic Baudo Guan
  • Finding the only recently-rediscovered Antioquia Brushfinch in the Central Andes.
  • Searching for the recently described Parker’s Antbird and Chestnut-capped Piha at Anori, 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 of the Bahia Solano region.
  • Finding the rare Baudo Oropendola in the Chocó lowlands.
  • 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
  • Finishing off a truly exciting journey with the rare Yellow-headed Manakin.

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Bogotá.
  • Day 2: Chingaza National Park. Overnight Bogotá.
  • Day 3: Drive to Soatá. Explore Soatá area.
  • Day 4: Soatá area.
  • Day 5: Drive to the Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
  • Days 6-7: Cerulean Warbler (or Reinita Azul) Reserve.
  • Day 8: Cerulean Warbler reserve area, then drive to Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve near Ocaña.
  • Day 9: Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve, then drive to Valledupar in northernmost Colombia.
  • Day 10: Exploring the Serranía de Perijá. Overnight at Perijá Lodge.
  • Day 11: Exploring the Serranía de Perijá. Overnight at Valledupar.
  • Day 12: Valledupar area, then drive to Cartagena.
  • Day 13: Cartagena area, then drive to Apartado.
  • Days 14-15: Exploring the Apartado region, including two nights at remote ranch.
  • Day 16: Return to Apartado. Flight to Medellin. Drive to San Pedro de los Milagros.
  • Day 17: San Pedro area, then drive to Arrierito Antioqueño (or Chestnut-capped Piha) reserve at Anori.
  • Day 18: Chestnut-capped Piha (Arrierito Antioqueño) reserve at Anori.
  • Day 19: Anori region, then drive to Medellin.
  • Day 20: Morning tour end at Medellin airport.
  • CHOCÓ LOWLANDS EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Morning flight to Bahia Solano in the Chocó region. Drive to El Valle.
  • Days 2-3: El Valle area/Utria National Park.
  • Day 4: Return to Bahia Solano. Flight to Medellin.
  • Day 5: Medellin area. Midday tour end at airport.

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’.

PRICE INFORMATION

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: Apartado-Medellin and Medellin-Bahia Solano-Medellin.

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)


2022: provisional £5130, $6990, €5660, AUD9290. Bogotá/Medellin.
Chocó Lowland Extension: £1240, $1690, €1360, AUD2240. Medellin/Medellin

Single Supplement: 2022: £360, $490, €390, AUD650.
Chocó Lowland Extension: £110, $160, €120, AUD210.

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 Perijá Lodge (2 nights), the ranch near Apartado (2 nights) and at the Chestnut-capped Piha reserve (2 nights). There are no single supplements 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 TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

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  This morning we will set out early in order to visit the southern edge of the scenic Chingaza National Park.

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 we have a good chance of seeing this elusive rarity.

In the forest areas and bamboo patches, we may also encounter the endemic Flame-winged Parakeet, the near-endemic Ochre-breasted Brushfinch and the near-endemic Longuemare’s Sunangel.

A wide range of other species we may encounter includes Black-and-chestnut Eagle (uncommon), Broad-winged Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, Green-bellied Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, Tyrian Metaltail, White-collared Swift, Masked Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, White-throated Toucanet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Rufous Antpitta (most likely to be heard), Blackish Tapaculo, Black-capped and Golden-faced Tyrannulets, Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle Tyrants, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Speckle-breasted Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Great, Pale-breasted and Black-billed Thrushes, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-eyed Vireo, Scrub Greenlet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Slate-throated Whitestart, Tropical Parula, Crested Oropendola, Northern Mountain Cacique, Purple Honeycreeper, the electric-blue Blue-backed Conebill, Glossy, Black, White-sided, Bluish and Masked Flowerpiercers, Common Bush Tanager, and Speckled, Blue-necked, Beryl-spangled and Blue-and-black Tanagers.

During the boreal winter, migrants such as Swainson’s Thrush, Black-and-white, Blackburnian, Blackpoll and Canada Warblers, American Redstart and Summer Tanager are also present.

Roadside birds are likely to include Western Cattle Egret, Turkey and Black Vultures, Roadside Hawk, American Kestrel, Eared Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, House Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Saffron Finch, Bananaquit and Magpie, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 3  This morning we shall head northwards to Soatá for a two nights stay. This afternoon we will begin our exploration of the Soatá area.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 4  Our time in the Soatá area will focus on three rare, localized and very special endemic species which are very hard to find elsewhere. In particular, the attractive Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, the secretive Niceforo’s Wren and the endangered Colombian Mountain Grackle, and we have an excellent chance of seeing all three.

Other rare and localized endemic and near-endemic species we may well find in this rewarding area include the rare Rusty-faced Parrot, the stunning Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Apical Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Conebill and the attractive Moustached Brushfinch.

The birding here is very varied, with forest and open country species of both mid-and low elevation habitats. A mix of more widespread species may well include Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Striped and Squirrel Cuckoos, White-throated Screech Owl, White-tipped Swift, Lesser and Sparkling Violetears, Acorn and Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Strong-billed and Montane Woodcreepers, Pale-breasted Spinetail, the retiring Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, the scarce Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, Mountain Elaenia, Brown-capped Vireo, Inca Jay, Whiskered and Bicoloured Wrens,  the sneaky Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Blue-capped, Fawn-breasted, Scrub and Tooth-billed Tanagers, Pale-naped Brushfinch, Streaked Saltator, Yellow-bellied and Plain-coloured Seedeaters, Black-crested and Golden-crowned Warblers, and Yellow-backed Oriole – a great mix of birds!

During the boreal winter, Merlin (uncommon), Tennessee Warbler and Summer Tanager are present.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 5  Today we will head northwards and eastwards to the Cerulean Warbler (or Reinita Azul) Reserve for a three nights stay. Owing to the slow and twisty Andean roads, the journey will take up the entire day.

Colombia with a Difference: Days 6-7  Although the Cerulean Warbler reserve is named after the attractive North American wintering warbler. Although we will be happy to see some during visits here in the boreal winter, it will not be the main focus of our attention, for the reserve harbours many excellent species, including several localized endemics.

On the hummingbird feeders around the accommodation, the attractive but localized endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird is common and there is also another chance to see the uncommon endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, while in the surrounding trees we will have a good chance of finding the colourful endemic Turquoise Dacnis.

We will need to walk above the reserve centre to reach the best area of forest, passing through pasture land where Russet-crowned Crake is common (but much easier to hear than to see).

As we walk through the forest, along a historically important paved road built by a German engineer in the 18th century, we should see the recently-described endemic Magdalena Tapaculo. We should also encounter such endemics as Colombian Chachalaca, the smart Black Inca, White-mantled Barbet, Beautiful Woodpecker and the recently-described Parker’s Antbird, plus the near-endemic Bar-crested Antshrike and Black-headed Brushfinch.

The usually secretive Lined Quail-Dove can be surprisingly easy to see here and other sought-after species we have a good or moderate chance of here include the gorgeous Golden-winged Manakin, the localized Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, the rare Yellow-throated Spadebill and such skulkers as Ochre-breasted and White-bellied Antpittas, and Long-tailed Tapaculo. Highland Tinamou is regular and, with some luck, we will manage to see one. We will also hope to come across the endemic Gorgeted Wood Quail, although we will need plenty of luck to see this elusive species (hearing one is usually straightforward). Even harder to find is the near-endemic Blue-lored Antbird.

Mixed flocks are likely to hold an excellent array of more widespread Andean species including Spotted Barbtail, the sneaky Brown-billed Scythebill, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant and the localizedƒ 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 the near-endemic Red-billed Emerald, as well as such jewels as Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed and Speckled Hummingbirds, Andean Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant (and perhaps Fawn-breasted), Buff-tailed Coronet and White-booted Racket-tail.

Other species we could well encounter in and around this superb reserve include the near-endemic Bronze-brown Cowbird as well as Short-tailed and Barred Hawks, Ruddy Pigeon, White-tipped Swift, Collared Trogon, Red-crowned and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Laughing Falcon, Blue-headed Parrot, Spectacled Parrotlet, Wedge-billed, Cocoa and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Stripe-breasted and Slaty Spinetails, Uniform Antshrike, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Sooty-headed, Plumbeous-crowned and Southern Beardless Tyrannulets, Forest Elaenia, Slaty-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Slaty-capped, Bran-coloured, Vermilion, Piratic, Boat-billed, Streaked and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, the aptly-named Ornate Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tyrant, Bright-rumped Attila, White-bearded Manakin, Masked Tityra, Cinnamon and White-winged Becards, Yellow-legged Thrush, Russet-backed Oropendola, Giant Cowbird, Carib Grackle, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Grey-headed, Crimson-backed, Lemon-rumped, Golden, Bay-headed, Metallic-green, Black-capped, Yellow-backed and White-winged Tanagers, Ashy-throated Bush Tanager, the colourful Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Buff-throated, Greyish and Black-winged Saltators, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed Finch and Yellow-bellied Siskin.

We should also encounter some of the less common forest inhabitants, which include the near-endemic Slate-throated Gnatcatcher and Fulvous-vented Euphonia, the restricted-range White-eared Conebill, Little Tinamou, Green-fronted Lancebill, Golden-headed Quetzal, Barred Forest Falcon, Barred Parakeet, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Lesser Elaenia, Barred Becard and Subtropical Cacique.

Nightbirding should turn up Tropical Screech Owl and Pauraque, and there are fair chances for the rare Cinnamon Screech Owl and the widespread Mottled Owl.

During the boreal winter, Olive-sided and Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Wood Pewee, Grey-cheeked Thrush and Bay-breasted Warbler are also present, not to mention Cerulean Warbler of course. Uncommon visitors include the attractive Golden-winged Warbler and Mourning Warbler.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 8  We will stop soon after leaving the Cerulean Warbler Reserve to look for the attractive, near-endemic Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo.

After reaching the Magdalena Valley, we shall head northwards to the Recurve-billed Bushbird (or Hormiguero de Torcoroma) Reserve near Ocaña for an overnight stay. We will arrive in time for birding there this afternoon.

Along the way, we shall scan the marshes for the rare and much-wanted Northern Screamer. Other species likely on the journey include Cocoi Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, Bare-faced Ibis, Pearl Kite, Savanna Hawk, Northern Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Wattled Jacana (represented here by an interesting black race) and Grey-breasted Martin. We will also make a stop for Jet Antbird.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 9  Our primary target in the Ocaña area will unquestionably be the amazing, bizarre-looking Recurve-billed Bushbird, which until recently was barely known in real life. This much-wanted near-endemic speciality even leaves distinctive bill marks on the leaf stems it pierces while feeding.

We should also see some other interesting species, including the near-endemic 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 new species may well include Band-tailed Guan, Stripe-throated Hermit, Plain Antvireo and the scarce Pale-vented Thrush.

After lunch, we will head further north to the town of Valledupar, situated at the base of the Serranía de Perijá in northernmost Colombia, for an overnight stay

Colombia with a Difference: Day 10  Today 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. Near-endemic birds in this area include Coppery Emerald, Klages’s Antwren and Golden-winged Sparrow. Other good birds include the restricted-range and uncommon Coopmanns’s Tyrannulet, Rufous-and-white Wren and the smart Rosy Thrush-Tanager (now treated as a monotypic bird family).

Additional species we may encounter at lower and middle altitudes include the near-endemic Black-fronted Wood Quail (as always, tricky to see as opposed to hear), Moustached Puffbird, Groove-billed Toucanet, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Lance-tailed Manakin, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Rufous-breasted Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-hooded Thrush, Rufous-capped Warbler, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch and Black-headed Tanager.

At higher altitudes in the Serrania de Perijá, where there is a mix of forest and paramo habitats, all the rest of the endemics are on the menu, including Perija Metaltail, Perija Thistletail, the soon-to-be split Perija Antpitta (the only challenging species among the Perijá endemics), Perija Tapaculo and Black-fronted Brushfinch.

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.

There are plenty of other birds at the higher levels and these include the near-endemic but uncommon Spectacled Tyrannulet, as well as Andean Guan, Andean Condor, Orange-throated Sunangel, Bronzy Inca, Crested Quetzal, Streak-backed Canastero, Rufous and White-browed Spinetails, Streaked Xenops, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Mountain Wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, the beautiful Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Slaty Brushfinch, Slaty Finch, the bamboo-loving Plushcap, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Fulvous-headed Tanager and Hooded and Lacrimose Mountain Tanagers.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 11  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 12  We will explore the Valledupar area early this morning, with good birds including Red-legged Tinamou (which is easier to see here than in most places) and such near-endemic or restricted-range specialities as Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Chestnut Piculet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Black-backed Antshrike, Slender-billed Inezia, Venezuelan Flycatcher and Vermilion Cardinal.

Other likely species include Military Macaw, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Shining-green Hummingbird, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Black-chested Jay and Yellow, Orange-crowned and Yellow-tailed Orioles.

Afterwards, we will head westwards to the city of Cartagena for an overnight stay. Cartagena is one of the oldest cities in the post-Colombian Americas and is famous for its beautiful, well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Indeed, the old city was featured in the film ‘The Mission‘.

We may have our first encounter with the endemic Turquoise-winged Parrotlet en route and we will also likely come across the restricted-range Caribbean Hornero.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 13  We will have another opportunity to look for Turquoise-winged Parrotlets this morning before we head southwestwards along the Caribbean coast of Colombia until we reach the remote town of Apartado, where we will stay for a three nights stay (one night in a hotel, two nights at a remote ranch).

Colombia with a Difference: Days 14-15  During our stay we will explore the remote Bocas del Atrato area.

On our first morning, we will set out early by boat and explore a wet area of forest where we can expect to find the poorly-known endemic Sooty-capped Puffbird, which was comparatively recently discovered in this area where it seems to be relatively common and easy to see. After returning to Turbo, we will head off for another area in search of the attractive, near-endemic Dusky-backed Jacamar.  There is also a good chance of the endemic Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird today, as well as Bare-throated Tiger Heron and the near-endemic Black Antshrike.

We will also visit a remote ranch where it may be easiest to ride up on horseback rather than hike for an hour or more up the steep trail. Our main targets here are the sought-after, near-endemic Viridian Dacnis, a species that only occurs in a very limited part of Colombia and adjacent Panama, and the equally wanted Rufous-crowned Pittasoma, a species that was first thought to be an antpitta but which is now known to be more closely related to the gnateaters.

During our visit to the region, we also have a good chance of finding such endemics as Chestnut-winged Chachalaca and Baudo Oropendola as well as the near-endemic Black Oropendola.

More widespread species include White-whiskered Hermit, White-tailed Trogon, Collared Forest Falcon, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Chestnut-capped Antbird, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Golden-collared Manakin, Stripe-throated and Bay Wrens, Variable Seedeater, Purple Honeycreeper and Golden-hooded, Tawny-crested and Rufous-winged Tanagers.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 16  We will return to Apartado this morning and take a flight to the city of Medellin. From there we travel the relatively short distance to San Pedro de los Milagros for an overnight stay.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 17  This morning we shall explore the area where the endemic Antioquia Brushfinch was recently rediscovered after long being feared extinct. With specialist knowledge, we have a good chance of this interesting endemic this morning.

Afterwards, we shall drive to Anori for a two nights stay at the Reserva Arrierito Antioqueño (or Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve). We will begin our exploration of the reserve this afternoon.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 18  The ProAves reserve known as Arrierito Antioqueño is a lovely area of pristine forest with an extensive, quiet trail through prime habitat, as well as a public road that bisects the reserve.

Our main focus at Arrierito Antioqueño will be the rare endemic Chestnut-capped Piha, which was described as recently as 2001, as well as such other endemics as 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. We will also have a good chance for such endemics as Stiles’s Tapaculo and Multicoloured Tanager, and such near-endemics as Citron-throated Toucan, the superb but secretive Sooty-headed Wren and Purplish-mantled Tanager.

Other species we may well find here include Steely-vented Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg, Purple-throated Woodstar, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Red-headed Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Plain-brown, Olivaceous and Spotted Woodcreepers, Red-faced Spinetail, Buff-fronted and Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, Western Woodhaunter, Streak-capped Treehunter, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Slaty Antwren, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Northern White-crowned Tapaculo, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Olive-striped, Golden-crowned and Pale-edged Flycatchers, White-throated Spadebill, White-crowned Manakin, the shy White-naped Brushfinch, Buff-rumped Warbler, Yellow-throated Bush Tanager and Guira, Black-faced and Silver-throated Tanagers.

Nightbirding here may produce Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Tropical Screech Owl or even the rare Cinnamon Screech Owl.

More difficult species include Wattled Guan, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Pavonine Cuckoo, Brown-billed Scythebill, the attractive Rufous-rumped Antwren, Wing-barred Piprites, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Pale-eyed Thrush and Long-billed Gnatwren.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 19  After a last morning at the Chestnut-capped Piha reserve we will return to Medellin for an overnight stay.

En route we will make a stop in some dry forest where we should find the recently discovered endemic 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 Andean and Tody Motmots and Yellow-headed Manakin, while Scarlet-fronted Parakeets regularly screech overhead.

Colombia with a Difference: Day 20:  Our tour ends this morning at Medellin airport.

(There are frequent domestic flights to Bogotá and other Colombian cities. We will be pleased to supply internal flight tickets to Bogotá or elsewhere on request.)

 

CHOCÓ LOWLANDS EXTENSION

Colombia with a Difference (Chocó): Day 1  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 well see the restricted-range Black-breasted and Pied Puffbirds, Black-striped Woodcreeper the delightful Blue Cotinga, the near-endemic Black-tipped Cotinga and the fabulous Golden-collared Manakin.

Other specialities or other new birds of wider distribution we may find along the road include near-endemics like the impressive Choco Toucan, the hyperactive Rose-faced Parrot, the stunning Scarlet-and-white Tanager and the colourful Blue-whiskered Tanager, as well as Grey-headed Chachalaca, the elusive Tiny Hawk, Common Black Hawk, the diminutive Bat Falcon, Black-cheeked and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Stripe-billed Aracari, the restricted-range Spot-crowned Barbet, Dusky Antbird, the scarce White-ringed Flycatcher, the kingbird-like Western Sirystes, Lesser Greenlet and the restricted-range Rufous-winged Tanager and 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, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and Royal, Elegant, Cabot’s and Common Terns are also present.

Colombia with a Difference (Chocó): Days 2-3  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, restricted-range Brown Wood Rail, and we have a reasonable chance of finding this cracking bird. The nearby mangroves are home to the rare, near-endemic Humboldt’s Sapphire and near-endemic Sapphire-throated Hummingbird as well as Prothonotary Warbler. Around this area, we also have a good chance of finding the near-endemic Dusky Pigeon and the beautiful, near-endemic 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 (the 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, the chunky, near-endemic Lemon-spectacled Tanager and Dusky-faced Tanager. We may also be lucky enough 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 reasonably 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 and the charismatic Tawny-faced Gnatwren.

The whole area is relatively poorly known, and a number of rare and desirable species are recorded from time to time. We should bump into several of these species, which include such near-endemics as Choco Tinamou, Baudo Guan, Purple-chested Hummingbird and Choco and Lita Woodpeckers, as well as the restricted-range Choco Screech Owl, Great Curassow, Rufous-fronted Wood Quail, Tawny-faced Quail, Plumbeous Hawk, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Great Jacamar, 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 (Chocó): Day 4  Today we will return to Bahia Solano and catch a flight to Medellin for an overnight stay.

Colombia with a Difference (Chocó): Day 5  Early this morning we will take a short trip to a small reserve that protects a fragment of cloud forest near the city where we will have another chance to see the very rare, near-endemic Yellow-headed Manakin. This beautiful manakin was discovered breeding here quite recently and it has since become a reliable site at which to find this generally very rarely seen species.

Afterwards, we will head for Medellin airport where our tour ends around midday.

(There are frequent domestic flights to Bogotá and other Colombian cities. We will be pleased to supply internal flight tickets to Bogotá or elsewhere on request.)

COLOMBIA WITH A DIFFERENCE TOUR REPORT 2018

by Dani López-Velasco

View Report

COLOMBIA WITH A DIFFERENCE TOUR REPORT 2017

by János Oláh

View Report

COLOMBIA WITH A DIFFERENCE TOUR REPORT 2016

by Pete Morris

View Report

Other unusual birding tours in northern South America by Birdquest include: