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  • Photograph of Buffy Helmetcrest

    The endemic Buffy (Bearded) Helmetcrest in Los Nevados National Park (Nevado del Ruiz) by Ian Merrill.

    COLOMBIA

    Photograph of Saffron-headed Parrot


    Photograph of Bicolored Antpitta

    Saffron-headed Parrot at Rio Claro and Bicolored Antpitta at Rio Blanco by Paul Noakes.

    Best Wildlife in Colombia

    Mammals
    Cotton-top, Geoffroy's and White-footed Tamarins, (Venezuelan) Red Howler, Brown (Tufted) and White-throated (White-faced) Capuchins, and Brown (Variegated) Spider and White-bellied Spider Monkeys. Also a chance of Lemurine (Grey-handed) Night Monkey.

    Birds

    Endemics (over 90 and rising, including Santa Marta Endemics below)
    Chestnut-winged and Colombian Chachalacas, Cauca Guan, Blue-billed Curassow, Chestnut and Gorgeted Wood Quails, Bogota Rail, Tolima Dove, Flame-winged (Brown-throated) and Rufous-fronted Parakeets, Indigo-winged (Fuerte's) and Yellow-eared Parrots, Turquoise-winged (Green-rumped) Parrotlet, Chestnut-bellied, Indigo-capped and Sapphire-bellied Hummingbirds, Tolima Blossomcrown, Black Inca, Dusky Starfrontlet, Colourful and Gorgeted Pufflegs, Buffy and Green-bearded Helmetcrests, Chiribiquete Emerald, Sooty-capped Puffbird, White-mantled Barbet, Grey-throated Toucanet, Greyish Piculet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Silvery-throated Spinetail, East Andean (Klages's), Magdalena (Dull-mantled) and Parker's Antbirds, Bicolored, Brown-banded, Cundinamarca and Urrao (Fenwick's) Antpittas, Alto Pisones, Magdalena, Matorral, Pale-bellied and Stile's Tapaculos, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant, Apical Flycatcher, Antioquia, Apolinar's and Niceforo's Wrens, Munchique Wood Wren, Chestnut-capped Piha, Antioquia, Dusky-headed and Yellow-headed Brush Finches, Crested and Sooty Ant Tanagers, Black-and-gold, Flame-rumped, Gold-ringed and Multicoloured Tanagers, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, Turquoise Dacnis, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Baudo Oropendola, Bronze-brown Cowbird, and Colombian Mountain and Red-bellied Grackles. (Bogota Sunangel (Nehrkorn's Sylph) may still exist - a 'blue sylph' was seen at Rogitama in the mid 2000s).

    Santa Marta Endemics (over 25)
    SM Parakeet, SM Screech Owl, SM Sabrewing, SM Blossomcrown, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Black-backed Thornbill, SM Woodstar, Blue-bearded Helmetcrest, SM Toucanet, Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, SM (Ruddy) Foliage-gleaner, SM (Long-tailed) Antbird, SM Antpitta, SM Rufous Antpitta, Brown-rumped and SM Tapaculos, SM Bush Tyrant, SM Wren, Bangs's and SM Wood Wrens, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, SM and White-lored Warblers, Colombian (Bangs's/Sierra Nevada) and SM Brush Finches, and SM Mountain Tanager.

    Santa Marta Region Near-endemics
    Black-fronted Wood Quail, Coppery Emerald, Buffy Hummingbird, White-tipped Quetzal, Yellow-billed (Groove-billed) Toucanet, White-whiskered Spinetail, Pale-tipped and Slender-billed Inezias (Tyrannulets), Venezuelan Flycatcher, Vermilion Cardinal, Orinocan Saltator, and Golden-winged and Tocuyo Sparrows.

    Choco Endemics (Not all of these are likely to be seen)
    Berlepsch’s Tinamou, Baudo Guan, Dark-backed Wood Quail, Plumbeous Forest Falcon, Dusky Pigeon, Rose-faced Parrot, Banded Ground Cuckoo, Colombian Screech-owl, Choco Poorwill, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, Brown Inca, Gorgeted Sunangel, Hoary Puffleg, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Violet-tailed Sylph, Choco (White-eyed) Trogon, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Choco Toucan, Five-coloured, Orange-fronted and Toucan Barbets, Choco and Lita Woodpeckers, Club-winged and Yellow-headed Manakins, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Bicoloured Antvireo, Stub-tailed Antbird, Rufous-crowned and Yellow-breasted Antpittas, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Narino Tapaculo, Choco Vireo, Beautiful Jay, Black Solitaire, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Blue-whiskered, Glistening-green, Golden-chested, Moss-backed, Purplish-mantled Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Tanager Finch, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Dusky and Yellow-green Bush Tanagers, and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia.

    Other Near-endemics
    Saffron-headed Parrot, White-chested Swift, Red-billed Emerald, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Black-thighed, Coppery-bellied and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Purple-throated Woodstar, Spot-crowned Barbet, Recurve-billed Bushbird, Bar-crested Antshrike, Streak-chested Antpitta, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas, Masked Saltator, Flame-rumped, Grey-and-gold, Ochre-breasted, Rufous-throated and Scrub Tanagers, Golden-fronted Whitestart and Rufous-browed Conebill.

    Others
    The very long list includes American Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis, Andean Cock-of-the-rock (at lek), Oilbird (at cave), Torrent Duck, Northern Screamer, Magnificent Frigatebird, guans, Capped Heron, many raptors including King Vulture and Aplomado Falcon, Wattled Jacana, Noble Snipe, pigeons, doves, parakeets, parrots, many hummingbirds (many at feeders) including Booted Racket-tail, Collared Inca, Purple-crowned Fairy, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Sword-billed, Golden-headed Quetzal, trogons, motmots, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, puffbirds, Red-headed Barbet, Chestnut-mandibled, Citron-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Black-billed and Grey-breasted Mountain Toucans, woodpeckers, foliage-gleaners, spinetails, woodcreepers, antshrikes, antwrens, antbirds, antpittas (several at worm-feeders), tapaculos including Ocellated, tyrannulets, pygmy tyrants such as Rufous-headed and Black-capped (the smallest passerine in the world along with Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant), tody tyrants, tody flycatchers, flycatchers, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Dusky and Olivaceous Pihas, fruiteaters including Golden-breasted and Scaled, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, manakins including Golden-winged, Lance-tailed and White-bearded, becards, tityras, Yellow-browed Shrike Vireo, wrens, Long-billed Gnatwren, White-capped Dipper, wintering warblers such as Blackburnian, Cerulean and Prothonotary, conebills, hemispinguses, mountain tanagers, numerous tanagers including Flame-faced, Golden, Golden-crowned, Grass-green, Red-hooded and White-capped, Rosy Thrush Tanager, dacnises, honeycreepers, Plushcap, flowerpiercers, brush finches, orioles, oropendolas, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia and euphonias. Also a chance of wood quails, Blue-and-yellow and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Lanceolated Monklet, Black-capped Donacobius and Sapayoa.

    Invertebrates
    The fantastic variety of butterflies includes clearwings, crackers, heliconids, morphos and satyrs.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Colombia

    Best Times for Wildlife in Colombia

    The best times to visit are from January to March and from June to mid-September, during the two relatively driest periods of the year.

    Recommended Books etc. for Colombia

    Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by M McMullan, T M Donegan and A Quevedo. Conservation Allies LLC, 2014 (Second Edition).

    A Guide to the Birds of Colombia by S Hilty and W L Brown. PUP, 1986.

    Birds of South America: Non-Passerines by J R Roderiguez Mata et al. Harper Collins, 2006.

    The Birds of South America: Passerines by R S Ridgely and G Tudor. University of Texas Press, 1989 and 1994 (Two volumes).

    Birds of Northern South America by R Restall, C Rodner and M Lentino. Helm, 2006 (Two volumes).

    Mammals of South America by R D Lord. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

    Apps etc.


    All Birds Colombia by Bloomsbury/Sunbird Images.

    Where to watch birds in South America by N Wheatley. Helm, 1994.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in South America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Colombia

    Many trip reports, some for Colombia, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Colombia. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Colombia' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Colombia

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.


    Accommodation in Colombia


    Some Organized Tours to Colombia

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Colombia in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.