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Central Colombia: The Cloud Forests and Paramo of the Western and Central Andes - Las Tangaras and Yellow-eared Parrot Reserves, Rio Blanco, Los Nevados National Park, and Otun-Quimbaya

June 17 - 27, 2018

Colombia is famous for being the most bird-rich county on Earth.  While that's impressive, so, too, is its overall biodiversity which is eclipsed only by that of Brazil.........which has the advantage of being seven times larger.  The unique topography of the country - Pacific and Caribbean coasts, three Andean ranges, Amazonian rainforest, and llanos - supports a great number of bird species, including over 85 endemics and 100 near endemics.  On this route, we’ll visit some of Central Colombia’s most diverse locations. Some are sites established by the conservation organization Proaves, which has a network of special reserves designed to protect not only rare species but also sites of unusually high biodiversity.  Others include Rio Blanco (an area protected for its watershed function), Los Nevados National Park, and the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve.   

We begin in Medellin where we visit La Romera Park.  At this mid-elevation Central Andean spot, we’ll have chances to see many widespread species - such as Andean motmot, emerald toucanet, green jay, golden tanager, and others – but our main target will be a beautiful endemic, the red-bellied grackle.  We then head west towards the Choco bioregion and the Las Tangaras Reserve.  On the way we’ll stop for lunch and to look for three Colombian endemics – Antioquia wren, apical flycatcher, and grayish piculet. 

Las Tangaras Reserve is a rich spot where the lodge hummingbird and banana feeders attract 7-8 hummer species, oropendulas, tanagers, and others, but the main attraction is the cloud forest a few miles up the hill.  Along the nearly traffic-free road and on a nice trail that climbs through the forest, we’ll look for many species, including several Choco endemics - orange-breasted fruiteater, olivaceous piha, beautiful jay, black solitaire , purplish-mantled and black-and-gold tanagers, indigo flowerpiercer, and yellow-collared chlorophonia.  The higher elevation hummingbird feeders host empress brilliant, greenish puffleg, velvet-purple coronet, and white-tailed hillstar.

From Tangaras, we head south to the picturesque town of Jardin and the charming Hotel Kantarrana Casa de Campo.  This area is one of the only locations in the world where a breeding population of the rare and endangered yellow-eared parrot can be found.  Amidst the area’s spectacular cloud forest, we’ll also have chances to see black-collared jay, oleaginous hemispingus, golden-fronted whitestart, Andean cock-of-the-rock, mountain velvetbreast, streaked tuftedcheek, Sharpe’s wren, several mountain tanagers, and lots more.

From Jardin, we continue south to Manizales and the lovely Hotel Estelar Recinto de Pensamiento from where we’ll visit the Rio Blanco Reserve.  This site has become famous for its four habituated antpitta species – slate-crowned, bicolored, brown-banded, and chestnut-crowned.  We’ll spend a full day here in excellent cloudforest that hosts many Andean species including masked trogon , four mountain tanagers (blue-winged, lacrimose, hooded, and buff-breasted), rusty-faced parrot, dusky piha, powerful woodpecker, and the rare masked saltator.  

We then get a taste of high Andean paramo as we head up to the nearby Los Nevados National Park.  In high cloud forest and above treeline in the paramo, we’ll look for several hummingbirds, the most special of which is the endemic buffy helmetcrest.  We’ll also hope to see the endemic rufous-fronted parakeet while enjoying spectacular vistas and the unusual Espletia plants.  Here we’ll spend the night at the nearby Hotel Termales del Ruiz, which has good cloud forest, amazing hummingbird feeders, and a hot-spring-fed pool.

Our last stop is the Otun Quimbaya Reserve just to the east of Pereira.  Here we’ll spend the day and should see the endemic Cauca guan and perhaps plumbeous-crowned tyrannulet, red-ruffed fruitcrow, white-winged becard, rufous-naped greenlet, perhaps multicolored tanager, and others. This will also be our best chance to see the endemic and hard to see chestnut wood-quail.  We’ll be based for our last two nights at a nice hotel in Pereira a short drive away.

Led by naturalist and bird guide Mark Pretti and local guides, the cost will be announced - double occupancy, starting in Medellin and ending in Pereira, and includes all lodging, meals, tips, and ground transportation. 

             Detailed itinerary and references available upon request.


Bicolored Antpitta and White-capped Tanager by Howard Freshman


Last updated: July 13, 2017.