Colombia: The Central & Western Andes: Mar 12—27, 2019

Hummingbirds, Antpittas, Tanagers, & Andean Endemics

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Price: $6,695
(Internal flight included)
Departs: Cali
Ends: Bogota
Tour Limit: 8
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (626.9 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of...

Local Leader

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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

Yellow-eared Parrots

Yellow-eared Parrots— Photo: ProAves Colombia/

VENT leader Steve Hilty is featured in an article about birding in Colombia which appeared in the June 25, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal, and also in an article in the Spring 2011 issue of Living Bird, the quarterly magazine of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Complements our Bogotá, Eastern Andes, and Magdalena Valley tour. Focuses on endemics of Central and Western Colombian Andes and species of cooler middle-elevations. Rare Yellow-eared Parrot, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, hummingbirds, antpittas, dozens of colorful tanagers including the endemic Gold-ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, and Red-bellied Grackle. Beautiful, cool montane forests virtually throughout; no hot and humid lowland sites; good photographic opportunities at numerous sites.

During the last few years birders and tourists alike have begun flocking back to Colombia’s seashores, beautiful green mountains, and cloud-filled valleys. VENT’s return to Colombia, spearheaded by Birds of Colombia author, Steve Hilty, who has traveled and guided more widely in Colombia than anyone, represents a landmark. Since early 2009 we have operated about 30 trips in Colombia, all but one guided by Hilty. These are VENT’s first tour offerings to this storied country since our last trip there in 1986. Our Central and Western tour visits eleven major sites in the Central Andes and Western Andes, thus perfectly complementing our Bogotá, Eastern Andes, and Magdalena Valley trip, and our Santa Marta Mountains trip.

Colombia boasts the world’s longest list of birds, now over 1,900 species. Much of this diversity is due to the country’s complex topography, which includes three Andean ranges, each with distinctive species. This exciting Central and Western route capitalizes on Colombia’s spectacularly rich montane avifauna and is famous for its hummingbirds (40 or more species likely) and tanagers (up to 75 species under current taxonomy). We’ll have an opportunity to search for a good number of Colombia’s endemics, among them Cauca Guan, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Yellow-eared Parrot, Buffy Helmetcrest, Grayish Piculet, Parker’s Antbird, Brown-breasted Antpitta, Stiles’s Tapaculo, Multicolored Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, Crested Ant-Tanager, and Red-bellied Grackle, as well as other species such as Golden-breasted and Black-thighed pufflegs, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Bicolored Antvireo, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Yellow-headed Manakin, Black Solitaire, Purplish-mantled Tanager, and Tanager Finch, all of which have limited distributions.

Black-and-gold Tanager

Black-and-gold Tanager— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Among the locations we plan to visit are the Anchicayá, one of the world’s top birding roads, and an exciting new site within Tatamá National Park in the Western Andes, which is arguably one of the most tanager-rich locations in the entire country. Other sites include a forest reserve near Pereira where we should see the endangered Cauca Guan, the cloud forests of the Rio Blanco Reserve near Manizales, and the lofty slopes of the Nevado del Ruiz and the spectacular hummingbird feeders nearby. Also included will be a relaxing stop at the Hotel Tinamu near Manizales, and the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve above the lovely little city of Jardin in the Western Andes, where we hope to catch sight of this extremely rare wax-palm specialist that was once found south to central Ecuador. Finally, we visit a lower elevation dry forest site en route to Medellín and conclude our trip with a morning in a lush mountain park in Medellín where the endemic Red-bellied Grackle and Yellow-headed Manakin occur, as well as many widespread species.

Colombia enjoyed an incipient boom in birding and natural history tourism in the 1970s and early 1980s, and then suffered a 20-year hiatus as security issues plagued portions of the country. Inevitably, the question prospective visitors now ask about Colombia is, “Is it safe again?” The answer is an unequivocal yes! We are currently operating several tour routes in Colombia, as are other travel companies, and we believe the areas we visit are as secure as anywhere in Latin America. Colombians are desperate for normalcy in their lives, and the government, at all levels, has made great strides in bringing peace and prosperity to this beautiful country. Everywhere we travel, we see evidence of Colombia’s dynamic and booming economy, friendly people, and a population dedicated to putting its past behind. 

Accommodations generally good (all have hot showers but some have only cold water in wash basins); possibly some shared rooms at one site; food generous and good; birding on foot on little-traveled Andean roads or on generally well-maintained forest trails, but a few short sections may be slippery; expect some long walks (up to 5-9 km at some sites) at elevations of 5,000 feet or higher; three or four sites require 4×4 access; relatively long drives on curvy roads between sites; midday breaks in a few areas; pleasant, mostly cool temperatures at elevations of ca. 4,000 to 9,000 feet; two mornings in warm foothills; one chilly morning at treeline (ca. 13,000 ft.); rain always possible.