Colombia: The Central & Western Andes Mar 13—28, 2018

Posted by Steve Hilty


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of Venezuela, both by Princeton University Press, as well as the popular Birds of ...

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Last year I summarized this trip with the following comments (here paraphrased in part) “. . . many curvy roads, landslides, massive road construction projects, masses of tractor-trailer trucks, out-sized meals for carnivores, enchanting cloud forests, spectacular mountain scenery, hummingbirds, antpittas, colorful tanagers, mixed species flocks, and friendly, helpful, out-going people. And now, after a near two-decade period of unrest lasting until the very early 2000s, a young generation of Colombian birders, of which there are many, are discovering new birding locations, adding new species to the country list, already the largest in the world, organizing bird fairs, exchanging photos on Facebook, and contributing in many ways to the advancement of ornithology and environmental education in their country. And, it is in many cases, due to them that we have access to so many wonderful birding sites on tours like this one.” 

Golden-headed Quetzal

Golden-headed Quetzal— Photo: Steve Hilty


This year our first outing was to a site near Cali where a collection of hummingbird and fruit feeders attracted a parade of incredibly colorful birds. It was so pleasant here, in fact, that we stayed all day. The following day we made our first foray into the Río Anchicayá Valley, exploring several higher elevation sites including Señora Dora’s “El Descanso” restaurant complete with bird feeders and yet more new tanagers and hummingbirds. On our third day we drove deep into the heart of the Anchicayá region. Now well-known to Colombian birders, this stunningly beautiful valley harbors incredible bird and plant life. With steep, green mountain valleys, plunging waterfalls at almost every bend in the road, and exciting mixed species flocks, it ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the country. This area also holds special interest for me because some forty-seven years ago I began my graduate dissertation work studying tanager foraging behavior and plant flowering and fruiting cycles on a high ridge overlooking this lovely valley. The site was far from any road, and my wife and I used mules for the 4–5 hour trek to reach this spectacular site. It was an exciting time in our lives and remarkably, the region today has changed relatively little over the years, still retaining its original beauty. Nowadays there are a few more people living along the old gravel road that provides the only access into this valley and on to the Pacific coast, but deforestation in this foothill and lower montane region is minimal, and the entire valley retains its pristine beauty. A few of our bird highlights included Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Spot-crowned Barbets digging a nest hole, a Blue-whiskered Tanager, and a lovely male Blue-rumped (Chocó) Trogon.

Read Steve’s full report in his Field Report.