Colombia: The Central & Western Andes: Jun 10—25, 2013

Hummingbirds, Antpittas, Tanagers, and Andean Endemics

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Please contact us if you would like more information on upcoming departures for this tour.

Departs: Bogotá
Tour Limit: 8
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (169 KB)

Route Map

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Tour Leaders

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Steve Hilty

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


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Yellow-eared Parrots

Yellow-eared Parrots— Photo: ProAves Colombia/www.proaves.org

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.

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 17 trips in Colombia, all guided by Hilty. These are VENT’s first tour offerings to this storied country in 23 years. Our Central and Western tour visits seven 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 near 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 (around 40 species likely) and tanagers. We’ll have an opportunity to search for a good number of Colombia’s endemics, among them Cauca Guan, Chestnut Wood-Quail, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Indigo-winged Parrot, Yellow-eared Parrot, 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 Bearded Helmetcrest, Copper-breasted Puffleg, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Bicolored Antvireo, Rufous-naped Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, 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 is a site near Ibague where we will search for the critically endangered Indigo-winged Parrot. We will also stay several days at an exciting new site within Tatamá National Park in the Western Andes which is arguably the most tanager-rich location in the entire country and a site where we have now found four endemic tanagers. Other sites include a forest reserve near Pereira where we should see the endangered Cauca Guan, the cloud forests of the Rio Blanco Reserve and its three antpitta feeders near Manizales, and the lofty slopes of the Nevado del Ruiz. Also included will be 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 couple of lower elevation dry forest habitats 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 a 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. During the last few years birders and tourists alike have begun flocking back to Colombia’s seashores, beautiful green mountains, and cloud-filled valleys. We think you should consider a vacation here too, and why not travel with someone who knows this country best. Steve Hilty has spent years traveling in this remarkable country, and will guide all of our trips, some of them in concert with dynamic young Colombian birder Luis Eduardo Urueña.

Accommodations generally good, but shared bathrooms at one (possibly two) sites; food generous and good; birding on foot on little-traveled Andean roads or well-maintained forest trails; expect some long walks (up to 5-8 km at one site) at elevations of 5,000 feet or higher; three sites require 4×4 access; relatively long drives on curvy roads between sites; midday breaks in some areas; pleasant, mostly cool temperatures at elevations of ca. 4,000 to 9,000 feet; one day in warm foothills; one chilly morning at treeline (ca. 13,000 ft.) rain always possible.