It’s Colombia not Columbia (on T-shirts for sale at the Medellin airport)

Author: Dave Larson 

I was leading a Mass Audubon tour in central Colombia at the beginning of March. The day after we returned, all Mass Audubon facilities were closed due to the pandemic, and I’ve been working from home ever since. You could say that we got back home just under the wire. 

You might ask, why a tour to Colombia? Well, that country has the most species of birds of any country in the world, over 1900! And because of its complex topography, it has a lot of endemic species (found only in that country). So, of course we went to Colombia! We flew into the southern city of Cali and worked our way along the Cauca River valley up to Medellin, with side trips up into the western and central Andes ranges.  

The birds and scenery were fabulous! Right off the bat we found the glorious, endemic Multicolored Tanager.

Multicolored Tanager – Dave Larson

Part of the fun of birding in different countries is experiencing different cultures and the certainty of running into some locations that are amazing. Birding in the cloud forest is always a treat, but nothing beats eating outside, overlooking the bird feeders, at a local restaurant in the cloud forest, such as Doña Dora’s.

Group Photo at Dona Dora’s
Toucan Barbet – Dave Larson

So many places, so many birds–which way to look? Hummingbirds are everywhere (almost 170 species) and many species come to feeders. It is hard to beat the Violet-tailed Sylph for impact or a Blue-headed Sapphire for vibrance.

Violet-Tailed Sylph
Blue-Headed Sapphire – Dave Larson

Antpittas are one of my favorite groups of birds. Notoriously difficult to see in the wild, many have been trained to come to feeding stations at specific times to get worms. Of the 12 species we recorded, we saw six, all at feeding stations. My favorites were the Crescent-faced Antpitta and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta. 

Crescent-Faced Antpitta – Dave Larson
Brown-Banded Antpitta – Dave Larson

Cotingas are another awesome group of tropical birds. And maybe the most amazing of cotingas is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. We visited a large, boisterous lek of displaying males in the lovely town of Jardin. It was mind-boggling.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Tanagers are the group most often associated with Neotropical forests and Colombia has at least 175 species. Favorites of our trip participants included Flame-rumped, Glistening Green, Saffron-crowned, Gold-ringed, and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager. My personal favorite was the Purplish-mantled Tanager.

Gold-Ringed Tanager – Dave Larson
Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager – Dave Larson
Purpleish-Mantled Tanager – Dave Larson

Finally, Colombia has glorious scenery, warm and friendly people, and amazing guides, like our Pablo Florez of Multicolor Birding. Colombia has made huge strides since the end of the civil war, and most of the country is safe for travelers. If you get a chance, go.

Birding Along the Road – Dave Larson
Mountains after Mountains – Dave Larson

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