Central Andes

The Central Andes is the oldest and highest of the three Andean ranges, and boast 7 perpetually snow-capped peaks. It borders the Cauca Valley to the west and the Magdalena Valley to the east. A fascinating 12 of Colombia’s endemic species are restricted to the central Andes, including Brown-banded Antpitta, Parker’s Antbird and the recently described Chestnut-capped Piha. The range provides relatively easy views of targets such as Cauca Guan, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Torrent Duck.

The central Andes is also home to the famed Coffee Triangle, a landscape that has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Please scroll down to learn about the amazing birding sites the central Andes has to offer.

Rio Blanco Reserve

Rio Blanco has been touted as one of the three top places to go birding in the world. Only 30 minutes from the city of Manizales, the reserve covers 3,218 ha (7,945ac) with an altitudinal range between 2,240 m (7,350 ft ) to 3,700 m (12,140 ft). It is possible to observe 6 species of Antpitta within a few hours at the three feeders located within a short hike from the lodge: The endemic Brown-banded, Bicolored, Undulated, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut-naped, and Slate-crowned Antpitta. The seldom seen Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush and Gray-browed Brush-Finch also feast at the feeders. The very rare Masked Saltator can sometimes be observed in the vicinity of the lodge.

Along with endemic and rare species, this area boasts many sought after species that include: Tyrannine Woodcreeper, the erratic White-capped Tanager, Golden-faced Whitestart, the impressive Sword-billed Hummingbird, Dusky Piha, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers, Grass-green and, Powerful Woodpecker, and the hard to see Ocellated, Blakish and Spillman’s Tapaculos. Black-billed Peppershrike, the attractive Plushcap, Mountain Cacique, and Golden-plumed Parakeet are also possible.

Otun-Quimbaya Sanctuary

The Otun-Quimbaya Sanctuary, in the western slope of the central Andes, is a flora and fauna sanctuary that was created in 1996 to protect a cloud forest that ranges between 1,600 m (5,740 ft) and 2,255 m (7,400 ft) in elevation and covers 489 ha (1,208 acres). The endangered, endemic Cauca Guan is relatively easy to see at the reserve, and these birds were believed to be extinct until a population of the species was rediscovered in 1990. It is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow.

The Otun-Quimbaya Sanctuary, in the western slope of the central Andes, is a flora and fauna sanctuary that was created in 1996 to protect a cloud forest that ranges between 1,600 m (5,740 ft) and 2,255 m (7,400 ft) in elevation and covers 489 ha (1,208 acres). The endangered, endemic Cauca Guan is relatively easy to see at the reserve, and these birds were believed to be extinct until a population of the species was rediscovered in 1990. It is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow.

Los Nevados National Park

Los Nevados National Park, in the central Andes, encompasses 38,000 ha (93,900 ac) and is home to four glaciated peaks. Birding is done along a lightly traveled road that winds up the mountain through patches of elfin forest that give way to paramo (tropical grassland above tree line). The scenery is delightful, with velvety frailejon (Espletia) plants adding a touch of surrealism to the experience. Temperatures can be cold, and many species can be found upwards of 4,000 m (13,100 feet). A paradise for high elevation specialists, targets include: Bearded Helmetcrest, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Capped Conebill, Golden-crowned Tanager, Paramo Tapaculo, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, and the endemic and very hard to find Rufous-fronted Parakeet. Also fun to watch are Tawny Antpitta, who are very tame in this area. The habitat surrounding a glacial lagoon called Laguna Negra, afford views of Many-striped Canastero, White-tailed Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Ruddy Duck, Grass Wren, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch. A bonus is the variety of seedeaters in the Paramo, including Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Paramo and Plain-colored Seedeaters.

Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Created in 2006, this reserve is known as one of the premier ProAves birding hotspots. Encompassing 3,271 acres, the lush humid montane forests and water features of the reserve provide optimal bird-ing habitat. The reserve staff also maintains feeders that attract a myriad of fruit-eating species, a true festival of Tanagers. Some of the target species include the endemics Colombian Chachalaca, Chestnut Wood-quail, Stiles’s Tapaculo and the near-endemics Sooty-headed Wren and Purplish-mantled Tanager . Of course, the recently described Chestnut-capped Piha is at the top of the list, but other specialties include Uniform Antshrike, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo and Indigo Flowerpiercer.

Other target species that are possible include Pavonine Cuckoo, Blackish Rail, Russet-crowned Crake, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Lanceolated Monklet, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Golden-winged Manakin, Moustached Puffbird, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, North-ern White-crowned Tapaculo, and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater. For the hummingbird lovers Green-fronted Lancebill and Greenish Puffleg are always a pleasure to get acquainted with.

La Romera Park

La Romera is a small park within the city limits of Medellín that is home to the endemics Red-bellied Grackle and Yellow-headed Manakin. The park affords good birding opportunities without having to travel far, with species such as Spotted Barbtail, Blackish Tapaculo, Azara’s Spinetail, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Three-striped Warbler, Scrub Tanager, Blue-crowned Motmot and Western Emerald.