Colombia: The Central & Western Andes Jul 13—28, 2017

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: plenty of curvy roads, landslides, massive road construction projects, absolutely hoards of tractor-trailer trucks, out-sized meals for carnivores, enchanting cloud forests, spectacular mountain scenery, hummingbirds, antpittas, colorful tanagers, mixed species flocks, and remarkably friendly, helpful people. Nothing much has changed, although Doña Dora’s place near Queremal was better than ever, and a nice new hotel located in the Dagua Valley and about thirty minutes from Queremal was a great help logistically. I also worried that with Albedo leaving Río Blanco (he was the man that fed the antpittas for over seven years), we might not have an antpitta “show” this year, but even that proved unnecessary. The new staff did fine, and a recently constructed house now open for visitors makes staying on site a more realistic possibility. And young Colombian birders themselves, of which there are now many, are discovering and reporting new sites, finding new species for the growing country list (already the largest in the world), and contributing in many ways to the advancement of ornithology and birding in their country. Best of all, at several of the sites we visit, these young local birders are assisting us or providing inside information on an array of species that is proving helpful in many ways.

Cauca Guan (endemic)

Cauca Guan— Photo: Steve Hilty


This year we began the trip above Cali where a remarkable collection of hummingbird feeders and hummingbirds delighted everyone. The following day we drove deep into the Río Anchicayá Valley with spectacular waterfalls and lush vegetation. This area holds special interest for me because some 46 years ago I undertook my graduate dissertation work studying tanager foraging behavior and plant flowering and fruiting cycles on a high ridge overlooking this lovely valley. The following morning, still on the Pacific slope of the Andes, we spent an unusually productive morning near Queremal with highlights that included a Uniform Treehunter, Crested Ant-Tanagers, and Rufous-throated Tanager.

During succeeding days we visited Laguna de Sonso, an old oxbow lake in the floor of the Cauca Valley located just outside the city of Buga. A day later we were high on a mountaintop in Tatamá National Park in the Western Andes with magnificent scenery in all directions. This area is always a productive birding area, and with access to elevations ranging from 1,400–2,600m the possibilities seem endless. One of our first birds here was the endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, a species confined to high elevations at the north end of Colombia’s Western Andes. The Munchique Wood-Wren, another endemic, proved more difficult to see (but we heard several), and it is a special bird to me because I discovered this species on Cerro Munchique at the south end of the Western Andes in the late 1970s, and eventually helped describe it new to science in 2003. Our stay in the remote Tatamá region added many Chocó-Pacific birds including Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Golden-winged Manakin, Club-winged Manakin (for part of the group), Purplish-mantled Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, and Black-and-gold Tanager among many others.

Read Steve’s full report in his Field Report.