Thursday, 8 December 2011

Colombia: some highlights

Singing male Black-crested Warbler - one of the most attractive of Colombia's 12 Basileuterus species.
Among the many component species of the mixed flocks in the cloudforest was Crimson-mantled Woodpecker.
Breathtaking scenery at Rio Blanco in the Central Andes.
1,878 species. Or thereabouts – let’s not haggle about the odd one. There’s no point, as Colombia’s huge avifauna is very much a work in progress and new species are being added with some regularity. 1,878 species and counting would be a better way of putting it, particularly as the number is also taxonomy dependent. The Clements Checklist uses this figure, but the IOC total is actually 1,906, so it’s an imperfect science.

We observed this tiny but impressive male Bearded Helmetcrest at an elevation of about 14,000 ft.
Colombian hummers come in all shapes and sizes - this female White-bellied Woodstar was almost bee-like in jizz.
Whatever the final number, the sheer volume of species in this wonderful country is hard to take in, at least from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. Species-wise, the sum total of a lifetime’s efforts in the Western Palearctic could be knocked off in a three-week tour of Colombia without too much trouble – there’s even talk of 1,000 species being possible in a month.

Bicoloured Antpitta is usually extremely difficult to locate, so we were fortunate to get great views like this.

Also seen at close range in a forest feeding station was the striking Chestnut-naped Antpitta ...
... but seemingly most common of all was Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. The place for views like these is Rio Blanco.
So never having visited before, I felt I was going to be quickly overwhelmed during a short blitz through the country’s Central and Western Andes. As it transpired, the reality was far more enjoyable – well it would be, of course. While most birders go for longer, I was there for a week at the invitation of the tourism authorities to research and write a feature for Birdwatch about the country’s birding potential. Back on the map after major improvements to the security situation, Colombia is open for business again, with a major USP being its status as the world’s number one country for avian diversity.

A rare view in the open of Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, a subtly attractive tropical Catharus species.
Azara's Spinetails were usually first detected on call, but occasionally gave good views.
Greyish Piculet is one of about 85 species endemic to Colombia (depending on taxonomy followed).
The write-up will appear in the magazine in due course (and watch out for a Birding Adventures TV show too), but having just returned I wanted to share a few images from the trip. Getting such a great head-start with the country’s birdlife was only possible through the expert services of Birding Tours Colombia, who organised the itinerary. In particular, I’m very grateful to Daniel Uribe for his help, knowledge and company in the field – he provided a perfect introduction to the birds of the Andes, and I thoroughly recommend the company to anyone contemplating a visit. Maybe a few of these birds will also whet your appetite …

Tourmaline Sunangel was another in the long line-up at hummer central - Rio Blanco.


  1. Wonderful shot of the Bearded Helmetcrest, Dominic - mucho envy!

    Rob Innes



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