Colombia: Central & Choco Highlights

This tour covers most classic sites, including Manizales, Rio Blanco, Montezuma and Nevado de Ruiz, where we will see a build a large list of endemics and specialities such as Multicolored, Gold-ringed and Black-and-gold Tanagers, Buffy Helmetcrest, Cauca Guan, Brown-banded and Bicolored Antpittas, Yellow-eared and Fuertes's Parrots, Antioquia Brushfinch and much more.

Next dates

29 January - 13 February 2024

Tour length: 16 days

Group size limit: 7


Dani López-Velasco and a local leader

Guaranteed departure

Day 1: The tour starts at Cali International Airport (CLO) in the evening. Night at La Florida.

Day 2: Today we will spend the morning birding at La Florida, while in the afternoon we will visit San Felipe nature reserve. Amongst our targets are an impressive collection of tanagers, including the stunning Multicolored Tanager, as well as Scrub, Blue-necked, Metallic-green, Beryl-spangled, Golden-naped, Black-capped and Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Chestnut Wood-Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Scaled Antpitta, Blue-headed Sapphire, Little Tinamou and Golden-headed Quetzal. Night at La Florida.

Day 3: We will hopefully visit the spot that hosts the recently discovered grallaricula antpitta, resembling Peruvian Antpitta in some respects, at Farallones National Park. Night at La Florida.

Day 4: Full day at San Cipriano forest reserve. Long list of targets, including White-tipped Sicklebill, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird , Yellow-eared Toucanet, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Spotted, Ocellated, Dull-mantled and Stub-tailed Antbirds, Black-faced Antthrush, Thicket Antpitta, Brownish Twistwing, Pacific Flatbill, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas, Club-winged and Red-capped Manakins, Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, Song and Stripe-throated Wrens, Blue-whiskered, Rufous-winged, Scarlet-browed and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers. Night at Buga.

Day 5: Today we will spend the day at Laguna de Sonso Nature Reserve, where we will be searching for Greyish Piculet, Apical Flycatcher, Bar-crested Antshrike, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Comb Duck, Horned Screamer, Jet Antbird, Dwarf and Striped Cuckoos, Spectacled Parrotlet and Blackish Rail. In the afternoon we will head to Montezuma lodge for a three nights stay.

Days 6-7: Apart from hosting a number of Chocó endemics that are shared with Ecuador, the Montezuma region is also home to several Colombian endemics, including the cracking Gold-ringed Tanager and its close Bangsia relative, the stunning Black-and-gold Tanager, both of which we hope to see. During our two full days here we will build a large list of great birds, that can include White-throated (or Choco) Daggerbill, the near-endemic Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-throated Woodstar, Violet-tailed Sylph, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Crested Quetzal, Moustached Puffbird, Lanceolated Monklet, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Uniform Treehunter, Bar-crested Antshrike, Bicolored Antvireo, Parker’s Antbird, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Ocellated, Narino, Choco and endemic Tatama Tapaculos, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Green-and-black and Barred Fruiteaters, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Olivaceous Piha, Golden-winged Manakin, Club-winged Manakin, Striped Manakin, Golden-collared Manakin, Choco Vireo, Rufous- naped Greenlet, Beautiful Jay Gray-mantled and Sharpe’s Wren. Night at Montezuma lodge.

Day 8: After some final morning birding at Montezuma we will proceed to Otún Quimbaya for an overnight stay.

Day 9: We will spend the morning birding at Otún Quimbaya reserve, where our main target will be the Endangered Cauca Guan, thought to be extinct until rediscovered here in the 1990s. The stunning and uncommon Red-ruffed Fruitcrow is particularly common here, and we will also search for Stiles’s Tapaculo, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Crested Ant-tanager and, if lucky, the rare Hooded Antpitta. In the late afternoon we will drive to Santa Rosa for an overnight stay.

Day 10: Today we will bird at some paramo grassland mixed with temperate forest patches, where our main target will be the Endangered Fuertes’s (or Indigo-winged) Parrot. This rarely-seen species has been found in this area and we have a good chance of seeing it in at a recently discovered site. Other species such as Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Paramo Tapaculo and, if lucky, Mountain Avocetbill, are possible. Afterwards, we shall continue northwestwards to Manizales for a three nights stay.

Days 11-12: On our first full day we will visit the famous Rio Blanco reserve, which holds some of the rarest birds in Colombia. In particular, we will try to find the elusive Rusty-faced Parrot and the skulking Brown-banded and Bicoloured Antpittas. If lucky, we might also see the poorly-known Masked Saltator. In recent years, Brown-banded Antpitta has become easier to see as it regularly visits a feeding station together with Slate-crowned Antpitta and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater. Other targets here include Chestnut-naped Antpitta, the amazing Ocellated Tapaculo, Spillmann’s and Ash-coloured Tapaculos, Flame-rumped Tanager, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, the delightful Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Streak-headed Antbird, Dusky Piha, Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Pale-edged and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Mountain Wren, Capped Conebill, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, Plushcap and Black-winged Saltator. Cracking White-capped Tanagers can sometimes be seen here too. Hummingbird coming to the feeders include Long-tailed Sylph, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet and White-bellied Woodstar. Pre-dawn night birding can produce White-throated Screech Owl, Rufous-banded Owl, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk and Band-winged Nightjar.

During our second full day, we will explore the high temperate zone at Nevado del Ruiz, which is situated at above 3000m. Here, our main targets are the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the endemic and very localized Rufous-fronted Parakeet (which is often hard to find). Other high-altitude species we are likely to see include Black-backed Bush-Tanager, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Red-crested Cotinga, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Plumbeous Sierra-finch and White-chinned Thistletail. We will also visit some fantastic hummingbird gardens where Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Black-thighed Puffleg and Rainbow-bearded and Purple-backed Thornbills all occur.

Day 13: In the morning we will pay a visit to a private reserve where, in recent times, a fantastic Crescent-faced Antpitta (formerly a very difficult bird) is coming to feed on mealworms. We hope the bird is still around by the time of our visit. Other interesting species that are present in the area include Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan and Ocellated Tapaculo. Later we will drive towards Jardin for a two nights stay, making a couple of birding stops en route.

Day 14: Our main target today will be the Critically Endangered endemic Yellow-eared Parrot. While searching for the parrot we should see a number of interesting species, that can include Red-bellied Grackle, Tanager Finch, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Black- billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Dipper, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, White-capped Tanager, Rufous Antpitta, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Brown-billed Scythebill, Flammulated Treehunter, Streaked-troated Bush-Tyrant, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Velvetbreast and Sword-billed Hummingbird. Night at Jardin.

Day 15: In the early morning we will pay a visit to arguably the best, largest and most accessible Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek of the world! After marvelling at these incredible birds for a while we will embark on our journey to Medellin, stopping en route at Cauca dry forest in search of the recently described endemic Antioquia Wren. Apical Flycatcher, Greyish Piculet, Colombian Chachalaca and Bar-crested Antshrike all occur there as well. Night at Medellin.

Day 16: Today will be an exciting day as we will search for the very recently rediscovered Antioquia Brushfinch, surely one of the most shocking events in neotropical ornithology during the recent past! We have a good chance of seeing this mega rarity. The tour will end at Medellin International Airport (MDE) this evening.

Tour details

Cost: $ 6,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 260

Accommodation: Mostly good-standard, comfortable hotels and lodges.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy, with a couple of moderate effort walks throughout the tour on a mixture of trails and roadside birding.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.