Colombia, South America’s Birdwatching Destination of Choice

Jabiru Stork

Jabiru Stork

Increased security, greater infrastructure, a reputation as a burgeoning tourist destination, Colombia is becoming a favored destination for birdwatchers. Given that Colombia is basically the shoulder of northern South America has Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, three mountain ranges or Cordilleras that rise up in the north of the country and rivet down spine-like to creating the beginning of the Andes, it will come as no surprise that this country is ecologically mega-diverse.

To the avid birdwatcher or twitcher as the aficionado is often called, that Colombia is a cornucopia of bird life will come as no surprise. It has been long known that areas such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – the only coastal isolated mountain range in the world -, the Depresion Momposina – a huge area of low-lying wetlands -, areas around the southwestern city of Cali, the Pacific Choco region and the Coffee region, just to mention a few are home to many endemic and migratory species.

The Fundación ProAves, a joint UK and Colombian non-profit organization created in 1998 to protect birds and their habitats in Colombia through research, conservation actions and community outreach proudly state on their website that this country is home to 1,876 species. This astonishing diversity makes Colombia the country with the most species of bird in the world, although some may argue that Brazil, Costa Rica and Ecuador are equals.

Endangered, Rare and Endemic Species of Birds in Colombia
Colombian-Bird

Colombian-Bird

As if backing up ProAves’ bold claims, in 2010 an expedition funded by the American Bird Conservancy discovered two colonies numbering of up to 80 birds of the Baudo Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini) in the northwestern pacific area of the Choco region. The Baudo Oropendola has been sighted on precious few occasions, the last confirmed data having been compiled in 1999. This species has been listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered for some time, but with this current sighting in 2010, this status may well be downgraded to “vulnerable”.

Further Regions for Birdwatchers to Explore in Colombia

Colombia’s biodiversity is embarrassing and we have yet to mention the species that inhabit the Andes, the Amazon, the Llanos Orientales and of course the valleys between the mountain ranges. It is no wonder that the Colombian government has scented a profitable market for potential tourism in the birdwatching circles.

Promoting Birdwatching in Colombia
Baudo Oropendola

Baudo Oropendola

Now that Colombia is back on the map for tourism and enjoying this recent tourism boom, despite some areas still being off-limits, the Government is making a concerted effort to entice birdwatchers here. There was a considerable Colombian presence at “The British Birdwatching Fair”, an annual event held in Oakham, UK which draws in more than 20,000 visitors making it possibly the most important event of its type in
the world.

It will not have gone unnoticed to the Colombian authorities, keen on pushing the dark days of the past behind them and improving this nation’s often troubled image, that birdwatching is a lucrative business. The New York Times cited the pastime as an $80 million per year industry.

Can the Colombian Government cash in on this multi million dollar industry? With such a variety of species from Condors to Jabiru Storks and the Sooty Ant-Tanager, if the country’s security can be kept in check, there is no reason why not.

Resources for Birdwatchers to Colombia

There is very little up to date and accurate information about birdwatching in Colombia and the travel agencies that provide tours and advice can often be difficult to find. A good list of resources for the birdwatcher coming to Colombia can be found listed here.

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