Northern Colombia Birding Trail

Dates: May 19 to 30, 2019.
Tour Leader: Roger Rodriguez

This tour takes you to the northern Colombia, one of the most interesting regions of Colombia for bird lovers, famed for its high level of endemic species. The Northern Colombia Birding Trail, first introduced by Audubon Society is the result of a very successful program where local birding guides received training in birding and guiding, as well as in English language skills. These young people are becoming ambassadors for their local environments, and key people who will convince their communities to conserve habitat rather than degrade it. This is conservation of birds and habitats through bird-focused tourism. We will explore a huge variety of different habitats including high elevation mountains, dry forest, wetlands, mangroves and coastal habitats.


Day 1. Arrival. Cartagena. (Night Cartagena).

W will be landing in  Cartagena. There should be time to take a stroll around this small but wonderfully preserved colonial masterpiece allowing everyone some time to soak up its special atmosphere.  We will spend the night in a pleasant city Hotel.

Day 2. Cartagena – Baranquilla. (Night Baranquilla).

We will spend the morning visiting several sites on the edge of Cartagena. Our main target will be the recently split and endemic Turquoise-winged Parrotlet. We will also hope to find Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, a local species in Colombia. Depending on time we may visit some wetlands around Cartagena where we will look for Norther Screamer. We also hope to find a host of commoner species with everything from ubiquitous Great-tailed Grackles and Thick-billed Euhphonias to Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans soaring overhead. In the late morning there may the option of a short city tour for those whom are interested.

Around lunchtime we will make the three hour drive east to Baranquilla. We will stop on the city limits and visit some dry scrub forest where our main target will be the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. We are sure to see a few commoner species which could include Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Northern Scrub Flycatcher and Trinidad Euphonia. We will spend the night in a Hotel in the City.

Day 3. Baranquilla – Minca. (Night Minca)

The morning will be spent in the extensive wetlands and Mangroves of the Salamanca National Park east of Baranquilla. The marshes will produce many wetland and waterbirds and other specialties such as Dwarf Cuckoo and Stripe-backed Wren. The Mangroves meanwhile can hold Bicolored Conebill, Chestnut Piculet, Panama Flycatcher, Sapphire-throated and Sapphire-bellied Hummingbirds and Pied Puffbird.

In the late morning we will start driving east through the park but expect to make frequent stops to look at the concentrations of waders and terns that can often be found on roadside pools.

In the late afternoon we will climb into the foothills of the Santa Marta Mountains where we look for Military Macaws as they head for roost and will add a few commoner species such as Orange-chinned Parakeet and Rufous-tailed Jacamar.

Day 4. Minca – El Dorado. (Night El Dorado Lodge).

We will spend the morning birding above Minca where we will target a number of specialty species including Golden-winged Sparrow, Black-backed Ansthrike, Whooping Motmot and Scaled Piculet. It should be a busy morning and we will also look for Keel-billed Toucan, Rufous-breasted Wren and Golden-fronted Greenlet.

In the late morning we will begin our ascent into the Santa Marta range and will make frequent stops to bird as we climb into the cloud forest.

The late afternoon should find us at El Dorado Lodge where we will spend time around the hummer feeders where we may find White-tailed Starfrontlet and Santa Marta Woodstar amongst the buzzing masses of commoner species. We will also keep an eye on the seed feeders which may produce the endemic double of Santa Marta and Sierra Nevada Brushfinches along with both Sickle-winged and Band-tailed Guans and possibly Black-fronted Wood Quail.

Day 5. El Dorado Reserve (Night El Dorado Lodge).

We will leave very early and spend much of the day at the highest elevations where we hope to locate a host of Santa Marta endemics. We will try to find Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant and Santa Marta Warbler, amongst others. We will then bird slowly back downhill looking for further endemics such as Streak-capped and Rusty-headed Spinetails and Brown-rumped Tapaculo along with specialities such as White-tipped Quetzal and Golden-breasted Fruiteater. In the evening we may try some Owling for Santa Marta Screech Owl.

Day 6. El Dorado to Tayrona (Night Hotel Rioacha).

We will spend much of the morning birding downhill from El Dorado Lodge. As we descend we will look for Groove-billed Toucanet, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo and Grey-throated Leaftosser. In the late afternoon we will descend to a Hotel on the coast where we may squeeze in a little birding before dusk.

Day 7. Tayrona NP to the Guajira. (Night Hotel Rioacha).

We will spend the morning in or near to Tayrona National Park. Depending on recent reports we may try to target Blue-billed Curassow but we will also be on the look out for many interesting lowland species. Key targets will include White-bellied Antbird, Lance-tailed Manakin, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher and if we are luck White-necked Puffbird. We will find plenty of commoner lowland forest species and should have a very busy morning.

 In the late afternoon we will drive a couple or hours east to the Guajira peninsula. The birdlife here is completely differen’t and in a few hours late afternoon birding we may well find White-fringed Antwren, Black-crested Antshrike and White-whiskered Spinetail.    We will finish the day at a bird rich lagoon where we should add many waders and species such as Reddish Egret and American Flamingo.

Day 8. Guajira to Valledupar. (Night Hotel Valledupar).

We will spend the morning birding in the dry scrub where we target many species including Vermilion Cardinal, Tocuyo Sparrow, Bare-eyed Pigeon and Pale-tipped Inezia. Around lunch time we will make the long drive south to Valledupar where, depending on time we may make a short late afternoon visit to Los Besotes Reserve.

Day 9. Valledupar to Perija Lodge (Night Perija Lodge)

Our morning will be spent in Los Besotes reserve where we will target Venezuelan Flycatcher and hope to at least hear Red-legged Tinamou. We also have a second chance of several Minca and Guajira birds. We will then spend much of the day climbing up to the Perija Lodge and we may pick up our first Perija endemics on route such as Perija Tapaculo and Black-fronted Brush Finch.

Day 10. Perija Mountains (Night Perija Lodge)

We will spend the morning on the Paramo above the Perija lodge where we will look for Perija Thisteltail, Perija Metaltail and the local race of Perija Rufous Antpitta. We will spend the later part of the day birding near the lodge looking for Perija Starfrontlet, Loungamere’s Sunangel, Rufous-shafted Woodstar and several commoner species which are represented by Perija endemic subspecies that may one day gain full species status.

Day 11. Perija Mountains (Night Perija Lodge)

We will spend the day birding down from the lodge targeting anything we have been missing and looking for species such as Crested Quetzal, Streak-capped Treehunter and Klage’s Antbird.

Day 12. Perija Mountains – Bogota.

We will have a final morning birding  in the Coffee plantations below the Perija Reserve where we will look for Perija Brushfinch, Moustached Puffbird, Grey-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Toucan. In the afternoon we will catch a domestic flight back to Bogota to connect with international flights.