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Central western Colombia



Cauca Valley Route
Good all year; 14 days travel; 450+ species occur, 17 endemics, 22 threatened species

Colombia’s Andes are split into three distinct mountain ranges; this route covers sites in the Cauca Valley, located between the wonderful Cordilleras Occidental and Central (Western and Central Andes). This route includes some of Colombia’s hottest birding sites, and will certainly continue to develop as ecotourism grows in Colombia!

Accomodation ranges from simple but rather nice lodging in Las Tangaras and at the Dusky Starfrontlet Reserve to excellent in the colonial town of Jardin. Long drives are inevitable in Colombian birding, but the rewards are completely worth it: this tour has it all, from exciting cloud forest birding to hummingbird feeders and antpitta feeding stations. Perhaps best are the numerous recently discovered species and the opportunity to appreciate the elegant Yellow-eared Parrots thrown in: one of South America’s best conservation success stories!

We begin in the modern city of Cali, famous for its salsa music, and stop by the wetland complex of Laguna del Sonso. Our first major site is Las Tangaras in the Western Andes, where a horde of exquisite montane Choco birds can be found including the endemic Gold-ringed Tanager. After enjoying the amazing roadside birding there, the route goes to the excellent Central Andean sites of La Suiza (absurdly common Red-ruffed Fruitcrows and plentiful endemic endangered Cauca Guans) and Rio Blanco (endemic Brown-banded Antpitta coming to antpitta feeders). After a couple days at these sites the route swings west to Jardin, a pleasant colonial town set in the midst of coffee plantations – but not all pleasant colonial towns have critically endangered Yellow-eared Parrots nearby!

The route then goes north to the Dusky Starfrontlet reserve. Although this reserve is difficult to access (a two hour horseback ride) the rewards are plentiful: the recently rediscovered endemic Dusky Starfrontlet, beautiful paramo vistas, and a recently discovered (and still not formally described) new species of antpitta which is coming to antpitta feeders! The final stop on this route is the Chestnut-capped Piha reserve, home to the recently discovered piha and a host of other endemic birds and specialties. The route ends in the modern and fashion-crazed city of Medellin, where the excellent Metro system includes gondolas as a form of public transportation!

This route principally visits sites in the mountains, with temperatures ranging from pleasant but wet to a bit chilly in the paramo. This route takes 11-14 days depending on pace, and is possible in any month of the year, although road conditions sometimes deteriorate during the rainy season (generally October-November). Expect a dazzling array of beautiful and endangered birds while learning about the hard work being done to conserve them!

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