The sugarcane fields of the Cauca Valley are a logical place for Cali's airport, but one we'll leave quickly for the excitement of Andean birding. Our first night will be in the foothills of the Western Andes, providing an opportunity to find the endemic Multicolored Tanager along with a very considerable variety of hummingbirds and tanagers at feeders and in forest patches. Heading up the Cauca Valley the next day to Buga, we'll next look for Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher along with more widespread birds of dry woodland and marsh.
The premier site for the rich avifauna of the montane Choco is Cerro Montezuma below Tatama National Park, reached by a forested track from a rustic lodge where White-tailed Hillstars perch on the rafters over the dinner table. With three nights here, we'll have a good opportunity to bird slowly over a 3000-foot range in elevation as we seek Buffy Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter, Orange-breasted and Scaled fruiteaters, Olivaceous Piha, Beautiful Jay, Choco Vireo, Black Solitaire, Gold-ringed, Black-and-gold, Glistening-green, and Purplish-mantled tanagers, Tanager Finch, Indigo and Chestnut-bellied flowerpiercers, and Chestnut-breasted and Golden-collared chlorophonias, most of these endemic to the Choco biogeographic region.
Crossing the Cauca Valley again will bring us to the Central Andes, our second cordillera, where the lower forests of the Otun-Quimbaya reserve are a great place to find the endangered Cauca Guan and the spectacular Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, along with smaller special birds like Crested Ant-Tanager and (another chance) Multicolored Tanager. A short way to the north is the university town of Manizales, our base for visiting the famed Rio Blanco reserve, where an antpitta feeding program will hopefully produce the endemic Brown-banded and perhaps a couple more species. These wet forests are home to great mixed flocks of ovenbirds, flycatchers, warblers, and tanagers, and while we are enjoying great general birding we'll keep an eye out for such rarities as Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Dusky Piha, Red-hooded and White-capped tanagers, and Masked Saltator. Our final destination is near the top of the Central Andes, the paramo of Los Nevados National Park, where hummingbirds at and above treeline include beauties such as Buffy Helmetcrest, Black-thighed Puffleg, and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill.
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If you would like a longer birding holiday, some departures of this tour may be combined with:
COLOMBIA: THE LLANOS & MORE