Home to almost 1900 species (nearly one fifth of the world total), Colombia hosts the highest number of birds of any country in the world. Birdwatching in Colombia describes in detail the best and most accessible birding sites in Colombia.
It covers 127 sites spread across almost every department of the country, including San Andres and Providencia. Eighty-five colour maps make it easy to locate more than 70% of Colombia's species, including all 73 of the country endemics.
Birdwatching in Colombia expertly guides birders through the necessary logistics, explaining how to get to each site, where to stay and where to eat. In addition Birdwatching in Colombia is enhanced by 240 full colour photos of birds and birding sites.
The authors are adding updates in the form of changed contact information as well as new sites, new species at sites, etc. on their website: birdwatchingincolombia.wordpress.com under the tab "Latest information".
"This is a very welcome book for a bird-rich country with relatively little published for the traveling birder. If you are thinking about a birding trip to Colombia, you will absolutely want a copy of this book to prepare for your visit and, to use while venturing around the country. This is not a field or identification guide. Instead, it is a location guide on where to go birding, how to get there, and what to expect in terms of both birds and accommodations. [...] You will definitely be better off with this book if you go birding in Colombia, especially if you are the independent birder not part of a guided tour. As a caveat, you should keep in mind information in this book can and will change over time; ergo, make note of what year you plan on going to Colombia versus when this book was written, which was 2013."
- Avian Review, 29-04-2014
"I very much enjoyed reading the whole book. My mouth watered almost non-stop!"
- Robin Restall, author of various South-American field guides
"My great friend, the late Paul Coopmans, led a series of tours to Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, after which followed a period of several years when few overseas birders ventured into this amazingly bird-rich country. However, with the country now generally much safer for travellers, birding tourism has really taken off in the last seven or eight years. This is not surprising, for not only does Colombia boast an incredible bird list of nearly 1900 species (including nearly 80 endemics, depending on which taxonomy is followed), but it has an excellent infrastructure for tourism and an ever increasing network of superb reserves and lodges. It also has a large number of local birders and researchers, many of whom have been instrumental in increasing the number of inbound species-hungry tourists!
In 2010, ProAves brought out a new field guide to the birds of Colombia (McMullan et al. 2010), incorporating many of the taxonomic changes since Hilty’s original volume, which was published back in 1986 (Hilty & Brown 1986). So what was needed was a comprehensive guide to tell the prospective visitor where to go and find all of these avian treasures. And that is what Jurgen Beckers and Pablo Flores have now delivered: a detailed guide to birding sites throughout the country. They have pooled together their collective knowledge (with help from many friends and colleagues) in this book which covers no fewer than 127 sites.
The book begins with a series of three introductory chapters: how to use the book; trip planning – including climate, trip timing, literature, bird sounds, birding guides, transport (including public transport), communication, safety, health, money, accommodation, food and drinks and Colombian customs; and birding. The latter chapter comprises detailed sections on taxonomy, nomenclature and distribution (covering recent splits and lumps, name changes and recent additions to the Colombian list). These take up a fair amount of space, but will be useful for some users. There then follows the meat of the book: the site details, with sites arranged by geographical areas. As one would expect, the amount of coverage afforded to each site varies considerably. Some smaller sites are given just a few paragraphs while some of the more major sites are given several pages. Each site begins with a header in which is placed a variety of useful information: site number, name, municipality, department, altitude and site rating (the perceived importance of the site). There are also a variety of symbols indicating such things as birding conditions, mobile phone coverage, sites good for photography and so on, although I am not sure these have been employed completely systematically and comprehensively. This is followed by the descriptive details of the site, covering topics such as trails, routes, and where to find the birds, as well as a list of the more interesting and important species present at the site. There are then sections on getting to the site, and, where relevant, accommodation. Throughout all of this there are numerous photographs relevant to the areas being described, either of the habitat, the lodges, or (mostly) the birds likely to be encountered. Most of these photos are excellent, though some are reproduced at a rather small size, and there are a few incorrectly captioned (e.g. p. 91 appears to show a Black-and-chestnut Eagle Spizaetus isidori rather than a Black Hawk-Eagle S. tyrannus, p. 148 depicts a Humboldt’s Sapphire Hylocharis humboldtii instead of a Blue-throated Goldentail Hylocharis eliciae, and p. 192 appears to show a juvenile Crested Eagle Morphnus guianensis, not a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus melanoleucus), but this is a minor quibble and overall the excellent selection of photos enhance the book considerably.
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to road-test the book during a visit to Colombia in January and February this year and found the information for the sites that I was visiting and for others that I am familiar with, to be generally good and accurate, and the maps are largely helpful (with the odd discrepancy). There are a few sites where the choice of species mentioned seems a little optimistic (is Bicoloured Antvireo Dysithamnus occidentalis really at Anorí?), whilst other species I would have expected to see are not mentioned; but in such a diverse avifauna, this kind of thing is inevitable, and overall, the site information is of a high standard. Importantly for the weight-conscious birder, little space is wasted in the 274 pages: the printing goes virtually to the edges of the pages, and the relatively thin glossy paper used makes this a fairly light and portable document despite the vast amount of information contained.
The two areas where this book really excels are the level of information provided for the independent birder, and the number of ‘new’ sites covered that are not on the standard birding route. If you are travelling to Colombia on a set itinerary, the book will be useful, but not essential. On the other hand, if you are planning your own trip it will be a gold mine of information, and should form an integral part of your plans. It is particularly useful for those travelling on a tighter budget, as there is excellent information on public transport and more-affordable accommodation. The real highlight of the book for me is that the authors have packed in page after page of original information about sites that few will have heard of before, and few overseas birders will have visited. I have been to Colombia five times now, but largely to the ‘usual’ sites. Now that I have got my hands on this book, I hope that the sixth trip will take me off to explore remote areas in Amazonas or the Llanos, to sites I never even knew about until I opened this excellent tome.
So, in summary, I can highly recommend buying a copy well before you plan your trip: you would be a fool not to! The only problem you will have then is working out which sites you can fit into the time you have available, or more likely you will begin dreaming of your second and third visits to this wonderful country, before you have even made your first!"
- Pete Morris, Neotropical Birding 15 (Autumn 2014)
This guide provides a wealth of birdfinding and logistical information for independent birders planning a trip to Colombia. All of the main sites on the established 'birding trail' in Colombia are covered in good detail, both in terms of the birds to be found there and information on how to get there and where to stay; budget birders in particular will find much of use on public transport options and inexpensive places to stay. The book's main strenght, however, is its coverage of little-known sites that are off the main birding trail: many of these sites are not covered in any trip report and as such this book is the only easily available source of information on them. I very much enjoyed reading about sites in remote Amazonian departments, the south slope of the Santa Marta mountains, the southern Andes, etc. Some of these sites may not be quite safe yet (and this is always noted in the book), but should the situation improve the options for birders planning to visit Colombia will be much more varied. Minor quibbles include the fact that a few good birding sites were overlooked (in particular the Apia area, which offers great birding and is easily combined with Pueblo Rico, and the Libano/Mariquita and Bolombolo areas), and that occasionally the maps and texts do not match (e.g. in the El Valle/Bahia Solano chapter, there are two different points D in the text, but only one on the map), but they do not detract from the overall excellent value of the book.