Putumayo Birding Tour


The southern region of Putumayo is quickly developing a reputation as one of the great birding destinations in Colombia. The birding possibilities are out of this world with a fine combination of foothill Andean and Amazonian forest, lowland jungle, and páramo in the high Andes in unexplored natural reserves.

The Putumayo Department is located at the heart of the Colombian Massif, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, a region where the Andes Cordillera is yet to split into the 3 distinctive branches we find in the rest of the country. A big mass of mountains descends towards Amazonian piedmont and eventually Amazonian lowlands, creating the perfect conditions for biodiversity to occur.

Tour Duration: 15 days
Tour dates: January 10-24, 2022
Tour Price: $5,000 $4,500 per birder *If reserved before September 30th, 2021*
Deposit: $800
2-day Isla Escondida extension: $600
Single Occupancy Supplement: $500
Tour Goal: 350-400 bird species including many specialties
Tour Size: Limited to 6 participants
Tour Guide: Johnnier Arango, Diego Rocha

Category: Product ID: 1446


A Massif Birding Adventure

The Putumayo department is located in the southwest part of Colombia, a region where the Andes mountain range is still a Massif ready to split into the 3 distinctive branches we find across Colombia. With a fine combination of foothill Andean and Amazonian forest, lowland jungle, and páramo in the high Andes in unexplored natural reserves, the birding possibilities here are out of this world.

Highlights for the tour
  • The Putumayo department is quite easy to navigate, birding is done on flat trails, lodging is not luxurious but comfortable and travel distances are short
  • The region is very interesting for its confluence of habitats in close proximity. In just a few hours’ drive, we can go from Amazon piedmont to high Andean Paramo.
  • The Trampolín de las aves road is recognized as one of the most pristine primary forests in Colombia. Birding at an altitude gradient between 2,600 to 7,545 feet gives you the opportunity to explore a true mecca for bird diversity.
  • Early in the tour we explore a humid tropical forest in the Choco Bioregion near Cali and go after Andean Condors in the best hotspot to find them in Colombia.
  • We spend an afternoon at San Agustin Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America
  • Add an Isla Escondida extension for a more enduring, off-the-beaten-path experience at a private natural reserve with a pristine primary forest that promises to get you close and personal with birds and nature


Putumayo birding tour – A Massif birding adventure

Day 1Arrival at Cali International Airport
We will pick you up at the airport and will drive for about 40 mins to a beautiful eco-lodge in the Cauca Valley. At dinner, you will meet with the rest of the group, go over a tour overview, rules and expectations, and a plan for your first day of birding.


Night at la Araucana ecolodge

Day 2Birding San Cipriano in the Anchicaya Valley

After leaving the hotel early in the morning we will drive for about 2 hours to the Zaragosa municipality where we will transfer to a 20 mins ride via “Brujita” to the Natural Reserve of San Cipriano. A Brujita is a wooden cart that goes on the railroad propelled by a motorcycle. It’s a whole lot of fun and the only way to get to the reserve.

San Cipriano is located in a humid tropical forest, we will only be birding in the morning when activity is best and the heat is not as persistent. San Cipriano is the best location in Colombia for low elevation Choco specialties in a humid tropical forest

Birds of particular interest include Five-colored Barbet (NE), Black-tipped Cotinga (NE), Stub-tailed Antbird (NE), Esmeraldas Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Pacific Antwren, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Thicket Antpitta, Broad-billed Motmot, and Tawny-crested Tanager


Night at la Araucana ecolodge

Day 3Birding KM 18 and transfer to Popayan

Eighteen kilometers from Cali is the road marker for km 18, the unrivaled stretch of road we will use to catch a good sight of coveted birds including (E) Multicolored, Golden-naped, and Black-capped Tanagers, Scaled Fruiteater, (E) Colombian Chachalaca and the amazing (E) Chestnut Wood-Quail. 15 species of hummingbirds visit regularly feeders here including Booted Racket-Tail, (NE) Blue-headed Sapphire, and Crowned Woodnymph.

In the afternoon we will take a 2.5 hours transfer to spend the night in the colonial city of Popayan



Night at hotel in Popayan

Day 4Birding at Purace National Park

Getting to Purace National Park requires an easy 2-hour drive from the city in Popayan. The main attraction here en route towards Colombia’s Massif is to see some of the 25 pairs of Andean Condor that live in the area and are part of a breeding program by the San Diego Zoo in California. Visiting the Condor rock will give us a good chance to watch this majestic bird soaring through the sky.

Other birds of particular interest at this high altitude Paramo ecosystem covered in Frailejones and bubbling hot-springs include Carunculated Caracara, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Black-chested Mountain-tanager, Black-chested Fruiteater, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (NE), Black-backed Bush-tanager (NE), and Noble Snipe.

Just after lunch, we will drive for under 2 hours to San Agustin Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America.

In the late afternoon, we will drive for just over 1 hour to spend the next two days exploring El Encanto Natural Reserve and its many birds’ specialties.

3 night at El Encanto Natural Reserve




Day 5 and 6El Encanto and Drymophila Natural Reserve(s)

This natural reserve is located within an Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO as a mega-diverse territory. El Encanto is a natural paradise preserved by the Molina family for over 20 years surrounded by mountains, water, coffee, flowers, and more than 260 bird species including 7 endemics.

The El Encanto Reserve offers suitable lodging for the birding activity, hummingbird and tanager feeders, trails, hides, and observation towers. They also produce delicious organic coffee grown in a bird-friendly manner. In the last year, the family purchased further land at just 30 mins drive but at a different altitude. The total number of possible species between the two reserves comes closer to 500!

Birds of interest at El Encanto include Tolima Dove, Dusky-headed Brushfinch, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Shining-green Hummingbird, Red-billed Emerald, Apical Flycatcher, Colombia Chachalaca, Gray-headed Tanager, White-crowned Tapaculo, Golden-eared Tanager, Gorgeted Woodstar, Golden-winged Manakin.

Birds of interest at Drymophila Natural Reserve include Tolima Blossomcrown, East Andean Antbird, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, Black-chested Fruiteater, and Chestnut Wood-Quail, Red-bellied Grackle, Hooded Antpitta, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Schwartz Antthrush, White-bellied Antpitta, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Rufous-crested Tanager.




Day 7Pitalito – Mocoa road

Birding the road from El Encanto to the capital city of the Putumayo department at the heart of Colombia’s Massif will provide you with excellent opportunities to see a number of specialties including Lined Antshrike, Paradise Tanager, Gilded Barbet, White-streaked Antvireo, Black-billed Treehunter, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Wire-crested Thorntail, Cream-colored Woodpecker, and Tawny-breasted Myiobius (Flycatcher)


Night at hotel Suma Wasi in Mocoa

Day 8 – Birding El Escondite reserve in Villa Garzon

This a private reserve located just 1 hour and 20 mins from Mocoa en route towards Amazon piedmont ecosystems. 20 years ago the owner of the reserve decided to dedicate a great part of his cattle-farming land to conservation. The reserve has a mixture of secondary forest and open pastures, where many interesting species can be found.

Birds of particular interest include Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Bare-necked Fruitcrown, White-chinned Jacamar, White-shouldered Antbird, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Plum-throated Cotinga, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Orange-eyed Flatbill, Golden-collared Toucanet, Large-headed Flatbill

After one more hour’s drive, we will reach the Puerto Asis municipality located in the Amazonian lowlands and close to the border with Ecuador. Here we will go check-in at our hotel, will go for lunch and an afternoon birding around town.



Night at hotel Pakarii in Puerto Asis

Day 9Playa Rica and Wetlands in Puerto Asis

Puerto Asis is a small town located on the banks of the Putumayo river, very rich in biodiversity and within easy access to birding trails in grassland, wetland, and humid forest habitats. Our morning birding will include a short boat ride crossing the Putumayo river to reach Playa Rica.

Birds of particular interest include Rufous-headed Woodpecker (recently described for Colombia), Amazonian Umbrellabird, Bare-necked Fruitcrown, Plumbeous Antbird, White-shouldered Antbird, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Plum-throated Cotinga, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Hoatzin


Night at hotel Pakarii in Puerto Asis

Day 10El Arbolito and Finca Chordeiles

We will dedicate day 10 to explore more trails around the Puerto Asis municipality, hoping to see as many specialties as the Arbolito and Finca Chordeiles trails have to offer. Birds of particular interest in these two locations include Mottle-backed Elaenia, Caqueta Seedeater, Masked-crimson Tanager, Peruvian Warbling-Antbird, Silvered Antbird, Horned Screamer, White-fronted Nunbird.

With this, we finish birding the piedmont and lowland of the Amazonian region and go back to Mocoa for a few more days birding at a higher altitude.



Night at hotel Suma Wasi in Mocoa

Day 11Trampolín de las Aves Trail “Birds Trampoline trail”

The Trampolin de las Aves is a dirt road that goes from Mocoa in the Amazonian piedmont all the way up to the town of Sibundoy in an Andean cloud forest. An altitude difference of 5,000 feet going from 2,600 to 7,545 fasl in pristine primary forest, making this a true mecca for birds’ diversity.

Birds of particular interest to spot en route include White-rimmed Brushfinch, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Orange-eared Tanager, Yellow-throated Tanager, Crested Quetzal, Red-bellied Grackle, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer. After a full day on the trail, we will go back to our hotel in Mocoa.


Night at hotel Suma Wasi in Mocoa

Day 12Campucana Trail in Mocoa

Nestled at the base of the Colombian Massif, the Campucana trail in Mocoa is influenced by both Andean and Amazonian piedmont. Birds of particular interest include Vermilion Tanager, Western Striolated Puffbird, Black-streaked Puffbird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black Tinamou, White-streaked Antvireo, Spectacled Prickletail



Night at hotel Suma Wasi in Mocoa

Day 13Trampolin de las Aves all the way to Sibundoy

Today we leave behind Mocoa birding the Trampolin de las Aves road all the way up to Sibundoy in a cloud forest for the last leg on our tour.


Night at Posada Villa Beatriz in Sibundoy

Day 14 – Paramo de Bordoncillo and La Cocha lagoon

At 7,500 feet La Cocha is the largest lake with glacial origins in Colombia. Here we can have great birding in open water, wetlands, and forest at the lowest elevation paramo ecosystems on the planet. The Bordoncillo Paramo connects La Cocha Lagoon with the Sibundoy Valley and is home to some of the more localized species in Colombia.

Birds of particular interest include Ruddy Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Subtropical Doradito, Andean Gull, Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, Masked Mountain-tanager, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill.

In the late afternoon, we will drive for 1 hour and 40 mins to the city of Pasto where our tour ends.



Night at a hotel in Pasto

Day 15Flight from Pasto to Cali or Bogota and end of the tour

This last day will be dedicated to making sure you get to the airport on time for your connecting flights to either Cali or Bogota. End of Tour


Isla Escondida extension

Just after day 10, it is possible to add 2 nights at the magnificent Isla Escondida Nature Reserve. A private reserve with pristine primary forest located in the foothills of the Andes and the Amazon at an altitude of 2,789 feet. To enter the reserve you should be prepared for a 4-5 hours walk (birding) in uneven, hard, muddy terrain that requires a good fitness level. The trails inside the reserve require a moderate level of fitness to navigate.

In addition, the two canopy platforms are only accessible through ladders with the use of a harness connected to the safety line. They are located about 80 feet from the ground.
Have a look: https://www.la-isla-escondida.com/

The reserve has a very rich undergrowth full of cryptic species that you heard more than see like Black-faced Antthrush, Peruvian Warbling Antbird, Tschudi’s Woodcreeper, Lanceolated Monklet, Pink-throated Becard, Golden-green Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Plain-winged Antshrike, Mouse-colored Antshrike

Other birds of special interest to observe include Pavonine Quetzal, Collared Puffbird, Fulvous Antshrike, White-plumed Antbird, Spangled Cotinga, White-fronted Nunbird, Grayish Mourner, Opal-crowned Tanager, Opal-rumped Tanager, Rufous-winged Antwren, Black-throated Trogon, Red-stained Woodpecker, White-throated Woodpecker, Red-necked Woodpecker, Grey Antwren, Nocturnal Curassow, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Hairy-crested Antbird, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Collared Puffbird, Banded Antbird, Black-faced Hawk, Military Macaw, Dot-backed Antbird, Buckley’s Forest-falcon, Green Oropendola
The soundscape is completely unbelievable with the songs of Nocturnal Curassow, Band-bellied Owl, and Common Potoo to fall asleep and the Great Tinamou and Wattled Guan to wake up.

On day 3 of the extension, we will drive back to Puerto Asis for 1.5 hours to continue with the tour



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