When it comes to travel, birders have always led the pack. Birders began exploring Costa Rica long before it became “Costa Rica”. We helped usher a flood of tourism into Ecuador. And, among other people you know, how many consider trips to Papua New Guinea, Borneo, or Madagascar almost rites of passage? Of course, not all of us can travel to such far-flung places, but one place most of us can reach is Colombia.
Here again, birders are shepherding a new era of travel to what was once a seldom visited country. And what a country it is! When asked which country has the highest list of birds, many might guess Brazil or Peru, but Colombia outranks them all. At almost 2,000 species and counting, it harbours roughly a fifth of all bird species on the planet… That is a lot (!) of birds. And our Colombia 1,000 Birds Mega Tour takes aim at a big chunk of them. In 2018, we attempt our 7th Colombia Mega (previous trips here), once again setting our sites on 1,000 species during this one tour. It’s ambitious, but we are always close, and crest that number about half of the time. Of course, for this unusual trip, the list itself is just a map that guides our epic treasure hunt.
The real-deal, actual guide for this trip, however, is Forrest Rowland. A stranger to none, Forrest is a Texas transplant now living in Montana, who began birding at age 9 when his Dad took him to visit Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad. Then and there, he was hooked on Neotropical birds. Today, he pioneers many of Team Rockjumper’s novel New World ventures, and he’s covered the bird continent better than just about anyone anywhere. He’s birded nearly every country in South America, guiding tours all along the way, and our Colombia Mega, he claims, is perhaps his favourite of all.
Colombia houses the largest number of hummingbirds in the world, with at least 147 species, and it also owns over 70 endemic bird species. Among these is the Gold-ringed Tanager, featured here, as our Image of the Month. This bird is a priority on our Colombia Mega for a few reasons:
- It’s sharp-looking. Despite the bright yellow ringing the auricular area, you can see how it would be quite camouflaged within the sun-dappled canopy it prefers.
- Its beauty is surpassed by its rarity. Known from just three sites, there may be just a few hundred individuals left.
- It’s a Bangsia. All 5 species are cool, and it takes some work to sweep the genus. And if you do, then you’ve seen some great birds along the way.
Just a short flight from Miami, Atlanta or Dallas, a whole new world of birds awaits. Join Forrest in February 2018 for Rockjumper’s Colombia 1,000 Birds Mega Tour.
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