Colombia rightly reserves the title of ‘birdiest country in the world’. A country 1/9 the size of the United States, it holds an unbelievable 1,900+ bird species, with the list still growing! With two coastlines, four cordilleras and a vast expanse of Amazonian rainforest habitats, one could spend years searching out all the natural wonders it holds.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range is the most famous birding area in the country. And, over the last decade, it has become one of the most famous on Earth, with good cause! Recently declared a UNESCO Biodiversity site for its unparalleled endemism and incredible diversity, this ancient mountain range reaches its peak height of nearly 19,000 feet just 26 miles from the Caribbean Coast. The result of such a drastic and impressive geological feature is a myriad of habitats ranging from the driest scrub in Colombia, along the Guajira peninsula, to some of the wettest temperate forest on the continent! Given that the Sierra Nevadas outdate the main Andes in terms of their evolution, the highest degree of endemism for any non-island geological feature on Earth is found here. Hosting nearly 50 endemic bird species and regional specialties plus numerous endemic subspecies (several of which, upon further taxonomic review, are likely to be elevated to full species status in the future).
One such endemic is the Santa Marta Screech Owl, a species that, until 2017, was classified as Tropical Screech Owl. Based on the vocalization and on genetic and morphological analysis of a specimen taken in 2007, this fabulous bird was finally awarded full species status. An inhabitant of Santa Marta’s humid forests at altitudes of 5,900 to 8,200 feet, their biggest threat is the ongoing deforestation taking place in the area. Not much is known about this species, so it remains to be seen how much it ends up affecting the population.
This fascinating species is just one of many, many targets on our ambitious Colombia – 1,000 Birds Mega Tour I in 2020. This, the most comprehensive offer to the most biodiverse nation in the world, sets out to see over 1,000 bird species in just one month, and has already been achieved on several occasions! And visiting the Santa Marta range is just one of many locations we will journey to in our search.
Burgeon your life list on what is sure to be one of the best birding experiences of your life.