Birding Bogotá & Colombia

Río Blanco Nature Reserve

Key species

Endemics: Brown-banded Antpitta.

Near endemics: Bicolored Antpitta and Golden-fronted Whitestart.

Specialties: Golden-plumed Parakeet, Rusty-faced Parrot, Rufous-banded Owl, White-throated Screech-Owl, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Ocellated and Ash-colored tapaculos, Dusky Piha, Black-collared Jay, White-capped Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Tanager, Plushcap, Masked Saltator and Red-hooded Tanager.

Approximate number of bird species: 348


Height above sea level: 2150-3700m (7050-12.140ft)

The Río Blanco Nature Reserve is located in the Central Colombian Andes at less than thirty minutes from the city of Manizales. Its 4932 hectares (12,090 acres) in extension consist mainly of montane wet forest (cloud forest) mixed with a few small clearings. The reserve serves as the principal water source for the city and is managed by the local water company.

Río Blanco is one of the most important birding sites in Colombia and has an extensive list of birds that you could enjoy in the Birding Bogotá & Colombia’s tours. The small guest house on the reserve, which is built in an architecture style typical of the Colombian coffee-growing region, provides an excellent base for exploration of this region. Several hummingbird feeders at this guest house, as well as flowering plants around the building, attract an interesting variety of hummingbirds including  Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy and Collared incas, Buff-tailed Coronet (the commonest species), Fawn-breasted Brilliant,  White-bellied Woodstar and occasionally Purple-backed Thornbill.

Certainly the biggest attractions for birders visiting the reserve are several “antpitta” feeding stations that are visited regularly by three species: Chesnut-crowned, Brown-banded and Slate-crowned antpittas. Two others, the Rufous-naped and the Bicolored antpittas also visit these feeding stations but are less predictable in occurrence, while a sixth species, the Undulated Antpitta occurs in the area but has, at this time, only rarely visited these feeding sites. Other species visiting the feeding sites include Grey-browed Brush-Finch and, at certain times of the year, even Green-and-black Fruiteater.

Many birds can be seen along the road close to the guest house, and along a fairly well-maintained forest trail through an upper portion of the reserve. A remarkable number of rare or local species have been seen close to the guest house including Rusty-faced Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Red-hooded Tanager and Masked Saltator, although the parrots and parakeets are seasonal or irregular in occurrence, and the tanager and saltator both require a bit of luck to see.

One of the best ways to find birds near the guest house and along the road and trails higher up is to watch for mixed species flocks, some of which may contain up to thirty species including woodpeckers, antbirds, tapaculos, a variety of furnariids, vireos, jays, wrens, thrushes, warblers, tanagers and several kinds of finches.

Twenty-five species of mammals have been reported within the reserve (exclusive of bats) although most of the mammals here are shy or nocturnal and most are rarely seen. There are, also, many native orchids and bromeliads.

From the reserve it is possible to visit nearby Nevado del Ruiz, a snowy volcanic peak that is the centerpiece of Los Nevados National Park. The volcano remains active with steam vents, and the park is almost entirely located at high elevation (the entrance begins at about 4000 m (13,000 feet). This area is dominated by páramo, which can be described as a tropical alpine grassland, but it is an unusual one that is characterized by several highly distinctive plant genera.

Almost all of the twenty or so species of birds of this high elevation region can be seen close to or immediately below the entrance to the park. Commonest bird species here are Tawny Antpitta, Páramo Tapaculo, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Sedge Wren, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Plain-colored Seedeater. The charming little Buffy Helmetcrest also can usually be seen near the park entrance and sharp-eyed observers may even spot an Andean Condor once the morning air warms.

A long list of high elevation birds occur in the cold, wet and somewhat stunted montane forests at slightly lower elevation. One of the most highly sought species by birders here is the endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet, although it is erratic and often quite difficult to locate.  A number of interesting hummingbirds, flycatchers and mountain-tanagers also occur here but cold temperatures and frequent rainy and windy weather can make them difficult to locate. This is an exciting area, with spectacular views, dramatic scenery and plenty of interesting and unusual birds that occur nowhere else but at these high elevations. It is well worth a full day visit and provides an excellent addition for anyone visiting the Río Blanco Reserve.

For visiting Río Blanco Nature Reserve and Nevado del Ruiz please contact us at

We will be pleased to arrange a trip for you!

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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