Birding Bogotá & Colombia

Soatá, Boyacá

Key species

Endemics: Chesnut-bellied Hummingbird, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Niceforo’s Wren, Apical Flycatcher and Mountain Grackle.

Near endemics: Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Short-tailed Emerald, Rufous-browed Conebill, Golden-fronted Whitestart and Moustached Brush Finch.


Rusty-faced Parrot, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Lazuline Sabrewing and Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant.

Height above sea level: 1950m (6400ft).

The small town of Soatá, located in the department of Boyacá, lies about six hours north of the city of Bogotá. Soatá is lower in elevation than Bogotá and the town offers a sharp contrast between two completely different ecosystems situated very close together, one at higher elevation to the west, and the other beginning around the town of Soatá itself and extendingdownward into the extremely dry and deep Río Chicamocha valley. As a result of its location, Soatá offers visiting birders and naturalists a remarkable spectrum of endemic and near endemics species. In additon, the road from Bogotá to Soatá passes through high páramo vegetation about an hour south of Soatá, offering birders yet another interesting and different habitat en route. This páramo is relative small (compared to larger ones such as Chingaza and Sumapaz) but a few typically high-elevation species can be seen here.

In the mountains to the west of Soatá the road gradually ascends into a series of rather dry, relic oak (Quercus) forests. These interesting forests represent a plant community that is unique to this region of the Andes and the endangered Mountain Grackle also is found here. While searching for the grackle, in our Birding Bogotá & Colombia’s tour we will also watch for several other species unique of the Eastern Andes in Colombia, including the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, although both are scarce and difficult to find here and generally occur at higher elevations. Occasionally the Sword-billed Hummingbird is found here as well.

In these same dry oak forests three near endemic species occur, including the Rufous-browed Conebill, Golden-fronted Whitestart (the Eastern Andes ornatus subspecies with white face) and Moustached Brush Finch. The rare and endangered Rusty-faced Parrot has also been seen occasionally in this area.

Beginning around Soatá and continuing to lower elevations, there are patches of premontane dry forest and scrub. This is the habitat of the critically endangered Niceforo’s Wren, an Eastern Andean endemic that occurs almost entirely within the Río Sogamoso and Río Chicamocha watersheds. Other birds possible to find here are the endemic Apical Flycatcher and two endemic hummingbirds: the Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, a species once feared to be extinct and still known only from a few sites in drier regions in the northern part of the Eastern Andes and the Indigo-capped Hummingbird. Both Short-tailed Emerald and Lazuline Sabrewing have also been reported here. Commoner birds around Soatá include Crested Bobwhite, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-backed Oriole, Tropical Mockingbird, and Streaked Saltator.

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