Each year a new bird species is discovered in Colombia.

05 May 2018
On May 5 a new edition of the Global Big Day will be celebrated. This annual event is organized by the Ornithology Laboratory of Cornell University in United States, which aims to promote the registration of the greater quantity of bird species in the world. Last year Colombia achieved the first place with 1.486 bird species registered in only one day.

Two new bird species were discovered in 2017, accomplishing a total of six in the last five years. This numbers underlines the biodiversity of Colombia, making noticeable the potential of this country as an international tourism destination for bird watching.

According to the information given by the Von Humbolt Institute, the two species found in 2017 are the Tapaculo de Tatamá (Scytalopus alvarezlopezi)and the Santa Marta Owl (Megascops gilesi), next to others described in 2012 like the Tapaculo de Perijá (Scytalopus perijanus), the Tiluchí de Perijá (Drymophila klagesi), the cucarachero paisa (Thryophilus sernai), and the Hormiguerito Cabeciestriado (Drymophila striaticeps). Many of them are discovered in zones struck by the former conflict, like Tatamá and Serranía del Perijá. 

“Even though there are no approximates in this matter, there are no signs showing the number of undiscovered species will decrease the next year. Many others are described thanks to great advances in biomolecular technology which allow to identify geographic variables, a sort of subspecies” explained Jorge Velasquez, head researcher of the Von Humboldt institute.

With the potential and the milestone to position Colombia as an international destination for birdwatching, ProColombia has begun the campaign “Colombia #1 in Bird Species on Earth” focused in United States, UK and Canada markets, where about 4.5 million impressions were registered in Google, with more than 12.000 clicks in the bird section of Colombia.Travel page. UK is the most interested country in this campaign. 

“The post conflict and the biodiversity of Colombia are factors that constitute an opportunity for Colombia to become a global potential in nature tourism. The country has more than 1.900 bird species, about 80 of these are endemic species. This is why the country is meant to become a favorite of the birdwatchers around the world” said tourism vice president of ProColombia, Julián Guerrero.

Besides, as part of ProColombia’s strategy, in 2017 Colombia doubled its participation in the Bird Fair and joined for the very first time the American Birding Expo.

Birds and post-conflict 

Guillermo Gómez Fernández is a nature photographer who, since 1994, owns El Cantil, an ecolodge in the municipality of Niquí, in Chocó.

“We aim to generate a positive traveler experience with the less negative impact possible in our ecosystem, including both environment and community while trying to promote cultural values, conciliation and environment awareness.” Explained Gómez Fernández.

Nowadays the 80% of their visitors are foreign and during 2018 the percentage of foreign tourist interested in bird watching raised about a 73% regarding 2017. “We barely are in early phases, but we are growing incredibly fast” he assured. 

Gomez also predicted that in the next five years the birdwatching tourism growth will be between the 50% and the 70%. “The worldwide dissemination of the Peace Agreement attracted tourists. The variable percentage between 2016 and 2015 was of 25%, which remained in 2017”.

Nelson Barragán is in a similar situation: he owns Hato de la Aurora, an important destination for birdwatching the Casanare department. “Few years ago, people dedicated to birdwatching discovered a myriad of species, which motivated us, along with the great market opportunity surrounding us”. 

For four years now, tourists from Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and France frequently visit La Aurora, so much so that nowadays Barrangán outdo the percentage of national visitors by 65% to 35%.

According to Barragán, since Colombia consolidated as an attractive destination for birdwatchers, the visitors have raised about 20%. “I think visits will continue to grow. Some very searched species are easy to birdwatch in Casanare”. He explained such situation has raised employment in his business. “At the beginning we were 12 people but currently 30 are working with us”.

Regarding post-conflict, Barragan assured the tourist visits have raised, not only in La Aurora, but also in nearby places such as Yopal. “There have been a great improvement and a lot of expectation about a bigger scale nature tourism. The development is very noticeable, now we breath another kind of air. We hope it stays this way”. 

The birdwatching kid

Juan David Camacho is a 10-year-old boy who lives in Cali and attends 4th grade. Five years ago, his father, Luis Eduardo Camacho -systems engineer and nature and bird fan- taught him this hobby. “We birdwatch frequently, generally as a family and some other times with a group called ‘Oiga, mire aves’ (which is a reference to a Colombian salsa song named Oiga, mire, vea)” explained the little boy, who aspires to be become a professional ornithologist. 

Seeing a bird motivates him and makes him happy. If he sees a bird species he hasn’t seen before, he uploads the records to eBird, web page from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. So far, he has registered 492 birds seen in Valle del Cauca, Risaralda and Tolima. 

Last year, Juan David took a photography class for beginners and has a fan page in Facebook called ’Pajareando con Juancho’ or Birding around with Juancho, administrated by his father. 

Each week they upload photographs taken by Juan David, which include a brief description of the bird and the place it was seen. With this tool they aim to make Colombian bird species known and incentivize birdwatching.  

 “The birds I like the most are from Valle del Cauca and Risaralda” confessed Juan David.

Luis Eduardo, his father, talks proudly of his son. He recognizes its a hobby that requires sacrifices, because is necessary to be on field between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning.

 “Many people from different departments congrats me for teaching birdwatching to Juan David, and I’ve been told he has a great knowledge about birds” Luis Eduardo said. 

Colombia as a destination for birdwatchers 

Colombia has 1.921 bird species, 79 of these are endemic, 193 are almost endemic, 19 are of interest (50% of its global distribution is located in Colombia) 68 are in some threat category and 197 are migratory.

The greatest quantity of species can be found at medium heights of ranges (between 800 and 2.400 meters over the sea level), being the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Andén Pacífico and the Easter range the most popular places to find birds. The almost endemic can be found mainly in Ecuador and Panama toward the Pacific. 

The largest amount of birds in Colombia can be found in the Amazonic Region, Andean Region, Caribbean Region, the Llanos Orientales and Pacific Region