Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Grallaria ruficapilla)

The Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Grallaria ruficapilla) is a species of bird in the Grallariidae family. It is found in subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, usually at elevations of 1,900 to 3,100 m.  I wasn’t very familiar with antipttas before this trip but they sure are cute!

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These shy birds have a large range throughout the higher elevations in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.  At Rio Blanco Reserve in Colombia, they feed worms to the antpittas which gives a good chance to see this otherwise hard-to-get species.

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Neotropical Birds


These videos show the experience of birders watching antpittas being offered worms.  Worms are part of their normal diet and they don’t let you go too close to the birds.


Golden-Plumed parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii)

The Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii) is a Neotropical parrot species within the family Psittacidae, belonging to the monotypic genus Leptosittaca.

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They can be found in the eastern Andean slopes in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.      

The Rio Blanco Reserve in Colombia is a good place to see them in the lodge area.




World Parrot Trust


Neotropical Birds

American Bird Conservancy


Looks like some people were able to see this beautiful bird a bit closer!

This one looks pretty young going by the pin feathers.


The Avian Wonders Of Rio Blanco Reserve, Colombia

To organize a visit here, please see my review post.  Even if you aren’t spending the night, you still have to book a day visit with Aguas Manizales.  Now on to the birds!


Always a nice variety of hummers hanging around!  I’m not sure which ones they are because I can’t match all their pictures but I found a few!

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Bronzy Inca


Long-tailed Sylph

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Masked Flowerpiercer


Rufous-collared Sparrow


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Albeiro has won the confidence of several different Antpittas which are usually shy birds and very hard to see.  He offers them worms (part of their usual diet) and in exchange birders get to see them up close!  Prior to this trip, I didn’t know much about Antpittas but now that I have seen a few, they are really cute birds and a real treat to see!

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta

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Worms are served!  It was like Dominoes for Antpittas!dscn3195 img_5986 img_5994 img_6025 img_6008 img_6030

Brown-banded Antpitta

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Antpitta observation areadscn3202

Slate-crowned Antpitta

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A couple of the Antpittas were too shy to come out in the open – dscn3215 dscn3216


In many cases the light was bad and all I got were silhouettes.  Here’s a few of my better shots.  My full eBird list is here.

Andean Motmot
 I saw a few of these beauties on the road between the reserve and the access road from town.

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Masked Trogon

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Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
 Not sure why this handsome bird was being so shy!

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Great Thrush


Grass-green Tanager


Russet-crowned Warbler

img_6115 img_6120 img_6123 Another Andean Motmot

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Golden-plumed Parakeets

This was an amazing experience we owe to the dedication of Albeiro.  We had already checked out of the lodge, moved to a hotel in Manizales and were out on the Paramo day trip with the driver he had organzed for us.  Close to noon as we were back in town after birding the Paramo, the driver got a call from Albeiro that the Golden-plumed Parakeets were hanging around the lodge!  We high-tailed it up to the lodge and there they were – in tree tops and playing with each other, so beautiful!  We were able to spend a good 20 minutes watching them before they all flew off in unison.  It was pretty cool how they circled the property a few time (making sure we got a good look?), then vanished into the forest.  A most fitting farewell to one of Colombia’s top birding reserves!

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25% Bonus – Hotel Point Transfers To United MileagePlus

This promo comes around pretty much every year and while not earth-shaking, it’s a good way to get rid of orphaned hotel points you can’t use.  I got rid of 2000 unusable Club Carlson points but couldn’t transfer my 2000-ish odd Hilton points because their minimum transfer is 10,000 points.

You need to register for the promo, then go to your hotel account and initiate the transfer.


This is a good opportunity for people who have lots of Marriott points (from credit cards?) but don’t need a hotel stay or want to do one of the travel packages.  Since I am not up on luxury hotels, I will refer you to Loyalty Lobby for a better explanation.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus)

The Blue-winged Mountain Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus) is a species of bird in the family Thraupidae, the tanagers.  These bright, beautiful little birds are often seen at banana tables at lodges in their range.


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They can be found in the higher elevations (mostly above 2500 meters) in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.  I’ve seen them at Angel Paz, Sachatamia & Rio Blanco and they always brighten up my day!





Neotropical Birds


Banana tables usually attract these little cuties in their range but some people have gotten lucky seeing them in the bush as well.


Scaly-naped Parrot (Amazona mercenarius)

The Scaly-naped Amazon or Scaly-naped Parrot (Amazona mercenarius) is a species of parrot in the family Psittacidae.

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They have a huge range throughout the mountainous areas of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia.  You may get lucky as I did at WildsumacoEl Dorado and Rio Blanco.




World Parrot Trust


Neotropical Birds


I really struggled to find anything on these charming parrots.  The first one is a slideshow.

I couldn’t find any live-action filmed in the wild so I have to use a clip of a captive bird to show him up close.

Lodge Review: Rio Blanco Reserve, Manizales

The Rio Blanco Reserve just outside Manizales is a highlight of any birding trip to Colombia.  Although it sounds complicated to get there, it really isn’t but you do have to organize it in advance (details below).

We were dropped at the reserve by our guide from Jardin, Diego who communicated with the locals to get the directions here in Spanish.  If you are starting in Manizales, the local taxis probably know how to get here.  The gate will be locked and they only open it to people who are pre-booked.  It’s a good idea to reconfirm by email a couple days ahead so they remember you are coming.

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An attractive hostel is situated in rolling green countryside with spectacular views from the terrace.  dscn3155 dscn3153

This was our room which was a decent hostel style.dscn3152 dscn3145

We arrived pretty late in the afternoon so just time enough to see a few hummers and watch the sunset.  Excellent meals can be booked at the same time you make your overnight booking and you should do this as there are no other places to eat nearby.dscn3148 dscn3151

We got an early start the next morning to bird the Rio Blanco trail.  Ina was tired and stayed behind to relax and watch hummingbirds on the verandah.dscn3223 dscn3224 dscn3219

The dining room has some nice informational posters and bird art (unfortunately not for sale).  Take the time to learn about the amazing birds you will see here!dscn3233 dscn3232 dscn3228 dscn3227 dscn3226 dscn3225

There is a spectacled bear in an enclosure just outside the hostel area.dscn3221



Send an email to  with your names, dates and if you want a day visit or overnight accommodation.  Specify if you want a guide who speaks English (costs a bit extra) or are happy with a Spanish speaker (probably Albeiro who knows the birds very well).  Use Google Translate to translate into Spanish and paste this translation into the email but keep the English for your records.  They will reply in Spanish and you can easily keep using Google Translate to communicate with them.  You will pay on arrival in cash at the hostel.

Rates as of April 2016:
COP $ 70,000 per person (not including food).  The food was reasonably priced, somewhere in the 20-30,000 COP range.  Half day guided birding COP $ 30,000 for 2 people or full day $ 60,000 for two people.

We had already booked the next day in Manizales so we could have some spa time for R&R and I could organize a driver to go to the Paramo the next day.  It turns out that Albeiro can organize this driver (who is familiar with the needs of birders) so we could have stayed an extra day.

Want to see the birds?  Stay tuned!

White-capped Tanager (Sericossypha albocristata)

The White-capped Tanager (Sericossypha albocristata) is a dramatic looking bird that is rarely seen, even our guide, Diego was excited to spot this little beauty close to the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve.  You can barely make out his red throat here (or maybe it’s a female) but you can see it in the videos below.

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They can be found in the higher elevations in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.  This one was well-spotted by our guide near  the finca near Ventanas above Jardin.





Neotropical Birds


These clips do the beauty of this bird justice better than my pics!