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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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.


Mindo’s Waterfall Trail

The road that goes up into the hills is actually called San Lorenzo Road but it is also called the Waterfall Trail because of the hikes in the area to various waterfalls.  There is also a zipline company operating here.  You can walk from Mindo town if you are fit and keen, otherwise a taxi can drop you at the birding place and you can walk down the hill.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the drop off place but there is a fork from the side of the road about 2-3km up the hill leading to a farm.

We birded this area twice.  The first day was with one of the best bird guides in Mindo – Alex Luna.  The second day we went back on our own as Alex was booked that day to try again for Rose-faced Parrots.

The weather plays a huge part in how lucky you will get.  So you can imagine I wasn’t thrilled with this kind of fog!


This is the entrance to San Lorenzo Road.  Keep driving a few km, look for a fork leading to a farm on your right, then jump out and start birding.DSCN1287 DSCN1289 DSCN1290

Here’s some shots from Day 1.  Alex tried his best but the weather was working against us.  We did get some Red-billed Parrots, Bronze-winged Parrots, Collared Aracari, Choco Toucan and some beautiful Tanagers but the photos didn’t come out.

Day 1 Bird List

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Here’s some shots from Day 2.  This time the weather was slightly better, the fog lifted earlier and we hung around until 9:30.  The Rose-faced Parrots finally did show up but it was closer to 9am when they did and they hung around quite a while so we got to spend some quality time watching them.  We also saw Red-billed Parrots, a quick fly-by of Maroon-tailed Parakeets and a lot more!  I tried to keep the photos together but we were using 2 cameras – a Canon 60D & a Nikon Coolpix P900 (the one with 83x zoom).

Day 2 Bird List

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This is Alex Luna, the wonderful birding guide in Mindo.  You can contact him by email  if you would like to organize a trip with him.  He speaks English very well, knows all the birds and if you have target birds, he will do all he can to make sure you see them (though he can’t do anything about the weather)!



Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis)

The Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis) is a brilliantly multicolored, medium-sized songbird whose length varies between 13.5 and 15 cm. It has a light green head, sky blue underparts and black upper body plumage. Depending on subspecies, the rump is yellow and red or all red. The beak is black and the legs are grey.


This stunning little tanager has a large range in the more remote areas of South America.  I saw this little beauty at Cristalino, but you could also see them in places like Tambopata, Manu and the Napo region of Ecuador.




Neotropical Birds


They are even more beautiful in motion!



Part 3: Birding At Savegre, Costa Rica – Hotel Grounds

In this final chapter of my series about birding in Savegre, I would like to point out the delights of birding around the grounds of the Savegre Hotel.  In most places, there is a definite siesta time during which birds are inactive around mid-day and the best time to see them is in the early morning and late afternoon.  Hummingbirds, however need to feed every 15 minutes so you can spend many happy hours just watching them fly around the grounds and sipping nectar from the feeders.  There are also lots of flowers for them to feed on.  Not only can you see the Hummingbirds, there are also various Woodpeckers, Tanagers, Warblers and many other birds.  A complete bird list is here.  These photos were taken over 2 days just in the grounds of the Savegre Hotel.

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Birds Of Laguna Del Lagarto: Tanagers, Woodpeckers, Other Birds

Since there are so many photos, I am breaking this up into separate posts.  There are other posts for  information on how to get to Costa Rica & Laguna del Lagarto.

Bird List of Laguna del Lagarto

This is the final post in the Laguna del Lagarto series.   Unfortunately I lost the checklist I made with the help of the guides at Laguna del Lagarto so this is from memory as to which birds I saw.  If I find the checklist, I will come back to this post and update it.  I do remember some of the Tanagers but not all of those tiny but gorgeous birds are Tanagers.  The Woodpeckers are especially cute!  Enjoy the photos and if you can help me identify any of these birds please do so in the comments!


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If I can find my notes, I would be able to identify more of these.  Some of the little green birds are the females and they look very similar.

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I think this is a

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I love this little guy’s red feet!

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Blue-grey Tanager (Thraupis episcopus)

The Blue-grey Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) is a medium-sized South American songbird of the Tanager family, Thraupidae. Its range is from Mexico south to northeast Bolivia and northern Brazil, all of the Amazon Basin, except the very south. It has been introduced to Lima (Peru). On Trinidad and Tobago, this bird is called Blue Jean.

IMG_9784 IMG_9854This delicately hued little beauty has a wide range throughout Central and South America (easily reached with airline miles) and can be easily seen in most of the national parks.  I saw them in Crooked Tree, Belize; Tikal, Laguna del Lagarto & Savegre, Costa Rica; and Soberania in Panama.


The breeding habitat is open woodland, cultivated areas and gardens. The Blue-grey Tanager lives mainly on fruit, but will also take some nectar and insects.  This is a common, restless, noisy and confiding species, usually found in pairs, but sometimes small groups. It thrives around human habitation, and will take some cultivated fruit like papayas (Carica papaya).  Many eco-lodges put bananas out to attract them closer.  I have no problem with this since bananas are part of their normal diet.  Breeding season is from March to July. During this time, the female lays one to three mottled eggs, which she incubates for 12 to 14 days. Once hatched, both parents feed their chicks.

Adult blue-gray tanagers are preyed upon by felines, snakes, birds of prey and crocodilians. Other predators, such as raccoons, eat young birds and eggs. Habitat destruction due to deforestation is the primary threat to this species.




Rainforest Alliance


This one is long but watch for a few minutes to see the bird’s feeding habits and sound.


Targeting Central American Parrot Species

Central America has some of the best birding in the world.  There are so many bird species, it would be impossible to see all of them or even visit all the national parks and regions where birds are easily seen.  It is better to make a list of your priority species, find out where they can be seen and cross-reference the different regions to maximize possible species.  Since I am obsessed with Parrots, I gave them priority when I decided which regions and national parks I would visit.  I knew that many other fascinating bird species would also be seen such as the Resplendent Quetzal, various Toucans and Aracaris, many gorgeous little Tanagers and Woodpeckers and lots of other birds.

After using several resources such as the bird lists found on national park websites, the book Parrots of the World by Joseph Forshaw and recommendations from friends, I came up with the following spreadsheet.  A black X indicates the bird has been seen in that area.  A green X indicates the birds I actually saw when I was there.  The “captive” Yellow-naped Amazon seen near Montverde was originally a wild parrot whose wings have been clipped so he can’t fly and is forced to hang around a certain restaurant/gift shop.  There will be more details on future blogs.  The bright yellow shading indicated parrots I was successful in seeing, the white rows are the 3 species I didn’t find-the Barred Parakeet and the 2 Parrotlets.

Parrots of Central America