Around Mocoa (Putumayo, Colombia)

30 September 2018 – 01 October 2018

Juanita Olano Marín

Participants: Carmen Velásquez, Brayan Coral, Hernando Rodríguez, Hernán Alvarez, Carlos Castro, Cristhian David Vallejo, Paola Andrea Vargas

The Putumayo department, in the south-west of Colombia, lies in a truly exciting area for birdwatching. It encompasses a great variety of habitats, ranging from high Andean paramo to lowland Amazonian ecosystems (and everything in-between), many of them still well conserved; the bird diversity of the region is correspondingly high, with several species not possible to find in other regions of Colombia and new records added regularly. Due to security issues, the Putumayo department was hardly visited by ornithologists; however, the improvement of the security situation thanks to the peace agreement of the Colombian government with the FARC guerrilla has brought a lot of attention from the national and international birdwatching community in the last years.

As part of a consultancy for a tourism project in the Putumayo department, we visited some sites of interest for birdwatching along the Villagarzón – Mocoa – Sibundoy corridor. Although the visits were quite short, the company of knowledgeable local bird guides from the association Alas Putumayo allowed us to have a good overview of the impressive bird diversity of the area.

Visited Sites

General Travelling Information

Satena has daily flights to Villagarzón from Bogotá. It is also possible to get to Mocoa by bus (through Neiva/Pitalito or Pasto/Sibundoy), but beware of the frequent landslides that might considerably lengthen the duration of the (already long) trip. For birding in the region it is recommended to have your own transportation, because many of the interesting birding places are in the middle of the road or not reachable by public transport.

Recommended Literature

Birdwatching in Colombia. Beckers and Florez. 2013. ISBN: 978-9-0902-7785-1. Although already outdated, this is an excellent reference for birding in the country. A new edition is planned.


Very special thanks to the staff of Swisscontact Colombia, of the Putumayo Chamber of Commerce, Alas Putumayo, and the partners of the Colombia+Competitiva Project in Putumayo for the organization of the visits and the great time together! Thanks also to Jurgen Beckers for sharing his unpublished chapter "Birding in the Putumayo Department" for the new edition of the book "Birdwatching in Colombia".

Finca El Escondite

This is a private reserve owned by the very friendly Hernando Rodríguez, who 20 years ago decided to dedicate a great part of his cattle-farming land to conservation. The reserve has a mixture of secondary forest and open pastures, where many interesting species can be found.

Facilities & accommodation

The reserve has a house with basic accommodation in hammocks or beds in shared spaces with shared bathrooms. You can contact the reserve here.

Local guides

Alas Putumayo can give you the contact of good birding guides who know well the reserve. I can recommend Brayan Coral and Hernán Alvarez.

Vereda Rumiyaco

This site, very close to Mocoa, is good for a couple of hours of birdwatching and an easy hike to a nearby waterfall.

Mocoa–Sibundoy road

This unpaved road, going from 800 - 2300 masl on the eastern Andes along pristine forest, has several points of interest for birdwatching. It is worth to have at least two days to explore this area.

Facilities & accommodation

There are practically no tourist facilities along the road, so you will have to bring your own food and spend the night either in Mocoa (where I would recommend the Reserva Natural Paway, which has a very interesting research and hatchery project of local butterflies, a wildlife rescue center, and an amazing tree-house where you can spend the night), or in Sibundoy (where I would recommend the Posadas Turísticas Villa Beatriz, where it is possible to learn about the traditional use of local plants while having an amazing view of the valley below).

Local guides

Alas Putumayo can give you the contact of good birding guides. I can recommend Brayan Coral and Carlos Castro.

Species List

Order: systematic | alphabetic | highlights first
Published: 12 April 2019
Last updated: 12 April 2019
Orniverse: Around Mocoa (Putumayo, Colombia) (30 September 2018 – 01 October 2018)