The birdwatcher’s mecca Humedal la Conejera wetlands just north of Bogotá looked easy enough to reach on a map. Armed with binoculars and a camera, we hopped off the Transmilenio’s Portal Suba and flagged down a cab. The driver insisted he knew the route.
Forty minutes later, after a series of wrong turns and questioning dozens of locals who gave our increasingly frustrated cab driver blank stares when asked about the wetlands, we came across a pair of women who had heard of the swamp and pointed us in the right direction. We paid the taxi driver – who seemed relieved to end the goose chase – and walked behind a series of apartment buildings as yapping dogs hounded after us. We came to a park with dance music blaring on speakers and a group of people punching the air during a kickboxing class. Certainly this wasn’t the prime location for birdwatching that we’d heard about.
But sure enough, behind the massive housing development and alongside the instructor yelling into his headset, was a small sign advertising Humedal la Conejera. We stepped through the gates and entered another world. We were immediately greeted by a squawking Yellow-backed Oriole, whose territorial anger nearly drowned out the kickboxing class.
The well-groomed trail follows dense wetlands teeming with birds. A female Ruddy Duck paddled along with a raft of chicks behind the male with an electric blue beak leading the way. Black Vultures sat stoically on dead branches reaching out over the water. A Bare-faced Ibis peered through the reeds in search of breakfast as coots and gallinules floated near the banks. The park was nearly empty of people on this particular day, and eventually, the sounds of the city and the exercise class died off, leaving just the occasional cackle of a gallinule concerned that we had ventured too close.
This gem of a birding spot is just one of many to be found in and around Bogotá, home to a host of hummingbirds, hawks and everything in between. Colombia boasts more species of birds than any other country in the world. And they’re not just found in remote jungles and on mountain peaks — many can also be spotted during a short trip to a city park or sightseeing around prime tourist destinations.
So whether you live in Bogotá or you’re visiting for the weekend, grab some binoculars and head to one of these five hot spots to take a gander at the local fauna. You can pick up a city bird guide pamphlet at La Florida Park, or more serious birders can buy a field guide to the birds of Colombia.
HUMEDAL LA CONEJERA
This off-the-beaten path park is worth the short trip just north of Bogotá. Make sure your taxi driver knows the location in advance.Common birds: Ruddy Duck, Common Gallinule, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Yellow-Backed Oriole, Bare-faced Ibis, Smoky-brown Woodpecker. Location: Suba Compartir, Cra. 136D with Calle 153
The wetlands at La Florida offer prime habitat for the Bogotá Rail and the Apolinar’s Wren, two species that can only be found in Bogotá and surrounding areas. An observation tower along the reeds is also a perfect spot to see gallinules, coots and other water birds. It’s best to visit first thing in the morning when birds are out feeding on the water. Park guides are currently only available on Sundays, but a security guard is available to escort visitors on other days, or you can bring your own guide. The recreation area on the other side of the park is a great place for a picnic.
Common birds: American Coot, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Bare-faced Ibis, Apolinar’s Wren. Location: Entrances on Calle 80 and Calle 63 near El Dorado airport
No visit to Bogotá is complete without ascending the Monserrate peak via the teleférico cable car or the funicular train. While marveling at the breathtaking view of the city from more than 3,000 meters, peer into the surrounding gardens to see the local hummingbirds and flower piercers having lunch.
Common birds: Sparkling Violetear, Shining Sunbeam, Masked Flower Piercer, Black Flower Piercer. Location: Cra. 2 No. 21-48
PARQUE SIMON BOLIVAR
Take a stroll along the lake in the center of Bogotá’s massive park to see ducks and other water birds as flycatchers and swallows scoop up insects on the banks. The park has an array of habitats for birds, as well as sports fields and playgrounds so it’s easy to spend an entire day there.
Common birds: Great Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Vermillion Flycatcher, Pied-billed Grebe. Location: Calles 53 to 63 between Cra 48 and 68.
Hummingbirds hover around the flower patches in this beautiful, carefully groomed garden. The surrounding forests are filled with other native Bogotá bird and plant species. The park has a small cafe which is great for an afternoon coffee or a refuge if you get caught in a Bogotá downpour.
Common birds: Sparkling Violetear, White-bellied Woodstar, Black Flower Piercer. Location: Cra. 63 No. 68-95.