Pajariando! Where and How to Go Birdwatching in and Around Medellín

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TLDR? The small pueblos surrounding Medellin are great places to go birdwatching!

When it comes to birds, Colombia hosts an astounding 1,958 species or 20 percent of all the bird species on Earth, making it the most diverse country in the world.

Not surprisingly, that makes it a top destination for birdwatching, also called pajariando or avistamiento de aves locally. 

Even if you’re not a hardcore birdwatcher, you can’t come to Medellín without at least catching a glimpse of a few. Luckily, this is easy to do in rural areas of Antioquia around the city and even within Medellín itself.

Preparing for Birdwatching in Medellín

Preparing for Birdwatching in Medellín

Before driving out into the jungle and looking for birds, do a little research to make it easier on yourself. The main thing is to decide where you want to go and how to get there.

If you really want to look for as many bird species as possible, there are a number of reserves around Antioquia where they live freely, including:

You can find a number of other reserves on the ProAves website. However, as you can see, most of these reserves are located a good distance from Medellín.

While renting your own car and driving is an easy enough solution, it does require some planning and research to make sure you take passable roads. Plus, in many cases, you’ll want to facilitate your trip by staying in a nearby village like:

  • Jardín
  • Jericó
  • Guatapé
  • Támesis

Tools to Find Before You Go Birdwatching

Find Before You Go Birdwatching
An oriole, finch and pair of blue-gray tanagers

You can easily enjoy the birds around Medellín without having to take any special tools at all. However, some things will make it a lot easier to find and view the birds and record the experience for future memories.

I recommend:

  • A good pair of binoculars (some specific birdwatching establishments may provide these for free or for rent)
  • A good camera (a quality phone camera works well enough, especially if you have video, but if you’re really serious, you’ll want a camera with a zoom lens)
  • The Merlin bird app (not only does this help you check off birds you’ve found, but it can help you identify birds you don’t know)
  • Bananas or other fruit to put on bird posts 

Where to Go Birdwatching Around Medellín

Now, with the prep work out of the way you’re ready to go birding! Here are the best places for birdwatching around the city of Medellin.

In Medellín Itself

Medellín Itself
The Andean Guan

You can certainly see a wider variety of birds if you leave the city, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of birds to see even while strolling the streets of Medellín.

In fact, because Medellín maintains much of the greenery running along the many rivers and streams in the city, you can easily catch sight of various species taking the walkways to the grocery store.

It’s easy to find vibrant finches like the saffron finch (Sicalis flaveola) and the orange-fronted yellow finch (Sicalis columbiana) as well as doves and pigeons a little more majestic than the ones you’re used to back home like the ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti) and eared dove (Zenaida auriculata).

Along the river and tributaries, I’ve seen a number of aquatic birds like the bare-faced ibis (Phimosus infuscatus) and the wattled jacana (Jacana jacana). I’ve even seen a pair of scarlet macaws (Ara macao) flying from rooftop to rooftop in Poblado.

If you’re willing to visit more natural spaces and parks or travel a little outside the city, you can start to find even more species. These include:

Additionally, if you travel outside the city, you’ll find a number of restaurants and rest stops along the highway have birdwatching posts where you or the owners can place fruit to attract birds. Altogether, in addition to those mentioned above, you can see many other species in Medellín, such as:

Jardín

Jardín
The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Jardín is one of the best villages to travel to if you’re interested in birdwatching. That’s because there are two reserves you can go to specifically for finding exotic birds. 

Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas

The easiest to access is Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas because it’s right on the outskirts of town and you can walk there from most of the downtown hotels. The reserve is privately owned, and you can enter for a small fee. 

In addition to lots of flowers, the notable attraction is the large number of Andean cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicola peruvianus) that live there. The males’ large head crests and loud mating calls are famous among birdwatchers, and there are enough viewing spots on the reserve to get great photos.

Reserva Natural de las Aves Loro Orejiamarillo

Although it’s an hour drive outside of Jardín, the Reserva Natural de las Aves Loro Orejiamarillo is one of the best places in Antioquia to see birds in their natural habitat. The main species to see there are:

Jericó

Jericó
The Western Emerald Hummingbird

A beautiful town all around, Jericó is a good place to go birdwatching because it has a number of parks and natural spaces where birds congregate.

Reserva Natural Las Nubes 

Although it takes some hiking, Las Nubes is accessible from the village of Jericó. You can even reserve a guide to help you find and identify the various birds, but you can also go yourself and see plenty of different species.

El Jardín Botánico

Jericó’s botanical garden is another place that’s easily accessible from hotels in Jericó. With plenty of tour options, it’s a relaxing park where you can see toucans, hummingbirds, and many other colorful bird species.

Támesis

Támesis
The Turquoise Dacnis

Támesis is one of my favorite places to go birdwatching near Medellín. This is specifically because of the botanical garden and the Reserva Natural Diosa Entre Las Aguas that sits just behind it.

In addition to many of the species already mentioned above, including the Andean cock-of-the-rock, the Támesis botanical garden is home to the turquoise dacnis (Dacnis hartlaubi), a rare bird only found in a few isolated spots in Colombia. People travel from around the world to take photos of it and check it off their lists. 

If you’re interested in birdwatching in Támesis, I highly recommend the Virgen de Oro experience. This coffee tour includes an expert guide who knows all the area’s bird species.

Guatapé

Despite the town’s exceptional beauty, Guatapé is frankly a little lacking in avian diversity.

However, if you’re willing to travel a bit outside town closer to San Rafael, Reserva Natural Zafra is a professionally maintained reserve that even has lodging.

Not only can you see a lot of waterfowl like ducks and geese, but there are also colorful finches and orioles. Oh yeah, and monkeys, too.

They’re Everywhere!

While a guide and a fancy camera certainly help, you can see a beautiful range of birds without even leaving the Medellín city limits. Just walk through as many parks and green spaces as possible and keep your eyes open. 

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