Colombia

Welcome to the country with the most birds on the planet.

Colombia is one of the world's megadiverse countries, hosting nearly 10 percent of the planet's biodiversity. It’s also the country with the widest variety of birds on Earth, hosting more than 1,950 species—including more than 200 migratory species and 80 endemics.

Half of the birds that breed in the United States and Canada rely on intact habitat in Latin America and the Caribbean for the majority of their lives. Colombia’s diverse geographies include important sites for Audubon’s coastal and forest priority species. By focusing on key sites in the country, we can help conserve essential wintering grounds for these species.

Like other countries that birds depend on in Latin America, Colombia has dynamic social, economic, and political conditions. The end of the country’s armed conflict has presented both conservation opportunities and challenges. Although scientific field research and bird tourism have flourished (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic), unsustainable agriculture, forestry, and mining increasingly threaten essential bird habitats. The region is also struggling with issues related to the impacts of climate change, such as water and food security.

Where We Work in Colombia

How We Work in Colombia

Working Lands

Audubon’s Working Lands Strategy in Colombia aims bring bird-friendly practices to 1 million hectares of productive lands, providing habitat and connectivity across landscapes. By incorporating trees and shrubs into ranch lands and reducing chemical use, it is possible to protect wildlife, soil, and water while improving farmers’ productivity and profitability.

Audubon is kicking off its Working Lands Strategy in Colombia via deep interventions in the Cauca Valley region. Working with local partners, we intend to:

 

  • Prioritize and refine restoration activities and bird-friendly practices to get the largest conservation return on investment possible, utilizing tree and shrub species that benefit migratory birds while also supporting local bird species
  • Develop playbooks for different agricultural sectors (e.g., cattle ranching, sugarcane, and rice) that outline practices beneficial to birds, nature, and people
  • Pilot market-based regenerative agriculture approaches that will provide habitat for birds while increasing productivity and profit for farmers
  • Leverage and influence funding by local partners to increase support for wetland and forest restoration to better support bird and biodiversity conservation
  • Engage communities and key stakeholders to create a robust constituency that drives bird and habitat conservation throughout the Cauca Valley


 

  • Innovative rotations of sugarcane and rice crops create artificial wetlands and bird habitat, mitigate flooding, and increase farm productivity.
  • Sustainable cattle ranching restores forests, adding trees, shrubs, and live fences and providing bird habitat.
  • Protected areas conserve wetlands, water resources, and other critical habitat and wildlife corridors.

Building a Constituency for Birds

National Strategy for Bird Conservation (ENCA)

With nearly 2,000 bird species spending all or part of their lifecycles in Colombia, it’s clear that this South American nation’s remarkable biodiversity is essential to the health of bird populations throughout the Americas. Colombia developed its first National Strategy for Bird Conservation (Estrategia Nacional para la Conservación de las Aves, ENCA) in 2000, with the goal of protecting the country’s most important landscapes for birds. In addition to comprehensive scientific initiatives to guide bird conservation, the strategy promoted activities to facilitate human connection to birds and their habitats.  

 

Two decades later, Audubon has joined forces with the Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt and the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves de Colombia (RNOA) to update and renew ENCA. These conservation organizations envision ENCA as a foundation for national policies that integrate Colombia’s economic, social, and cultural landscape with effective conservation of important habitats for birds and other wildlife. 

 

As a first step, the team evaluated the challenges and lessons learned in the 20 years since ENCA’s inaugurationThe second phase, now underway, builds toward a new strategy by opening dialogue with multiple stakeholders. By involving a range of interests and emphasizing broader conservation, economic, and human well-being benefits, we aim to incorporate nature-based solutions into development plans. The final phase, scheduled to begin in 2022, is focused in communication and implementation.  

 

Conservation strategies, public policies, and citizen efforts that protect birds and biodiversity in Colombia are less effective if they occur in isolation. Birds connect the landscapes of the Americas, and the survival of migratory and endemic species depends on our ability elevate conservation throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. To complement ENCA, similar initiatives are underway in Chile and Panama, where we are engaging key stakeholders and partnering with strategic allies and communities to achieve conservation and sustainable-development impacts at a significant scale.  

Click to learn more about Colombia's
National Strategy for Bird Conservation 

National Strategy for Bird Conservation

A coalition of organizations including Audubon, Instituto Humboldt, and the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves, alongside many other stakeholders have come together to develop a new national strategy to address the critical needs of birds over the next decade. Read more about this work.

Community Engagement

Where birds thrive, people thrive. Birds also give us richer, healthier, and more beautiful places to live. The success of our work on behalf of birds and their habitats depends on our ability to mobilize communities to value birds and the places they live.

 

One way we achieve this is through community science. In Colombia, Audubon supports initiatives and activities that engage people in birding while contributing to ornithological science. These include the eBird platform, which enables bird-lovers to report and analyze data, as well as census projects such as Global Big Day, October Big Day, and the Christmas Bird Count. With support from Audubon, about 40 ornithological organizations and birdwatcher groups in Colombia take part of these censuses. The population data they collect are often included in research projects that inform conservation strategies.

 

Audubon’s popular birding trails and education programs for guides and informants are other components of Audubon Americas’ efforts to build relationships and strengthen the capabilities of local communities. Colombia’s first birding trail project was the Northern Colombia Birding Trail, supported by USAID, Patrimonio Natural, and Asociación Calidris. Three more routes—Central Andes, Southwestern Andes, and Eastern Andes—followed, with the support of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism (via FONTUR). Each route offers an itinerary of potential birdwatching sites and more than 400 beneficiaries, including guides and tour operators who took part in the training process.

 

Within the context of Colombia’s birding trails, Audubon-trained local guides have continued strengthening their capabilities by creating support networks. One of these is the Red de Informadores de Aves (RIAC), which developed a YouTube channel to promote birds, places, and culture—along with other activities related to bird watching and conservation.

 

Birds as Teachers

In Colombia’s coffee-growing region in the Central Andes, where children grow up surrounded by local and migratory birds, Audubon has designed an educational program to strengthen awareness of migratory birds and motivate people to support bird-habitat conservation.
 

Developed in collaboration with local teachers and under the Ministry of Education guidelines, the curriculum reaches primary and lower secondary students and integrates bird- and conservation-related content into core school subjects such as natural sciences, social sciences, mathematics, language, and citizenship skills. As students improve their knowledge about birds and participate in community science and other activities, we expect that the program will complement our broader efforts to build a constituency to support priority actions for birds in the Central Andes and beyond.

Bird-based Tourism

In terms of variety of species per land area, Colombia is the most biodiverse country on Earth. Its tropical location, two ocean coasts, and four mountain ranges have endowed the nation with innumerable microclimates that shelter some 1,950 species of birds—more than anywhere else on Earth.

 

In 2015, the National Audubon Society launched a series of ambitious initiatives in Colombia aimed at connecting local communities with international birders to promote biodiversity conservation and improve human well-being, with an emphasis on preserving important bird habitats. At the centerpiece of Audubon’s initiative are efforts to cultivate bird-based tourism as a way to generate economic opportunities that will provide lasting incentives for communities to protect wildlife and ecosystems that birds need.

 

In partnership with USAID, the Colombian government and our BirdLife International partner Asociación Calidris, Audubon has developed birding itineraries in four distinct regions of the country. Each of the four birding trails consists of Audubon-trained professional birding guides, sites such as national parks and private reserves, and hospitality that is tailored to the birding market. The birding trails that are now active are located in the Caribbean region, and the Southwestern, Central and Eastern Andes, including IBAs, national parks, and more than 100 local communities.

Focal Species in Colombia

News from the Americas



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