Birding Without Borders

Day 101: The Antpitta Whisperer

Rio Blanco is Colombia’s antpitta hotspot.

April 11, 2015, Rio Blanco, Colombia — More than 1,600 birders visited Albeiro Uribe’s house here in Rio Blanco last year, and they just keep coming. Why? Because seven years ago, Albeiro figured out how to feed worms to antpittas.

Albeiro is originally from this area, and told me this morning (with shotgun-mimicking gestures) that he used to hunt the birds on his property. But somewhere along the line, he got interested in birds beyond mere sport and acquired a field guide and binoculars. He realized that other people were interested in birds, too, especially antpittas, and started bringing birders to his house to show off the local species.

Today, Albeiro has five antpittas staked out within a half mile of his back deck: Chestnut-crowned, Slate-crowned, Brown-banded, Bicolored, and Chestnut-naped. Jose Luna, Jeff, Dave, and I watched Albeiro feed worms to four of them today (the Bicolored preferred to call unseen from the bushes), and he spent the rest of the day birding with us. By dusk, we’d seen and heard about 90 different birds—a fantastic day, but a mere fraction of the 365 species that Albeiro has recorded in his “backyard” in the past few years! Albeiro left us for about 45 minutes just before lunch to tape an interview with a local TV station, apparently a common enough occurrence these days. “He’s kind of famous,” Jose explained, with a smile. It’s good to see local, conservation-oriented birders getting due props.

New birds today: 3

Year list: 1967

A Chestnut-naped Antpitta hops out of the bushes for its daily worms. Photo: Noah Strycker

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