Colombia

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

Colombia is one of the world's megadiverse countries, home to almost 10% of the planet's biodiversity. It is also the country with the greatest variety of birds on Earth, with nearly 2,000 species, including more than 200 migratory and 80 endemic species. That is why Colombia is already recognized as the country of birds.

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

Like other countries on which birds depend in Latin America, Colombia has dynamic social, economic, and political conditions. The end of armed conflict in the country has presented both opportunities and challenges for conservation. 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 also faces problems related to climate change impacts, such as water and food security.

Colombia's National Bird Conservation Strategy Takes Flight
Colombia's National Bird Conservation Strategy Takes Flight

After two years of consultations, with the contribution of more than 2000 people, today Colombia, the country with the most bird species in the world, has a roadmap for conserving its rich bird life and the places it inhabits. Here is the story.

Where We Work in Colombia

How we work in Colombia

Working Lands

Our Regenerative Agriculture strategy in Colombia aims to bring bird-friendly practices to 1 million hectares of productive land, providing habitat and connectivity across landscapes. By incorporating trees and shrubs on farms and reducing the use of chemicals, it is possible to protect wildlife, soil and water while improving productivity and profitability for farmers.

Audubon Americas is implementing this strategy in Colombia through in-depth interventions in the Valle del Cauca region. Working with our local partners, we seek to:

  • Prioritize and refine restoration activities and bird-friendly practices to get the highest possible return on conservation investment, using tree and shrub species that benefit migratory birds while supporting local bird species.
  • Develop playbooks for different agricultural sectors (e.g., livestock, sugarcane, and rice) that describe practices beneficial to birds, nature, and people.
  • Test market-based regenerative agriculture approaches that provide habitat for birds while increasing productivity and benefits for farmers.
  • Leverage and influence funding from local partners to increase support for wetland and forest restoration to better support bird and biodiversity conservation.
  • Engage communities and stakeholders in building a strong movement to advance 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.
Working Lands
Working Lands

The Working Lands strategy seeks to bring bird-friendly practices to 4.7 million hectares of productive land in Latin America and the Caribbean, thereby increasing habitat and connectivity between landscapes.

Building a constituency for Birds

National Bird Conservation Strategy  (ENCA)

With nearly 2,000 bird species spending all or part of their life cycle in Colombia, it is clear that the remarkable biodiversity of this South American nation is essential to the health of bird populations throughout the Americas. Colombia developed its first National Bird Conservation Strategy (ENCA) in 2000, to protect 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 with birds and their habitats. 

Two decades later, Audubon joined forces with the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and the Colombian National Bird Watchers Network (RNOA) to update and renew the ENCA. The new strategy, launched in June 2023, is the guiding document for national, regional, and local policies that integrate Colombia's economic, social, and cultural landscape with the effective conservation of critical habitats for birds and other wildlife.

The team's first step was to assess the challenges and lessons learned in the 20 years since ENCA's inauguration. In the second phase, using the Conservation Standards methodology, the step-by-step construction opened a multi-stakeholder dialogue across five core regions of Colombia. More than 2000 people, connected from different parts of the country, including rural and urban areas, participated in some 30 virtual workshops and in-person meetings to share knowledge and validate the strategy. The third and final phase -implementation and communication- is underway, aiming to engage a broader range of interests, emphasize the benefits of conservation, economics, and human well-being, and incorporate nature-based solutions into development plans. 

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 to elevate conservation throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. To complement the 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. 

Colombia's 2030 National Conservation Strategy

A coalition of organizations, including Audubon Americas, the Humboldt Institute, and the National Birding Network, along with other stakeholders, joined together to formulate a new national strategy, launched in June 2023. It addresses the critical needs of birds in the coming decades.
Learn more about this strategy.

Citizen mobilization for birds

Where birds thrive, people thrive. Birds also provide us with 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 where they live.

One way to do 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 allows bird lovers to report and analyze data, as well as census projects such as Global Big Day, October Big Day and Christmas Bird Count. With Audubon's support, some 40 ornithological organizations and birding groups in Colombia participate in these censuses. The population data they collect is 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 capacity of local communities. The first birding trail project in Colombia was the Northern Colombia Birding Trail, supported by USAID, Patrimonio Natural, and Asociación Calidris. It was followed by three more routes - Central Andes, Southwestern Andes and Eastern Andes - with the support of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (through FONTUR). Each route offers an itinerary of potential birding sites and more than 400 beneficiaries, including guides and tour operators who participated in the training process.

In the context of Colombia's ornithological routes, local guides trained by Audubon have continued to strengthen their capacities through the creation of 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
Birds as Teachers

In the coffee-growing region of the central Andes of Colombia, where children grow up surrounded by local and migratory birds, Audubon designed a school curriculum to strengthen the appreciation and knowledge of migratory birds and thus motivate locals to join in the conservation of their habitats.

Birding in the land of birds 

In terms of species variety per surface area, Colombia is the most biodiverse country on Earth. Its tropical location, two ocean coasts, and four mountain ranges have endowed the nation with countless microclimates that are home to some 1,966 species of birds, more than anywhere else on the planet.

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 heart 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 the wildlife and ecosystems that birds need.

In collaboration with USAID, the Colombian government, and our BirdLife International partner, Asociación Calidris, Audubon developed birding itineraries in four distinct regions of the country. Each of the four birding itineraries consists of Audubon-trained professional guides, locations such as national parks and private reserves, and hospitality tailored to the birding market. The birding trails are located in the Caribbean region, the southwestern, central, and eastern Andes, and include IBAs, national parks, and more than 100 local communities.

Birding and Ecotourism in Colombia
Birding and Ecotourism in Colombia

With nearly 2,000 species of birds -more than any other country on Earth- Colombia is a paradise ready to be discovered by bird lovers. On this tour you will meet people from the communities and their conservation efforts.

Focal Species in Colombia
! Priority Bird
Canada Warbler
Wood Warblers
! Priority Bird
Cerulean Warbler
Wood Warblers
Blackpoll Warbler
Wood Warblers

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