Who would not love a country with 1,933 bird species, 94 of which are endemic? This is Colombia, dominated by the High Andes and the Amazon basin, resulting in more bird species than any other nation on earth. Though plagued by high levels of drug-related violence in the past, Colombia has opened up to tourists and birders and is now considered safe for travel (although traveling with a guide is still recommended).
The reason for Colombia's spectacular bird diversity may be attributed to the wide diversity of habitat types. Consider these factors: the High Andes provide varying altitudes and slope directions, generating a wide variety of habitats; the Amazon basin is known to be the richest biome on the planet for birds; parts of Colombia are dominated by Venezuela-like llanos (plains); and, finally, Colombia is unique among South American countries in that it is bordered by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans – some of it has rather a Caribbean feel.
The most famous of all the endemic bird assemblages within Colombia may be the 22 Santa Marta endemics. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated range of mountains reaching 18,700 feet near the Caribbean coast and very close to the Venezuelan border. Similar to most endemic bird areas, these mountains are likened to an “island” within a “sea” of different habitat, thus isolating the birdlife and preventing gene flow to areas of similar habitat, allowing unique endemic species to form. The list of Santa Marta endemics includes six localized hummingbirds, and because the names of hummingbirds are as gorgeous as the birds themselves, they are: Blossomcrown, Santa Marta Woodstar, Santa Marta Sabrewing, Coppery Emerald, White-tailed Starfrontlet and Black-backed Thornbill. Again, in typical hummingbird fashion, these six species are very varied and diverse, as indicated by the fact they are each in a separate genus. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.