Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Otún Quimbaya wildlife

From Nevado del Ruiz volcano we drove around through the city of Pereira to the nearby SFF Otún Quimbaya (fauna and flora sanctuary). This small area, at 1800m above sea level, is just below the eastern side of the Los Nevados park and protects some vulnerable Colombian wildlife. It was once a cattle ranch and then became a training centre for an environment agency.  The original Villa Amparo of the ranch is preserved and the large training facility buildings now provide basic but clean and comfortable accommodation for visitors to the sanctuary. Although the park is administered by the National Parks Authority, ecotourism is run by the local community. The garden area is very pleasant with plenty of peace and quiet, a commodity in short supply in Colombia!

 The forest runs alongside the small and fast-flowing river Otún and is a mix of old-growth Andean forest with some more recently planted trees, including non-natives. The area supports a wide variety of bird species, especially some that are rare elsewhere. Some are hard to see in the thick foliage and it was worthwhile to spend a few hours in the early morning with a local guide, Diego, and to learn a little from his impressive knowledge of the many different bird calls.

 The Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax) might not look spectacular but is an endangered species endemic to Colombia, with perhaps only around 1000 birds left. This is possibly the only area where it is doing well, and they are easy to see in the trees around the reserve.

 Much more common are the large Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus) which make plenty of noise with their hooting calls heard all around the forest.

 Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus) are sometimes in the plentiful Yarumo trees (Cecropia telenitida) which are common in this area and attract lots of fruit-eating birds. A number of parrot species are often seen overhead, including Speckle-faced Parrot (Pionus tumultuosus) and even the Golden-plumed Parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii) which is classified as vulnerable.

 I got good views of this female Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris) and managed to get a few glimpses of noisy Golden-headed Quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps) as well. These latter seem to frequent some of the very tall fruiting Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) which grow in the area.

There are a number of brightly colored tanagers around which often form mixed flocks. This is a Blue-winged Mountain Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus). There are also many Flame-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus flammigerus), a close relative of the Lemon-rumped which I've seen in Santander. Metallic Green , Golden and the uncommon endemic Multicolored Tanager are also present, though sadly I didn't see that last one!

Andean Motmot (Momotus aequatorialis) are very easy to see in the reserve and very approachable. They leave piles of snail shells in the road and paths.

Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis), a type of nightjar, are very vocal around the accommodation area garden. I've been trying to see one of these that lives near our apartment in Bucaramanga for months, but as they are only really active after dark, it's proved fruitless. They tend to call whilst sat on the ground in the open. In Otún Quimbaya I was almost tripping over them and they sometimes would stay in a torch beam long enough to let me get a good look. I heard what seemed to be other nightjar species calling frequently which I think were Swallow-tailed Nightjar (Uropsalis segmentata) but I didn't see them.

I picked up a few other very good lifers including male Booted Racket-tail Hummingbird (Ocreatus underwoodii) a tiny bird with a very long tail tipped with rackets which makes it unique in Colombia. I also saw a number of very colorful Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii), Sickle-winged Guan (Chamaepetes goudotii), Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (Leptopogon rufipectus). In the river there were several pairs of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) and after some searching I located a pair of Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata) further downstream.

There are a few mammal species in the reserve including Puma and Ocelot. The groups of Red Howler Monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) make plenty of noise which can sound like the wind in the distance. Apparently night monkeys are also in the reserve. I got good views of a small Crab-eating Fox (Cerdocyon thous) around the accommodation buildings one night, but sadly my camera flash failed to go off. The grass area seemed to have plenty of holes which I was told were dug by groups of Coatis searching for worms.

Overall it was a very enjoyable stay in the reserve and there was plenty more to see. I'd recommend Otún Quimbaya to anyone wanting to see more of Colombia´s fantastic wildlife.


  1. Was it difficult to see the howler monkeys?
    Also do you know if it is possible to visit parque ucumari from there as well?

  2. It was surprising easy to see the Howlers close to the dirt road that runs through Otún Quimbaya.

    IIRC the Parque Ucumari boundary more or less joins onto SFF Otún Qumibaya. I read that to get to the Ucumari visitors centre / lodgings you go 6km further up the (rough!) road along the Otún river and you arrive at El Cedral. We saw a bus taking some hikers down from Los Nevados, but I´m not sure if thats regular. It says you have to walk from the end of the road at El Cedral (it says 6km) to the Ucumari visitors centre. The area is certainly worth a visit, though I can't vouch for the accommodation there.

  3. Thanks a lot for that. My wife is from Cali (although she has lived in the UK for some time).
    How cold is it particularly for people from a hot place at night?

  4. IIRC - it was a little chilly at night but not a problem if you've a jacket or fleece.

  5. Thanks for the blog post. I went there - although sadly I didn't see the Howlers (because of the strike we weren't there that long).

    However I am still very glad we went there - I saw 8 species of stick insects my all time record. (Sadly one I didn't get a photo of).


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