Serranía del Perijá
The northernmost Avifauna of the Andes
Colombia has the greatest diversity of birdlife on Earth according to the latest global study by Birdlife International. With over 1,884 species of this makes Colombia home to around one fifth of all bird species and almost three times the number of species in the whole of Europe.
Serranía de Perijá
itself is one of the best places for birding in the world and has been described as ‘the Holy Grail for any birders interested in Colombia’s birds’ by the Audubon Society. The region is home to a vast array of bird species and the bird list continues to grow each year as the region is explored. Two new species were added to the list in 2019 as part of the Global Big Day 2019 bird count, the Painted Parakeet (Pyrrhura picta) or Cotorrita Pintada del Perija in Spanish) and the Tangara urraca (Cissopis leveriaunus) spanish Toche blanco y negro. According to the Asociacion Colombiana de Ornitologia some 425 species have been recorded in the Serrania de Perija to date in elevations above 800 meters.
Aside from the sheer number of species, what really makes the area exceptional for birding is its large range of habitats and intriguing patterns of geographic variation. There are currently four confirmed endemic bird species in the Sierra de Perja, the Perijá Metaltail, Perijá Thistletail, Perijá Sierrafinch and the Perijá Tapaculo which became known to science in 2015 according to the Northern Colombia Birding Trail, an initiative supported by the Audubon society, in their latest report.
This number is expected to grow steadily as a number of fairly common species found in the area such as the Rufous Spinetail and the local version of Yellow-breasted Brushfinch are very likely to be identified as a new species endemic to Perija. Other potential new endemic species include a unique looking form of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager which is quite common in the higher areas, and another potential endemic species is the local form of the Golden-bellied Starfrontlet.
According to the Rainforest Trust several other taxa endemic to the Perijá mountains are almost certainly separate biological and phylogenetic species. For example the Rufous Antpitta Grallaria “rufula” saltuensi and the Oleagineous Hemispingus Hemispingus “frontalis” flavidorsalis, to name but a few. This makes it an incredibly exciting destination for birders with many new discoveries awaiting as birders and biologists increase their visits to the region, which until now has been one of the least visited of Colombia.
Notable birds found in the forests and skies of Perjia include Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Plushcap, Barred Fruiteater, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. With luck the White-rumped Hawk or the Black-and-chesnut Eagle can be seen, whilst hook-billed Kites are relatively common.
Beautiful jewels of the forest like glossy Black Flower-piecers, watermelon-hued Rosy Thrush-Tanagers and Sparkling Violetears also abound in the forest.
For those who wish to head up to the Paramo habitats (the Andean equivalent of Artic Tundra, above the treeline and below the snowline) the Rufous-chested Chat Tyrants abound, and Páramo Seedeater may also be found along with Tyrian Metaltail and with luck you may get to see the Perijal Thistletail or the stunningly purple tailed endemic Perijá Metaltail.
Vital way for neotropical migrants
As well has being home to its own special and unique species Serrania de Perija is also known to be a vital pathway into South America for Neotropical migrants arriving in South America and an important wintering area for Cerulean Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher thereby increasing the number of species birders can see here and also crucially highlighting the importance of protecting the remaining forests here.