American Birding Podcast



Celebrate ABA’s 50th in Colombia!

2019 is the ABA’s 50th Anniversary, and to celebrate we’re going to the very heart of bird biodiversity. Magnificent Colombia, hosting more bird species than any other country in the world, and an amazing array of endemic species, is today’s hottest birding destination. Join Jeff Gordon, Liz Gordon, Adam Riley, Forrest Rowland, George Armistead, and Peter Kaestner as we usher in the ABA’s next half century, and enjoy a stunning variety of eye-candy birds.

Peter G. Kaestner of Baltimore, Maryland served in the foreign service as an international diplomat for decades, and by 1986 he was the first birder to see a representative of each bird family in the world. A top world lister, he is closing in on 9000 bird species seen in the world, and is number one in the world in eBird with 8992 species recorded. A devoted ABA member, Colombia is special to Peter. In 1989, while on a birding expedition, he discovered a species new to science, the Cundinamarca Antpitta (Grallaria kaestneri), just 50 miles (as the crow flies) from Bogotá

ABA Colombia, an invitation by Peter Kaestner & Camilo Fernández de Soto

Multicolored Tanager… Colorful Puffleg… Blue-billed Curassow – the names are almost as colorful as the wonderful endemic birds of Colombia. They’re the stuff dreams are made of!

Everyone has heard of Colombia’s coffee, and its turbulent past, but how about Colombia’s world-beating bird list?! Near 2000 species and counting! And now, the doors are wide open and avian riches await. I first visited Colombia in August 1979 as an “assistant” leader on a Bird Bonanzas tour led by  the incomparable Steve Hilty. We had a fabulous time and racked up some 750 species – but a lack of infrastructure and of security seriously affected our trip. In Santa Marta, for example, we stayed in a hotel in town and made arduous day trips to the Guajira Peninsula and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. I still remember the anxiety as we snuck into the dangerous Guajira to get its desert species – and just as quickly snuck out before the narcos found us! Then, between 1988 and 1990, I lived and worked in Bogotá, during another questionable stretch of Colombia’s history. Most of the country was off limits, but even so, I was able to travel widely within the safe parts and saw many, many wonderful birds. Just as important, I fell in love with this diverse, beautiful, and warm place and its incredible people.

Indigo-capped Hummingbird

This past July, I finally returned to the Guajira as a part of a “Pajariada Diplomática” to promote the Northern Colombia Birding Trail, and we were warmly welcomed. Staying in comfortable new accommodations, we saw great birds and wonderful countryside. A knowledgeable, indigenous guide showed us the birds that his community protects and reveres. In addition to the Vermillion Cardinals and the White-whiskered Spinetails, we were treated to a fascinating cultural discussion by the local people on the benefits of bird tourism in their community.

Colombia has changed fundamentally in the past quarter century. A peace accord with the guerilla group FARC has resulted in vast areas of the country being pacified. In Antioquia, I recently drove my car past the entrance to famed drug-lord Pablo Escobar’s famed “Finca Napoles” near Medellin. It is now an amusement park! The Colombian Government is promoting bird tourism as a means to foster economic development in rural areas and ensure conservation of the rich environment. This effort has been an effective partnership between the U.S. and Colombian Governments, U.S. (Audubon) and Local NGOs, and local businesses and communities. Together, they are doing development right and the future for Colombia and its amazing birds is bright.

Orange-breasted Fruiteater

In the summer of 2019, the ABA is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Colombia, with the help of Rockjumper and its Colombian partners. This event is a perfect opportunity for ABA members to experience the spectacular birdlife of our Andean neighbor, and the passion and warmth of its people. Celebrate a half-century of the ABA and its work by birding in Colombia together. You can make a real contribution to the rural development that is essential to the continued progress of this special country and the conservation of its unique birds.

I hope to see you there!
-Peter Kaestner

From the Government of Colombia,

Dear ABA Members,The Government of Colombia, working with partners both in the United States and here in Colombia, is focused on avian eco-tourism as a means to bring sustainable development to the people who live in and benefit from our varied ecosystems. We have already created the successful “Northern Colombian Birding Trail,” and are set to announce new birding trails in the coming months and years.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

I am delighted to welcome the American Birding Association to Bogotá and Cali in the July 2019 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The American Birding Association is a unique organization founded by birders for birders, that has helped promote the conservation of birds in the USA and around the world. I am certain that your event will be a great success, and that your members will enjoy our country, and given that it is the most bird-species-rich country in the world, we want you to come back again and again, to explore the remarkable diversity here.

We eagerly anticipate your visit!
Camilo Fernández de Soto

Gerente General Programa de Transformación Productiva (PTP)

For more information on this event, see ABA Travel!