El Dorado Bird Reserve, Colombia

The American Bird Conservancy, Conservation International and Fundación ProAves serve as joint custodians of the El Dorado Bird Reserve situated in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range of northern Colombia. These custodians have successfully halted a holiday home development in the area, which would have proven devastating to the prolific bird life, including 21 endemic species, as well as migratory songbirds from the United States.

Situated in dense forests between 2,900 and 8,500 feet above sea level, the El Dorado Bird Reserve is a veritable birding paradise. The Jeniam Ecolodge and the Blue Moon Restaurant within the reserve are managed with the emphasis on eco-tourism and are virtually self-sustaining. From within the reserve visitors have spectacular views of the 19,000 foot high peaks and glaciers of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range stretching up towards the sky, as well as the sparkling beaches of the Caribbean below.

Over a hundred years of exploration and cataloguing of the bird life in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta confirms that there are numerous rare bird species which are restricted to the forests in and around the El Dorado Bird Reserve, with more still being discovered. For example, in 2007 a new species of owl was identified, which has since been named the Santa Marta Screech Owl. Also, research reveals that several of the endemic species of birds in the reserve should have separate species status – an issue which authorities are addressing.

The El Dorado Bird Reserve is a vital stopover habitat for the dwindling numbers of neo-tropical migratory birds that breed in Canada and the United States, including the Golden-winged Warblers and Cerulean Warblers. Also, the endangered species such as the Santa Marta Parakeet are only found in the reserve. In addition to the diverse bird-life, the El Dorado Bird Reserve is home to endemic amphibians, plants and butterflies.

The three joint custodians of the El Dorado Bird Reserve are included in the 55 member Alliance for Zero Extinction, which has identified 595 sites around the world containing the last habitat for one or more species of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and plant which are considered to be endangered. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which includes the El Dorado Bird Reserve, is listed as one of the most vital sites to be protected.

When bird watchers visit the El Dorado Bird Reserve to enjoy the resplendent bird life, they come to appreciate the enormous effort that is being made to preserve this Colombian treasure trove of natural wonders for future generations.