THE SIERRA NEVADA DE SANTA MARTA MOUNTAIN RANGE in northern Colombia boasts the world’s highest concentration of continental range-restricted bird species—birds that live in a very small or rare habitat. Twenty-one endemic species, like the Santa Marta parakeet and Santa Marta antpitta, as well as migratory songbirds from the U.S., make this South American locale their home. Fundación ProAves, Colombia; American Bird Conservancy, Washington, D.C.; and Conservation International, Arlington, Va., recently joined forces to protect the area’s forests, which were at high risk for deforestation, and inaugurate the El Dorado Bird Reserve. The reserve protects the world’s largest concentration of endangered bird and amphibian species. “The region is internationally recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction [a joint initiative of worldwide biodiversity-conservation organizations] as a critical area in need of conservation due to the extreme concentration of site-restricted and endangered bird and amphibian species,” says Dr. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy. The 1,700-acre (688-hectare) reserve’s ecotourism facilities include the Jeniam Ecolodge and Blue Moon Restaurant.
The lodge was constructed by cutting down the reserve’s non-native conifers that were displacing the native vegetation to which birds and other species were adapted. Fundación ProAves is replacing the extracted trees with native trees, which will ensure water filtration for cities on the coast. In addition to being a birdwatcher’s paradise, El Dorado Bird Reserve occupies a remarkable natural setting. Its landscape rises up to 8,500 feet (2585 m) above sea level and views extend to the 19,000-foot- (5778-m-) high peaks and glaciers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Caribbean beaches and mangroves of Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta also add to the splendor.“The birdwatching at the El Dorado Reserve is amazing,” Fenwick says. “There are so many species that only can be seen there, and the views of the high peaks above and the beaches below are absolutely spectacular.” Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria mountain range, Columbia, SouthAmerica / www.proaves.org