Colonia Birding

Have a memorable experience enjoying the natural setting of Colonia del Sacramento and its surroundings.
 

THE TOURS

Colonia del Sacramento is located well within the Pampas grassland biome, at the shore of the mighty Río de la Plata. Less than an hour´s boat ride from Buenos Aires and a 2-hour drive from Montevideo, the city is a popular historical tourist site. Despite this, very few people get to know about the natural richness the town has to offer.

 

Colonia Birding will take you on bird watching and nature tours within the city and the surrounding countryside. Tours are aimed for anybody ranging from general public and nature enthusiasts to hardcore birders. Focus is on bird watching but you will also see and learn about other fauna, flora, the neighbouring ecosystems, and local fossils.

Your guide, fluent in both english and spanish, has ample knowledge of the local birdlife, and as a Colonia native knows how to make the best out of the local habitats to deliver a rich mix of birds. Distances are short, so all tours can be completed within half a day, and promotes the combination of different tours for richer full-day trips. Tours are carried out on foot if in the city itself, and by a mix of driving and short walks if visiting the nearby countryside. There is also the option of going on bike tours that cover a broader area within town.

THE AREA

 

Colonia del Sacramento is the Sothwestern tip of Uruguay, it is the capital of the Department of Colonia and is an important touristic city. Because of its historical quarter (the Old City), which preserves a colonial architecture fusing portuguese and spanish styles, it was named World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. Most hotels are located within or near the old city, with additional accomodations along the bay or as country lodges a few minutes from town. The town center and mall provide shopping opportunities, and the beaches of the bay are a good place to relax during the summer. The city is safe for tourists, so you can walk around without any problems, specially in touristic areas. Make sure you get a spot near the river in the evenings, we´ve got great sunsets!

Biogeographically speaking, the city is embedded within the Pampas Grasslands ecoregion, and as such presents plants and animals typical of the biome. It is one of the most agriculturally exploited parts of the country, so natural untouched pampas grasslands are tough to find in the vicinity. Despite this, most grassland birds have adapted well to agroecosystems and farmland, many being quite abundant.

Within the city, birdlife is abounding and diverse, using parks, suburbs and coastal wetlands as habitat. The surrounding area is mostly made up of open rolling hills, a patchwork of cropland crisscrossed by creeks and streams, many bordered by native forest. Artificial ponds, marshes and stretches of thorny scrubland complete the mix.

The weather is typical of temperate latitudes, with well-marked seasons. Summer can get quite hot and winters are cold, but temperatures don´t tend to go below zero degrees Celcius (meaning there is no snow). Annual rainfall is approximately 1100 mm. and rains occur throughout the year, with small peaks in Spring and Autumn.

Overall, the area provides a diverse set of ecosystems within close reach of each other, and thus a considerable number of species can be observed on a half-day tour. Furthermore, the low vegetation and the fact that many species can be approached quite closely make for great photo opportunities. A birding tour during your stay in Colonia can be a great chance to experience and learn about the more natural aspect of the city, especially if you´ve already been to the more typical historical sites.

 

THE BIRDS

Around 200 kinds of birds can be seen in the area. Many of these are specially appealing to tourists from other continents because endemic bird families from the Americas and South America are well represented. More widespread birds such as waterbirds, raptors, and pigeons are also common, although many species from these groups will be new to the overseas visitor.

If you have never been to the Americas, you´re in for a treat. Tyrant flycatchers are the largest bird family on the planet and are not found otside the new world, the ubiquitous Great Kiskadee can bee seen in every habitat, White-crested Tyrannulets chirp their way along gardens, and the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a beautiful sight in the summer countryside. New world blackbirds are fairly easy to spot: the brood parasitic Shiny Cowbird and Screaming Cowbird follow cattle closely, as does the highly social Greyish Baywing; in marshlands look for the Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, and among wheatfields for displaying male White-browed Meadowlarks. Tanagers are the most colorful birds you will find, Red-crested Cardinals and Saffron Finches can be seen in the suburbs, and the Hepatic, Diademed, Sayaca and Blue-and-yellow Tanagers remind you of tropical birds more abundant further north. You can´t leave without sighting a tiny iridesent hummingbird darting from flower to flower. Two species are abundant in Colonia: the migrating Glittering-bellied Emerald, and the noisy Gilded Hummingbird which resides throughout the year.

North American visitors will also find new bird families. The most conspicuous of them are the ovenbirds, which are the ecological counterparts of various birds from other places. All look similarly brownish but vary greatly in the size and shape of their bill, allowing them to occupy all habitat types. The most iconic of them is the Rufous Hornero, which builds an adobe nest the size of a basketball. Be sure to look up to spot these nests on trees, fenceposts, utility poles and even window ledges. Other Neotropical birds to look out for include the Screamers, weird large birds related to waterfowl; Tinamous, an ancient lineage that resembles partridges; and Caracaras, odd members of the Falcon family.

Even if you don´t visit the countryside, the city itself harbours numerous birds, many can be seen within the well-visited historical quarter. Monk Parakeets will stand out to the visitor, they are noisy inhabitants and the only parrot to build large communal branch nests, each couple occupying one of the several entrances appartment-style. In gardens, the Creamy-bellied and Rufous-bellied Thrushes sing from shady groves, House Wrens move about between bushes, and Rufous-collared Sparrows skip along the lawns. In the spring swallows and martins invade the sky, some breed in the rock crevices of the buildings of the old quarter, others in hollow trees, and one species nests solely in abandoned ovenbird nests. By late summer they fly in massive numbers above the city in preparation for their return north.

LOCATION

Where is Colonia del Sacramento?  It´s the Southwestern tip of Uruguay, South America, on the shores of the magnificent Río de la Plata, just across from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. Check the map below to know more:

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