Birding the San Sebastian Reserve and the Aburrá Valley - Medellin, Colombia Home » Forums » Birding » Trip Reports

So I may have a new girlfriend in Medellin after being divorced for a year, and as a result have limited my photography/birding on this trip to Colombia to the immediate area around Medellin, known as the Aburrá Valley. Two reserves here which are accessible with the metro and buses are La Romera and San Sebastian. San Sebastian is at a higher altitude, and there is mostly just one trail going from 2450 to 2950 meters. To get to San Sebastian, take the metro to Envigado, and then the bus to Las Palmas. After 12 half-day visits (it rains most every afternoon) I have seen without binoculars the following (and many of these birds only one time):

All sites list now maintained at

Other Areas

On the other side of the valley is a reserve called San Miguel, which is the source of the Medellin River, but not the source of the allegedly very clean drinking water. I met someone who worked there, and he told me there were plans to combine San Sebastian, La Romera and San Miguel. That would of course be excellent as fragmentation is a huge problem for ecosystems.

On the other side of Las Baldias is a huge drop to the Cauca Valley. From the north terminal in Medellin you can take a bus and in less than an hour visit towns like San Geronimo in the valley. I visited a weekend getaway called Lagoturs which maintains a 'sendero ecologico' or nature trail inside a forest fragment. In and around the fragment I saw all mostly lowland species including Moustached Puffbird, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Bicolored Wren, Green Kingfisher, Black-chested Jay, Yellow-headed Caracara and Western Slaty Antshrike.

El Salado Parque Ecoturístico

This recreational 'botanic garden' is easily accessed by bus from the Envigado metro station. Although there is no true forest, there are a lot of trees and some secondary growth, and a 'charco' or stream where people have picnics. During the week there aren't many people. One visit turned up at least two Red-bellied Grackles (!), an out-of-place Sickle-winged Guan, many Colombian Chachalacas, Tennessee, Blackburnian, Black-and-white, and Canada Warblers, Western Emerald, and many of the regulars. I don't recommend this place for serious bird-watching, but if you want a place easy to visit, it might be worth a visit.
HOWEVER, a second visit turned up quite a few good birds: Golden-olive Woodpecker, Squirrel Cuckoo, Grey-throated Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet non-House Wren (Whiskered?) and (also not seen well) Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo and Blackpoll Warbler. The Sickle-winged Guan and Grackles were still there!

Las Baldias

Las Baldias is a mountain range on the other side of the Aburrá valley from Envigado/San Sebastian. It is the highest point in the area at 3150 meters, and has a forest fragment of around 2000 hectares. The land is privately owned, but the regional plan from Corantioquia does not allow the forest to be cut. I was not able to reach the forest by walking from San Felix in the direction of the trout farm, but I later learned it is possible to go by bus and then do a very long walk curving towards the antennas at the top. Or you could contact a guide, such as Diego Calderon at or Juan Jaramillo at The former is a well known Colombain birding expert, and the latter lives at the base of the mountain.

Some birds seen in the fields leading up to the mountain and not on other lists include the Mountain Wren, Sedge Wren, Torrent Tyrannulet, and Northern Crested Caracara. A hawk with white tail was seen above, quite possibly a White-tailed Hawk. The updated merged list has Baldias birds listed with a 'B'.


Parque Arvi is a great place to visit, but there are so many pines that the most interesting birds are probably not there. Around the lake at Piedras Blancas where there are no pines were a number of the usual suspects and migrants, including the Montane Woodcreeper and Canada Warbler, which I have as yet not seen at La Romera or San Sebastian. But both species are commonly seen in other areas. There was an armed robbery of tourists in front of Parque Piedras Blancas at the end of 2012; always be careful.

La Romera

I have now learned how to get to La Romera and will keep a list of Romera-only birds. La Romera has a lot of secondary forest, pines and eucalyptus. and is at a lower altitude. In fact most of the birds there were not seen at San Sebastian! The three birds sought after here are the Red-bellied Grackle, Yellow-headed Manakin and Stiles Tapaculo (not seen), and for this reason most of the birding tours only stop at La Romera. I once hiked up to the ranger station at a higher altitude, but mostly went to Romera for the lower altitude birds.

All sites list now maintained at

Update, in 2015 I finally hiked above the visitor center. The trail loops back down and connects to the main trail from the left. It is a really good trail two kilometer, and I had one good tanager flock in the middle of the day.