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A Guide to the Bird Sounds of the Colombian Andes
A Guide to the Bird Sounds of the Colombian Andes

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The biodiversity of Colombia is extraordinary. With an area of only 1.14 million km2-less than 1 percent of the world's land surface -- it hosts around 20 percent of the world's bird species. The diversity is greatest in the Andes, which cover a fourth of the country. The three cordilleras, or ranges, of the Colombian Andes run north-south through the country and are divided by deep valleys gouged out by the Magdalena and Cauca rivers. Each cordillera, with its distinct geological history, contributed to the immense biogeographical, ecological, and climatic complexity of the region. As a consequence, divergent populations of birds can be found on each cordillera, slope, or serrania of the Colombian Andes.

But with this magnificent diversity comes great vulnerability. Humans have significantly transformed at least 65 percent of the original landscape of the Colombian Andes. Of the 112 endemic and threatened species of the country, 80 percent are Andean species from such endangered ecosystems as the fog forests and the dry intermountain valley forests.

It is therefore crucial to generate respect for biodiversity and encourage the people of Colombia to truly value their unique biological heritage. The main Colombian organizations for ornithology are the Programa de Areas Importantes para fa Conservacion de las Aves (AlCAS/IBAS) Colombia (Franco and Bravo 2005, www.aicas.humboldt.org.co) and the Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves (RNOA, www.rnoa.org). The activities carried out by these organizations are key elements in the study and appreciation of Colombian birds.

A Guide to the Bird Sounds of the Colombian Andes is a reference tool for research, education, monitoring, and conservation. Our hope is that it will inspire new generations of ornithologists and promote the study of acoustic communication in Colombian birds. We also hope that amateur observers and the general public will use it to discover and enjoy Andean birds. Finally, we expect this audio guide to enrich education strategies for conservation. In the long term, knowledge of the natural world will allow the development and sustainable use of biodiversity to relieve poverty and improve the well being of the Colombian people.


To identify birds in the field, it is essential to know their vocalizations-in dense forests, it is often easier to hear birds than to see them. This audio guide is the most comprehensive published collection to date of the vocalizations of
Colombian birds. Ornithologists, naturalists, bird watchers, students, educators, and others may find this guide useful in the study and appreciation of region's birds.

Warning: Please limit the use of these recordings to attract birds in the field and exercise caution when doing so. Repetitive playback may disturb the natural behavior of birds.


This production is a joint effort of the Instituto de Investigacion de Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and the Colombian ornithological community.

  • The Banco de Sonidos Animales, established by the Instituto de Investigacion de Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt, has become an important resource for research in behavior, systematics, and biogeography, as well as an invaluable archive of the biological diversity of Colombia. When BSA was created, only a few local ornithologists had the privilege of doing field recording, and the need for student training quickly became clear. Today the demand for services, collaboration, and support is continually growing.
  • The Macaulay library is the world's largest archive of animal sounds and video. The Macaulay library collects, preserves, and distributes natural history media to support and promote biodiversity conservation, research, and education. It also provides technical information on audio and video recording and conducts training workshops on field recording techniques. The Macaulay library is part of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, a leader in the integrated study of biodiversity in the Western Hemisphere. The Lab's objectives include collecting, publishing, and providing access to bird and biodiversity data.


The wide selection of vocalizations in this audio guide reflects the regional diversity of the three Colombian cordilleras. Whenever possible, recordings from different regions and subspecies are presented. When recordings from Colombia were unavailable, recordings from neighboring countries were used. We hope this guide encourages recordists to further investigate the diversity of bird sounds in the complex Andean geography.

Work on this project started in 2000. Fifty-six ornithologists provided their recordings, which were made in approximately 150 different locations in the Eastern, Central, and Western cordilleras at altitudes from 800 m to over 4000 m. For biogeographical reasons, endemics of the Macarena and the Santa Marta mountains are not included (note that these areas are covered in an existing audio guide, Guia sonora de las aves de Vista Nieve y San Lorenzo, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta-Colombia). This seven-disc series contains more than 1,200 recordings of 624 species in 55 families.


The scientific and English names used largely follow the American Ornithologists' Union A Classification of the Bird Species of South America (Remsen et al. 2007). Spanish names follow Guia de las aves de Colombia (Hilty y Brown 2001) and www.ornitologiacolombiana.org. Subspecies nomenclature follows The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (Dickinson 2003). Since only a portion of the subspecies designations were corroborated by specimens, most were inferred from their distributions. The authors take responsibility for misidentifications or inaccuracies in the species playlist.

The species playlist presents basic information about the recordings. Each species has its own CD track; the information is given in the following order: scientific name, Spanish name, English name, vocalization type, location of the recording (identified with a number that corresponds to the "List of locations''), catalog number of the Banco de Sonidos Animales (BSA) or Macaulay Library (ML.), and the recordist's name.

When a species is represented by more than one recording, a short silence separates the respective recordings; in the booklet, each recording is presented on a different text line. Vocalizations known to have been in response to an artificial stimulus (imitation or playback, for example) are denoted by "RPB" next to the vocalization type. Recordings that have been looped one time to increase presentation time are denoted by "x2."

We would appreciate learning about any errors you find in this audio guide and welcome your comments and suggestions. If you would like more information about the recordings, please contact the Banco de Sonidos Animales (bsa@humboldt.org.co) or Macaulay Library (macaulaylibrary@cornell.edu).

  • Media: CD (7)
  • Author: M. Alvarez, V. Caro, O. Laverde, and A. M. Cuervo
  • Pub/Manuf: Macaulay Library

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