Conservation of the Threatened Birds of Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta Parakeet_Colombia_Nick Athanas
Photo: Santa Marta Parakeet by Nick Athanas


The Challenge

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an 18,700-foot-high massif that is separated from and pre-dates the Andes. It is considered one of the Americas' most important biogeographic centers of bird endemism, and was declared an Alliance for Zero Extinction site in 2005.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has suffered severe habitat loss and degradation due to uncontrolled colonization. Its cool montane forests are just 12 miles from the rapidly growing coastal city of Santa Marta. The cooler climes have attracted people from the hot and polluted city seeking weekend and holiday retreats, and in turn, holiday home developments and speculation have grown in the region.


ABC Conservation Framework

Efforts to save this species comes under Safeguarding the Rarest within ABC's Conservation Framework
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Primary Birds Impacted

Although smaller than the state of Connecticut, this mountain range contains the single highest concentration of endemic birds found on the planet, and more resident bird species than the continental United States. The area also holds the exceptional levels of diversity and high levels of endemism for plants, amphibians, and butterflies. Preliminary surveys recorded an extraordinary 415 bird species in the reserve, including 19 endemics, of which nine are endangered. These include the endangered Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Sabrewing, and Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant. Monitoring has also revealed the site’s importance for stop-over and wintering neotropical migrants, with threatened species such as the Cerulean Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler stopping over each spring and fall.

YouTube - Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Atrapamoscas de Santa Marta (Myiotheretes pernix) endemic - EN by davidcaro79



ABC has worked with its Colombian partner Fundación ProAves to conserve large tracts of the Santa Marta Mountains and educate local residents on the importance of conserving their unique natural treasures. Economics plays a key role in the future of the habitat, and local villages need to be provided with a viable economic alternative to destructive land use practices.

ABC Results

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In 2006, ABC and ProAves established the El Dorado Bird Reserve to protect the Santa Marta Parakeet and other endemics. 

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In 2010 ABC helped acquire the historic 250-acre Vistanieves property to bring the amount of land under protection to almost 2,000 acres.

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In 2012, with generous donations, ProAves is in the process of purchasing the 198-acre “La Cumbre” property. La Cumbre has the largest breeding population of Santa Marta parakeets, a vital wax palm population, an endemic frog, and the sacred lagoon of the local Kogi people.

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Key tourism improvements include a new wrap-around lodge observation platform, internet installation, additional guest cabins, and a kitchen expansion.

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ABC and ProAves have removed invasive species from the reserve and reforested parts of El Dorado with native trees and shrubs.

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ABC and ProAves have initiated a Women for Conservation program at El Dorado, providing women living in the buffer zones of the reserve with economic opportunities from the production and sale of hand crafts in return for agreeing to protect the reserve and its natural resources.

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In 2007, a new species of owl, the Santa Marta Screech-Owl, was discovered at El Dorado.

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In 2011, a species of tree rat was re-discovered and photographed after 113 years.


What Next?

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Continue to remove invasive pine trees.

What Next Button Reforest La Cumbre property with support from the Women for Conservation program.
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Ongoing monitoring the Santa Marta Parakeet population.

Take Action

Support conservation by birding in Colombia! El Dorado is easily reached by a two-hour drive from the popular tourist destination of Santa Marta. Funds generated from ecotourism will directly support conservation actions. You can also donate to ABC to help the two additional properties adjoining the reserve.