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Bird lovers returning to Columbia

Bird lovers returning to Columbia

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As political unrest subsides, a new opportunity for exotic travel opens up.

In March, government agents shot and killed a notorious guerrilla chief known as Comandante Mauricio. His unit, called the “Bolsheviks,” had rampaged through the countryside for years, kidnapping, extorting and murdering. Last month, a new group moved into Mauricio’s old turf. Its leader, Steven Hilty, wore a khaki shirt and a fedora. He signaled his cohorts for quiet, scanned a tree line and then zeroed in on a target with his binoculars. “That’s it — a yellow-headed brush-finch,” Mr. Hilty told his fellow American bird-watchers. The finch is one of the more unusual birds in Colombia, which has 1,871 bird species, more than any other country. As Colombia finally gains the upper hand in its decades-long struggle against Marxist guerrillas, bird lovers are marching back into parts of this avian paradise which were only recently no man’s lands. Birding tours are proliferating, reserves are sprouting up in former combat zones, and ornithologists are discovering new species and reacquainting themselves with ones not seen in years. – From WSJ