The San Antonio cloud forest and the wooded areas of the sector known as “kilometro 18” (Km. 18), are located between kilometers 14 to 23 of the Cali – Buenaventura road. The area belongs to the municipalities of Cali, in the townships of El Saladito, Felidia, and La Elvira and Dagua in the townships of San Bernardo, and Km. 26.
More than 180 species of birds have been registered in San Antonio Forest – Kilometer 18. The presence of threatened species such as the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochryssa nitidissima) and the Cloud-forest pygmy owl (Glaucidium nubicola) stands out, and raises the place as one of the best hotspots for birding near to the city of Santiago de Cali, in the department of Valle del Cauca.
The local community was interested in conserving the forests and following this aim they decided to creat the Asociación Rio Cali, together with the support of numerous allies. The Asociación Río Cali is a private non-profit organization that promotes and supports the maintenance of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources by involving the local human communities of the Cali and Aguacatal river basin, where the San Antonio forest and km 18 are located.
The community supports biodiversity conservation initiatives from small rural farms through the planning and management of agroecosystems, generating income and employment through the production of primary goods and environmental services. It also seeks to protect birds and their habitat by generating economic income for rural communities through nature tourism focused on bird watching.
Scientific Research at San Antonio Forest
This forest was explored in the early 20th century by the famous naturalist, ornithologist and banker Frank M. Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History. He was the creator of the Christmas Bird Count (you should know this if you are a serious bird watcher … I am just kidding!) After him, more studies and explorations were carried by other ornithologists several times during the same century. Today, all this information has served to historically track birds that have become extinct in the area due to forest fragmentation. It also have been useful to support conservation initiatives implemented on the area.
San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18: Important Bird Area (IBA)
According to BirdLife International, the San Antonio cloud forest and the surrounding wooded areas at kilometer 18 were declared National Forest Reserve Areas in 1938 and 1943. Then, in 1948 and 1960 the area was ceded to the municipality of Cali for its management as a Forest Reserve Area. In 1998, the housing areas of the Forest Reserve Area were excluded.
It is in 2004, when members and researchers from the local community and the Asociación Río Cali, proposed to BirdLife International and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Biological Research, the declaration of the “Bosque de Niebla de San Antonio – Km 18” as an Important Area for the Conservation of Birds (IBA/AICA). Thus, kilometer 18 and the San Antonio cloud forest were designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) for conservation, especially for hosting significant numbers of globally threatened species.
The Multicolored Tanager was choosen as the symbol of the IBA/AICA, because of being a unique species of the Colombian Andes, very easy to observe in the region, and being threatened to extinction due to habitat loss.
Asociación Río Cali activities are also involved with monitoring the Birds of the AICA Bosque de Niebla de San Antonio and Km 18, studying native species and making inventories of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles with the support of the local environmental authority (CVC).
Among the 180 species of this place, the following ones are of main importance to the IBA: Chestnut Wood-quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus), Yellow-headed Manakin (Chloropipo flavicapilla), Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea), Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephalus) and the Multicolored Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima).
Cloud forest located in the western mountain range of Colombia.
The Cerro de San Antonio, also called Cerro de La Horqueta, is a montane summit (2100 m elevation) in the western andean mountain range in Colombia. It is localted 15 km west of the city of Santiago de Cali, on the road to Buenaventura, department of Valle del Cauca.
The cloud forests of San Antonio and its surrounding area, were heavily extracted during the first half of the past century (1900-1950). However, the remaining fragments stayed more or less pristine since the 1960s, and are distributed in a matrix of small farms and suburban houses.
What to do
Birding at San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18
In the San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18 you can observe more than 220 species of birds, both resident and migratory. Some of the species that can be seen are the Multicolored Tanager, the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, the Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the Green-and-black Fruiteater, the Colombian Chachalaca and 30 species of hummingbirds.
You can find many highly recommended places to observe and photograph birds. Also ecolodges and birdlodges specialized in offering high quality accommodation in the area. Among the most famous and recommended places to go birding in the San Antonio Cloud Forest Km 18 in Valle del Cauca are:
Finca La Conchita: At Finca La Conchita west of the city of Cali you can have superb studies of hummingbirds, plus a wide variety of other birds such as the endemic Colombian Chachalaca.
La Minga Ecolodge: This is the prime destination to observe and photograph the Multicolored Tanager. Be sure that the best pictures of this bird were took at La Minga Ecolodge.
Finca Alejandría “El Paraíso de los Colibríes”: This is one of the most known and traditional palces for photographing tanagers and hummingbirds at Km 18, perhaps because it was one of the first to open. There you can find adequate trails with numbered drinking troughs, where the birds arrive. There are also gardens with feeders inside the forest.
Bosque de Niebla Birding & Nature: If you love nature and birds, you must know this place. It is a family business that offers its visitors bird watching and hiking tours, as well as birding workshops. It is located at Km 18, 30 minutes from Cali, and 2 kilometers from the entrance of Km 18 via Dapa. Its purpose is to help the conservation of the cloud forest of the National Protected Forest Reserve of La Elvira, thus promoting the conservation of the habitat of its birds.
- BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bosque de San Antonio/Km 18. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org
- Calidris ONG
- Forest Fragmentation and Bird Extinctions: San Antonio Eighty Years Later. Author(s): Gustavo H. Kattan, Humberto Alvarez-Lopez, Manuel Giraldo. Source: Conservation Biology, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1994), pp. 138-146
- Asociación Río Cali Website
About the author
Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.[/vc_column_text]