CALI, Colombia – While Colombia last week won the World Bird Watching Championships for most species recorded, the coronavirus epidemic in the country is making it difficult to continue feeding those at Alejandria farm, known as “El Paraiso de los Colibries” (The Hummingbirds Paradise).
Raul Horacio Nieto, an Argentinian living in Colombia and one of the owners of the Finca Alejandria on the outskirts of Cali, said that they usually feed dozens of birds with the income they make from tourism, but there hasn’t been any tourists for almost two months since the mandatory quarantine to combat COVID-19 was announced.
“Finca Alejandria has 60 feeders to feed 32 species of hummingbird, which drink an average of 380 liters of water daily and eat 750 kilos of sugar per month. The birds – like Tangaras, Tucanetas or Quetzales – eat bananas and have an average of 200 or 250 bananas a day now that we are in the low season,” Nieto told EFE.
He added that “in high season they eat 400 bananas a day… They need between 12 and 14 monthly packages of sugar worth 140,000 pesos (about $35) each and between eight and 14 boxes of bananas every five days, which cost around 20,000 pesos (about $5) each. All of this comes from the tourism income.”
Colombia won the World Bird Watching Championship, also known as Global Big Day, on May 9 for the fourth consecutive year, recording 1,445 species of birds, over 300 more than Peru, which came in second.
It is also one of the preferred destinations for sightings, since it has more than 197 species of migratory and 79 endemic birds, which places it first in the world biodiversity rankings in this regard.
“In total Colombia has a record of 1,969 species. It is the number one country in the world in bird registration. Finca Alejandria registered 94 species in this area,” Nieto said.
However, two years ago the Caleña farm had a higher record because “there were more people registering birds. This year we were two people registering” because of the epidemic.
The Alejandria estate, which has been working for 14 years in ecotourism and bird watching, is considered, according to its owner, “one of the sites with the highest bird registrations in the world.”
“That is why it already has a reputation and makes people want to come see us, to know us, to know what it is about. They want to come and see hummingbirds. We are very close to them – we can see their colors, their shapes and sizes. It is a wonderful place,” said Nieto.
There is a record of 347 bird species, of which 32 are hummingbirds, which attract the attention of thousands of “documentary filmmakers, professionals, biology photographers, filming productions of documentaries and all that kind of thing” each year.
Nieto believes that the property, due to the type of tourism it offers, will be one of the first businesses to reopen in the sector and valued “the security protocol” they need to follow.
“Here people will be able to come with prior reservation, because a certain number of people are going to be allowed and we do not want a crowd. We know that there is a limit of people at a certain distance. When the vehicles arrive, they will be disinfected. The tourists will be disinfected as well,” he added.
A possible reopening will be key because, in Nieto’s opinion, the bird sightings will help citizens who have been in quarantine since March 25 “psychologically.”
“These places are very therapeutic and we believe that the collaboration of these sites, managed with all the security protocols, is really necessary for people’s therapy,” he said.
Colombia has recorded 14,939 cases of COVID-19 with 562 deaths.