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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Plate-billed Mountain Toucan

    The amazing Plate-billed Mountain Toucan at Bellavista Lodge in Northern Ecuador by Dubi Shapiro.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Booted Racket-tails

    Booted Racket-tails at Tandayapa Lodge by Dubi Shapiro.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Northern Ecuador


    Black-breasted Puffleg, Esmeraldas Woodstar, Pale-mandibled Aracari and Cocha Antshrike. (El Oro Parakeet, Blue-throated Hillstar, Violet-throated Metaltail, El Oro Tapaculo and Pale-headed Brush Finch are endemic to Southern Ecuador, and the Choco endemic Turquoise-throated Puffleg is designated as ‘Critically endangered’ and is possibly extinct. It looks very similar to Glowing Puffleg and there has been just the one, unconfirmed, sighting since the 19th century).

    Choco Endemics (Not all of these are likely to be seen)
    Berlepsch’s Tinamou, Dark-backed Wood Quail, Plumbeous (Lined) Forest Falcon, Dusky Pigeon, Rose-faced Parrot, Banded Ground Cuckoo, Colombian Screech Owl, Choco Poorwill, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, Brown Inca, Gorgeted Sunangel, Hoary Puffleg, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Violet-tailed Sylph, Choco (Blue-tailed/White-eyed) Trogon, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Choco Toucan, Five-coloured, Orange-fronted and Toucan Barbets, Choco and Lita Woodpeckers, Club-winged Manakin, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Bicoloured Antvireo, Stub-tailed Antbird, Rufous-crowned Pittasoma, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Narino Tapaculo, Fulvous-dotted (Star-chested) Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Beautiful Jay, Black Solitaire, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Blue-whiskered, Glistening-green, Golden-chested, Moss-backed, Purplish-mantled, Scarlet-and-white and Yellow-green (Bush) Tanagers, Tanager Finch, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Dusky Chlorospingus (Bush Tanager) and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia. The following species are also considered to be Choco Endemics by some birders; Western Emerald, Esmeraldas Antbird, Choco Sirystes, Pacific Flatbill, and Lemon-spectacled, Rufous-throated and Ochre-breasted Tanagers. Three species, Baudo Guan, Yellow-headed Manakin and Choco Vireo are known from Ecuador but are easiest to see in Colombia.

    (Colombia Choco Endemics include Colourful Puffleg, Sooty-capped Puffbird, Red-bellied Grackle, Black-and-gold, Gold-ringed and Multicoloured Tanagers, Turquoise Dacnis, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Crested Ant-Tanager and Baudo Oropendola).

    Other Near-endemics
    White-chested Swift, Black-thighed and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Purple-throated Woodstar, Napo Sabrewing, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Guayaquil and Scarlet-backed Woodpeckers, Dugand's Antwren, Jocotoco Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, (Pacific) Royal Flycatcher, Foothill Elaenia, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Orange-crested Manakin, Ecuadorian Thrush, and Grey-and-gold, Ochre-breasted, Rufous-throated and Scrub Tanagers.

    Torrent Duck, guans, Zigzag Heron, Black-faced Ibis, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Carunculated Caracara, Hoatzin, Imperial Snipe, Andean Lapwing, Pied Plover, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (endemic latreillii race), Andean Gull, pigeons, doves, parakeets, parrots, Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws, owls including Crested, nightjars including Lyre-tailed, potoos including Andean, Long-tailed and Rufous, Oilbird (at cave), swifts, numerous hummingbirds (many at feeders) such as Giant, Fiery Topaz, Booted Racket-tail, Collared Inca, Sword-billed, Gould’s Jewelfront, Long-tailed Sylph, Purple-crowned Fairy, Black-tailed Trainbearer and Wire-crested Thorntail, all five South American kingfishers, motmots, jacamars including Great, White-eared and Yellow-billed, trogons, quetzals, puffbirds, White-faced Nunbird, barbets, aracaris, Black-billed and Grey-breasted Mountain Toucans, toucanets, woodpeckers, foliage-gleaners, spinetails, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, woodcreepers, antshrikes, antwrens, antbirds, antpittas (several at worm-feeders including Giant, Moustached, Scaled, White-bellied and Yellow-bellied), Ringed Antpipit, Ash-throated, Chestnut-belted and Chestnut-crowned Gnateaters, tapaculos including Ocellated, tyrant flycatchers, Golden-winged, Spotted and Yellow-browed Tody Flycatchers, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Andean Cock-of-the-rock (red sanguinolenta race at leks), Amazonian Umbrellabird, Black-necked Red Cotinga, Barred, Scaled and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, Dusky, Grey-tailed, Olivaceous and Screaming Pihas, Plum-throated, Purple-throated and Spangled Cotingas, White-browed Purpletuft, Bare-necked and Purple-throated Fruitcrows, manakins including Club-winged and Wire-tailed, Wing-barred Piprites, becards, tityras, Slaty-capped Shrike Vireo, wrens such as Musician, Black-capped Donacobius, White-capped Dipper, Lawrence's Thrush, wintering warblers, Slate-throated and Spectacled Redstarts, conebills, bush tanagers, hemispinguses, mountain and numerous other tanagers including Flame-faced, Golden, Golden-eared, Golden-crowned, Grass-green, Orange-eared and Paradise, Fulvous Shrike Tanager, dacnises, honeycreepers including Golden-collared, Plushcap, flowerpiercers, brush finches, Red-capped Cardinal, Oriole Blackbird, caciques, oropendolas and euphonias. Also a chance of Agami Heron, Fasciated Tiger Heron, Harpy and Crested Eagles, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Pavonine Quetzal, Fiery Topaz, Mountain Avocetbill, Lanceolated Monklet, White-plumed Antbird, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Masked Mountain Tanager, Blue-browed and White-capped Tanagers, and Orange-backed Troupial.

    Pygmy Marmoset, Black-mantled and Golden-mantled Tamarins, Red Howler, White-fronted Capuchin, Noisy (Spix's) Night, Equatorial Saki, White-bellied Spider, Common Squirrel, Lucifer (Yellow-handed) Titi, Red-bellied Titi and Silvery Woolly Monkeys, Black and Central American Agoutis, Olinguito, Andean White-eared Opossum, Tayra and Kinkajou. Also a chance of Spectacled Bear (mostly in August-early September), Mountain Tapir, Giant and Neotropical River Otters, and Hoffmann's Two-toed and (Brown-throated) Three-toed Sloths.

    One of the richest floras on Earth includes over 3700 species of orchid - the Andes of Ecuador support the highest diversity of orchids in the world. Also present in great diversity are arums, bromeliads, fuchsias and heliconias. Yasuni National Park in which the Napo Wildlife Center is situated has the highest documented tree diversity in the world.

    Other Natural Wonders in Northern Ecuador

    This almost perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone is the highest active volcano in the world. It is largely covered by permanent fields of ice and snow, and rises to 5897 m (19,348 ft), much higher than the neighbouring Andean peaks.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Northern Ecuador

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Northern Ecuador

    The best time for birds is July to March, especially September-October for Amazonia. October is also the best time for orchids. Although wet all year round the Andes are usually drier between July and September, and Amazonia is usually drier between October and March.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Northern Ecuador

    Birds of Ecuador by J Freile and R Restall. Helm, due 2018.

    The Birds of Ecuador by R S Ridgely and P J Greenfield. Helm, 2001 (Two volumes).

    Birds of South America: Non-Passerines by J R Roderiguez Mata et al. Harper Collins, 2006.

    The Birds of South America: Passerines by R S Ridgely and G Tudor. University of Texas Press, 1989 and 1994 (Two volumes).

    Birds of Northern South America by R Restall, C Rodner and M Lentino. Helm, 2006 (Two volumes).

    Mammals of South America by R D Lord. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

    Traveller's Wildlife Guide: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands by L Beletsky and D Pearson. Arris Books, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Apps etc.

    All Birds Ecuador by Bloomsbury/Sunbird Images.

    Birds of Ecuador.

    Hummingbirds of Ecuador.

    Where to watch birds in South America by N Wheatley. Helm, 1994.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in South America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Northern Ecuador

    Many trip reports, some for Northern Ecuador, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Northern Ecuador. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Northern Ecuador' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Northern Ecuador

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Northern Ecuador

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Northern Ecuador

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Northern Ecuador in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.