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  • Photograph of Rainbow Starfrontlet

    The amazing Rainbow Starfrontlet at the Utuana Reserve in Southern Ecuador by Dubi Shapiro.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in
  • SOUTHERN ECUADOR

    Photograph of Black-crested Tit Tyrant

    The very handsome Black-crested Tit Tyrant in the Utuana Reserve, Southern Ecuador by Dubi Shapiro.


    Best Birds and other wildlife in Southern Ecuador

    Birds

    Endemics
    El Oro Parakeet (Tumbesian endemic), Blue-throated Hillstar, Violet-throated Metaltail, Esmeraldas Woodstar (Tumbesian endemic), El Oro (Ecuadorian) Tapaculo (Tumbesian endemic) and Pale-headed Brush Finch (Tumbesian endemic).

    Tumbesian Endemics
    Pale-browed Tinamou, Grey-backed Hawk, Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Ecuadorian Ground Dove, Grey-cheeked and Red-masked Parakeets, Pacific Parrotlet, Anthony’s (Scrub) Nightjar, Tumbes (Short-tailed) Swift, Tumbes Hummingbird, Short-tailed Woodstar, Ecuadorian Piculet, Blackish-headed (Black-faced) and Necklaced Spinetails, Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaners, Chapman’s and Collared Antshrikes, Grey-headed Antbird, Watkins's Antpitta, Elegant Crescentchest, Pacific Elaenia, Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, Baird’s and Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Slaty Becard, Chestnut-collared Swallow, Superciliated Wren, Ecuadorian and Plumbeous-backed Thrushes, White-tailed Jay, Three-banded and Gray-and-gold Warblers, Crimson-breasted Finch, Drab Seedeater, Sulphur-throated Finch, Bay-crowned and White-headed Brush Finches, Black-capped and Tumbes Sparrows, Black-cowled Saltator, White-edged Oriole and Saffron Siskin. Also a chance of Ochre-bellied Dove, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Tumbes Tyrant and Cinereous Finch.

    Other Specialities
    Grey Tinamou, Bearded Guan, Ecuadorian Rail, Pallid Dove, Bronze-winged and Red-faced Parrots, Golden-plumed and White-breasted (-necked) Parakeets, Grey-capped Cuckoo, West Peruvian Screech Owl, Pacific Pygmy Owl, White-tipped Sicklebill, White-whiskered Hermit, Spangled Coquette, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Chestnut-breasted and Velvet-purple (Choco endemic) Coronets, Ecuadorian Hillstar (near-endemic), Brown Inca, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Flame-throated and Purple-throated Sunangels, Neblina Metaltail, Blue-mantled and Rainbow-bearded Thornbills, Violet-tailed Sylph, Little Woodstar, Ecuadorian (Black-tailed) Trogon, Coppery-chested and Purplish Jacamars, Barred and Black-streaked Puffbirds, Lanceolated Monklet, Lemon-throated Barbet, Black-throated (cyanolaemus) and Crimson-rumped Toucanets, Choco Toucan, Guayaquil and Scarlet-backed Woodpeckers, Mouse-coloured Thistletail, Many-striped Canastero, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Bamboo and Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaners, Stripe-chested Antwren, Esmeraldas Antbird, White-backed Fire-eye, Chestnut-naped, Crescent-faced, Jocotoco, Plain-backed and Scaled Antpittas, Ash-coloured, Blackish, Chusquea, Long-tailed, Northern White-crowned, Ocellated and Paramo Tapaculos, Black-crested Tit Tyrant, Ecuadorian, Loja, Red-billed and Rufous-winged Tyrannulets, Orange-banded and Orange-crested Flycatchers, White-bellied Pygmy Tyrant, Black-and-white and Golden-winged Tody Flycatchers, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, White-tailed Shrike Tyrant, Crowned and Jelski’s Chat Tyrants, Ochraceous Attila, Fiery-throated and Scaled Fruiteaters, Grey-tailed Piha, Amazonian and Long-wattled Umbrellabirds, Blue-rumped and Club-winged Manakins, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Turquoise Jay, Fasciated, Plain-tailed and Speckle-breasted Wrens, Andean Slaty and Maranon Thrushes, Golden-rumped and Orange-crowned Euphonias, Olive Finch, White-headed and White-winged Brush Finches, Golden-crowned, Masked Crimson, Ochre-breasted, Orange-throated, Red-hooded, Silver-backed and White-capped Tanagers, Piura Hemispingus, Rothschild’s Grosbeak, Tit-like Dacnis, Giant Conebill, Collared Warbling Finch, Black-billed and Large-billed Seed Finches, and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. Also a chance of Rufous-fronted Wood Quail, Oilbird and Chestnut-bellied Cotinga.

    Others
    Horned Screamer, Torrent Duck, Chilean Flamingo, Peruvian Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Blue-footed Booby, Swallow-tailed Kite, Black-and-white Hawk Eagle, Snail Kite, Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, White-throated Quail Dove, West Peruvian Dove, Golden-headed Quetzal, Amazilia Hummingbird, Gould’s Jewelfront, Shining Sunbeam, Collared Inca, Glowing Puffleg, White-booted Racket-tail, Long-tailed Sylph, Black-eared and Purple-crowned Fairies, Andean (Highland), Broad-billed, Rufous and Whopping Motmots, Gilded and Red-headed Barbets, Chestnut-tipped and Golden-collared Toucanets, Chestnut-eared and Pale-mandibled Aracaris, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Channel-billed (Yellow-ridged) and Yellow-throated Toucans, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, foliage-gleaners, spinetails, woodcreepers, antwrens, antshrikes, antbirds, Chestnut-crowned, Rufous, Slaty-crowned, Tawny, Thrush-like and Undulated Antpittas, tapaculos including Ocellated, elaenias, tyrannulets, flycatchers, Barred and Green-and-black Fruiteaters, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Golden-winged and White-bearded Manakins, Wing-barred Piprites, Slaty-capped Shrike Vireo, Musician and Song Wrens, wintering New World warblers, mountain and numerous other tanagers including Flame-faced, Golden-crowned, Golden-eared, Orange-eared, Paradise and Silver-throated, flowerpiercers, brush finches, euphonias, Scrub Blackbird and Peruvian Meadowlark. Also a chance of Grey-breasted, Rufous-sided, Uniform and White-throated Crakes, Blackish Rail, Band-bellied, Black-and-white, Rufous-banded and Spectacled Owls, Lanceolated Monklet and Masked Mountain Tanager.

    Mammals
    Mantled Howler Monkey, and Mountain and White-nosed Coatis.

    Plants
    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.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Southern Ecuador

    Photograph of Crescent-faced Antpitta

    Crescent-faced Antpitta by Dubi Shapiro.


    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Southern Ecuador

    The peak time to look for birds is during January to March because this period usually coincides with the annual rains when resident birds start singing making it easier to find the many skulkers. Be prepared for highly variable weather, from hot and sunny in the lowlands of the southwest to more pleasant Andean slopes and freezing windy conditions in the High Andes at places such as El Cajas National Park where some of the best birding is between 3170 metres and 4350 metres (10,400-14,270ft).

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Southern Ecuador

    Birds of Ecuador by J Freile and R Restall. Helm, 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 hbk/Princeton University Press, 2006 pbk.

    Birds of South America: Passerines by R S Ridgely and G Tudor. Helm, 2009. (Updated version of next title)

    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).

    Birds of the High Andes by J Fjeldsa and N Krabbe. Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen and Apollo Books, 1990.

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

    Wildlife of Ecuador: a Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians by A Vasquez Noboa and P Cervantes Daza. Princeton University Press, 2017.

    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 Sunbird Images (based on Birds of Northern South America (Helm, 2006), featuring 5000 illustrations and 3000 sound recordings for 1612 species). Available from iTunes store and Google Play.

    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 Southern Ecuador

    Many trip reports, some for Southern 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 Southern Ecuador. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Southern Ecuador' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Southern 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 Southern Ecuador

    Be sure to book Jocotoco Foundation’s excellent accommodations with feeders for hummingbirds and other birds at their reserves Buenaventura (Umbrellabird Lodge), Jorupe (Urraca Lodge) and Tapichalaca (Casa Simpson Lodge), as well as Copalinga Lodge, near the Bombuscara entrance to Podocarpus National Park, all well in advance.

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Southern 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 Southern Ecuador include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.