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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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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

    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


    Endemics (whole of Ecuador) 8
    Northwest 1
    Black-breasted Puffleg.

    (Turquoise-throated Puffleg is known only from a few specimens taken in the nineteenth century)

    West 2
    Esmeraldas Woodstar and Lilacine (Red-lored) Amazon.

    South/Southwest 5
    Blue-throated Hillstar, Violet-throated Metaltail, El Oro Parakeet, Ecuadorian Tapaculo and Pale-headed Brush-finch.

    Near-endemics (whole of Ecuador)

    Ecuador and Colombia 100
    (20 hummingbirds, five antpittas, an umbrellabird and 13 tanagers)
    Berlepsch’s Tinamou, Baudo Guan, Rufous-fronted Wood-quail, Dark-backed Wood-quail, Dusky Pigeon, Purple Quail-dove, Choco Poorwill, White-whiskered Hermit, Western Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Gorgeted Sunangel, Tourmaline Sunangel, Violet-tailed Sylph, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Viridian Metaltail, Hoary Puffleg, Black-thighed Puffleg, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Pink-throated Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Western Emerald, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Gray’s Hummingbird (Blue-headed Sapphire), Banded Ground-cuckoo, Brown Wood-rail, Cloudforest Pygmy-owl, Colombian (Rufescent) Screech-owl, Choco Trogon, Choco Toucan, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Orange-fronted Barbet, Five-coloured Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Lita Woodpecker, Choco Woodpecker, Plumbeous Forest-falcon, Carunculated Caracara, Rose-faced Parrot, Choco (Maroon-tailed) Parakeet, Cocha Antshrike, Stub-tailed Antbird, Esmeraldas Antbird, Rufous-crowned Pittasoma, Giant Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Bicoloured Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Narino Tapaculo, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Uniform Treehunter, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Club-winged Manakin, Yellow-headed Manakin, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Chestnut-bellied Cotinga (likely to occur in north Peru), Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Pacific Flatbill, Northern Ornate Flycatcher, Choco Tyrannulet, Coopmans’s Elaenia, Plain-capped Ground-tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Pale-legged (Slaty-capped) Shrike-vireo, Choco Vireo, Beautiful Jay, Quindio (Black-collared) Jay, Black Solitaire, Chestnut-throated (Rufous-brown) Solitaire, Tanager Finch, Dusky Bush-tanager, Choco (Tricoloured) Brush-finch, White-rimmed Brush-finch, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Choco (Golden-bellied) Warbler, Ochre-breasted Tanager, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Yellow-tufted (Black-faced) Dacnis, Black-winged Saltator, Western Black-eared Hemispingus, Stolzmann’s Tanager (Black-backed Bush Tanager), Ochraceous (Cinereous) Conebill, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Yellow-green Tanager (Chlorospingus), Moss-backed Tanager, Golden-chested Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Yellow-faced (Flame-faced) Tanager and Blue-whiskered Tanager.

    Ecuador, Colombia and Peru 38
    Pallid Dove, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Green-backed (White-tailed) Hillstar, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Cinnamon Screech-owl, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Brown Nunlet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Pacific Parrotlet, Yasuni Stipplethroat (Antwren), Chestnut-naped Antpitta, White-bellied Antpitta, Western Tawny Antpitta, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Paramo Tapaculo, Pacific Hornero, Spectacled Prickletail, Grey-tailed Piha, Dusky Piha, Foothill Schiffornis, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Orange-eyed Flatbill (Flycatcher), Ochraceous Attila, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Mouse-grey (Bran-coloured) Flycatcher, Turquoise Jay, Plain-tailed Wren, Orange-crowned Euphonia, Ecuadorian Cacique, Scrub Blackbird, Ecuadorian (Blue) Seedeater, Masked Saltator, Masked Mountain-tanager and Golden-naped Tanager.

    Ecuador and Peru 108
    (13 hummingbirds, three antpittas and 17 tyrant flycatchers)
    Pale-browed Tinamou, Peruvian Pigeon, Ochre-bellied Dove, Ecuadorian Ground-dove, Scrub Nightjar, Porculla (Grey-chinned) Hermit, Ecuadorian (Long-billed) Hermit, Little Sunangel, Purple-throated Sunangel, Royal Sunangel, Green-headed Hillstar, Neblina Metaltail, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Peruvian (Booted) Racket-tail, Tumbes Hummingbird, Amazilia Hummingbird, Short-tailed Woodstar, Purple-collared Woodstar, Imperial Snipe, Peruvian Screech-owl, Grey-backed Hawk, Ecuadorian Trogon, Black-billed (Emerald) Toucanet, Pale-billed (Collared) Aracari, Ecuadorian Piculet, Northern Andean Flicker, Dusky-winged (Lineated) Woodpecker, Grey-cheeked Parakeet, Red-faced Parrot, Wavy-breasted (Rose-fronted) Parakeet, White-necked Parakeet, Cordilleran (Scarlet-fronted) Parakeet, Red-masked Parakeet, Ancient Antwren, Chapman’s Antshrike, Collared Antshrike, Lunulated Antbird, Grey-headed Antbird, Maranon Crescentchest, Elegant Crescentchest, Watkins’s Antpitta, Jocotoco Antpitta, Peruvian Antpitta, Chusquea Tapaculo, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, Mouse-coloured Thistletail, Equatorial Greytail, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Maranon Spinetail, Blackish-headed Spinetail, Necklaced Spinetail, Jet Manakin, Scaly-breasted (Scarlet-breasted) Fruiteater, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, Slaty Becard, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-tyrant, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Loja Tyrannulet, Tawny-fronted (Tawny-crowned) Pygmy-tyrant, Pacific Elaenia, Tumbes (Mouse-coloured) Tyrannulet, Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Black-crested Tit-tyrant, Baird’s Flycatcher, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Jelski’s Chat-tyrant, Tumbes Tyrant, Andean (Jelski’s) Black-tyrant, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Western Tropical Pewee, Olivaceous Greenlet, White-tailed Jay, Chestnut-collared Swallow, Tumbes Swallow, Fasciated Wren, Speckle-breasted Wren, Maranon Wren, Bar-winged Wood-wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Ecuadorian Thrush, Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Maranon Thrush, Saffron Siskin, Tumbes Sparrow, Black-capped Sparrow, Maranon (Black-capped) Sparrow, White-winged Brush-finch, Cream-crowned (White-winged) Brush-finch, White-headed Brush-finch, Bay-crowned Brush-finch, White-edged Oriole, Pale-eyed Blackbird, Black-lored (Masked) Yellowthroat, Grey-and-gold Warbler, Three-banded Warbler, Black-cowled Saltator, Crimson-breasted Finch, Parrot-billed Seedeater, Drab Seedeater, Collared Warbling-finch, Piura (Black-eared) Hemispingus, Buff-bellied Tanager, Sulphur-throated Finch, Streaked (Tit-like) Dacnis and Orange-throated Tanager.

    Ecuador, Peru and Brazil 1
    Orange-crested Manakin.

    Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia 6
    Rufous-breasted (Leymebamba) Antpitta, White-bellied Pygmy-tyrant, Red-billed Tyrannulet, Black-and-white Tanager, Silver-backed Tanager and Straw-backed Tanager.

    Ecuador, Peru and Chile 6
    Peruvian Thick-knee, Grey Gull, Belcher’s Gull, Peruvian Tern, Peruvian Pygmy-owl and Short-tailed Field-tyrant.

    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 Aracari, 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.

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

    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. University of Texas Press/Helm, 2009 (Updated paperback edition of books listed next with 400 more illustrations).

    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.