Birding Tour Ecuador: The North, with Optional Extension to the Amazon 2019

Duration: 15 days

Ecuador has the highest bird species diversity per square kilometer on the planet and offers some of the best birding of South America. Due to the short distances to drive, good tourist infrastructure, and wonderful lodges and other facilities for birders, including a multitude of hummingbird and anpitta feeder stations as well, Ecuador is perhaps the most obligatory destination on the continent.

Our Birding Tour Ecuador offers the best of the country: The west and east slopes of the Andes together make for an exciting 15-day tour.

We will start birding at higher elevations in the Yanacocha Reserve near Quito, where species like Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Rufous Wren, and Rufous and Tawny Antpittas are expected.

We will continue birding the renowned old Nono-Mindo Road along the Tandayapa Valley and the town of Mindo, spending four nights at our favorite Septimo Paraiso Lodge as our base to explore different reserves in the area, like the famous Angel Paz Reserve, where we have excellent chances to have close-up views of four anpittas in one morning, namely Giant, Yellow-breasted, Moustached, and Ochre-breasted Antpittas, and with luck even the secretive Rufous-breasted Antthrush and Ocellated Tapaculo. We will also enjoy our first view of Andean Cock-of-the-rock and of a good number of fruit-eating birds like Crimson-rumped Toucanet and several flocks of tanagers. For one night we will stay at the famous Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve to maximize our chances for Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Ocellated Tapaculo, and the mythical Tanager Finch.

Then we will explore the Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, looking for some low-elevation and Chocó specialists like Orange-fronted Barbet, Dusky Pigeon, Choco Trogon, Rose-faced Parrot, Blue-lored Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Red-headed Barbet, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Red-faced Spinetail, Double-toothed Kite, Toucan Barbet, and many more.

The Milpe Bird Sanctuary will provide species such as Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Club-winged Manakin, and Moss-backed Tanager, while a visit to the Rio Palenque Reserve may yield Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Barred and White-whiskered Puffbirds, Ecuadorian Trogon, Scarlet-backed, Guayaquil, and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaner, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and Black-headed Antthrush. Finally, birding the Mashpi Reserve might provide views of Indigo Flowerpiercer, Glistening-green Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, and Grey-and-gold Tanager.

After a week of birding the western lowlands we return to Quito and from there continue our trip, exploring Antisana National Park in search of Andean Condor, Carunculated Caracara, Andean Ibis, Paramo Pipit, Paramo Ground Tyrant, Andean Tit-Spinetail, and Ecuadorian Hillstar among other high-Andes specialists. Before descending into the eastern lowlands we will explore the famous Papallacta Pass, where we will search for the highly-prized, endemic race of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe.

Next we will explore the cloudforest mountains, visiting famous Cabañas San Isidro, where we will look for White-bellied Antpitta, the mysterious “San Isidro Owl”, Andean Motmot, Masked Trogon, Spillmann’s Tapaculo, and others.

Further in the upper tropical forests the fine Wildsumaco Lodge will be a delightful place to stay, looking for species like Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, Yellow-throated Toucan, Many-banded Aracari, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-eared, Paradise, and Green-and-gold Tanagers, Plain-backed Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Roraiman, Tropical, and Rufescent Screech Owls, Band-bellied Owl, and several species of hummingbirds on the feeders, including Gould’s Jewelfront, Booted Racket- tail, and Wire-crested Thorntail.

Finally, we have an extension tour to the Amazon basin to explore Gareno Lodge, which is probably the best place to see Rufous Potoo, and Napo Wildlife Center, where we have chances to see the most beautiful and representative Amazon species such as Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, and Red-bellied Macaws, Black-necked Red Cotinga, Agami Heron, Hoatzin, and forest skulkers like Banded Antbird.

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