Ecuador is a popular destination for bird watching. With upward of 1,500 species, it has as many species as in Europe and North America combined. Ecuador's top birding spots are in the Oriente region, with over 600 species, and the Gal√°pagos with its abundant endemic species. However, other regions birders may wish to explore include the bird-rich cloud forest area surrounding Mindo. Many unusual species can also be found in the p√°ramo region. Because Ecuador is small and has a decent infrastructure, it is possible to access many of these areas fairly easily. It is recommended to hire the services of local guides for the best birding experiences, as they have good local knowledge and know exactly where to look in the undergrowth to locate that rare bird. Don't forget your binoculars!
Birdwatching in the Amazon
To spot the widest variety of species of birds in the Amazon, it is worth heading there during the transitions between the dry and wet months. The worst time is during the dry months (December, January and August). Species to be spotted in the Amazon include the Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Fiery Topaz, Harpy Eagle and Zigzag Heron, as well as various species of tanagers, toucans and parrots and antbirds, to mention just a few. The best birdwatching opportunities in the Amazon region are found by staying at one of the many jungle lodges. Be sure to select one with an observation tower: these are built around the tall kapok trees and allow climbing above the forest canopy to spot a great variety of species.
Sacha Lodge is unique for its 40-meter (131-ft) tower, from which it is possible to spot many species. From the tower, a wild cacophony greets you as you spot a wide variety of colorful birds, including parrots and macaws. Sacha boasts that it is possible for a guide to spot as many as 80 species in a single morning from this tower. With 500 recorded species in the area, this could be true. For an alternative birding experience, take a motorized canoe for one and a half hours to the Yasuni Parrot Lick. Here, in a colorful spectacle, several species of parrots gather in the early morning to eat the exposed salty clay, which is vital for their digestion. Hope for a dry, sunny day; you'll see more parrots.
Kapawi Lodge is another alternative for great birding. In a stay of ten days, it is possible for a keen and dedicated spotter to see up to an astounding 400 species. The building of the lodge was one of the biggest community-based projects in Ecuador and there is a wish to provide genuine ecotourism. River islands close to Kapawi are home to Horned Screamers, Orinoco Geese and Muscovy Ducks. Other birds in the locality include Brown Jacamars, Plumbeous Antbird, Buckley's Forest Falcon and the Blue-winged Parrotlet, to name just a few. It is possible to observe species here that cannot be found at other lodges.
At La Selva, native birding experts are hired to assist those interested in birdwatching. While their English is not great, their birding skills more than make up for this. Close to the lodge it is possible to see many varieties of birds just by walking around. However, for a great view, La Selva offers an observation tree tower. La Selva is also close to parrot salt licks, and it is a great place for spotting the Cocha Antshrike and the Zigzag Heron.
Birdwatching in the Gal√°pagos
Birdwatching in the Cloud Forest and surrounding areas
In the subtropical cloud forest regions, the humid conditions and high biodiversity create a birdwatcher‚Äôs paradise. Of particular note, the town of Mindo has been designated an Important Bird Area since 1997, the first area in South America to be attributed this honor. Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo supports over 350 species of birds, over 50 of which are endemic to the area. The Mindo area is home to more than 500 species of birds. Some of the more spectacular ones include the Golden-headed Quetzal, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Choco Toucan, Club-winged Manakin and Cock-of-the-rock. Mindo is a two-hour drive from Quito and the best months for birdwatching are September through January. There are many lodges to choose from in the Mindo area. It is worth heading a bit further out, 29 kilometers (18 mi) from Mindo, to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, for a stay at the Bellavista Lodge, where 263 species have reportedly been observed. Unusually, the Tanager Finch has been spotted here‚ÄĒBellavista is the only known place in Ecuador where this species resides.
Alternatively, if interested in observing the birds of the lowland forests, head west of Mindo to Santa Domingo, which is a two to three-hour drive from Quito. Note: This is for keen birdwatchers only, as there is not a lot else to see or do in Santa Domingo. However, it is worth a stay in Tinalandia close by, as more than 270 species of birds have been spotted, including the Long-wattled Umbrella Bird, Golden-winged Manakin and Glistening-green Tanager. The area surrounding Tinalandia is considered by ornithologists and botanists to be one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. There are opportunities to birdwatch just walking around the grounds, and those staying for a while can take trips to see birds such as Torrent Duck and Black Phoebe. Another option, 50 kilometers (30 mi) from Santa Domingo, is the R√≠o Palenque Science Center, located on the Palenque River. This reserve has 360 species of bird to see, including the Yellow-tailed Oriole, Ecuadorian Trogon, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Orange-billed Sparrow and varieties of hawks and kites. The center has a capacity for 26 guests.
Birdwatching in the P√°ramo
Birdwatching, Birdwatching Info.