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Birdwatching in Ecuador - Birdwatching - Ecuador

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
Where else could birdwatching be easier? Even for an amateur, it is possible to spot most of the species with little effort or patience. The coastline, where most visits take place, is quite biologically diverse, allowing visitors to view a large cross-section of Gal√°pagos bird life. A typical shoreline might contain sandy and rocky beach, mangroves, and brackish tidal pools. There are countless opportunities for observing the life rituals of these birds, including courtship and nurturing of the young.

The most famous of the Gal√°pagos Islands for bird-watching is probably Tower (Genovesa). This remote northern island was never colonized by many land animals, which left it almost completely open to birds. If you visit Tower, you can expect to see a wide variety of birds including boobies, frigates, gulls and the Short-eared Owl. Red-footed Boobies and frigates nest at one of the visitor sites, so you may get the opportunity to view chicks.

You will doubtless not leave the Gal√°pagos without observing all three types of booby ‚Äď Blue-footed, Red footed and Masked (also referred to as Nazca). Blue-footed Boobies are famous for their intriguing courtship dance which you may be lucky enough to see. Frigate birds are common. They spend a lot of time offshore, and often there will be two or three in flight, accompanying your boat.

If you are keen to see the Waved Albatross, visit the islands between April and December; during the other months you may be disappointed. An unforgettable sight is watching the albatross make its way to the cliffs at the southern end of the island in order to launch their large, heavy body into the air. The Waved Albatross can only be seen on Espa√Īola Island, so plan your trip accordingly.

The Gal√°pagos Penguin is one of the smallest species of penguin and is unusual in that it lives north of the equator, unique in the penguin family. If you are lucky you may spot penguins fishing underwater, while you are snorkeling‚Äďdon‚Äôt forget your underwater camera! Flightless Cormorants are found on some islands. It is interesting to observe them stretching out on the rocks to dry after swimming. Greater Flamingos are a bright pink, stark contrast to the volcanic backdrop of the islands and can be found inhabiting the lagoons that are found slightly inland in some locations. The mockingbirds on the islands are arguably the tamest creatures of all. They will land on you and clamor to get into your water bottle. Don‚Äôt let them! Last but not least, and famed for inspiring Darwin‚Äôs theory of evolution, the thirteen varieties of Darwin Finches can be spotted on the islands.

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 Río 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
Above the cloud forest region sits the p√°ramo, the barren zone above the tree line, (3,100-4,700 meters / 10,170-15,419 ft a.s.l.). Birds here are easy to spot due to the lack of vegetation. Ecuador's national symbol, the Andean Condor, can be found here, along with the Tawny Antpitta and the Andean Snipe. Condors can also be spotted on the road to Papallacta from Quito. Areas of the p√°ramo worth visiting include the national parks of El √Āngel, Cajas and the highland areas of Cotacatchi-Cayapas and Cayambe-Coca. Parque Nacional Cajas is home to 125 species, including the condor and Violet-tailed Metaltail, an endemic hummingbird. Parque Nacional Cotapaxi is also a good place for p√°ramo birding, with 90 species to spot, including the Black-chested Hawk-eagle, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing and P√°ramo Pipit. Other birds that make their home in the p√°ramo include the Rufous-bellied Seed Snipe and Stout-billed Cinclodes.


Birdwatching, Birdwatching Info.

Here are other activities in and around Ecuador that may be of interest: Galapagos Barn Owl, Pied-Billed Grebe, Parque Cóndor Otavalo, Inland Water Birds of Galapagos, The Brown Noddy, Lava Gull, Yellow Warbler, Hummingbird Watching , Smooth-Billed Ani and Mockingbird.

07 Sep 2012

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