Almost 1/6 of all known bird species can be found in Ecuador, making this country a true paradise for birdwatchers and photographers. Our Ecuador Birding Tour gives you the possibility to see a lot of them. Unique about this country are the many different altitudes and habitats on a very small space. Consequently Ecuador has the highest number of species per square mile. Our birdwatching tour starts in the Northwest of Ecuador, in the area around Mindo, which belongs to the endemism-rich Chocó, continues close to the wet Páramo of Papallacta, visits the cloud forests of the Northwest- and Northeast Cordilleras, dives down into the Amazon lowlands and leads on the penultimate day up to the dry Páramo of the Antisana Volcanos to observe the majestic condor. We thus move from sea level to 13,123 ft. a.s.l. We hope to see about 400 species during our 16-day tour.
To get informed before or during your birdwatching tour, look at our bird species guide!
Highlights: Birds, birds, and more birds!
Number of days: 15 or more
Regions: Amazon, Andes
Interests: Birdwatching, Nature & Wildlife
Total CO2 emission, in lb (per day for cruises): 548
Click on the icons to see details about each visited place.
Day 1: Arrival in Quito
Upon your arrival, you get picked up from the airport in Quito. For the first night you stay close to the airport. Relax after your flight before you start your bird-watching tour early the next morning.
Day 2: Mindo and Bellavista
Today you will head to Mindo in the cloud forest, located northwest of Quito. Observe colorful tanagers (Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, and Silver-throated Tanager) around a banana feeding station. With a bit of luck you will also see your first toucans (Pale-mandible Arassari) and the impressive Rufous Motmot. Afterwards you travel to Bellavista to observe hummingbirds (for example Buff-tailed Coronet, Gorgeted Sunangel) and explore the western cloud forest with species like the Turquoise Jay, Foliage-Gleaners and mountain tanagers like the Blue-winged Mountain-tanager, and Grass-green Tanager. The very vocal Plate-billed Mountain Tanager is another species to look for.
Day 3: Angel Paz and Mindo
Very early in the morning you visit a real highlight: the display of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. Afterwards, Angel Paz will take you to show you three to five different Antpitta species, among them the rare Giant Antpitta. He is a real master in attracting the antpittas that are usually difficult to observe. You continue your bird-watching tour to Mindo. Here you can observe about ten different types of hummingbirds, among them some Chocó endemics like the beautifully colored Velvet-purple Coronet.
Day 4: Río Silanche and Milpe
Before dawn you leave for the Reserve Río Silanche, which is located at an altitude of 980 ft. Here we can find many regional Chocó endemics, like the Chocó Trogon, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis or the Blue-whiskered Tanager. Climb the 50 ft. high observation tower to have an amazing view and discover the different groups of birds in the treetops. Walking easy trails, you get a better opportunity to see the woodpeckers, woodcreepers and a lot more. In the afternoon we look for groups of parrots (Bronze-winged Parrot and Maroon-tailed Parakeet) and Toucans (Chocó Toucan and Chestnut-mandibled Toucan) that live close to the road.
Day 5: Yanacocha and Guango
Early in the morning we visit the Yanococha Reserve, which is located at about 11,500 ft., on the flanks of the Pichincha Volcano. Our way leads us to through a fairytale forest to the hummingbird feeders. Observe the unique Sword-billed Hummingbird as well as the different types of Pufflegs and the huge Great Sapphirewing. On our way up we also look for mountain tanagers (Scarlet-bellied, Hooded, and Black-chested Tanagers), the Andean Guan, Rufous Wren, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and many more.
In the early afternoon we depart for the Guango Lodge, which is located on the eastern side of the Andes. There you will be impressed by the amazing variety of hummingbirds like for example the Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangle, Long-tailed Sylph, and the White-bellied Woodstar.
Day 6: Papallacta and Guango
Depending on the weather conditions you head in the morning or in the afternoon to the Papallacta pass, at an altitude of about 13,000 ft. There we try to spot the bird that live in the high Andean Páramos: Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail and Brown-backed Chat tyrant. The other half of the day you hike on the trails of Guango to look for the Torrent Duck, among others.
Day 7: San Isidro
Today you continue your tour to San Isidro Lodge which is located at 6,700 ft. The character bird of San Isidro is certainly the vociferous Inca Jay, which lives in small groups in the surroundings of the Cabañas. Hummingbirds that visit the feeders include the Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, and Gorgeted Woodstar. From the viewing platform you have great opportunity to see the Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, the Montane Woodcreeper and the Cinnamon Flycatcher on the tree trunks.
Day 8: Guacamayos, San Isidro
A short detour takes us along the Jumandy trail in the Guacamayos mountains. We look for the Masked Trogon and the Emerald Toucan as well as for the Hemispingus and Bush Tanagers. In the afternoon you explore the open areas around San Isidro and in the evening we will try our luck and move on to search the as of yet undescribed San Isidro Strix owl, which hunts near the restaurant.
Day 9: Sumaco
Once we arrive at the Sumaco Lodge we firstly dedicate ourselves to the hummingbird feeders. Of the 42 species that were observed here, 14 visit often and regularly, among them the Napo Sabrewing, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thorntail, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Many-spotted Hummingbird. You also explore the forest around the lodge on the easier trails and on the dirt road. A local bird guide will accompany you. Toucans (for example Many-banded Arassari, Channel-billed and Black-mandibled toucan), Woodpeckers (for example Crimson-bellied and Crimson-crested), Antbirds (like the Lined Antshrike and Blackish Antbird) and Tanagers (Orange-eared Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Magpie Tanager) might cross your way. Special highlights are, among others, the Plain-backed Antpitta and the only very locally occurring Coppery-chested Jacamar.
Day 10: Sani
In the morning you leave for Coca, which you reach after about 1.5 hours. You travel by large motorized canoe downstream on the Napo River to Sani Lodge’s dock. On a small trail you reach the Challuayacu River where you take a small dugout canoe which takes you to the lodge. It is picturesquely situated on the Challuacocha Lake in the corridor between two large protected areas: the Cuyabeno Reserve to the North and the Yasuní National Park in the South. During your journey your expert local bird guide will show you the first lowland river birds: for example the Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger-heron, Greater Ani and Red-headed Cardinal.
Day 11-13: Sani
The next three days you have time to gain an insight into the very colorful bird life of the Amazon. You visit one or two parrot licks, where you can expect to spot the Mealy Amazon, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet and the Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet. With luck you can also discover the Boa Constrictor which lives close to the lick on the Napo River. Most birds we will see from quiet canoe tours: the Limpkin, Hoatzin, White-chinned Jacamar, Silvered Antbird, Cinnamon Attila, Black-capped Doncacobius, Masked Crimson Tanager. Short walks through the forest let you discover terra firm species like the White-fronted Nunbird, Great Jacamar, and Cinereous Antshrike. With lots of patience maybe also the White-lored Antpitta and the Pink-throated Becard. A real highlight is the observation tower with its dizzying height from which you can easily watch treetop species: the majestic King Vulture, the colorful macaws, the small White-browed Purpletuft, a sleeping Great Potoo, the impressive Blue-throated Piping Guan and many more. A half-day tour takes you to an island in the Napo River, where specialized species can be observed: Plaincrowned Spinetail, White-bellied Spinetail, Black-and-white Antbird, Spotted Tody-flycatcher and the Olive-spotted Hummingbird.
Day 14: Guango
This morning on your way back to Coca you have the final opportunity to observe the Amazonian lowland species. Back in Coca your car awaits you to take you back to Guango. On your way you should look for the big Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, the Swallow-tailed Kite and other raptors.
Day 15: Antisana
Today we visit the drier Antisana Páramo which is located at about 13,100 ft. There you will have good chances to see Ecuador’s national bird, the impressive Andean Condor. You might also see the Black-faced Ibis (there are very few in Ecuador) and will have the opportunity to study one of the many Carunculated Caracaras from up close.
Day 16: Return to Quito
At the end of your journey full of birds we bring you back to Quito.
Price per person: US$ 4,380
(based on 2 people traveling)
- 15 nights in double rooms with breakfast
- day 5 includes breakfast and dinner
- full board from day 6-15
- transfer in and transfer out Quito
- English-speaking guide
- local bird guide form day 9-13
- private transportation
- entrance fees at Paz de las Aves, Mindo Lindo, Río Silanche, parrot leck and Yanacocha
- international flights
- meals not specified
- additional entrance fees to museums, churches, etc.
- personal expenses
- optional excursions and activities
- personal travel insurance
Comfortable lodges in some of Ecuador’s most amazing nature, many focused on bird watchers and their needs, are your home for most nights of this tour.
- Quito Airport: Puembo Birding Garden
- Mindo: Yellow House
- Eastern Cloud Forest: San Isidro Lodge and Guango Lodge
- Sumaco: Wild Sumaco Lodge
- Rain Forest: Sani Lodge
You can find many helpful bird guides on the internet, for example the Internet Bird Collection and Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. See some of our favorite books about Ecuador’s flora and fauna in our book list.
Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list.
If this 16-day tour is a bit too long for you, we can of course create a shorter itinerary for you. If you tell us, which species are most interesting for you, we can build your tour around them.
Purchases can be made conveniently via credit card and check wire transfer.
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