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Posted on 11 June 2021
Andy Walker provides some highlights from his 2019 birding trip in southern Ecuador.
After my time birding around the fantastic north of Ecuador I flew south to the town of Loja from where I embarked on another birding adventure targeting some special birds of this bird-filled region. I had some fantastic success with the birding and the key target birds fell nicely into place, thanks to a lot of advice and recommendations from the incomparable knowledge of Eduardo Ormaeche and Galo Real, our two in-house South America bird experts. They recommended I take in a few of the locations visited in the Ecuador: The South birding tour that they operate.
Some of the highlight birds of southern Ecuador include Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Club-winged Manakin, Jocotoco Antpitta, Orange-throated Tanager, Wire-crested Thorntail, Grey Tinamou, Giant Conebill, Long-tailed Sylph, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Blackish Nightjar, Green-and-gold Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Undulated Antpitta, and an assortment of antbirds, toucans, trogons, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds. The region is also great for plenty of Chocó endemics. The Chocó Endemic Bird Area (EBA) supports the largest number of restricted-range birds of any EBA in the Americas, over 50 species being endemic to the area.
I had some pretty wet weather on this part of my Ecuador trip, which made it tough at a couple of sites, but I really enjoyed the birding at Podocarpus National Park, Tapichalaca Reserve, Colalinga Lodge, Cordillera del Condor, and Cabañas Yankuam. The bird photography was again excellent and the general birding very good. The lodges I visited were excellent and it was great to use top quality local guides who know each different area like the back of their hands.
As for my birding in the north of the country (see that blog post here) I saw some absolutely incredible birds and had a great time birding. Below are a few of my highlights.
Jocotoco Antpitta, Grallaria ridgelyi – Amazingly, for such a large antpitta, this species was only relatively recently discovered (1997) and was described to science in 1999. It is restricted to a tiny area in southeast Ecuador (and northern Peru), but never seems to get seen anywhere other than at the wonderful Tapichalaca Reserve. It rained solidly for the two days I was birding here which made for a rather wet experience, but I can’t complain with the stunning views I had of a pair of this remarkable antpitta. I also enjoyed watching Undulated Antpitta at the same spot!
Jocotoco Antpitta is a striking bird and is considered Endangered (BirdLife International).
This Undulated Antpitta would not leave the trail, we followed it for several hundred meters before going our separate ways!
Orange-throated Tanager, Wetmorethraupis sterrhopteron – The near-mythical tanager, known only from several remote locations of the eastern Andes in northern Peru and southeastern Ecuador, was the second big target of my trip. Within a few hours of arriving in the Cabañas Yankuam area I was enjoying watching several of them foraging through the forest canopy. The south of Ecuador is a hotbed of tanager activity and I enjoyed excellent views of numerous other species, including Paradise Tanager and Green-and-gold Tanager and many more.
Orange-throated Tanager is a gorgeous bird and there is nothing quite like it in the Andes.
Green-and-gold Tanager is yet another beautiful example of this amazing family.
Grey Tinamou, Tinamus tao – Is widespread across the Amazon basin, but is not common and is more often heard than seen. Copalinga Lodge has become a great place to see this tough species so I made sure to call in and check the area out – it was also great for plenty of other species such as Blackish Nightjar and a range of hummingbirds and tanagers. They have a great hummingbird and bird feeder set up right outside the dining room. The Grey Tinamou was found walking along the lodge trails and gave excellent views.
Grey Tinamous gave excellent views out in the open on the lodge trails.
Wire-crested Thorntail, Discosura popelairii – A remarkable-looking small and compact hummingbird found in the foothills of the eastern slope of the Andes from central Colombia down through Ecuador and Peru to northwest Bolivia. This species (like many other hummingbirds) loves flowering shrubs like purple verbena. Southern Ecuador was excellent for a long list of other hummingbird species, some of these included Green Hermit, Grey-chinned Hermit, Black-eared Fairy, Blue-tailed Emerald, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Glittering-throated Emerald, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Gorgeted Sunangel, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, and Long-tailed Sylph. It is not just northern Ecuador that is a paradise for hummingbirds!
A male Wire-crested Thorntail feeding on purple verbena.
Golden-tailed Sapphire is a staggeringly beautiful hummingbird.
Violet-fronted Brilliant was a popular feature at the hummingbird feeders.
Even in the rain Chestnut-breasted Coronet was glowing!
Way more subtle than some, but Many-spotted Hummingbird was also an attractive bird.
As in the north, there were loads of other highlights from my time in southern Ecuador, and it is an area I would happily go back to and explore further, or even just repeat visit to the same ground, as the birding was that good! Here are a few final photos of some of the other birds I enjoyed in this part of Ecuador.