Birding Tour Ecuador: Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Hummingbird and Antpitta Extravaganza
Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Hummingbird and Antpitta Extravaganza
Ecuador has the highest bird species diversity per square kilometer on the planet and offers some of the best birding in 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 antpitta feeder stations as well, Ecuador is perhaps the obligatory destination on the continent!
The gorgeous and characterful Toucan Barbet should be encountered on this tour (photo Daniel Orozco).
Northern Ecuador is truly a birding paradise. You will have the chance to see the best of the country in terms of birding. The west and east slopes of the Andes together make for an exciting 16-day tour.
Torrent Duck should be a highlight of this tour.
Perhaps no other tour shows you such a large selection of classic and amazing Neotropical birds. During these 16 days we will look for Andean Condor, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Giant Hummingbird, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Sunbittern, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Yellow-throated Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Choco Toucan, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Choco Trogon, Golden-headed Quetzal, Crested Quetzal, Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, White-faced Nunbird, Powerful Woodpecker, Giant Conebill, Ocellated Tapaculo, Tanager Finch, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, and Oilbird.
The outrageously colored Yellow-throated Toucan is often encountered on this tour.
In addition, a good number of antpittas, including Rufous Antpitta, Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Tawny Antpitta, Plain-backed Antpitta, White-bellied Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, and Chestnut-naped Antpitta, might also be found.
The number of hummingbirds and tanagers will be amazing, including colorful species like Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Collared Inca, Gorgeted Sunangel, Velvet-purple Coronet, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Gould’s Jewelfront, and Wire-crested Thorntail. We can easily surpass 50 species of hummingbirds on the trip. Tanagers are also a large family to be encountered on this trip, with species such as Grass-green Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Orange-eared Tanager, Golden Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, and the incredible Moss-backed Tanager. If we are lucky we might also encounter hard-to-find species like Andean Potoo, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher, and Peruvian Antpitta.
We invite you to join us and enjoy this birding paradise!
Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Quito
You will arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito. Your guide will be waiting for you to help with your baggage, take you to your hotel, and go over the schedule for the next day. Dinner is on your own.
Overnight: Hotel in Quito
The spectacular Sword-billed Hummingbird.
Day 2. Yanacocha Reserve, Old Nono-Mindo Road and Tandayapa Valley
Today we will start our adventure early to explore the Yanacocha Reserve on the north-western side of the Pichincha Volcano. We will visit our first hummingbird feeders with incredible species such as Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Lesser Violetear, and Great Sapphirewing. If we are extremely lucky we might find the Critically Endangered (IUCN) and seldom-seen Black-breasted Puffleg. Other birds include Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Barred Fruiteater, Andean Guan, Rufous Wren, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Tawny Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Spectacled Whitestart, Great Thrush, Red-crested Cotinga, Blue-backed and Cinereous Conebills, and much more for our first introduction to Ecuador birds. After lunch we will continue birding along the Old Nono-Mindo Road, and with luck we will spot our first Plate-billed Mountain Toucan. Later in the afternoon, we will visit the Zuraloma Reserve where with luck, we can see Tawny, Chestnut-crowned and Chestnut-naped Antpitta feeding at a relatively new antpitta feeding station here.
Overnight: Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo
Day 3. Upper Tandayapa Valley and Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve
After an early breakfast we will visit the upper portion of the Tandayapa Valley and the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve. Here we will look for Toucan Barbet, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Masked Trogon, Blue-and-black Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Cinnamon Flycatcher, White-winged Brushfinch, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Grass-green Tanager, Andean Guan, and White-throated Quail-Dove. We will put all our efforts into localizing the most wanted Ocellated Tapaculo and Tanager Finch.
Bellavista Cloudforest is home to the gorgeous Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.
The Bellavista feeders include hummingbirds such as Speckled Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, and Gorgeted Sunangel. We will find time to visit the San Tadeo feeders during our visit to Mindo to see the spectacular Plate-billed Mountain Toucan visiting feeders at eye level, providing amazing views of this highly desirable species. We will then return to Sachatamia Lodge and look for Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Black-and-white Owl, and hopefully Colombian Screech Owl.
Overnight: Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo
Day 4. Amagusa Reserve, Mashpi area
Today we will head to the Mashpi area and visit the Amagusa Reserve. This private property protects over 130 hectares (320 acres) of recovering forest. The location of this forest, within an Important Bird Area (IBA), is particularly special as it is the last foothill forest directly connecting to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador. It is a unique location and the large numbers of Chocó endemics are a particular drawcard for visiting birders. During your visit we will enjoy bird feeders that may attract species such as Glistening-green Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Orange-fronted Barbet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Golden Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia and Toucan Barbet. The area is also excellent for other sought after Chocó birds including Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Moss-backed Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Rose-faced Parrot, Choco Vireo and Choco Tyrannulet. We should enjoy the amazing feeders at Amagusa and explore the forest in search of more elusive species such as Dusky Pigeon, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Slaty Spinetail, Narino Tapaculo, and if we are lucky the splendid Black-tipped Cotinga.
In the afternoon we will return to Sachatamia for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Overnight: Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo
Rufous-throated Tanager, yet another beautiful tanager we hope to see in northern Ecuador (photo Alejandro Grajales).
Day 5. Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary
Today we will again have an early start to bird the Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary, another private reserve of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. This hilly lowland reserve is great for Chocó specialists such as Purple-chested Hummingbird, Choco Trogon, Stub-tailed Antbird, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Orange-fronted Barbet, Dusky Pigeon, Collared Aracari, Bronze-winged Parrot, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Slaty Antwren, Zeledon’s Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and Red-faced and Slaty Spinetails. In addition we hope to find Black-winged Saltator, Buff-rumped Warbler, Crested Guan, Lanceolated Monklet, Rose-faced Parrot, Double-toothed Kite, Barred Hawk, Sooty-headed and Choco Tyrannulets, Green Honeycreeper, and Purple Honeycreeper. If we are very lucky the striking Scarlet-breasted Dacnis might be found.
After a whole morning birding Silanche we will return to Sachatamia in the afternoon to enjoy the hummers at the feeders, which may include Brown Violetear, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, White-booted Racket-tail, Purple-collared Woodstar, Crowned Woodnymph, Andean Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and Sparkling Violetear.
Overnight: Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo
We should see many hummingbird species on this tour such as this beautiful Crowned Woodnymph.
Day 6. Milpe Bird Sanctuary
The Milpe Bird Sanctuary is another obligatory birding stop near Mindo. We will spend the entire day here, looking for Chocó endemics that occur here: Glistening-green Tanager, Choco Trogon, Choco Toucan, Club-winged Manakin, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Ecuadorian Thrush, Spotted Woodcreeper, Ornate Flycatcher, Russet Antshrike, Bay-headed Tanager, Band-backed Wren, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Green Thorntail, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Bay Wren, Golden-headed Quetzal, Dusky-faced Tanager, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, and the gorgeous Moss-backed Tanager.
Overnight: Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo
Day 7. Refugio Paz de las Aves and transfer to Quito
Refugio Paz de las Aves and Angel Paz are synonymous with respect to birds and antpittas, as the first person to attract and feed antpittas at worm feeder stations, Angel Paz, has turned his property from a ranch into a birders’ paradise. We will have an early start to watch the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek. After their show we should be able to come across Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and Rufous-breasted Antthrush devouring a worm buffet.
We should be able to find Andean Cocks-of-the-rock at their lek site.
We will also be looking for Dark-backed Wood Quail, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Olivaceous Piha, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Montane Woodcreeper, Narino Tapaculo, Three-striped Warbler, Tricolored Brushfinch, Powerful Woodpecker, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Streaked Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Euphonia, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant, Pacific Antwren, Plumbeous Kite, and many more.
We will take some time to visit the Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve’s hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders, which are frequented by Red-headed Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and Golden Tanager. Then we will return to Quito, looking for Giant Hummingbird on the way.
Overnight: Hotel in Quito
Day 8. Antisana Ecological Reserve and transfer to Termas de Papallacta
After a week on the western slope of the lower Andes we will climb up in elevation to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. The Antisana Volcano has a height of 5,704 meters (18,714 feet). The newly-formed Antisana Ecological Reserve was until recently a number of extensive ranches. Today it is a well-known nesting site for Andean Condor. We will enjoy a different birding day at high elevation, enjoying species such as Carunculated Caracara, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Aplomado Falcon, Variable Hawk, Many-striped Canastero, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Black-winged Ground Dove, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Andean Lapwing, Silvery Grebe, Andean Coot, Andean Teal, Andean Gull, Andean Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Giant Hummingbird, and Ecuadorian Hillstar.
Andean Condor will be searched for in mountainous areas (photo Alejandro Tello).
After a full morning birding the Laguna de la Mica in the reserve we will stop for lunch at Tambo Condor, another area of the reserve. In the afternoon we will drive to Termas de Papallacta.
Overnight: Termas de Papallacta, Papallacta
Day 9. Papallacta and transfer to Cabañas San Isidro
Before breakfast, depending on the weather, we will backtrack slightly to visit the highland paramo of Papallacta, looking for the most wanted Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. Other birds here include Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Paramo Ground Tyrant, White-chinned Thistletail, Sedge Wren, Brown-bellied Swallow, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Black Flowerpiercer, and more. We will return for a late breakfast and depart around midday to make our way to our next accommodation, Cabañas San Isidro.
Overnight: Cabañas San Isidro, Cosango
Days 10 – 11. Two full days around San Isidro
The next two days we will spend birding around San Isidro. The lodge grounds include species such as Masked Trogon, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Inca Jay, Great Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, and Andean Motmot. Other possible species are Montane Woodcreeper, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Streaked Tuftedcheek, White-capped Parrot, Yellow-billed Cacique, Streak-headed Antbird, Black-eared Hemispingus, Spotted Barbtail, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Black-crested Warbler, Barred Antthrush, White-bellied Antpitta, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Mountain Wren, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Barred Becard, Golden-naped Tanager, Rufous Spinetail, and Grass-green Tanager.
We will also look for some interesting night birds, such as “San Isidro Owl” (undescribed), Andean Potoo, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, and Oilbird. The hummingbird feeders at San Isidro include species like Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, and Chestnut-breasted Coronet.
Overnight: Cabañas San Isidro, Cosango
The feeders at San Isidro attract many hummingbirds such as Buff-tailed Coronet.
Day 12. Loreto Road and WildSumaco Lodge
After a late breakfast we will continue down the east slope of the Andes to the Loreto Road. We will look for Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Black-chested Fruiteater, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Yellow-throated Tanager, and Chestnut-bellied Thrush. Along the Loreto Road we have chances to see Green-backed Hillstar, Cliff Flycatcher, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, our first Paradise Tanager, Crested Oropendola, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Black-billed Thrush, Violaceous Jay, Blue-headed Parrot, Greyish Saltator, Swallow Tanager, Orange-eared Tanager, Rufous-naped Greenlet, and Montane Foliage-gleaner.
We will arrive at WildSumaco Lodge in the afternoon, and with luck we will have good birding activity along the road with species such as Plumbeous Pigeon, Speckled Chachalaca, Yellow-throated Toucan, Gilded Barbet, Lineated Woodpecker, Collared Trogon, Many-banded Aracari, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Turquoise Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, White-lored Euphonia, Bronze-green Euphonia, Foothill Elaenia, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Lettered Aracari, and Sickle-winged Guan. At night we will try for Band-bellied Owl around the lodge.
Overnight: WildSumaco Lodge, Sumaco
Days 13 – 14. WildSumaco
During the next two days we will be birding around WildSumaco Lodge, looking for Coppery-chested Jacamar, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Grey-tailed Piha, Military Macaw, Spot-winged Parrotlet, Plain-winged Antwren, White-streaked Antvireo, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Wing-banded Wren, Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Black-billed Treehunter, Lined Antshrike, and Dusky Spinetail. In addition we may find Squirrel Cuckoo, Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Ornate Antwren, Large-headed Flatbill, Blackish Rail, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Golden-collared Toucanet, White-eyed Parakeet, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Tyrant, Black-streaked Puffbird, Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher, and Channel-billed Toucan.
Ochre-breasted Antpitta visits the antpitta feeding stations at WildSumaco.
The WildSumaco antpitta feeding stations should provide Ochre-breasted Antpitta and sometimes Plain-backed Antpitta and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater.
The WildSumaco hummingbird feeders are among the best, and we can get species such as Napo Sabrewing, Wire-crested Thorntail, Gould’s Jewelfront, Black-throated Brilliant, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Grey-chinned Hermit, Gorgeted Woodstar, and Wire-crested Thorntail.
At night we also can try for Tropical Screech Owl, Rufescent Screech Owl, and Foothill Screech Owl.
Overnight: WildSumaco Lodge, Sumaco
Day 15. Guango Lodge
After breakfast and the last birding morning at WildSumaco we will begin our return to Quito. Before crossing the Papallacta pass we will stop for the afternoon and a night at Guango Lodge. We will spend the afternoon around the lodge.
Overnight: Guango Lodge, Papallacta
Day 16. Papallacta Lodge, transfer to Quito and transfer to the airport
After a late breakfast we will go and visit the Papallacta area again in case we missed some of the species during our first visit. We will try for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and also for Agile Tit-Tyrant and Giant Conebill.
We will arrive at our hotel in Quito for a late lunch, and you can have a day-use of the hotel to take a shower, organize your luggage, and be transferred to the airport in case you have an evening or midnight flight. Participants who decide to spend the night in Quito and fly back home early in the morning can do that without extra charge.
Overnight: Hotel in Quito
Day 17. Transfer to the airport and departure
Participants who have an early flight after breakfast will be transferred to the airport.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Antpitta and Hummingbird Extravaganza: Set Departure Trip Report
05-22 NOVEMBER 2021
By Galo Real
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
Orange-breasted Fruiteater showed beautifully for us at Reserva Amagusa.
This 18-day northern Ecuador set departure tour began at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. From here we explored to the east, stopping at the Antisana Ecological Reserve for the iconic Andean Condor and many other highland specials. As we continued east up and over the Papallacta Pass, at 14,000 feet (4,200 meters), the scenery quickly changed from Inter-Andean valley grasslands to Polylepis Elfin forest and paramo. We then continued down the slope to the Guango River where we saw a variety of hummers including the ridiculous-looking Sword-billed Hummingbird and a multitude of mixed tanager flocks.
As we worked further east to the foothills of the Sumaco Volcano Biosphere Reserve, the habitat and climate changed suddenly to highland Amazon. At 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) we even saw Napo Saki monkeys and a Tayra, as well as various manakins, toucans, woodpeckers and hummingbirds. We then doubled back west to the cloud forests of San Isidro, a haven for birds. We were surprised one evening when we saw a Mountain Tapir, right next to the lodge. We then crossed through Quito and down the west slope to the area of Mindo, which was a treasure trove of new species. Eighteen days flew by and before we knew it, we were back in Quito heading to the airport for our flights home. Ecuador has around 18% of the world’s bird species and this northern itinerary, that includes both east and west slope and experiences several different ecosystems, always produces an impressive trip list which includes many Ecuadorian and neotropical specials.
Day 1, 5th November 2021. Arrival in Quito
Today was an arrival day and as members of the group started to arrive, they were met at the airport and transferred to the hotel which was located only 15 minutes away.
Day 2, 6th November 2021. Buffer day in Quito
Today was a buffer day to allow the rest of the group to arrive in Quito. The morning was spent birding the hotel grounds before breakfast. The area surrounding the hotel consists of typical inter-Andean dry forests and is normally very birdy. Our first sightings included the likes of Great Thrush, Eared Dove, Sparkling Violetear, Saffron Finch, and Vermilion Flycatcher.
After breakfast while the others enjoyed the gardens and took time to rest, the remainder of the group was fetched from the airport. In the afternoon we got back together and went over the schedule for the trip before enjoying our dinner.
Day 3, 7th November 2021. Antisana National Park birding
After an early breakfast, we drove for one hour to Antisana National Park. This 120,000-hectare reserve conserves large tracts of paramo, wetlands and Andean forest and is always a great spot for birding and mammal-watching.
As soon as we arrived, we encountered Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Great Thrush, and Sedge Wren, as well as a gorgeous female Ecuadorian Hillstar which was perched up on a chuquiragua flower. The weather was particularly kind to us which made the surrounding landscapes appear even more beautiful.
We continued to “Casa Vieja,” an abandoned home left over from when the land was owned privately. Here we saw another female Ecuadorian Hillstar and we were all able to get some nice shots and looks. Soon afterwards, we spotted a male Andean Condor and the whole group was dumbstruck as we watched him soar overhead. As the day progressed, we made our way to the pampas or wetland area. This is always a favorite place for Andean Ibis, Andean Gull, and Carunculated Caracara, which we saw well, along with a small group of White-tailed Deer. We even got a couple glimpses of the spectacular Antisana Volcano, before being quickly shrouded by the clouds again.
We saw a small group of White-tailed Deer in Antisana National Park.
When we arrived at the ranger station, one of the park rangers kindly informed us where the Tawny Antpitta was singing. We all got really nice looks at the antpitta as it belted out its song. We then continued up to Mica Lake, where we saw Andean Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, and Andean Duck, all out enjoying the lovely weather.
Around midday we made our way to Tambo-Condor Hotel for lunch. This is a nice spot with great food which is run by two condor monitors. As our food arrived, a Giant Hummingbird appeared at the feeders near the outdoor eating area, followed by Sparkling Violetear and Black-tailed Trainbearer, as well as a Black Flowerpiercer. What a great way to enjoy our lunch, especially after a wonderful morning’s birding.
After a nice warm meal, we slowly made our way back to the hotel to rest a bit and prepare for our next day’s adventure in the eastern Andes. Before dinner we all got together to go over the checklist from the day and discuss our schedule for the following morning.
Day 4, 8th November 2021. Papallacta Pass and transfer to Las Termas
After an early breakfast we checked out and headed directly up the Papallacta Pass which sits at an impressive 13,100 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level. From here we entered the Cayambe Coca Reserve and went as far as the antennas. Initially there was not much activity, with just a couple of Variable Hawks and Great Thrushes being seen. Then a mixed flock fed right in front of us and we got really great looks at Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch, and Paramo Tapaculo. Unfortunately, the weather turned really nasty and we decided to head on to our lodge.
In the parking lot and entrance to Las Termas de Papallacta Resort we saw Black and Masked Flowerpiercers, as well as the beautiful Shining Sunbeam. Black-crested Warblers and Mountain Wrens were particularly common around the resort grounds. We wandered the trails in the afternoon which provided some good photographic opportunities before it was time for the evening checklist session and dinner.
The gorgeous Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager.
Day 5, 9th November 2021. Guango Lodge and Papallacta River birding
After some early morning birding and breakfast, we headed east down the mountain to Guango Lodge. Everyone was excited to arrive at this well-known spot for hummingbirds. With almost no effort required, we sat and watched Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, and even the magnificent Sword-billed Hummingbird as they visited the flowers and feeders right in front of us, while we were served a nice hot cup of tea or coffee.
We enjoyed the garden’s hummingbird feeders all morning before our lunch was served. After a wonderful hot meal, we walked down to the river. Along the trail a very active flock consisting of Pearled Treerunner, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager, Turquiose Jay, and Spectacled Whitestart was seen feeding in a tree right in front of us. We continued down to the Papallacta River where we saw a Torrent Tyrannulet and White capped Dipper.
After a wonderful day we returned back to Las Termas to get cleaned up before our checklist session and dinner.
The hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge produced many beauties, such as this Collared Inca.
Day 6, 10th November 2021. Papallacta Pass, Cosanga and WildSumaco Lodge
After breakfast we headed southeast to the Loreto Road where the incredible WildSumaco Lodge is located. The trip takes four hours, but has some nice birding stops along the way. The first stop was in the town of Cosanga, where both male and female Torrent Ducks were enjoying the river while Southern Lapwing and Torrent Tyrannulet were searching for food along the riverbanks. After another two hours of driving, and a couple stops we reached the foothills of the eastern Andes and arrived at WildSumaco Lodge.
Fernanda, the lodge manager, welcomed us and checked us into our accommodation. Before lunch was served, we enjoyed waiting outside and taking pictures and watching new hummingbird species such as Brown Violetear, Wire-crested Thorntail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Golden-tailed Sapphire, and Many-spotted Hummingbird.
In the afternoon, after we checked the feeders again, we decided to walk along the lodge entrance road and try for some toucans and woodpeckers. As soon as we started walking, we could hear a toucan calling, we immediately started searching and found a small flock consisting of Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Gilded Barbet, and Lineated Woodpecker. We could also hear Golden-collared Toucanet as it called in the distance. We birded a little longer until the group decided to head back to rest before dinner.
We had various toucan species at WildSumaco Lodge, such as this Golden-collared Toucanet.
Day 7, 11th November 2021. Full day birding at WildSumaco Lodge
After a hearty Amazonian-style breakfast, we headed to the trails to watch the antpitta feeding. First to come for the worms was a Plain-backed Antpitta, then Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and then a Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush appeared. After everyone was fed, we headed up the trail, on the way we heard a Blue-rumped Manakin and then a decent-sized flock appeared including Blue-crowned Trogon, Summer Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, and Orange-bellied Euphonia.
We decided to return to the hotel to check the hummingbird feeders before lunch. While watching the feeders, a Tayra appeared in the tree in front of the dining area. Tayra are members of the weasel family and the only species in the genus Eira.
In the afternoon we went birding near the small town of Sumaco, very close to the hotel. There was a nice mixed feeding flock which included the likes of Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Palm Tanager, Magpie Tanager, Blue-grey Saltator, Black-billed Thrush, and Olivaceous Greenlet.
Later in the afternoon we made our way back to the lodge to get cleaned up before checking our day’s list and enjoying dinner.
This Tayra was seen near the hummingbird feeders at WildSumaco Lodge.
Day 8, 12th November 2021. Full day birding at WildSumaco Lodge
This morning we awoke to a heavy downpour. When we thought the rain had lightened up, we visited the blind, but the rain soon started up again. We did however manage to see Western Fire-Eye, Black-faced Antpitta, and Swainson’s Thrush. The rest of the morning it rained very hard and so we stayed close to the main lodge. All of a sudden, the rain ceased and in the trees in front of us appeared a family of Napo Saki monkeys taking advantage of the good weather, at last.
After a nice lunch we decided to walk the trails around the lodge while we enjoyed the prolonged good weather. A feeding flock crossed our path which consisted of Magpie Tanager, Gilded Barbet, Green Jay, Golden-collared Toucanet, Lined Antshrike, and Yellow-throated Toucan. Other birds seen on the trail included Paradise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Crested Oropendola, and a pair of Chestnut-fronted Macaws. Right before dinner we spotted a Wattled Guan in a nearby cecropia tree.
Day 9, 13th November 2021. WildSumaco Lodge to San Isidro
Today was our last day at WildSumaco and we thankfully awoke to good weather, so we decided to visit the blind one more time. That proved to be a good idea as we got nice looks at Red-headed Barbet, Western Fire-Eye, Black-faced Antbird, Swainson’s Thrush, and Canada Warbler. After breakfast, we packed up and left for Cabañas San Isidro. Since it was still early and the weather was nice, we decided to make a few stops before hitting the main road. We wanted to try one more time for Coppery-chested Jacamar, but this time at a different location. We had a response right off the bat, from very near to where we stood. Excitement grew and finally the Coppery-chested Jacamar appeared and perched on a branch right in front of us. A truly great way to start the day. Other good birds here included calling Little Tinamou and Plumbeous Pigeon.
Along the way we wanted to try one more time for Cliff Flycatcher on the Loreto Road. We arrived at the stakeout (which has proved reliable in the past), and almost immediately, there it was, perched on a nearby wire. We also saw Green-backed Hillstar, Palm Tanager, and Swallow-tailed Kite. We arrived at San Isidro right around lunchtime. After our delicious meal we planned to meet on the deck of the lodge after we had settled into our cabins.
In the afternoon, we birded around the lodge where we saw Tawny-bellied Hermit, Long-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Montane Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Green Jay, and a nice surprise in the form of an Andean Solitaire. Before dinner we had a chance to freshen up and grab our headlamps, just in case. This proved to be a good idea because while we were eating our dinner a ‘San Isidro Owl’ (an unusual subspecies of Black-banded Owl) showed up and watched us for a while.
Pale-edged Flycatcher was seen in the WildSumaco Lodge grounds.
Day 10, 14th November 2021. Full day birding at San Isidro
Before breakfast we met up on the main balcony of the lodge where we saw Bronzy Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Masked Trogon, Azara’s Spinetail, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Common Bush Tanager. We birded a little longer before it was time for breakfast. After enjoying our breakfast, we birded the road that passes by the lodge and saw Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Bluish Flowerpiercer, and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.
In the afternoon we visited the Cosanga Valley and Sierra Azul area to see what we could find. There was not a lot of activity, but we did see a small flock which consisted of Black Phoebe, Green Jay, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and Blackburnian Warbler, while a Roadside Hawk was seen nearby.
We made our way back to the lodge around dinner time with ‘San Isidro Owl’ (Black-banded Owl) and Mountain Tapir showing for us! What an amazing way to end the day.
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager is always a delight to see.
Day 11, 15th November 2021. Full day birding at San Isidro
In the early morning before breakfast, we spotted Long- tailed Sylph, Tawny-bellied Antpitta, Collared Inca, Fawn-breasted Brillant, Masked Trogon, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique. At 7:30, we met our local guide to show us White-bellied Antpitta. After about 15 minutes of calling, we were almost about to give up when the antpitta showed and stuck around for quite a while, giving us prolonged views. After a delicious and nutritious breakfast, we decided to bird along the Bemejo Road. As we arrived, we immediately spotted Crested Quetzal, and then a couple of minutes later, we saw Emerald Toucanet, Plum-crowned Parrot, and Russet-crowned Warbler.
Around noon, we went back to the lodge for lunch. After our meal and a moment to regroup we met up to visit the Guacamayos Ridge. From the trailhead on the ridge we saw Turquoise Jay, Great Thrush, and Tropical Kingbird. Suddenly a thick fog formed and it was a unanimous decision to head back to the lodge and enjoy some birding in the lodge grounds until dinner.
Day 12, 16th November 2021. San Isidro, Santa Rosa Bird House, and Mindo
After an early breakfast we quickly checked the feeders, where we saw Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Green Jay, and Pale-edged Flycatcher. Once all our luggage was loaded, we headed west over the Andes for a five-hour trip to Mindo.
For lunch we stopped at Santa Rosa Bird House, where we saw Gorgeted Sunangel, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brillant, and Dusky Bush Tanager. However, after around four hours of searching, we realized that this time the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, was not going to come out. After lunch we drove to Septimo Paraiso Lodge, which was our base for the next five nights.
After checking in, we visited the feeders and saw several new hummingbirds for our list, including White-necked Jacobin, White-whiskered Hermit, Brown Inca, White-booted Racket-tail, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. After dinner we were all ready for a good night’s sleep, as we had a big day of birding ahead of us tomorrow.
We had great looks at a Masked Trogon at San Isidro.
Day 13, 17th November 2021. Refugio Paz de las Aves to Paraiso and Mindo
The day finally arrived to visit the famous antpitta reserve, Refugio Paz de las Aves. In the early morning we met Ángel Paz, in person. Angel took us to see a lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks, and also showed us a group of roosting Rufous-bellied Nighthawks. Along the way we saw Golden-winged Manakin and Golden-crowned Flycatcher. On the way back we saw a bird of prey fly over us and thankfully it perched nearby. With the help of the telescope, we identified the bird as a Collared Forest Falcon.
Next, Angel stopped to feed the Yellow-breasted Antpitta which showed really well and we all were able to get nice shots of this pretty bird. Later, Ochre-breasted Antpitta and Moustached Antpitta were seen as well as a roosting Common Potoo. After a nice morning we drove back to the lodge for lunch. We checked the feeders before lunch and saw White-whiskered Hermit, Andean Emerald, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, and Brown Inca.
In the afternoon we decided to bird the surrounding areas around Mindo. First stop was the Rio Mindo, where we saw Choco Toucan, Bronze-winged Parrot, Swallow Tanager, and Rusty-margined Flycatcher. As the weather was really good, we continued along the road to Nambillo River, where we watched Spotted Sandpiper, Ringed Kingfisher, Masked Water Tyrant, and White-capped Dipper. The afternoon flew by and before we knew it, it was time to go back to the lodge to get ready for dinner and some well-deserved rest.
The cute and colorful Golden-naped Tanager.
Day 14, 18th November 2021. Milpe Reserve birding
This morning we had an early breakfast and left for Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation’s Milpe Reserve, which is located near the town of Los Bancos, about 45 minutes from our lodge. Here, we were able to spot Green Thorntail, Crowned Woodnymph, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird as soon as we walked into the reserve. At the tanager feeders there was not much activity but we did see Red-headed Barbet, Yellow-throated Toucan, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Chivi Vireo, and the locally scarce Dusky-faced Tanager and Flame-rumped Tanager.
Dusky-faced Tanager was an unusual find at Milpe Reserve.
The weather was very pleasant so we walked around the reserve and saw a variety of birds, including the likes of Broad-billed Motmot, One-colored Becard, Ecuadorian Thrush, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Crested Guan, and Masked Water Tyrant. We had a nice lunch at the reserve while we watched Red-faced Spinetail, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, and Guira Tanager. After a good day’s birding we returned to our lodge to get ready for dinner.
Day 15, 19th November 2021. Full day at Silanche Reserve
We left early this morning for Silanche Reserve, located two hours away. This 400-hectare Choco forest reserve is surrounded by farmland and as such it has become an oasis for many Choco Specials. As soon as we arrived at the observation tower, a small mixed flock greeted us with Ruddy Pigeon, Orange-fronted Barbet, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Linetaed Woodpecker, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Choco Tyrannulet, Golden-headed Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper all being new species for us. We decided to walk the main trail and right at the trailhead we saw Purple-chested Hummingbird, Dot-winged Antbird, White-necked Manakin, and Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant.
The activity slowed down around noon when the sun was high overhead, which was right when lunch was being served. In the afternoon things started to cool off and we spotted a mixed flock which included Collared Aracari, Choco Toucan, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, White-browed Gnatcacher, and we also heard a Black-headed Antthrush, We arrived back at Septimo Paraiso Lodge tired and ready to get cleaned up for a nice dinner.
Collared Aracari showed incredibly well for us.
Day 16, 20th November 2021. Reserva Amagusa birding
We were nearing the end of our tour and today we planned to visit a site that is a very important destination in this part of the Andean Choco. This particular reserve was Reserva Amagusa. Sergio, the owner, was waiting for us on our arrival and this was to be our base for the morning as we spent our time enjoying the many tanager species coming to the feeders. As soon as we arrived, we found our first targets, those being Moss-backed Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Golden Tanager, and Indigo Flowerpiercer.
At the hummingbird feeders we found Green Thorntail, Empress Brillant, Green-crowned Brillant, and White-necked Jacobin. After lunch we returned to the hotel to take a break and pack our bags for the return to Quito.
Rufous-throated Tanager – one of the many tanager species seen on this trip.
Day 17, 21st November 2021. Birding Zuroloma and Yanacocha Reserves and transfer to Quito
We checked out early this morning because we wanted to get to Zuroloma Reserve early to watch the antpittas being fed. As soon as we arrived at Zuroloma, Dario was waiting for us and we headed to the hummingbird and antpitta feeders where we saw Chestnut-naped Antpitta. This particular bird was very friendly and let us get several nice pictures. At that same moment an Andean Guan visited and at the hummingbird feeders nearby we saw Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and Sapphire-vented Puffleg.
After enjoying the feeders, Dario took us back to the dining area for a delicious homemade breakfast. After our meal we were all fueled up to head back out and search for the recently split Equatorial Antpitta. We walked for 30 minutes and waited around for another 15 minutes, and it was well worth the wait, as we all got great looks and shots of this plump, short-tailed and long-legged creature. A very beautiful bird indeed!
We thanked Dario for the morning and then took a short drive to the Yanacocha Reserve managed by the Jocotoco Foundation. Upon arrival, we saw a flock consisting of Masked Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, and Black-chested Mountain Tanager. We then birded around the reserve for the remainder of the morning.
After a nice lunch we returned to Quito Airport for our Covid tests and then settled back in at our hotel. After getting checked in we went over our checklists and flight schedules for the evening and next morning. We all agreed that the trip had been a great success and that we should get together and bird southern Ecuador in the near future.
We saw Chestnut-naped Antpitta at the antpitta feeders at Zuroloma Reserve.
Day 18, 22nd November 2021. Departure from Quito
After a fantastic 18 days of birding in northern Ecuador we all departed Quito for home without any complications.
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
NORTHERN ECUADOR – HUMMINGBIRD AND ANTPITTA EXTRAVAGANZA: TOUR-SPECIFIC INFORMATION
This northern Ecuador trip is perhaps the finest birding trip in all of South America, both in terms of infrastructure, birding facilities and the amazing quality of birds on offer. There is no other area in Ecuador where you will be able to enjoy hummingbird feeders that will provide you stunning views of jewels such as Sword-billed Hummingbird, Giant Hummingbird, White-booted Racket-tail, Ecuadorian Piedtail and Velvet-purple Coronet, to name a few. You will also be able to visit antpitta feeding stations where it is possible to see Giant Antpitta, Moustached Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Tawny Antpitta, Plain-backed Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta. We shall enjoy colorful species such as Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Moss-backed Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Yellow-throated Toucan, and classic Andean species such as Andean Condor, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and Torrent Duck. We will also be targeting a number of secretive specials such as Ocellated Tapaculo and even Banded Ground Cuckoo.
Our tour will start and end in the city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. You can reach Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) with direct flights from the USA, Spain, the Netherlands and Panama. Please e-mail us before you book any flights, as the information shown here is just an initial guide. You might wish to consult your travel agent to book your most convenient flight, and please feel free to contact us if you need any further guidance. Your tour leader will meet you at Quito Airport (waiting for you with the Birding Ecotours logo clearly displayed) and will then transfer you to your comfortable hotel. Please remember to keep your luggage tags, as they are normally required to exit the terminal building at Quito Airport. Please be aware that most international flights arrive in Quito in the afternoon or evening, and as such, we do not have any birding activities planned for the first day. If you arrive on an early flight, you will be transferred to the hotel but may have to wait until check-in is available (usually in the early afternoon). For an early check-in, you might be charged extra directly by the hotel; this cost is not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price.
When filling out the customs declaration form, please use the below address for the hotel:
Hotel José de Puembo, Manuel Burbano S7-150 y San Fernando Puembo, Quito, Ecuador
Our tour will end in Quito after a wonderful 17 days and 16 nights in northern Ecuador. On the last morning your tour leader, or one of our tour representatives, will arrange your transfer to Quito Airport from where you can to catch your flight home.
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS AND PACE
We qualify this trip as moderate, with most of the birding consisting of walking along roadsides, although some of these walks may lead up and down hills. We shall, however, also face some steep trails on the eastern and western slope of the Andes and some of these trails can get muddy at times. Some people have described the up and down walking as being difficult. We do think this trip might be difficult for people with back, walking, and balance problems or for those who are not used to a birding trip with early morning starts. However, we will spend quality time sitting and enjoying hummingbird and antpitta feeders and looking for birds around our lodges.
Keep in mind that (as is usual on most birding trips) we need to be awake very early in the mornings, and pre-dawn starts are in order each day. We normally spend the whole morning birding in the field, return to the lodge for lunch, and then provide a little rest before continuing our birding in the afternoon. Your guide will sometimes invite you to look for owls at night, but this is an optional activity that you can skip if you feel tired. Some people prefer to rest, skipping birding in the afternoon; this can be done at those lodges when we are staying more than one night. When we do birding stops while traveling from location to location, people who feel tired do not have to follow the group and can remain in the vehicle. This trip does not have any particularly long drives nor does it require taking any domestic flights.
Roads can be very bumpy and rocky which can pose problems especially for people with back problems.
ATM MACHINES & PAYMENT METHODS
ATMs will be very limited on this tour. The most convenient place to draw money (Ecuador’s official currency is US dollars) would be at Quito Airport, before the start of the tour. There is an ATM in Bancos near Mindo, which can be visited in case of emergency, however not all international cards are accepted here. Please read the section regarding money and currency exchange in our general information for all Ecuador tours.
We will reach our highest elevations on this tour at Papallacta Pass at 14,700 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level. Please consult with your doctor if you have any medical conditions that may be aggravated by spending time at high elevations. Spending a few hours at high elevation is not normally a problem, but some minor symptoms might appear, like a slight headache and mild dizziness. A regular Paracetamol (400 mg), taken two hours before we reach this elevation, should prevent any headache trouble. We suggest you avoid eating a large dinner on the previous evening before reaching altitude, as this will help with digestion. Quito city is located at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level.
We ask you to be ready for all kinds of weather on this trip. The Chocó forests, below Mindo, are humid and warm, reaching a maximum of 82°F (28°C) and a minimum of 59°F (15°C) at night. Chocó forests are probably one of the most humid natural areas in the world, and during our stay here, we will likely experience some rainy days, which should, however, not impact our birding. Quito has a minimum temperature of 57°F (14°C). The eastern slope of the Andes, with the exception of WildSumaco, has areas that are cold at night. The coldest area of our trip is likely to be the Papallacta Pass where the temperature descends to 41°F (5°C).
Laundry services are available at all lodges on this northern Ecuador trip however please note that laundry fees are not included in the tour price.
Wi-Fi is available in Quito, Mindo and Termas de Papallacta, while internet is very limited or non-existent at Guango, Cabañas San Isidro and WildSumaco. You might consider purchasing a SIM card at Quito airport on the day of your arrival.
When photographing at hummingbird or antpitta feeders, we are not allowed to alter the environment in any way – even though you may want to create a more natural environment for photography.
Most of the meals will be fixed menus at the lodges and hotels where you will always have a vegetarian option. Please let us know about any dietary preferences in advance.
We will have a private van for the whole tour with plenty of room for everybody.
An example of the private van that we use for this bird tour.
‘Galo and his driver Nestor were a dream team. They were very experienced and we saw ten times more birds and other wildlife than if we had tried to guide ourselves. We saw over 200 new birds including 49 different hummingbirds. The bird of the trip was the Cock-of-the-Rock (both east and west versions) while the Tayra (east and west versions) and Mountain Tapir showings were amazing. We would highly recommend this trip…and guide team.’
Tim and Kay
‘We birded with Galo Real for eight days in Ecuador as an extension from a family trip to the Amazon Basin and the Galapagos. He is a good birder with a great ear for the bird calls and knowledge of all sites. He is very agreeable and was patient and considerate of our needs and capabilities. We look forward to birding with him again.’
Jim and Barbara