Birding Tour Ecuador: Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Hummingbird and Antpitta Extravaganza


Dates and Costs

 

24 October – 09 November 2024

Spaces Available: 4

Price: US$7,080 / £5,755 / €6,828 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$790/ £643 / €762

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when finalising payments.

 

09 – 25 November 2025

Price: US$7,929  / £6,445 / €7,647 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$884/ £718 / €853


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 17 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Quito
Tour End: Quito


Price includes:

Accommodation (hotels and lodges)
Private guide
Private vehicle
Admission fees
All meals (except where indicated)
Water during the tour
Transfer to and from the airport

 

Price excludes

All flights
Any activity or service on Day 1 (if arriving in the morning)
Dinner on Day 1 in Quito
Personal health and trip cancellation insurance
Drinks and alcoholic drinks
Personal expenses such as laundry, minibar expenses, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Any expenses on Day 17 except breakfast and transfer to the airport

Download Itinerary

Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Hummingbird and Antpitta Extravaganza
November 2024/2025

 

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!

Northern Ecuador birding tourThe 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.

Northern Ecuador birding tourThe 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!

In some years, this trip can be combined with our Ecuador: The Amazon tour and/or with our Galápagos: Natural History Extravaganza tour, please also ask for details of possible additional departures should you wish to combine.

 

 

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

Northern Ecuador birding toursThe 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 TawnyChestnut-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.

Northern Ecuador birding tourBellavista 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

Northern Ecuador birding tourRufous-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

Northern Ecuador birding toursWe 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.

Northern Ecuador birding tourWe 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.

Northern Ecuador birding toursAndean 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

Northern Ecuador birding tourThe 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.

Northern Ecuador birding tourOchre-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.

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Northern Ecuador Birding Paradise – Hummingbird and Antpitta Extravaganza

13-29 NOVEMBER 2022

By Galo Real

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Northern Ecuador bird tour

The unmistakable Chestnut-crowned Antpitta was one of seven antpitta species seen on this tour!

 

Overview

With Ecuador possessing the highest bird species diversity per square kilometer on the planet, it is no surprise that it is one of the most popular birding destinations in South America. Ecuador’s appeal to birders is further enhanced by its short driving distances, a well-developed tourist infrastructure, wonderful lodges and other facilities for birders, including a multitude of hummingbird and antpitta feeder stations. All the above contribute to the success of Ecuadorian birding trips and enhance its reputation as a supreme birding destination.

This 16-day Ecuador birding tour across the north of the country covered both the eastern and western slopes of the Andes, giving us a large selection of classic neotropical birds. We started in the capital, Quito, before heading west to the Mindo area and the Ecuadorian Choco, where we found iconic species, including Sword-billed HummingbirdPlate-billed Mountain ToucanLong-wattled UmbrellabirdAndean Cock-of-the-rockGolden-headed QuetzalMoustached Antpitta, and Powerful Woodpecker, to name but a few. As we moved east of Quito, we encountered the likes of Andean CondorGiant Hummingbird, and other high Andean specials at Antisana Ecological Reserve. From here, we continued east, staying over in the San Isidro area and at Wildsumaco Lodge in the east Andean foothills, where we encountered Torrent DuckParadise TanagerWhite-bellied AntpittaMilitary and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, and an array of other sought-after species.

 

Detailed Report

Day 1, 13th November 2022. Arrival in Quito

Today was marked as an arrival day with no planned birding. We picked up Keith, Debra, William, and Joyce from Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport and settled into our accommodation at Hacienda Jimenita – on the outskirts of Quito.

 

Day 2, 14th November 2022. Yanacocha Reserve, Zuroloma Reserve, Old Nono Mindo Road, and Tandayapa Valley

After an early departure and a journey of approximately two hours, we arrived at Zuroloma Reserve. Our local guide, Dario, was waiting as we arrived and was eager to show us around and take us to the many feeders on the reserve. After a short 10-minute walk, we had our first encounters with Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Andean Guan, Masked Flowerpiercer and Yellow-breasted Brushfinch. Additionally, we enjoyed views of several hummingbirds including Mountain VelvetbreastSapphire-vented and Golden-breasted PufflegsBuff-winged StarfrontletShining SunbeamTyrian MetaltailGreat Sapphirewing, and the magnificent Sword-billed Hummingbird.

After spending a few hours birding on the reserve, we sat down for a quick break when Dario mentioned that we should try to see the local White-throated Screech Owl at its day roost. Debra, Joyce, and William decided to hang back and rest a bit while Keith went to have a look. After half an hour, Keith returned with news that he had seen the bird, but that photographic opportunities were somewhat limited. This first stop proved productive, and we continued onwards to the adjacent Yanacocha Reserve.

The Jocotoco Foundation manages this splendid reserve, allowing easy access to superb highland forests. The bird feeders were bustling with activity, and we quickly enjoyed views of Fulvous-headed BrushfinchScarlet-bellied Mountain TanagerAndean GuanBlack-chested Mountain Tanager, and a similar suite of hummingbirds to those seen at Zuroloma.

After an excellent lunch, we made our way towards the Mindo area and our accommodation for the next five nights at Sachatamia Lodge.

 

Day 3, 15th November 2022. Upper Tandayapa Valley and Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Our first stop this morning was at The Birdwatcher’s Lodge in San Tadeo. This is an excellent place to search for several Choco specials, and the lodge grounds are set up with birders and photographers in mind.

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan showed well for us in San Tadeo.

 

We arrived very early and were immediately greeted by several species of hummingbirds including Gorgeted Sunangel, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, and Empress Brilliant. While enjoying the hummingbird spectacle, a stunning Plate-billed Mountain Toucan flew in to steal the show (see photo above). After soaking up excellent views of the toucan, we walked towards the entrance area, where a male Chestnut-crowned Antpitta showed beautifully after being presented with a worm.

The bird feeders were busy, and we encountered several tanagers, including Blue-winged Mountain, Dusky Bush, Golden-naped, Flame-faced, and Golden Tanagers.

After a rewarding morning, we thanked Vinicio for his hospitality and continued up to Bellavista Reserve at the top of the Tandayapa Valley. Upon arrival at Bellavista, we immediately visited the hummingbird feeders and managed to see Gorgeted Sunangel, Collared Inca,and Buff-tailed Coronet,along with a gorgeous Masked Trogon and Slate-throated Gnatcatcher.

After a delicious lunch, the weather worsened, and we decided to head back to our accommodation. This turned out to be a wise decision, as the weather at Sachatamia was pleasant, and the feeders were alive with activity. Before calling it a day, we had good views of White-necked JacobinViolet-tailed SylphPurple-bibbed Whitetip, and Andean Emerald.

 

Day 4, 16th November 2022. Amagusa and Mashpi Reserve

Today we started off birding in Amagusa Reserve, a fantastic reserve located in the Ecuadorian Choco. Rapid elevation changes between 4,500-5,900 feet (1,400-1,800 meters) make for exciting birding, and the owners, Doris and Sergio, have done an exceptional job conserving the forest here. Upon arrival, Sergio was excited to show us a flock of Rose-faced Parrots, already enjoying the bananas at the feeders. The birds came in thick and fast; a pair of Moss-backed Tanagers flew in, quickly followed by GoldenGolden-napedGlistening-green, and Silver-throated Tanagers. We also spotted a Swallow-tailed Kite and a couple of Indigo Flowerpiercers near the feeders.

Northern Ecuador bird tour

We were lucky to enjoy prolonged views of the rare Black Solitaire at Amagusa Reserve in the Ecuadorian Choco.

 

The morning turned slightly overcast, and we decided to check in at the hummingbird feeders, where we managed to see a pair of Velvet-purple Coronets and a Green Thorntail. After a scrumptious home-cooked lunch, Sergio pointed out a pair of extremely rare Scaled Fruiteaters, and our group was ecstatic! The best was, however, still to come. As we returned to the restaurant, a Black Solitaire gave us intimate views for over 10 minutes – another very unusual sighting! As if that was not enough, the icing on the cake came in the form of a pair of Orange-breasted Fruiteaters that perched close to us, once again giving jaw-dropping views.

After another unforgettable day, we returned to Sachatamia for a delicious dinner and an early night’s rest.

 

Day 5, 17th November 2022. Rio Silanche Reserve

Today, we were up bright and early again, this time heading to Rio Silanche Reserve for the dawn chorus. Before arriving at the reserve, a forest clearing delivered a few widespread trip birds, including Great EgretSmooth-billed Ani,and Pale-legged Hornero.

The Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation protects this reserve, and it is home to several sought-after species in the lower Choco area. Upon arrival, the temperature rapidly started rising, and we decided to bird some shady areas near the reserve. On a short walk, we saw Plumbeous Kite, Collared Aracari, Little Tinamou, Swallow Tanager, Bay WrenMasked Water Tyrant, Swallow-tailed Kite, and Golden-olive Woodpecker. While birding near the Caoni River, we spotted a female Long-wattled Umbrellabird and a group of Purple-throated Fruitcrows in the same tree!

Northern Ecuador bird tour

The attractive Collared Aracari made an appearance at Rio Silanche Reserve.

 

The activity slowed down dramatically as lunchtime approached, so we decided to make our way to the Mirador del Río Blanco restaurant for lunch and to check out the hummingbird feeders  – Green Thorntail, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and Green-crowned Brilliant were all seen. After an enjoyable lunch, we birded around the Mindo area and encountered several mixed flocks and numerous new species, including Torrent and Choco Tyrannulets, Blackburnian Warbler,and Buff-throated Saltator.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Sachatamia where we enjoyed the various feeders and practiced our photography skills as the sun set. After a fun checklist review session, we had dinner and turned in after discussing the next day’s plans for a pre-dawn meet at the lodge’s bird blind.

 

Day 6, 18th November 2022. Sachatamia Bird Blind and Milpe Bird Sanctuary

As discussed after dinner, we started our morning before the dawn chorus at Sachatamia’s bird blind. This proved to be an excellent decision, and we had good views of several species, including a curious Masked Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Spotted BarbtailGolden-bellied Flycatcher, Three-striped Warbler,and a Long-wattled Umbrellabird!

Northern Ecuador bird tour

An early morning session at Sachatamia’s bird blind produced this stunning Long-wattled Umbrellabird!

 

After breakfast, we checked in at the hummingbird feeders; Violet-tailed Sylph, White-booted Racket-tail, Andean Emerald,and Purple-throated Woodstar were all in evidence. There was also a Summer Tanager, Golden Tanager,and Red-headed Barbet hanging around. After an already productive morning, we set off to Milpe Bird Sanctuary.

At Milpe Bird Sanctuary, we were again treated to productive birding at the feeders and added White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Crowned WoodnymphOrange-billed Sparrow,and Guayaquil Woodpecker. Mixed-species flocks bustled with Scarlet-rumped CaciqueOlive-sided Flycatcher, and Moss-backed Tanager,among many others. After a busy day, we returned to Sachatamia for dinner before heading to bed.

 

Day 7, 19th November 2022. Refugio Paz de las Aves and transfer to Quito

We visited the famed Refugio Paz de las Aves for our last day on the Western Cordillera. The brothers, Angel and Rodrigo Paz, and their respective families have managed this farm-turned-reserve for nearly 20 years. The reserve is home to many special species, and we were all excited at the prospect of birding here.

Northern Ecuador bird tour

Moustached Antpitta put on a show for us at Refugio Paz de las Aves.

 

The birding commenced immediately upon arrival, and Angel took us to see the very noisy Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek first. Once we had had our fill of these spectacularly strange birds, Angel pointed out a roosting Lyre-tailed Nightjar. What a bird! Debra and Joyce were exceptionally impressed by our close-up views of this remarkable species. We closely followed Angel towards the antpitta feeding station (a worm buffet!), and en route, we saw Golden-headed Quetzal, Powerful Woodpecker, Black-capped Tanager,and several Red-billed Parrots. Once we had all settled at the antpitta feeding station, Angel started calling the birds, and we enjoyed incredible views of Moustached and Ochre-breasted Antpittas 

We thanked Angel and his family at noon and started our return east to Quito. On our way back, we stopped at Alambi Reserve on the lower section of the Tanadayapa Valley for lunch and to check out the hummingbird feeders. The gardens were very birdy and produced Brown VioletearViolet-tailed SylphPurple-throated WoodstarRed-headed Barbet, and Speckled Hummingbird.

After spending a few hours, we thanked Fabian (the owner) for his hospitality and loaded up for the remaining drive back to Hacienda Jimenita. We enjoyed a lovely dinner after another great day out.

 

Day 8, 20th November 2022. Antisana Ecological Reserve

After a quick coffee, we left early and headed towards Antisana National Park. After an hour and a half on the road, our first stop was at Alto Tombo Lodge, where we had our first encounters with Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, and several Great Thrush.

Northern Ecuador bird tour

Shining Sunbeam at Alto Tombo Lodge.

 

After a delicious breakfast, we continued further into the mountains before arriving at Yachana, a reserve managed by the Jocotoco Foundation and an important part of the Antisana Corridor. We had barely started walking when we had our first encounter with the king of the Andes – the Andean Condor.A pair of these majestic birds circled above us for quite some time, and we enjoyed excellent views!

As the morning progressed, we spotted Andean IbisAndean GullStout-billed and Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, and Variable Hawk. After a quick bathroom break at the ranger station, we savored great looks at Paramo Ground Tyrant and Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant. We then continued higher to Laguna de la Mica, where several Andean TealsAndean Ducks, and Andean Coots were seen.

Around noon, we headed back down to Tambo Condor Lodge for a delicious, warm meal and to watch the feeders again. We returned to Hacienda Jimenita as evening approached for dinner and a well-deserved rest.

 

Day 9, 21st November 2022. Papallacta and Guango Lodge

After breakfast, we set off towards the radio tower that sits above Papallacta at over 14,000 feet (4,200 meters). Our main target here would be the elusive Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, and on the short drive to the site, we managed to see Andean Teal, Tawny AntpittaVariable Hawk, Paramo Ground Tyrant,and Grass Wren. Unfortunately, upon arrival at the site, the conditions changed dramatically for the worse, and we decided to head to Gaungo Lodge to escape the weather.

As was typical on this tour, the hummingbird feeders at the lodge were pumping and produced Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Sword-billed Hummingbird, and White-bellied Woodstar. As afternoon approached, we attempted to walk down to the river at the lodge, but the rain was too heavy, and we returned for a warm cup of tea and dinner instead.

 

Day 10, 22nd November 2022. Guango Lodge to San Isidro

Our pre-breakfast birding around the lodge grounds produced, amongst others, Andean GuanPearled Treerunner, Grey-browed Brushfinch, and Hooded Mountain Tanager. After a delicious breakfast, we walked the trails down to the river and found Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager,and Slaty Brushfinch. To our delight, a male Torrent Duck showed well for everyone under the Rio Chico bridge. We then began our descent to Cabañas San Isidro Cloud Forest Reserve and Lodge.

 

Days 11-12, 23rd – 24th November 2022. Birding around San Isidro

The following days spent birding around San Isidro are covered below as one account due to the similar nature of the day’s birding and the birds we encountered.

The lodge proved extremely birdy, and the restaurant deck alone produced species including Masked Trogon, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon and Pale-edged Flycatchers, Common Bush Tanager, and Canada Warbler. A real highlight was joining Guido as he fed the resident White-bellied Antpittas. It took some patience to see the birds, but in the end, it was well worth the wait, and everyone walked away with more than satisfactory views of these elusive birds.

We spent two days birding the environs around the lodge, and our bird list grew impressively with noteworthy species, including Peruvian Racket-tail, Green-backed Hillstar, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Masked Trogon, Emerald Toucanet, Azara’s Spinetail, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Smoke-colored Pewee, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Torrent Duck, Southern Lapwing, Torrent Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker,and Olivaceous Siskin. 

Northern Ecuador bird tour

Cinnamon Flycatcher was one of several species enjoyed from the comfort of the restaurant deck at San Isidro.

 

Day 13, 25th November 2022. Loreto Road and Wildsumaco Lodge

After spending our last morning at San Isidro, we had an early lunch and continued down the eastern slope to Wildsumaco Lodge. As we worked our way down the slope, the topography and vegetation changed dramatically – as did the birds. Roadside Hawk, Black Caracara, Silver-beaked Tanager, Magpie Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, and Black-billed Thrush seemed to be everywhere, and large flocks of parrots were a constant feature.

As was now a well-established routine, after arrival at the lodge, we settled in and immediately made our way to the hummingbird feeders with Green Hermit, Wire-crested Thorntail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, and Golden-tailed Sapphire all in evidence. We settled in for an early night with two full days of exciting birding around Wildsumaco Lodge on the cards.

 

Days 14-15, 26th–27th November 2022. Wildsumaco Lodge

The following two days spent birding around Wildsumaco Lodge are covered below as one account due to the similar nature of the day’s birding and the birds we encountered.

We started off birding at the blind on the lodge grounds, which proved highly productive. Sightings included Black-streaked PuffbirdLafresnaye’s PiculetBlackish AntbirdWestern Fire-eye, and Gilded Barbet. The various trails here produced some outstanding birds and we regularly encountered Military MacawYellow-throated ToucanBuff-fronted Foliage-gleanerSlaty-capped Shrike-VireoGolden-olive WoodpeckerPlain-backed AntpittaBlue-rumped ManakinOrnate FlycatcherSpectacled Bristle TyrantCerulean WarblerMagpie and Golden Tanagers, and the cute Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch. A real highlight was spotting the near-endemic Coppery-chested Jacamar.

In addition to visiting some trails, we also birded along the lodge’s access road. Common sightings included Lined Antshrike, Dusky Spinetail, Gilded Barbet, Coraya Wren, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Paradise, Spotted and Blue-necked Tanagers, and Crested Oropendola.

 

Day 16, 28th November 2022. Wildsumaco and transfer to Quito

This was to be our final day of the trip with no fixed birding plans. We enjoyed a last morning session at the feeders before returning to Quito. Our final night was spent at Hacienda Jimenita, where we reflected on what had been an outstanding trip.

Northern Ecuador bird tour

The gorgeous Paradise Tanager was common at Wildsumaco Lodge.

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

 

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PERTAINING TO ALL OUR ECUADOR TOURS

 

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.

 

ARRIVAL INFORMATION

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

 

DEPARTURE INFORMATION

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.

Sachatamia Lodge, Hotel José de Puembo and Termas de Papallacta accept credit card payment for extra services. Guango, Cabañas San Isidro and WildSumaco Lodges do not accept credit cards.

 

ALTITUDE

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.

 

WEATHER

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

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.

 

INTERNET

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.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

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.

 

MEALS

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.

 

TRANSPORT

We will have a private van for the whole tour with plenty of room for everybody.

Northern Ecuador transportAn example of the private van that we use for this bird tour.

Birding Ecotours

Ecuador General Information

Download Northern Ecuador Tour Information

‘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

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