From the viewpoint of a birder  Ecuador is paradise. In size Ecuador is roughly as  large as the state of Colorado, yet it has almost 1000 more species than the entire US. While the US has only around 500 species that are regulars (not counting odd migrants that have drifted off course), Ecuador has over 1500. According to the birding field guide released by National Geographic the entire continent of North America only has 990 species.

Not only does Ecuador have an incredible variety of birds in such a small area they have an excellent infrastructure to allow birders to quite easily visit all the different ecosystems the country holds. In a matter of two weeks I visited the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains (around Cotopaxi National Park), the cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes, and finally did some island hopping through the Galapagos. Aside from the Galapagos most of these regions are no more than a half day drive from Quito, the capital of Ecuador and main port of entry for foreign visitors.

Flame-rumped Tanager

Flame-rumped Tanager

As this trip was for a class most of my time was strictly scheduled and I could not break out and do some hardcore birding. Even so, on only three occasions dedicated strictly to birding and incidental sightings as we traveled, I picked up almost 100 new species for my life list. Some birds such as the hummingbirds and tanagers I saw displayed beautiful vibrant colors. Others, like the Hoatzins have developed unique adaptations to survive in their ecosystems. In fact the Hoatzins will likely be the focus of a later post.

In the Amazon I saw such species as Hoatzin (these strange looking birds feed entirely on leaves), an Anhinga, Blue-headed Parrots, Cocoi Herons and many more. These birds were mainly spotted as we were traveling from one activity to another, typically along the Napo River.

Hoatzin

Hoatzin

My only days of official birding on the Ecuadorian mainland occurred in the cloud forest at the Inti Llacta reserve and in the paramo (high mountain grasslands in the Andes) outside of Cotopaxi National Park. In the cloud forest I saw my first trogon, the Masked Trogon, Flame-rumped Tanagers, and almost a dozen species of hummingbirds including a Tawny-bellied Hermit and Booted Racket-tail. Up in the Andes I saw species such as Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Andean Lapwings, and Tyrian Metal-tails.

The Galapagos Islands provided some of the best birding opportunities. While they do not have as much diversity as the mainland, they have far greater concentrations. It was not uncommon to find Blue-footed Boobies in groups as large as 30-50 members. Not to mention Darwin’s finches which seemed to be chirping from every tree or window sill. And who could complain about snorkeling with Galapagos Penguins?

Blue-footed Boobies

Blue-footed Boobies

I would highly recommend Ecuador and the Galapagos to any nature lovers, but especially to birders. With such great variety of species in such a small area birders will think they are in heaven. Not to mention that the tropical climate and welcoming atmosphere make Ecuador a true paradise.

Advertisements