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BEST OF ECUADOR

Antpittas, Potoos & Hummingbirds

Birdquest's Best of Ecuador birding tour is a fabulous birdwatching experience in South America's most popular birdwatching venue. This exciting Ecuador tour samples the full range of Ecuadorian habitats from the Pacific lowlands across the Andes to the edge of Amazonia, and in doing so turns up an extraordinarily large bird list in less than two weeks, as well as numerous specialities!

Saturday 17th November — Thursday 29th November 2018
(13 days)


Leader: Dani López-Velasco

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations

Yellow-breasted Antpittas are nowadays showing well in the Mindo area, where the local naturalist-guides tempt them out of cover with earthworms!  (János Olah)

Yellow-breasted Antpittas are nowadays showing well in the Mindo area, where the local naturalist-guides tempt them out of cover with earthworms! (János Olah)

Ecuador, bisected from north to south by the mighty Andes mountains and from east to west by the equator (after which the country is named), offers wonderful birding amidst magnificent scenery in one of the smallest countries in South America.

Once part of the Inca empire that stretched from Chile to Colombia and later a Spanish colony before it gained its independence during the 19th century, this small country possesses an extraordinary range of environments. Here in a comparatively limited area one can travel from towering snow-capped volcanoes to steamy Amazonian rainforests and from windswept grasslands to temperate cloud forests. It is thus not surprising that Ecuador has the highest bird species diversity for an area its size in South America. Over 1600 bird species have already been recorded from this beautiful country, twice as many as from the whole of Europe, and yet many areas still remain ornithologically unexplored! In addition to having many species that are widely distributed in South America, Ecuador has a fine selection of endemics and other species only shared with neighbouring areas in Colombia or northern Peru.

This wonderful country offers not only the ultimate in Neotropical birding but also the richest birding experience on earth! This superb sampling tour takes in an amazing array of habitats and bird communities, and produces an extraordinary bird list (in both size and quality) in under two weeks in the field.

During our travels we shall look for cryptic Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe high above the Papallacta Pass, gorgeously-plumaged quetzals and gaudy tanagers amongst the moss and bromeliad-encrusted trees of the cloudforests, the amazing ‘tame’ antpittas of Angel Paz’s forest home, colourful toucans, cotingas and manakins in the Amazonian lowlands, skulking antbirds deep in the rainforest, scintillating hummingbirds breaking all the laws of aerodynamics as they search out blossoms, confusing woodcreepers and ovenbirds, retiring doves and exotic trogons. Ecuador’s astonishing diversity of birdlife, welcoming people, short travel distances and good accommodations make birding here a delight.

Starting in Quito, a pleasant colonial city nestled in the central valley of the Andes below the Pichincha volcano, we shall explore verdant cloud forests and paramo grasslands in the surrounding highlands and on the western slope of the Andes around Mindo. This is one of the most exciting areas for birds in Ecuador and amongst a plethora of new birds we will be wanting to see Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Empress and Fawn-breasted Brilliants, Buff-tailed and Velvet-purple Coronets, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, the extraordinary Sword-billed Hummingbird, the gorgeous Golden-headed Quetzal, the splendid Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, the impressive Toucan Barbet, White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, Streak-capped and Uniform Treehunters, Ocellated, Nariño and Spillmann’s Tapaculos, Club-winged Manakin, Scaled Fruiteater, Olivaceous Piha and Beautiful Jay. A star attraction in the Mindo region are the Giant, Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted and Moustached Antpittas that have been habituated to eat provided earthworms by the phenomenal Angel Paz!

Farther west, we will explore some remnant lowland forest for such Chocó specialities as Green Thorntail, the handsome Purple-chested Hummingbird, Chocó Trogon, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Lanceolated Monklet, the inconspicuous Double-banded Graytail, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Stripe-throated Wren, Chocó Warbler (split from Golden-bellied), and the near-endemic Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, the oddly-shaped Moss-backed Tanager, and Gray-and-gold and Scarlet-browed Tanagers.

After returning to Quito we will sample the rich birdlife of the high Andean paramo at Antisana National Park and at the Papallacta Pass, looking for such great birds as Carunculated Caracara, Ecuadorian Rail, Noble Snipe, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, the endemic Ecuadorian Hillstar, Paramo Tapaculo and Black-backed Bush-Tanager.

After spending some time on the western slope of the Andes and in the western lowlands, our spectacular descent into the upper tropical zone at the base of the eastern slope of the Andes will come as a total ornithological contrast. Here we will visit both Wild Sumaco and Gareno Lodges. Birdlife is extraordinarily rich here at the edge of Amazonia, and amongst many special birds are Rufous Potoo, the wonderful Pavonine Quetzal, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Yellow-browed and Hairy-crested Antbirds, Reddish-winged Bare-eye, Purple-throated Cotinga, Foothill Elaenia, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Buff-throated and Black-and-white Tody-Tyrants, the pretty Golden-winged and Blue-rumped Manakins, Olivaceous and Rufous-naped Greenlets, and Olivaceous Siskin.

As we make our way back to Quito we will explore progressively higher areas as we ascend the verdant eastern slope of the Andes on a relatively new road which has opened up this exciting area to birdwatchers. There are so many specialities in this fantastic area that it is hard to know which to pick out, but amongst the many good birds here are Rufous-banded Owl, Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black-mandibled Toucan, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, White-bellied Antpitta, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike and Golden-collared Honeycreeper.

By the time we complete our journey through Ecuador we will have experienced a remarkable transect of the Andes extending from the western lowlands through the cloudforests and the paramo right down to the Amazonian foothills!

Birdquest has operated tours to Ecuador since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good or medium standard. At Gareno Lodge the rooms are rather simple and there is no electricity, but all rooms have private bathrooms. Road transport is by small coach and roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few moderate grade walks.

Climate: Rather variable. At low and middle altitudes many days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but it is sometimes cool and overcast. At the highest altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold. There is regular rainfall (and it could even snow at the highest altitudes) and it can be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile (good at feeders).

Tour Price: £3290, €3880, $4310 Quito/Quito. Single Room Supplement: £384, €453, $503. Deposit: £400, €480, $520.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Club-winged Manakins give stunning views at a lek near Mindo  (János Oláh)

Club-winged Manakins give stunning views at a lek near Mindo (János Oláh)

Dark-backed Wood-Quail is another shy and sought-after species being lured into the open by the prospect of free earthworms  (János Oláh)

Dark-backed Wood-Quail is another shy and sought-after species being lured into the open by the prospect of free earthworms (János Oláh)

And of course the star attraction is the Giant Antpitta, once a species most visitors to Ecuador could only dream about seeing  (János Oláh)

And of course the star attraction is the Giant Antpitta, once a species most visitors to Ecuador could only dream about seeing (János Oláh)

The improbable Sword-billed Hummingbird is one of many extraordinary hummers on this wonderful tour  (János Oláh)

The improbable Sword-billed Hummingbird is one of many extraordinary hummers on this wonderful tour (János Oláh)

While another is the beautiful White-tailed Hillstar  (János Oláh)

While another is the beautiful White-tailed Hillstar (János Oláh)

The highly-sought Rufous Potoo is now a regular feature on this itinerary, at Gareno on the edge of the Amazonian lowlands  (János Oláh)

The highly-sought Rufous Potoo is now a regular feature on this itinerary, at Gareno on the edge of the Amazonian lowlands (János Oláh)

Higher up, on the east slope of the Andes, we should see the as-yet-undetermined 'San Isidro Owl', which is probably an undescribed form of Black-and-white Owl  (János Oláh)

Higher up, on the east slope of the Andes, we should see the as-yet-undetermined 'San Isidro Owl', which is probably an undescribed form of Black-and-white Owl (János Oláh)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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