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NORTHERN ECUADOR

Birdquest's Northern Ecuador birding tour is surely one of the classic South American birding trips. Our Northern Ecuador tour produces a huge bird list, while also recording numerous specialities! Mostly very pleasant accommodations, short travel distances, great scenery and an extraordinarily rich avifauna make this tour one of the best and most enjoyable birding journeys in the world.

Friday 8th September — Sunday 24th September 2017
(17 days)


Leaders: Juan Carlos Calvachi and Dani López-Velasco

Group Size Limit: 8

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

How remarkable that the sought-after Giant Antpitta can now be seen relatively easily in the Mindo area, where they are tempted from the forest interior by a gift of worms!  (János Oláh)

How remarkable that the sought-after Giant Antpitta can now be seen relatively easily in the Mindo area, where they are tempted from the forest interior by a gift of worms! (János Oláh)

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 oxbow lakes deep in the 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 one of the richest birding experiences on earth! Ours is the most comprehensive tour to the northern regions of Ecuador available, regularly recording over 800 species in about three weeks in the country, including a huge number of very special birds! This tour is also specially designed to see as many as 75 or more hummingbirds, something which is not possible anywhere else in the world within such a short time frame!

During our travels we shall visit almost all of the main habitats found in the northern half of the country. We will look for seedsnipe high on the Andean slopes, gorgeously-plumaged quetzals and gaudy tanagers amongst the moss and bromeliad-encrusted trees of the cloud forests, toucans and manakins along a tributary of the Amazon, skulking antbirds deep in the rainforest, scintillating hummingbirds breaking all the laws of aerodynamics as they search out blossoms, raucous chachalacas at dawn, 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 real delight.

Starting in Quito, a pleasant colonial city nestled in the central valley of the Andes below the Pichincha volcano, we will investigate some splendid patches of temperate cloudforest at Yanacocha, high on the slopes of this still active volcano, where hummingbird feeders attract such iridescent jewels as Sword-billed Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill.

Subsequently 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, the gorgeous Golden-headed Quetzal, the splendid Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, the impressive Toucan Barbet, Streak-capped and Uniform Treehunters, Nariño and Spillmann’s Tapaculos, Club-winged Manakin, Orange-breasted and Scaled Fruiteaters, Olivaceous Piha, Beautiful Jay and the rare Tanager Finch. A star attraction in the Mindo region are the Giant, Yellow-breasted, Moustached and Ochre-breasted Antpittas that have been habituated to eat provided earthworms by the extraordinary 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, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Stripe-throated Wren, Chocó Warbler (split from Golden-bellied), and the near-endemic Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, and Rufous-winged, Blue-whiskered, Gray-and-gold and Scarlet-browed Tanagers.

Afterwards we will venture further to the northwest and take a boat journey to Playa de Oro in the drainage of the Cayapas River in the Chocó lowlands. Based at a community owned lodge, we will explore the vast forests of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve, where such dream birds as Baudo Guan and Broad-billed Sapayoa are possible. Here we have our best chance for the elusive Rufous-crowned Antpitta, nowadays thought to be a giant gnateater rather than a true antpitta, which sometimes joins raiding army ant swarms attended by Bicoloured, Spotted and Ocellated Antbirds. Other sought-after birds that inhabit the forests in this area include Semiplumbeous Hawk, Chocó Screech-Owl, Five-coloured Barbet, Rose-faced Parrot, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Stub-tailed Antbird, and Scarlet-and-white and Lemon-spectacled Tanagers.

After the western lowlands we will continue towards the Colombian border. On the way to the foothills we will visit the swamp forest of Humedal de Yalaré where we will seek out such goodies as Black-breasted Puffbird and Brown Wood-Rail. Afterwards we will head into the foothills again to visit the Awa reserve near Lita in the Mira river valley where our main targets will be the stunning Black-tipped Cotinga, Golden-collared Chlorophonia and the superb Golden-chested 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 the superb Wild Sumaco Lodge. Birdlife is extraordinarily rich here at the edge of Amazonia, and amongst many special birds are Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black-mandibled Toucan, the wonderful Pavonine Quetzal, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Hairy-crested Antbird, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Grey-tailed Piha, Foothill Elaenia, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Buff-throated and Black-and-white Tody-Tyrants, the pretty White-crowned and Blue-rumped Manakins, Olivaceous and Rufous-naped Greenlets, Blue-browed Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper 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 all the way to the Guacamayos Ridge. 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, Crested Quetzal, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, White-bellied and Slate-crowned Antpittas, Ocellated Tapaculo, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Dusky Piha, Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager and White-capped Tanager.

Finally 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 Andean Condor, Carunculated Caracara, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, the endemic Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Paramo Tapaculo and Black-backed Bush-Tanager.

Birdquest has operated tours to Ecuador since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good or medium standard. At Playa de Oro the lodge is quite basic, with no electricity, though it has cold running water. Some of the rooms have attached bathrooms, while others have shared bathrooms. Road transport is by small coach and roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but sometimes moderate, and there are a few optional, more strenuous, muddy trails at Playa de Oro.

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 high altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold. It often rains (and it may even snow at high altitudes) and it can be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Can be taken together with: AMAZONIAN ECUADOR

Tour Price: £4290, €5060, $5620 Quito/Quito.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Single Room Supplement: £480, €567, $629.

Deposit: £500, €700, $750.

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.

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe haunt the paramo grasslands of the high Andes  (János Oláh)

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe haunt the paramo grasslands of the high Andes (János Oláh)

51 photos View Gallery Photos From NORTHERN ECUADOR
The improbable Sword-billed Hummingbird is one of many extraordinary creatures on this amazing tour  (János Oláh)

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

Yellow-breasted Antpitta is another species that worms are tempting out of hiding in the Mindo forests  (János Oláh)

Yellow-breasted Antpitta is another species that worms are tempting out of hiding in the Mindo forests (János Oláh)

Whereas Chestnut-crowned Antpittas need no such 'encouragement'  (János Oláh)

Whereas Chestnut-crowned Antpittas need no such 'encouragement' (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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