The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America (and its islands)

CLASSIC ECUADOR – the Chocó foothills, the High Andes and the foothills and plains of Amazonia

Sunday 5th November – Tuesday 21st November 2023

Leaders: Dani López-Velasco and local bird guides

17 Days Group Size Limit 7
Sani Lodge (Amazonia) Extension:

Tuesday 21st November – Monday 27th November 2023

7 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s Classic Ecuador birding tours are surely some of the ultimate South American birding tours. Our Classic Ecuador birding tour is the richest single bird tour itinerary in Northern Ecuador and records a huge number of species as well as an extraordinary number of regional specialities! 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!

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 a huge number of very special birds! This tour is also specially designed to see as many as 70 or more hummingbirds, something which is not possible anywhere else in the world within a similar time frame!

During our Classic Ecuador birding tour, 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, macaws, toucans and manakins in Amazonia, 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.

Classic Ecuador’s astonishing richness of birdlife, extraordinary habitat diversity and scenery, welcoming people, relatively short travel distances and good accommodations and food make this tour a real delight.

Our Classic Ecuador birding tour starts in Quito, a one-time colonial city nestled in the central valley of the Andes below the active Pichincha volcano. Here we will investigate some splendid patches of temperate cloudforest in the Yanacocha area in search of such iridescent jewels as Sword-billed Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, as well as Chestnut-naped Antpitta.

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.

Star attractions in the Mindo region are the Giant, Yellow-breasted, Moustached, Chestnut-crowned and Ochre-breasted Antpittas that have been habituated to eat provided earthworms by the extraordinary Angel Paz! Not to mention the Dark-backed Wood Quails, the Ocellated Tapaculos and those lekking Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks!

Farther west, we will explore some remnant foothill forest for such Chocó specialities as Green Thorntail, the handsome Purple-chested Hummingbird, Choco Trogon, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Stripe-throated Wren, Choco Warbler, and the near-endemic Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, and Moss-backed, Rufous-winged, Blue-whiskered, Grey-and-gold and Scarlet-browed Tanagers.

After our explorations of the West Slope of the Andes, we will return to the Quito area, from where we will sample the rich birdlife of the high Andean paramo and elfin forest 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.

Next, we descend the verdant East Slope of the Andes to San Isidro and the nearby Cordillera de Guacamayos. 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.

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 to the higher parts of the East Slope. Here we will visit the superb Wild Sumaco Lodge in the Amazonian foothills. Birdlife is extraordinarily rich here at the edge of Amazonia, and amongst many special birds are Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black-mandibled Toucan, Ecuadorian Piedtail, 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.

During the optional extension, and in total contrast to the rest of the tour, we will travel deep into the lowlands of Amazonian Ecuador, to famous Sani Lodge on the Napo River. Sani is one of the most bird-rich locations in the Ecuadorian Amazon and therefore in all of South America. Over 550 bird species have been recorded in just this one area!

As well as holding some great specialities, including the near-endemic Cocha Antshrike and Brown Nunlet, the restricted-range White-chinned Jacamar and White-lored Antpitta, and the wonderful Zigzag Heron, Sani offers an extraordinary diversity of birding and offers such a diverse set of habitats that we are likely to record up to 250 species during our stay in the area! Macaws, parrots, toucans, jacamars, trogons, antbirds, woodcreepers, colourful tanagers, strange Sungrebes and Sunbitterns, weird Hoatzins all feature at Sani.

If you have never been to Amazonia before it is all going to be quite amazing, and even if you have been several times, there will still be plenty of special birds, including a good number of more uncommon species you inevitably missed on previous travels.

Birdquest has operated Ecuador birding tours since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of a good standard throughout, although Sani Lodge on the extension is a bit more ‘rustic’ in quality than the others. Road transport is by small coach and roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort during our Classic Ecuador birding tours is mostly easy but sometimes moderate.

Climate: Rather variable. At low and middle altitudes many days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but it is sometimes cooler and overcast. At the highest altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold. It regularly rains (and it may even snow on Antisana volcano or at Papallacta Pass) and it can be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Classic Ecuador birding tours are good in places, worthwhile elsewhere.


  • An extraordinary tour with a huge number of species recorded, even while focused on the many specialities!
  • Too many highligts to list them all! Definitely a must-do tour in one of the richest countries for birding in the world
  • An endless variety of habitats visited, ranging from the foothill forests of the Chocó to the high Andes and the Amazonian foothills and plains
  • More than 70 species of hummingbirds usually seen, including the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird
  • Very good photographic opportunities. Many tanagers, toucans and hummingbirds coming to feeders
  • A visit to the world-famous Angel Paz reserve, home of tame antpittas and lekking Andean Cocks-of-the-rock
  • The incredible Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and tame Toucan Barbets of the Mindo area
  • Enjoying Ecuadorian Hillstars and Andean Condors in the high andean paramo, where the scenery is breathtaking!
  • Chances of seeing the impressive Spectacled Bear in the Andes
  • Birding along the Guacamayos Ridge, searching for Peruvian Antpitta, while based at the famous San Isidro lodge
  • A visit to the extremely birdy Wild Sumaco Lodge, where more than 500 species have been recorded!
  • The rare, near-endemic Cocha Antshrike is almost guaranteed during our stay in Sani Lodge, as is the restricted-range Orange-crested Manakin
  • Recording up to 250 bird species in just one location while at Sani!
  • Enjoying the spectacle of a parrot clay-lick, a real highlight!
  • A visit to the river islands along the Napo river with their many specialities
  • Spending time at the incredible canopy tower at the comfortable Sani lodge. Watching the sun rise over the forest is an unforgettable experience


  • Day 1: Evening tour start in Quito airport area.
  • Day 2: Drive via Yanacocha to Bellavista on West Slope of Andes.
  • Day 3: Bellavista area, then descend to Mindo.
  • Days 4-6: Mindo area, including Angel Paz antpittas and Mashpi.
  • Day 7: West Slope, then drive to Quito area.
  • Day 8: Antisana National Park, then drive to Guango Lodge on East Slope.
  • Day 9: Papallacta pass and Guango.
  • Day 10: Drive to San Isidro Lodge near Cosanga.
  • Days 11-12: San Isidro and Cordillera de Guacamayos.
  • Day 13: San Isidro, then descend East Slope to Wild Sumaco.
  • Days 14-16: Wild Sumaco.
  • Day 17: Return to Quito for early afternoon tour end.
  • Day 1: Drive to Coca and take boat down Napo River to Sani Lodge.
  • Days 2-5: Sani and surroundings.
  • Day 6: Return to Coca and take flight to Quito for early afternoon tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include this flight: Coca-Quito.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2023: provisional £4700, $6450, €5540, AUD8830. Quito/Quito.
Sani Lodge (Amazonia) Extension: £1810, $2490, €2140, AUD3410. Wild Sumaco/Quito.

Single Supplement: 2023: £470, $650, €550, AUD890.
Sani Lodge (Amazonia) Extension: £180, $250, €210, AUD340.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.


Classic Ecuador: Day 1  Our Classic Ecuador birding tour begins this evening in the Quito airport area, where we will stay overnight. (An airport transfer will be provided.)

Classic Ecuador: Day 2  Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, sits at the foot of Pichincha (15,424ft or 4701m), one of four huge volcanoes that dominate the surrounding area. On clear days the towering snow-capped peaks of Cayambe (19,017ft or 5796m), Cotopaxi (19,345ft or 5896m) and Antisana (18,715ft or 5704m) can be seen in the distance. While the city-facing slopes of Pichincha have long since been brought under cultivation, the western side of the mountain is clothed in largely uninterrupted and magnificent cloudforest from the treeline down to upper tropical elevations.

Travelling via a maze of little country roads, we shall set out early and drive to the Yanacocha area, an area of extraordinarily beautiful upper temperate forest that seems light years away from the bustling city.

Here at the Yanacocha Reserve the various feeders attract a bewildering variety of hummingbirds, and we are likely to see the restricted-range Golden-breasted Puffleg as well as Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Great Sapphirewing, the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Tyrian Metaltail and the beautiful Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, whilst sneaky Glossy, Black and Masked Flowerpiercers, their sharp bills crossed at the tip like tiny secateurs, steal away the sweet liquid by nipping at the bases of some nearby flowers. This is also one of the best places in the country to see the exquisite Black-chested Mountain Tanager.

[The endemic Black-breasted Puffleg was once fairly regular in the area, but tragically a loss of habitat has rendered it close to extinction and records are nowadays extremely infrequent.]

Another important target today is Chestnut-naped Antpitta, although it is more likely to be heard than seen. If we are reasonably fortunate we will also see the delightful Equatorial Antpitta (a member of the ‘Rufous Antpitta’ complex) and if really in luck the much larger Undulated Antpitta. The little Tawny Antpitta, mercifully, is one of the minority of ‘easy-to-see’ antpittas.

Among the other birds, we may well find in this invigorating habitat are Broad-winged Hawk (seasonally present), Andean Guan, Andean Pygmy Owl, the restricted-range Blackish Tapaculo, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Brown-belied Swallow, Rufous Wren, Great Thrush, Spectacled Whitestart, Blue-backed Conebill, the lovely Golden-crowned Tanager, the handsome Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Yellow-breasted and Grey-browed Brushfinches. Band-winged Nightjar, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Bar-bellied Woodpecker and Barred Fruiteater are also possible.

Later we shall continue to descend the West Slope of the Andes to Bellavista Eco Lodge in the Tandayapa area for an overnight stay. We will stop along the way to look for the lovely Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant and no doubt find many other higher altitude species typical of the Tandayapa area.

Bellavista is a surprisingly good place for mammal-watching with Kinkajous and its recently-described relative the Olinguito visiting most nights. There is also a good chance of Tayra, a giant mustelid. Red-tailed Squirrels are common in the forest.

Classic Colombia: Day 3  In the lush subtropical forests around Bellavista we shall enjoy a lovely dawn chorus amidst splendid mountain scenery. Here the beautiful antiphonal song of the shy Russet-crowned Warbler fills the crisp morning air, near-endemic Turquoise Jays add a touch of blue to the green wilderness and gaudy Toucan Barbets (one of a 2-member bird family and endemic to the Choco foothills) utter their haunting duets. Montane Woodcreepers search the moss and bromeliad-encrusted branches whilst White-collared and Chestnut-collared Swifts fly at tremendous speeds overhead.

As the sunlight penetrates the canopy it may illuminate the splendid plumage of a Plate-billed Mountain Toucan (a Chocó endemic that is almost restricted to Ecuador), whilst a Golden-headed Quetzal may dazzle us with its fantastic attire. As the mist rolls in, swirling flocks of dazzling Fawn-breasted, Golden, Flame-faced, Golden-naped, Metallic-green, Beryl-spangled, Black-capped, Blue-and-black, Blue-capped and White-winged Tanagers may be seen feeding on the fruits of the silvery-leaved Cecropia trees.

The many hummingbird feeders at our lodge provide an extraordinary spectacle as Chocó-endemic Western Emeralds, Empress Brilliants, Brown Incas, Velvet-purple Coronets, Purple-bibbed Whitetips, Violet-tailed Sylphs and Purple-throated Woodstars and near-endemic Gorgeted Sunangels join together with Tawny-bellied Hermits, White-necked Jacobins, Brown, Lesser and Sparkling Violetears, Andean Emeralds, Rufous-tailed and Speckled Hummingbirds, Fawn-breasted and Green-crowned Brilliants, Buff-tailed Coronets and White-booted Racket-tails to indulge themselves on the artificial nectar. What a fantastic collection of awesome little birds, and they are so tame you can get right up close if you want to!

Other species we are likely to find in the area around Bellavista, or a bit lower down towards Mindo, include the endemic Western Hemispingus (a fairly uncommon bird), the near-endemic White-winged Brushfinch, the Chocó-endemic Narino Tapaculo, Choco Brushfinch and Dusky Bush Tanager and such restricted-range specialities as Red-faced Spinetail, Dusky-faced Tanager and Spillman’s Tapaculo (the latter sometimes hops about on the lodge passageways!).

More widespread species we may well encounter include the strange Geoffroy’s Daggerbill (or Geoffroy’s Wedgebill), Band-tailed Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Turkey and Black Vultures, Roadside Hawk, Red-billed and White-capped Parrots, Masked Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Striped Treehunter, Spotted Barbtail, Sierran Elaenia, Streak-necked, Ornate, Cinnamon and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Smoke-colored Pewee, Tropical Kingbird, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Barred Becard, Brown-capped and Chivi Vireos, Blue-and-white Swallow, Andean Solitaire (a bird with a haunting song), Orange-bellied Euphonia, Three-striped Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, the lovely Grass-green Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager and Capped Conebill.

With luck, we will come across two more Choco endemics: the aptly-naped Beautiful Jay and the secretive Tanager Finch. The lovely Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia also occurs in the area but is scarce and shows seasonal movements. If we are really in luck we will encounter White-faced Nunbird, a rare, restricted-range and unusually attractive species.

After spending much of the day at higher altitudes, we will descend the West Slope to Mindo in the foothills for a four nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration of the Mindo area.

Classic Colombia: Days 4-6  Our lodge has some good forest on the property and here we will concentrate on such specialities as the Chocó-endemic Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl, the near-endemic Ecuadorian Thrush and the near-endemic Ecuadorian Seedeater. With a bit of luck, we will also find a Rufescent Screech Owl.

Even the surroundings of Mindo town are of interest, offering chances for the near-endemic Coopmans’s Elaenia (named in honour of our late and much-missed leader, Paul Coopmans, who first discovered this cryptic species), as well as Sunbittern, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Pacific Antwren and sometimes the pretty, restricted-range Scarlet-backed Woodpecker.

During our time in the Mindo region, we will be sure to spend a significant amount of time in the remaining upper foothill forests along the Mashpi Road. A wide range of exciting birds is possible in this fine area.

Regularly observed species endemic to the Chocó region of western Ecuador and Colombia, or species which have only a slightly wider distribution include Pallid Dove, the lovely Rose-faced Parrot, Green Thorntail, Choco Trogon, Barred Puffbird, Choco Toucan, Esmeraldas and Zeledon’s Antbirds, Uniform Treehunter, Choco Tyrannulet, Club-winged Manakin, the lovely Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Choco Warbler, Rufous-throated Tanager, the superb Glistening-green Tanager, the odd-shaped Moss-backed Tanager, Ochre-breasted Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer and Black-winged Saltator. If we are in luck we will also encounter one or more of the more difficult Choco specialities, which include the scarce Choco Vireo, the superb Black Solitaire and Scarlet-and-white Tanager.

Other birds of the area include the near-endemic Pale-mandibled Aracari and Pacific Hornero and also the restricted-range Rufous-winged Tyrannulet as well as the more widespread Swallow-tailed Kite, Crested Guan, Ruddy Pigeon, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Squirrel and Striped Cuckoos, Smooth-billed Ani, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Red-headed Barbet, Yellow-throated Toucan, Black-cheeked and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Plain-brown and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, Pacific Hornero, Buff-throated, Scaly-throated and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Slaty Spinetail, Uniform Antshrike, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, Western Wood Pewee (seasonally present), Masked Tityra, Cinnamon, Black-and-white and One-colored Becards, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, White-thighed and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Tropical Parula, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated and Ashy-throated Bush Tanagers, Swallow Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper, the beautiful Yellow-collared Honeycreeper, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Buff-throated Saltator, Variable and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, and Shiny Cowbird.

Hummingbird feeders at the Amagusa Reserve attract the Chocó-endemic White-whiskered Hermit and the restricted-range Violet-bellied Hummingbird, as well as Crowned Woodnymph and many other sugar-driven little creatures.

There are many excellent birding places around Mindo and certainly one of the major highlights is a visit to Angel Paz’s property. In recent years, Giant, Moustached, Yellow-breasted, Chestnut-crowned and Ochre-breasted Antpittas have been habituated to eat provided earthworms by the deservedly famous local farmer and his brother. We will have a good chance of seeing four or even all five of these normally very elusive birds, the first two of which are very restricted-range and the third a Choco endemic! Recently, even Rufous-breasted Antthrush, the near-endemic Dark-backed Wood Quail and the stunning little Ocellated Tapaculo (a fairly restricted-range speciality) have been ‘tamed’ by the ‘antpitta team’. We will also visit a lek of the superb Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks, where the glowing males perform their courtship rituals whilst emitting their most unusual, squealing, rather pig-like calls. All in all a truly fantastic morning!

On one of our days in the Mindo region, we will visit an Oilbird roosting site. Unlike most sites, this one requires only a very short walk and we will enjoy truly spectacular, close-up views of the roosting Oilbirds, enjoying their rather alien, other-worldly appearance and strange calls. This is definitely one of the big highlights of the Mindo area.

[If we do especially well for the key specialities and so have enough time, we will also visit a relict area of forest in the Los Bancos area where a few Long-wattled Umbrellabirds survive. This is of course a spectacular species restricted to the Chocó region, but the viewing conditions here are absolutely nothing like the amazing close views of displaying birds we have on the Birdquest Southern Ecuador tours. If we are lucky, one or two of the birds will come nearer, but often you need a good telescope to get a reasonable view.]

[For some years a Rufous-crowned Antpitta, a species now known to be a giant gnateater rather than a true antpitta, became habituated in a private reserve in the Mashpi area. Sadly it has vanished, but if a new individual is found we will certainly want to fit this Chocó endemic into our schedule.]

Other species we may well see in the Mindo area include the Chocó-endemic Yellow-collared Chlorophonia and the restricted-range Olivaceous Piha and Lemon-rumped Tanager as well as the more widespread Hook-billed Kite, Barred Hawk, Plumbeous and Pale-vented Pigeon, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Grey-rumped Swift, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-olive and Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Azara’s Spinetail, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streaked Treehunter, Slaty Antwren, Streak-headed Antbird, Sierran and Yellow-bellied Elaenias, Sooty-headed, White-tailed and Southern Beardless Tyrannulets, Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Flavescent, Bran-colored, Social, Rusty-margined, Golden-crowned and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Scaled Fruiteater, Swainson’s Thrush (seasonally present), Bay, House and Mountain Wrens, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Black-crested Warbler, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Blue-grey, Palm and White-shouldered Tanagers, Blue-black and Yellow-faced Grassquits, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch and White-sided Flowerpiercer.

We should also see a few of the more uncommon species, which include Plain-breasted Hawk, Rufous-fronted Wood Quail, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, White-tipped Sicklebill, Crested Quetzal, Powerful Woodpecker, Greenish Elaenia, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Golden-winged and White-bearded Manakins and Pale-eyed Thrush.

Classic Ecuador: Day 7  After spending much of the day birding on the West Slope of the Andes, we will return to the Quito area for an overnight stay. We will stop en route at a good area for the very patchily-distributed White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant.

Classic Ecuador: Day 8  This morning we will visit the magnificent Antisana National Park, which encompasses one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. Around the mountain an extensive national park has been created, mainly consisting of dry paramo grassland and stony hillsides.

On our way to the park, we will drive through some pine plantations where llamas can be seen quietly grazing on the understorey. Eared Doves are common along our route and flowering trees and shrubs attract Black-tailed Trainbearers. Other roadside birds include American Kestrel, Hooded Siskin, Cinereous Conebill, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Blue-and-yellow Tanager and Golden Grosbeak.

We will make a stop or two to scan the hillsides for Spectacled Bear, a species that is increasing again following a reduction in human persecution.

A beautiful lake at the foot of the volcano is the haunt of Andean and Blue-winged Teals, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Lesser Yellowlegs (seasonally present) and Andean Gull. The surrounding plains, slopes and shrubbery hold the near-endemic Carunculated Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Black-winged Ground Dove, Streak-backed Canastero, Paramo Ground Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, and Plumbeous Sierra Finch. We may also find the attractive Black-faced Ibis.

Climbing further up towards the snowline we shall look for Streak-backed Canastero in the low shrubbery and check the orange Chuquiragua-flowers for the endemic Ecuadorian Hillstar.

Afterwards, we will head for Guango Lodge for a two nights stay. We will have time for some initial exploration of the Papallacta Pass en route.

Classic Ecuador: Day 9  Today we will explore the high Papallacta pass at around 13,100ft (4000m), first used in the 16th century when Francisco de Orellana led his expedition from Quito down into Amazonia. Nowadays the pass provides the only direct road access from the country’s capital to the vast eastern lowlands.

At the top of the pass, there is a small pond surrounded by damp paramo characterized by the huge flowering stalks of the Puya, a terrestrial bromeliad. Here, we will look for Noble Snipe amidst the boggy ground and, if we are fortunate, a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle will be sailing by the jagged rock-faces. In the shrubbery, we can look for Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, Vermilion Flycatcher, Red-crested Cotinga, Grass Wren, Black Flowerpiercer, Plain-colored Seedeater and Plumbeous Sierra Finch. The uncommon Blue-backed Thornbill may also be encountered. By scanning the wires and bush tops there is a fair chance of finding the handsome Red-rumped Bush Tyrant in this inhospitable place.

Nearby are a few patches of stunted Polylepis woodland where we may well find the nuthatch-like Giant Conebill. Overhead we may see Variable Hawk, while Brown-bellied Swallows often hawk for insects over the area. Stout-billed and Chestnut-winged Cinclodes hop over the rocky terrain and near the upper limit of vegetation we will search for the large but cryptic Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. If we are really lucky we will also find Jameson’s (or Andean) Snipe. If the weather is clear we will be able to see the huge, ice-clad peak of Antisana and its associated glacier.

Lower down, the scrub and elfin forest hold Shining Sunbeam, Viridian Metaltail, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet (uncommon), White-throated Tyrannulet, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Pale-naped Brushfinch and Black-backed Bush Tanager. With luck, we will encounter the superb Masked Mountain Tanager.

The Guango Lodge hummingbird feeders will provide another ‘hummerfest’ and amongst the characteristic wing sounds and quarrels over the nutritious sugar-water we shall pick out Mountain Velvetbreast, the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail and the diminutive White-bellied Woodstar. If we are seriously in luck we will come across the rare Mountain Avocetbill, most likely at some flowering shrubs or trees rather than at the feeders.

In addition, we should encounter White-banded Tyrannulet, Northern Mountain Cacique, Glossy Flowerpiercer and the gorgeous Scarlet-bellied and Hooded Mountain Tanagers. Another good bird at Guango is Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, although it is not always easy to find.

Classic Ecuador: Day 10  This morning we will continue our exploration of the Papallacta or Guango areas.

Afterwards, we will descend the eastern slope of the Andes to the well-known San Isidro Lodge near Cosanga for a three nights stay. We will probably make a few birding stops en route.

Classic Ecuador: Days 11-12  Set in a beautiful mountain valley with forested ridges stretching away in all directions, San Isidro is an excellent base from which to explore the upper subtropical forest of the eastern slope of the Andes.

Here, the morning air is filled with the three-note whistle of the secretive White-bellied Antpitta. Recently the local guides have habituated both this species and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta to come for earthworm ‘handouts’, so we have a good chance of seeing one or both species at close range!

Hummingbird feeders attract Bronzy Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Long-tailed Sylph, while a quiet dirt road that heads up the valley above the lodge provides excellent roadside birding. Here we will check fruiting trees for the gaudy Black-billed Mountain-Toucan and dense stands of Chusquea bamboo for such characteristic birds as the secretive Striped Treehunter, the retiring Ash-colored Tapaculo, the endearing Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher and the vociferous Plain-tailed Wren.

At night a pair of ‘San Isidro Owls’ can often be found in the vicinity of the lodge. Looking intermediate between Black-and-white and Black-banded Owls but living at higher elevations, this form was initially described as a new species but is currently thought to be an undescribed form of Black-banded Owl.

The steep slopes of the Cordillera de Guacamayos nearby are clothed in some of the country’s finest cloud forests. Trees covered in aerial gardens of bromeliads, mosses and orchids form a green carpet on even the steepest slopes, and here we hope to find such special birds as the superb Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Black-chested Fruiteater, the splendid Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, the delightful Handsome Flycatcher, Dusky and Olivaceous Pihas and Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager.

Other mid-elevation birds inhabiting this misty environment include Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Blackish Antbird, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Barred Becard, Inca Jay, Sepia-brown Wren, Pale-eyed Thrush, Black-billed Peppershrike, Golden-collared Honeycreeper and Saffron-crowned Tanager.

After dusk, we will look for the attractive White-throated Screech Owl, the splendid Rufous-banded Owl, the uncommon Andean Potoo and the awesome Swallow-tailed Nightjar.

Feeders elsewhere in the area attract Green-backed Hillstar, Greenish Puffleg and the tiny Gorgeted Woodstar.

We will also find some of the less frequently observed special birds of the area, which include the shy Wattled Guan, White-chested Swift, Bicolored Antvireo, the skulking Slate-crowned Antpitta, the shy Barred Antthrush, the noisy Ocellated Tapaculo, Flammulated Treehunter, Greater Scythebill, Variegated Bristle Tyrant and the gregarious, noisy and rather jay-like White-capped Tanager

Other typical birds of San Isidro and the nearby crest of the Cordillera de Guacamayos, where we will walk a trail that follows the ridge through moss-draped cloudforest, include White-capped Parrot, Scaly-naped Amazon, White-throated Toucanet, Rufous Spinetail, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Rufous-breasted and Pale-edged Flycatchers, Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Rufous Wren, Glossy-black and Chestnut-bellied Thrushes, Capped Conebill, Grass-green Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Common Bush Tanager, Bluish Flowerpiercer and Subtropical Cacique.

Classic Ecuador: Day 13  After some final birding in the San Isidro area we shall cross the Cordillera de Guacamayos and then descent the East Slope of the Andes to the truly wonderful Wild Sumaco Lodge for a four nights stay.

The journey is a fascinating experience as we gradually wind our way down the eastern slope, enjoying breathtaking views of forest-clad hillsides and plume-like waterfalls plunging up to 330ft (100m) or more, and passing through some small Andean villages. Dense thickets of bamboo fill the gaps created by those trees that have succumbed to time and perhaps the sheer weight of their epiphytic guests.

En route we shall check rushing mountain streams for the amazing Torrent Duck, marvelling at its ability to swim against the strongest of currents. Here we may also find the delightful Torrent Tyrannulet hawking for aquatic insects and watch a White-capped Dipper bobbing on top of a boulder.

We will also stop at an area of cliffs where the rare and very thinly-distributed Orange-breasted Falcon can sometimes be seen. The chances of a sighting are not high (we will need the falcon to be perched on a distant snag or circling over the crags), but for this rarely-seen species every chance of a sighting must be taken advantage of!

Classic Ecuador: Days 14-16  Wild Sumaco Lodge is a comfortable, spacious lodge designed for nature enthusiasts and is perched on a high ridge with a fine view across almost unbroken forest to the Andes beyond.

At Wild Sumaco we shall have a superb opportunity to sample the rich bird communities inhabiting the lush forests of the upper tropical zone. Here, sparkling streams tumble through verdant forests, and flowering trees and bushes festooned with orchids line the road where it crosses the lower slopes of Volcan Sumaco. On clear days the conical peak of Volcan Sumaco (roughly 2800m or 9100ft) dominates the area.

Many trails provide access to excellent upper tropical foothill forest, a habitat that is fast disappearing throughout the length of the eastern slope of the Andes. Although more and more settlers are moving into the area, there are still huge swathes of forest remaining and a mixture of primary forest and secondary growth hosts a wide assortment of interesting birds.

A fine selection of restricted-range species such as Napo Sabrewing, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Blue-rumped Manakin and Olivaceous Greenlet only occur at these elevations and we should manage to see them all during our visit to this bird-rich area.

Wild Sumaco’s superb trail system provides access to the interior of magnificent upper tropical forest, and along these trails or at the forest edge we will hope to find such additional special birds as Black-throated Brilliant, the relatively recently-described Foothill Antwren and Foothill Elaenia, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher, Golden-winged and Green Manakins, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Grey-tailed Piha, Bronze-green Euphonia, Orange-eared, Golden-eared and Spotted Tanagers, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer and Olive Finch.

At a feeding station, we have a good chance to get superb views of Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpittas as well as Northern White-crowned Tapaculo.

Harder to come by specialities at Wild Sumaco, some of which we will see, include the superb Military Macaw, White-chested Puffbird, Dusky Leaftosser, White-streaked Antvireo, Plain-winged Antwren, White-fronted Tyrannulet, the unobtrusive Yellow-throated Spadebill, Orange-crested Flycatcher, Striolated and Green Manakins, Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater and Blue-browed Tanager.

The rare Black Tinamou, another foothill speciality, occurs here and we should hear its haunting whistles while we are out nearly or late on the trails. The chances of seeing this shy bird are slim, although we have seen this rarity at Wild Sumaco.

Another South American ‘grailbird’ at Wild Sumaco is the elusive Andean Laniisoma. This species is recorded a few times a year in the area, so although one of the trails is named after it, the chances of seeing one during a single visit are pretty slim! This is, however, almost certainly the best place in the species’ entire range to hope for a sighting.

The hummingbird feeders at Wild Sumaco are often very lively and as well as Napo Sabrewing and Rufous-vented Whitetip, commonly occurring visitors include Grey-chinned Hermit, Wire-crested Thorntail, Gould’s Jewelfront, Peruvian Racket-tail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Golden-tailed Sapphire and Many-spotted Hummingbird. Violet-headed Hummingbirds and Blue-fronted Lancebills visit adjacent flowers and occasionally the feeders.

Other species we may well find at these elevations include Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Black-streaked Puffbird, Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Rufous-breasted and Lafresnaye’s Piculets, Little, Golden-olive, Smoky-brown and Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers, Ash-browed and Dusky Spinetails, Black-billed Treehunter, Olivaceous and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Lined Antshrike, Stripe-chested, Rufous-winged and Yellow-breasted Antwrens, Black-faced, Black and Blackish Antbirds, White-backed Fire-eye, the pretty little Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Plumbeous-crowned, Golden-faced and Red-billed Tyrannulets, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Slaty-capped, Cliff, Short-crested, Piratic and Lemon-browed Flycatchers, Common and Golden-winged Tody-Flycatchers, Olive-faced Flatbill, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-winged Becard, Masked Tityra, Thrush-like, Coraya and Wing-banded Wrens, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Silver-beaked, Magpie and Paradise Tanagers, Greyish Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Chestnut-bellied and Black-and-white Seedeaters, Russet-backed and Crested Oropendolas and Olivaceous Siskin. During the boreal autumn and winter, Cerulean, Blackburnian and Canada Warblers and Summer Tanager are also to be found. Sunbittern can sometimes be located along nearby rivers.

Mammals are mostly inconspicuous but we should see the tiny and rather demonic-looking Black Mantle Tamarin as well as Red-tailed Squirrel and perhaps Amazon Dwarf Squirrel.

Classic Ecuador: Day 17  A

Today we will leave this remarkable area and return to Quito airport where our tour ends in the early afternoon.

(If your flight does not depart from Quito this evening, we will be pleased to arrange an overnight hotel stay and transfers on request.)



Amazonian Ecuador: Day 1  After some early morning birding, we will leave Wild Sumaco behind and drive further east to the town of Coca, situated on the broad Napo River. From here a large motorized canoe will be waiting to take us downstream to wonderful Sani Lodge for a five nights stay.

The Napo River is already very wide in the Coca region and has many islands dominated by Cecropia trees. These are the home of the spectacular Amazonian Umbrellabird, which we have a good chance of seeing along the river or while exploring the area around Sani.

Upon arrival at Sani, which is a comfortable ‘jungle lodge’ situated on the shores of an oxbow lake, we shall have our first taste of the area in the clearing around the lodge. Noisy Yellow-rumped Caciques engage in endless displays at their nesting colony, whilst quarrelsome Black-billed Thrushes draw attention to themselves from the bushes and flocks of Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaws pass overhead. As dusk approaches Pauraques and Ferruginous Pygmy Owls start calling. We will find it hard to go to sleep this evening, excited as we will be by the prospect of dawn and a real chance to explore this wonderful place.

Amazonian Ecuador: Days 2-5  Sani is one of the very best of the best Napo River lodges for birding in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, with many special birds. Both Sani Lodge and the 42000-hectare (nearly 104,000-acre) reserve that surrounds Sani are owned by the Sani Isla Kichwa indigenous community, so by visiting you are directly benefitting the local community.

The Sani reserve links the Cuyabeno Reserve to the north and the vast Yasuní National Park to the south of the Napo River. The Yasuní National Park, created in 1979, is situated in the eastern and central part of the Ecuadorian Amazon region, between the Napo and Curaray rivers. This conservation unit, the biggest in continental Ecuador, encompasses an area of about 980,000 hectares (over 2.4 million acres)!

Some very restricted-range species are to be found here, including the near-endemic Cocha Antshrike, a species that was only described relatively recently and which is virtually restricted to the vicinity of the Napo River. Fortunately, it is easy to locate and we are almost certain to encounter it at the margins of an oxbow lake.

Other major restricted-range specialities include the lovely White-chinned Jacamar, the near-endemic Brown Nunlet, the impressive Fulvous Antshrike, the shy White-lored Antpitta and the localized Orange-crested (or Orange-crowned) Manakin (the latter likes the varzea forest on the south side of the Napo). We will certainly be prioritising these special birds that are hard or impossible to see in other regions of Amazonia, although not all are easy to find.

Sani is one of the richest locations for birding in Amazonia, and, of course, that means extraordinarily rich! Over 550 bird species have been recorded from this birders’ paradise! Naturally, this gigantic list includes a large number of species that are wanderers or rare residents or visitors, so very unlikely to be seen during a single visit to the area. Nevertheless, we can expect to encounter between 230-250 species during our stay, which is a truly remarkable total for a visit to a single location! Equally extraordinary is the fact that the vast majority of these species will be new for the tour, as there is so little overlap between the avifauna of the Andes and the plains of Amazonia!

Needless to say, in order to do Sani justice and see a large number of species, including numerous special birds, you need time to accumulate them and not just effort.

As dawn breaks, the clearing around the lodge echoes to a strange but delightful chorus as Straight-billed Woodcreepers deliver their rising rattles and tremulous whistles emanating from the forest interior reveal the presence of Great, Cinereous and Undulated Tinamous.

A canoe trip on the oxbow lake will allow us to get close to strange-looking Hoatzins which clamber away in ungainly fashion through the lakeside vegetation to escape the attention of the photographers. Rufous-breasted Hermits often zip between the Heliconia flowers whilst Silvered Antbirds teeter along the water’s edge.

All South America’s kingfishers occur at this one lake or on the nearby Napo River: Ringed, Amazon, Green and the secretive Green-and-rufous are not difficult to find, but it usually takes low water levels if we are to encounter the diminutive American Pygmy.

Lakeside vine tangles provide shelter for the resplendent White-chinned Jacamar, handsome Dot-backed and Plumbeous Antbirds, and the plaintive Cinnamon Attila, whilst high in a clump of Mauritia palms we may see the noisy Sulphury Flycatcher and the attractive Point-tailed Palmcreeper. We will also be on the lookout for Azure Gallinule, Striped Woodcreeper and Yellow-crowned Elaenia.

In particular, we shall be on the lookout for the superb little Zigzag Heron, one of the most sought-after wetland birds of the Neotropics, and here at Sani we have a very high chance of coming across this secretive swamp-dweller.

Whilst birding is easier in the lodge clearing, around the oxbow lake or along the river, we shall have to devote much of our time to the excellent network of trails that penetrates deep into the forest. Here quietness and patience will reward us with an array of birds found only in the forest interior such as the sluggish Purplish Jacamar, the unobtrusive Black-tailed Leaftosser, the gaudy Wire-tailed Manakin, the retiring (and uncommon) Chestnut-belted Gnateater and the secretive Rusty-belted Tapaculo. We will surely enjoy a lek of the deafening Screaming Piha, the bird with the most evocative call in Amazonia.

Noisy flocks make their rounds through the canopy and fortunately here at Sani there is a superb canopy tower, over 30m tall, providing unequalled opportunities for viewing the birdlife of the treetops at eye-level. As the birds one sees from such towers differ from day to day, it will surely offer us some superb treats during the course of our visit. In addition to enabling us to marvel at the sheer size of the forest giants, a few hours in the ‘roof of the forest’ may well reward us with quite a few species that are otherwise much harder to see well from thirty or forty metres lower down.

Likely candidates include Double-toothed Kite, Slate-colored Hawk, the magnificent Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws, White-necked Puffbird, Lemon-throated Barbet, Lettered Aracari, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, White-rumped Sirystes, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Black-capped Becard, Black-tailed Tityra, Thick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias, Yellow-bellied and Green-and-gold Tanagers, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, Blue Dacnis and Crested Oropendola.

If we are lucky we will also see one of the less frequently encountered canopy species such as White-browed Purpletuft or Masked Tanager. Although Harpy and even Crested Eagles are occasionally sighted from the tower, it is best to be realistic. These rare birds are highly unlikely to be observed during a visit to Sani! We can but hope…

Ant-swarms of the famous ‘army ants’ have become less common in recent decades, and in parallel with this decline in ants so there have been declines in those birds that depend on following the swarms, in particular woodcreepers and antbirds. This alarming development is quite likely associated with a general drying out of Amazonia thanks to the impact of deforestation and global warming combined. Nonetheless, ant swarms still occur and we shall certainly be hoping to have one or two encounters during our stay. They offer by far the best chances for seeing birds such as Sooty, White-cheeked, White-plumed, Spot-backed and Common Scale-backed Antbirds, and also the rare Lunulated Antbird, most of which can be hard to find away from the swarms. Black-spotted Bare-eyes regularly follow the swarms and on rare occasions it is possible to find Reddish-winged Bare-eye.

A visit to Sani provides superb opportunities to watch a colourful array of psittacids that come down to eat the salt-rich clay on sunny days. The cacophonous congregations of Southern Mealy and Yellow-crowned Amazons, Orange-cheeked and Blue-headed Parrots, and Dusky-headed and Cobalt-winged Parakeets at the ‘clay-lick’ provides a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed! If we are lucky, the scarce Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet will also put in an appearance.

We shall also explore one or more of the ever-shifting river islands that are strewn throughout the Napo River. For many years Amazonian river islands were seldom visited by naturalists and thus ornithologically overlooked. Only in the last decade or so have their highly distinctive bird communities been given greater attention. We will focus our efforts on obligate island species, which include Olive-spotted Hummingbird, White-bellied Spinetail, Castelnau’s Antshrike and the more uncommon Lesser Hornero, Parker’s Spinetail, River Tyrannulet, Fuscous Flycatcher and Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant. In addition, Black-and-white Antbird is found on rare occasions. We may well encounter other species that favour islands and riversides such as Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Mottle-backed Elaenia and Oriole Blackbird and perhaps Grey-breasted Crake, Orange-headed Tanager and Caqueta Seedeater. Amongst the many washed-up logs, we will hope to spot the cryptic Ladder-tailed Nightjar. Occasionally there are no suitable islands close to Sani (the islands constantly change, influenced by both flooding and vegetative succession), which makes some of these species hard to find!

Nightbirding is productive here, with Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Great and Common Potoos and Tropical and Tawny-bellied Screech Owls all fairly straightforward and there are also good chances for the impressive Crested and Spectacled Owls and reasonable chances for Long-tailed Potoo and Black-banded Owl.

There are so many species recorded at Sani, and so many that are likely even during a 5-day visit, that we can only list the numerous likely additions not mentioned above.

These include Speckled Chachalaca, Pale-vented, Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons, Ruddy Ground and Grey-fronted Doves, Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared, Short-tailed and Grey-rumped Swifts, Neotropical Palm Swift, White-necked Jacobin, White-bearded and Great-billed Hermits, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Pied Lapwing, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Cocoi and Striated Herons, Great, Snowy and Western Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, King, Greater Yellow-headed, Turkey and Black Vultures, Western Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Green-backed and Black-throated Trogons, Amazonian Motmot, Black-fronted and White-fronted Nunbirds, Swallow-winged Puffbird, White-eared Jacamar, Gilded Barbet, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracari, Golden-collared Toucanet, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, Yellow-tufted, Little, Crimson-crested, Lineated, Cream-coloured and Chestnut Woodpeckers, Black and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Bat Falcon, Orange-winged Amazon and Black-headed Parrot.

Commoner passerines in the Sani area include Wedge-billed, Cinnamon, Long-billed, Black-banded, Elegant and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, Plain-winged, Mouse-colored, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes, Plain-throated, White-flanked and Grey Antwrens, Peruvian Warbling, Yellow-browed, Grey and White-shouldered Antbirds, Thrush-like Antpitta, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Grey-crowned and Yellow-breasted Flatbills, Drab Water-Tyrant, Dusky-capped, Boat-billed, Social, Grey-capped and Piratic Flycatchers, Lesser and Greater Kiskadees, Tropical Kingbird, Bright-rumped Attila, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Blue-crowned and Golden-headed Manakins, Plum-throated and Spangled Cotingas, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Dusky-capped Greenlet, Yellow-green Vireo, Violaceous Jay, Black-capped Donacobius, White-winged and White-banded Swallows, Grey-breasted Martin, Thrush-like Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Southern Nightingale-Wren (or Scaly-breasted Wren), Hauxwell’s and Lawrence’s Thrushes, Golden-bellied and Rufous-bellied Euphonias, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Russet-backed Oropendola, Giant Cowbird, Red-capped Cardinal, Flame-crested, Silver-beaked, Masked Crimson, Blue-grey, Palm, Turquoise, Paradise and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Black-faced and Yellow-bellied Dacnises, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater and Greyish Saltator.

Eastern Wood Pewee, Willow Flycatcher and Blackpoll Warbler are also present during the Northern Hemisphere winter, and sometimes Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, Blackburnian Warbler and Scarlet Tanager.

Less common but still reasonably likely species include Variegated and Bartlett’s Tinamous, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Marbled Wood Quail (easier to hear than see, but we will try our best), Ruddy Quail-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Straight-billed Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat, Glittering-throated Emerald, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Sungrebe, Collared Plover, Wattled Jacana,  Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Sunbittern, Neotropic Cormorant, Capped Heron, the goggle-eyed Boat-billed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Slender-billed and Plumbeous Kites, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Crane Hawk, Black-tailed and Amazonian Trogons, Pied and Chestnut-capped Puffbirds, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Brown, Yellow-billed and Great Jacamars, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Ringed, Scaly-breasted and Spot-breasted Woodpecker, the superb, bamboo-loving Rufous-headed Woodpecker, the noisy Red-throated Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Red-billed Parrot and Maroon-tailed Parakeet.

Less common passerines include Plain-brown, Amazonian Barred and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Plain Xenops, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Chestnut-winged and Olive-backed Foliage-gleaners, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Eastern Woodhaunter, the strange Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Fasciated, Great and Spot-winged Antshrikes, Rufous-tailed Stipplethroat, Pygmy, Moustached, Amazonian Streaked and Long-winged Antwrens, Spot-winged Antbird, Black-faced and Striated Antthrushes, Wing-barred Piprites, Forest and Grey Elaenias, Double-banded Pygmy Tyrant, Ochre-bellied, Short-crested and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Blue-backed, Striolated (or Western Striped) and White-crowned Manakins, White-winged and Pink-throated Becards, Chivi Vireo, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Brown-chested Martin, Long-billed Gnatwren, Coraya Wren, White-necked Thrush, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Red-breasted Blackbird, Olive Oropendola, Epaulet Oriole, Orange-backed Troupial, Shiny Cowbird, Magpie, Grey-headed, Opal-crowned and Swallow Tanagers, and Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch.

There are of course a great number of rarer species recorded from the Sani area and we are sure to come across a number of these, mostly by random chance rather than design. Among the rarities is the near-endemic Salvin’s Curassow, but it is only very rarely observed by visiting birders.

Whilst mammals are generally inconspicuous in Amazonia we have a good chance of seeing Colombian Red Howler Monkey, Red Titi Monkey, Common Squirrel Monkey and both Black-mantled and Golden-mantled Tamarins.

Amazonian Ecuador: Day 6  We shall reluctantly leave this marvellous part of the world behind this morning and return by boat to Coca, from where we will take a midday flight back to Quito. Our tour ends early this afternoon at Quito airport.

(If your flight does not depart from Quito this evening, we will be pleased to arrange an overnight hotel stay and transfers on request.)


by Dani López-Velasco


View Report


by Dani López-Velasco

View Report


by János Oláh

View Report


by János Oláh

View Report

Other 'blockbuster' birding tours by Birdquest in northern South America include: