Ecuador 16 Days Birding Tour - Choco Endemics & The Andes Eastern Foothills

Ecuador Birding Tour - Choco Endemics & The Andes Eastern Foothills

‘Ecuador’s Choco Endemics & The Andes Eastern Foothills’  Itinerary 


Day 1: Arrive Quito | Welcome to Ecuador

Today you arrive in Quito. Your driver will meet you at the airport and you’ll transfer about 30 minutes to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax and acclimate to the elevation and get your first look at the enchanting Ecuadorian forest. Your first night in Ecuador is at a 100+ year old Hacienda; a cozy, comfortable location, removed from the hustle and bustle of Quito.

Hacienda Jimenita / Meals: None

Ecuador’s Northwest - Choco Endemics Birding Tour - Day 1

Day 2: Jimeneta Reserve | Private Reserve

Today you’ll explore the reserve with your private birding guide looking for the different hummingbirds that live here. La Jimenita is located in a valley that creates the perfect weather for hosting over 90 different species of birds and 10 different species of hummingbirds including the Giant Hummingbird.

Some of the rare species include the White-winged Brush Finch, Western Emerald, Shiny Cowbird and many others. The reserve has 23 private acres of trails and an Archeological Pre-Inca Tunnel dated from the 1400 ́s. From the trails you can also observe up to 10 Volcanoes including Cotopaxi – the highest active volcano in the world.

Target Species: Golden Rumped Euphonia, Blue and White Swallow, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Blue and Yellow Tanagers, Rufous Collared Sparrow, Sparkling Violetear, American Kestrel, Black Flowerpiercer, Black Tailed Trainbearer, Giant Hummingbird, Rufous Naped Brush Finch, Scarlet bellied tanager, White bellied woodstar, Streak throated bush tyrant, Vermilion flycatcher, Western Emerald, Ecuadorian Hillstar (Endemic), Black Breasted Puffleg (Endemic), Green tailed trainbearer, Mountain Velvetbreast, Purple backed thornbill, Sword billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Great Sapphirewing

Hacienda Jimenita/ Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 2

Day 3: Antisana Volcano | Condors View Point & Lake Mica

Antisana ecological reserve is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. It lies in between the mountains and the beginning of the Amazon region and boasts a magnificent snow capped volcano (5,755m) of the same name. After taking in the unique atmosphere of the reserve we will reach the top of Milacoma (4,150m) peak. Although there are only approximately 50 to 75 Andean Condors left in Ecuador, this is one of the best spots in the country to see them. You will know without any doubt when you see one given their enormous wing span of 3 meters.

The Condor is not the only reason to explore Antisana. There are many different habitats along the way and an excellent birding stop at Lake Mica.

Top species for the day: Andean Condor, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Caranculated Cara-Cara, Black-faced Ibis, Andean Lapwing, Andean Teal, Ruddy Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Black flowerpiercer, Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Tawny Antpitta, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Paramo Ground Tyrant, and others

Hacienda Jimenita/ Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 3

Day 4: Machay Waterfalls & River Pita| Beautiful landscape & great birding

This morning you’ll head to one of the most impressive waterfalls and top birding spots in the Andes. It’s a beautiful day in the forest, searching for the top species of the area. Returning to the hotel you’ll drive South-East to one of the best reserves in the Andes in the River Pita Region. It’s an easy-moderate 4-hour hike along River Pita in the Avenue of volcanoes to bird watch and admire the natural landscape. We’ll be searching for 26 top bird species.

Target Birds: Pearled Treerunner, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Spectacled Redstart, White-capped Dipper, Rufous Wren, Blue and Black Tanager, Harris Hawk, Sparkling Violetear, White-capped Tyrannulet, Rufous Spinetail, Blackish Tapaculo and others.

Hacienda Jimenita/ Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 4

Day 5: Yanacocha Reserve & Alambi Hummingbird Reserve | Pichincha Foothills

Be prepared for an exciting day today. You’ll drive to the Yanacocha reserve located in the Pichincha Foothills. We will explore the main trails and impressive mountain scenery of the high montane forest and cloud forest. Top species to look for include: Tawny Antpitta (mostly heard in the valley below), Blackish Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Rufous Wren, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and Rufous-naped Brush-Finch.

Some of the best birding is toward the end of the road where there are a couple sets of hummingbird feeders and some small tracts of forest. Yanacocha is a wonderful place to see high-elevation hummingbirds. Species commonly seen include Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and Tyrian Metaltail. Less commonly seen hummingbirds include Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Golden-breasted Puffleg, and Purple-backed Thornbill. The road ends in a clearing and from there a short uphill walk leads to a small forest patch where it’s possible to see birds such as Barred Fruiteater, Spectacled Whitestart, and Superciliaried Hemispingus.

After completing the trails we will enjoy our lunch with a panoramic view of the Andean Slope and the Cloud Forest. We’ll continue birding in Old Nono Mindo Road and arrive in the afternoon to Alambi Hummingbird Paradise. A spectacular location for hummingbirds. From Alambi we’ll continue to the lodge for check in.

Target Species: Glossy flowerpiercer, Spectacled Redstart, Undulated Antpitta, Palm Tanager, White-lined tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Screech Owl, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Golden-breasted Pu eg, Great Sapphirewing, Azara’s Spinetail, Thick-billed Euphonia, Sword Billed Hummingbird, Crimson Rumped Toucanet, White-necked Jacobin, Black-chested Mountain Tanager and others.

Sachatamia Lodge/ Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 5

Day 6: Angel de Paz & Cock of the Rock | Antpittas & C.O.R Blind

Today you will visit the famous Refugio Paz de Las Aves, a private cloud forest reserve and perhaps the most amazing bird show on earth. Walking along the forest trails, you will be searching for some of the most difficult forest undergrowth skulkers on earth, the Antpittas.

A number of years ago, the entrepreneurial Ecuadorians brothers, Angel & Rodrigo Paz managed to coax a number of mega species into view through the use of daily feeding rituals. One of the stars of the show is undoubtedly the goliath Giant Antpitta, which often approaches to within only a few feet.

Other specialities include Dark-backed Wood Quail, Ochre-breasted and Yellow-breasted Antpittas, Rufous-breasted Antthrush and Nariño Tapaculo as well as the more widespread species such as Sickle Winged Guan and Golden-winged Manakin.

You will also visit a lek with a regularly attending population of Andean Cock-of-the-rock, one of the gaudiest of all South American birds.

Along the way, you may find a fruiting tree attended by Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Scaled Fruiteater, the elusive Olivaceous Piha and the stunning Toucan Barbet.

Lyre-tailed Nightjars are regularly found on their day roost here and rarities have included White-faced Nunbird, Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl, Ecuadorian Seedeater and Black-and-chestnut Eagle.

You’ll break for lunch and then continue on to a visit to the San Tadeo Tanager Feeders. San Tadeo is a fantastic location to observe a wide array of Tanager species and other Choco-endemics.

You’ll be on the lookout for: White-lined Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Palm Tanager, Flame Rumped Tanager, Golden Tanager, Flame-Faced Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, along with Barbets, Hummingbirds, Saltators, and more.

Sachatamia Lodge | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 6

Day 7: Rio Silanche & Suamox | Choco Endemics and Observation Tower

Come experience this exceptional 100 hectare Chocó-lowland Bird Sanctuary and its ample trail system and 15 meter tall canopy observation tower. This important site, one of the last remaining accessible forest remnants found in this key life-zone, is situated in hilly lowland forest at an altitude between 300-350m. The main feature at Río Silanche is its incredible birding. With mixed species in foraging flocks, packed with many important Chocó regional endemic species, the visitors are bombarded all day long with a huge array of bird species.

Top Species: Purple-chested Hummingbird, Chocó Trogon, Double-banded Graytail, Moustached/Griscom’s Antwren, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Blue-whiskered Tanager

You’ll break for lunch and then continue on to the Suamox Feeders.

Rancho Suamox is a private farm in the lowlands where the owner has set up both fruit feeders and hummingbird feeders that attract tanagers, woodpeckers, and a couple of different hummingbird species only found in the lowlands. Golden-olive and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Rufous Motmot, Dusky-faced, Flame-rumped, and Silver-throated Tanagers, Ecuadorian Thrush, Buff-throated Saltator, Thick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias, can all often be seen and photographed at the feeders.

Sachatamia Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 7

Day 8: Umbrella Bird Lek & 23 Junio | Long Wattled Bellbird & Rufous Motmot Lek

After an early breakfast, we will visit the 23 of June Commnity, one of the only places to observe the rare Long-wattled Umbrella Bird. This community has protected the area for the last 30 years and switched towards conservation of the cloud forest. Explore the main trails that this birding reserve o ers. Lunch along the way and continue birding for possible Rufous Motmots in the Lek.

Target Species: Long wattled Umbrella Bird, Choco Toucan, Yellow Throated Toucan, Ornate Flycatcher , Masked Trogon, swallow-tailed Kite, Gray-headed Kite, Roadside-Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Ruddy Pigeon, Bronze-winged Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Golden-headed Quetzal, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Long-tailed Sylph, Pacific Hornero, Buff-fronted Foliage gleaner, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Woodcreeper, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Piratic Flycatcher, One-colored Becard, Masked-water-tirant, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Fasciated Wren, House-Wren, Bay Wren, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Whitestart, Blue-necked-Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Dusky Bush-Tanager, Black-winged Saltator, Shiny Cowbird, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Siskin.

Sachatamia Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 8

Day 9: Milpe & Sachatamia Reserve | Mindo Cloud Forest & Manakin Leks

After an early breakfast, you’ll explore the Sachatamia Reserve, a private, ecological reserve exceeding 120 hectares of cloud-rain forest. In the morning you will visit the different birding trails and feeders around this reserve located in the Protected Forest of Mindo-Nambillo. After lunch at the lodge, we will continue birding in Milpe Birding Sanctuary and Manakin Leks.

Target Species: Golden Collared Honeycreeper, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Choco Vireo, Green Thorntail, Rose-faced Parrot, Spinetails, Chlorophonia, Rufous- Throated Tanager, Broad-billed Motmot, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Lyre-tailed nightjar, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Streak-capped Treehunter and others choco endemic bird species.

Milpe is another key reserve of the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation and is one of the best sites in the world to see the Chocó endemic Club-winged Manakin.

Along the trails, we have good chances of running into large mixed-species flocks that contain Chocó Warbler, Tropical Parula, Slate Throated Whitestart, Chocó Tyrannulet, Tawny Rumped Myiobius, Slaty Antwren, Rufous Rumped Antwren, Spotted and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, Brown-billed Scythebill, Buff Fronted, Ruddy and Scaly-throated Foliage Gleaner, Western Woodhaunter, Cinnamon and One-colored Becards, Silver-throated, Bayheaded, Rufous-throated, White-winged, Whiteshouldered and Ochre-breasted Tanagers, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia and many more! The banana feeders can be a true spectacle (although activity is seasonal), with stunners like Red-headed Barbet, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Chocó Toucan, Black Cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous Motmot, Orange-billed Sparrow, Orange-bellied and Thick-billed Euphonias, Silver-throated, Rufous-throated, Blue-grey, White-lined and Blue-necked Tanagers all feeding at close range!

The hummingbird feeders attract gems like White-necked Jacobin, Crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant, Andean Emerald and the tiny Green Thorntail.

The adjacent Milpe Gardens has a great trail through mature foothill forest where we will continue to look for specialities.

Rare birds that we have encountered here include Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Lanceolated Monklet, Orange-crested Flycatcher, Chocó Trogon, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker and Spotted Nightingale-Thrush.

Sachatamia Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 9

Day 10: Mashpi & Amagusa | Choco endemics & Hummingbirds

This reserve is a privately owned, 130 hectares of recovering forest in the new protected important bird area (IBA) Mashpi-Pachijal. The specific location of this forest within this IBA makes it special because this area is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forests of Ecuador. Its unique location makes it particularly attractive for birders looking for the highest biodiversity regions with choco endemic birds.

The altitude range is 1700 to 750 meters, it begins at the higher altitude pass and continues to the Mashpi Lodge entrance gate. The reserve extends downward to the east of the road toward a river where the forest is best conserved. There are some trails that can be visited but the Mashpi Lodge entrance road is the best source for easy birding.

The reserve includes a small but nice hummingbird garden with a few well visited feeders that attract some of the sought after choco endemic hummingbirds like the Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple
Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, and White-wiskered Hermit.

Some of the local tanagers are also being attracted to feeders, so you will be able to see and photograph more of the choco endemics like Glistening-green Tanager and the Black-chinned Mountain Tanager. They also have other colorful tanagers that visit the feeders like the Golden-naped Tanager, Golden Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, and others.

Last but not least there are other Choco endemics that can be seen in the reserve or along the road: Rose-faced Parrot, Orange-fronted Barbet,Toucan Barbet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Mossbacked Tanager, Choco Vireo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird.

Hacienda Jimenita | Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ecuador Birding Tour Choco Endemics - Day 10

Day 11: Papallacta Pass & Guango Reserve | Polylepis Forest & Paramo

You’ll depart the Quito area this morning and drive to the East Slope and the drier central valley where you will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native chaparral forests before rising up steeply to the high and windswept paramo.

Along the way superb views of the endless high Andean mountains harboring a backdrop of textures that make for an unforgettable birding setting. On the grounds at Guango we frequently run into some of the best temperate forest flocks of anywhere in Ecuador.

After lunch you will continue your journey to San Isidro Reserve.

Target Birds: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, Gray-hooded Bush- Tanager, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-banded Tyrannulet, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Bu -tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Mountain Cacique, Inca Jay and Turquoise Jay.

San Isidro Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 11

Day 12: San Isidro Reserve | Lodge Trails and Forest

Today you’ll start the morning with some birding right around the lodge and main trails before breakfast. After observing some main species you will visit the Antpitta Feeders, where you have a chance to see the White-bellied Antpitta. The rest of the morning you will spend birding in the trails of the reserve. You will also explore the roadside near the lodge for some Toucans and Wattled Guans. After lunch at the lodge, the birding continues on different trails at the reserve around the lodge.

Target Species: Chestnut-naped Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta. Several hummingbird feeders near the lodge dining room regularly attract Tawny-bellied Hermit, Sparkling Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, and a number of other species. Species commonly seen right around the cabins include Masked Trogon, Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Saffron-crowned Tanager. In the very early morning before first light, Rufous-bellied Nighthawks can usually be seen swooping through the parking lot chasing moths attracted to the lights.

Roadsides and trails through the forest of the private reserve offer superb birding opportunities. Two species of special interest commonly seen are Golden-headed Quetzal and Crested Quetzal. Many other birds can be found in the forest. Possibilities include Sickle-winged Guan, Highland Motmot, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Streak-capped Treehunter, Striped Treehunter, Long-tailed Antbird, Barred Antthrush, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Black-chested Fruiteater, and a good variety of tanagers.

San Isidro Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 12

Day 13: Guacamayos Ridge & WildSumaco Road | Cliffs and Inca Walkways

Your birding day begins about 20 minutes from the main road at the Guacamayos Pass.

Early morning is the best time to watch the swifts screaming over the pass. White-collared and Chestnut-collared make up the majority, but there is a good chance for flocks of the little-known and infrequently observed White-chinned, White-chested, and Spot-fronted Swifts as well.

This spot is also an excellent vantage point for the valley below and a good place to observe mixed flocks that might contain such incredible tanagers as the Grass-green, White-capped, and the Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager. A Black-billed Mountain-Toucan can occasionally be found on one of the treetops.

You’ll walk over the cobblestones of this ancient Inca message relay route while looking for Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Dusky Piha, Barred Fruiteater, and Ocellated Tapaculo, among others.

After lunch you’ll head downhill and east along Loreto Road with a couple of quick stops to look for Cliff Flycatcher and White-tailed Hillstar near one of the waterfalls.

Target Birds: Green-and-black Fruiteater, Handsome Flycatcher, Rufous Wren, Turquoise Jay, Grass-green Tanager, a few species of skulking tapaculos (and maybe even an Ocellated), Northern Mountain-Cacique, Greater Scythebill, Dusky Piha and Black-billed Mountain-Toucan.

WildSumaco Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 13

Day 14: WildSumaco Reserve | Upper Amazon Basin

You’ll spend the day exploring the vast Sumaco Reserve, one of the very top birding spots in the Upper Amazon Basin. The reserve is part of a ridge in the Andes’ Eastern Foothills and has panoramic views reaching across the Rio Pucuno Valley and to the Andes beyond.

With a comfortable elevation of about 1200 – 1480m (3900-4900 feet) the forest reserve is a prime location for an extremely wide array of bird species. The habitats will include hummingbird feeders, gardens, and forest trails.

Target Birds: Scaled Pigeon Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Red-headed Barbet, Black-mandibled Toucan, White-throated Toucan, Channel-billed Toucan, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Lineated Woodpecker, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Lined Antshrike, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Black-billed Thrush, Spotted Tanager, Paradise Tanager, and Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, Chestnut Fronted Macaw, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Blue-crowned Trogon, Many-banded Aracari, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Black-faced Antbird, Black-billed treehunter, Bronze-green Euphonia, Tropical Parula, Bay-headed Tanager, Wire-crested Thorntail, Black-throated brilliant, Violet-headed hummingbird, Napo Sabrewing, Streaked Xenops, Magpie Tanager, Spotted Tanager

WildSumaco Lodge | Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 14

Day 15: WildSumaco Reserve (Morning) | Reserve and Return to Quito

You’ll spend the morning at the WildSumaco Reserve looking for any species you may have missed the day before. Enjoy the panoramic views from the main observation deck, and have your binoculars and cameras ready for your last chance for the cloud forest species and foothill specialties that inhabit this wondrous reserve.

You’ll depart after lunch for Quito and your last night in Ecuador.

Target Birds: Amethyst Woodstar, Black-throated Brilliant, Booted Racket-tail, Chestnut Eared Aracari, Blue Dacnis, White-Thighed Swallow, Silver Beaked Tanager, Magpie Tanager, Yellow-browed Sparrow, and The Wire Crested Thorntail.

Hacienda Jimenita/ Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 15

Day 16: Return to the Quito Airport for Your Flight Home or Continue on to Galapagos


Meals: Breakfast


Choco Endemics & Andes Eastern Foothills Birding Tour - Day 16

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