Ecuador 2009
Birding Northern Ecuador

We offer our thoughts, comments and notes on lodgings, bird areas, resources, books and gear. In a sense, these are unfair: evaluating a lodge on one night's stay is pretty dubious. So take all this with a grain of salt. We provide web links where we could find them.

Bird Reserves/Natural Areas


Hotel Sebastian
Located in downtown Quito's Mariscal District, it has a comfortable, Old World ambience, above-average food and very helpful staff. Unfortunately, it is located in quite a noisy part of Quito. Expect to be serenaded by sirens, car alarms and rowdy crowds. Ask for a room on an upper floor.

Tandayapa Lodge
Astonishing numbers of hummingbirds. Simply excellent, and gets our unqualified recommendation. The steep climb up from the parking area to the lodge is absolutely worth the effort.

Hotel Mirador Rio Blanco
A surprisingly nice motel in Los Bancos. Great bird feeders, and the best spot we visited for feeder tanagers. Fine views of the Rio Blanco Valley. The manager/owner is exceptionally helpful.

Guango Lodge
Another terrific birding lodge, it shares ownership with Cabañas San Isidro. Terrific birding, terrific hummingbird feeders and the best soups in a country famous for its soups. Outstanding.

Cabañas San Isidro
Operated by a happy combination of a very long-time Ecuadoran family and a world-class bird guide. A superb facility, nouveau cuisine, fine trails. Another unqualified recommendation.

Sacha Lodge
The gold standard for Amazonian jungle lodges in Ecuador. This is ecotourism done right. Our three day stay was too short, but that's not Sacha Lodge's fault.

Birding Areas

Yanacocha Reserve
Northwest of Quito, it's part of the World Land Trust's Jocotoco Fountation Project. At 11,000 feet, it offers high altitude Polylepis cloud forest. Strongly recommended. But if you are a low lander like us, spend a day or two in Quito getting acclimated before going higher to Yanacocha.

Milpe Bird Sanctuary
A nice sample of the Choço Cloud Forest, created and operated by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. At 3,500 feet, it's a strikingly different habitat.

Rio Silanche Reserve
A very nice sample of the Choço lowland forest. Like Milpe, it was created and is operated by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, it preserves and sample an area at about 1,700 feet.

Antisana Reserve
One of the crown jewels of Ecuador's national park system, the area accessed from southeast Quito is otherworldly, and a fine sample of dry paramos habitat. Good odds of seeing Andean Condors.

Papallacta Pass and Headwaters
Strictly speaking, it's not a reserve. Perhaps it should be. It the most road-accessible wet paramos and hosts a suite of endemics. The altitude and weather pose real challenges, but it's worth the effort.

Guacamayos Trail
Again, strictly speaking, it's not a reserve, but it's a great trail and there are great birds along it. The weather wasn't so good for us, but our experience was apparently not typical.

Other Resources

J. L. Tourismo Ecuador
The drivers are very good, among the best we've ridden with. Under bad to dreadful driving conditions, both our drivers were great. The buses, on the other hand, are a decidedly mixed bag. The starting motor on ours failed twice. The clutch was in bad shape. And the engine hadn't been tuned for higher altitudes. Stay away from the 2005 Mitsubishi Rosa.

Tropical Birding, Inc.
We selected them because they got very good reviews for their work for the American Birding Association. We'll use them again because they are very, very good. All of our connections worked. No exceptions. And if José Illanes is representative of their guides, it would be hard to go wrong.

Bellavista Lodge
A good facility, although perhaps not as good as Tandayapa. Very good trails. The owner is a character.

TAME Airlines
We've flown on them twice, Quito to/from the Galapagos and Quito to/from Coca. Safe, clean, reliable and professional.

Continental Airlines
They lost our luggage. Between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston. And lied about it, repeatedly, blaming another carrier. Sure, they apologized afterwards, and gave us gift vouchers, but we dislike being lied to. And if they put seats any closer together on the flight to/from Quito, I'll have to have my legs amputated to fit in the available space. Continental is the poster child for much of what's wrong with American commercial aviation.


Ridgely and Greenfield, The Birds of Ecuador Field Guide, Cornell University Press (2001)
Indispensable to serious birders. Of course, you need a forklift to carry the two volumes around. Smart birders cut out the color plates, have them laminated and separate bound, and just carry the plates in the field. We must get around to doing that.

B & B Map, Ecuador Road Map, Berndtson & Berndtson (ISBN 3-89707-053-7)
Maps are good. Good maps are helpful. There are no good maps of Ecuador available in the U.S. We didn't have time to look in Ecuador. This is the best we could find.


For those who are curious,the bird photos were taken with an Olympus E-3 using a 300mm f2.8 and a 2.0 teleconverter. I'm a big fan of Olympus and the Four-thirds system.

I use a Manfrotto tripod, but don't really recommend the model.

Don't go into the tropics without rain gear, including rain gear for your camera. I found that Think Tank Photo's Hydrophobia worked perfectly and I like it very much.

Locations (Lat/Lon/Alt) for sites were determined with the Garmin GPSMap 60CSx.

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