Trip report: Southern Ecuador (Jan. 2019) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Jose Illanes. This was a set departure tour.

This was a curious Southern Ecuador tour; in spite of being dogged by bad weather frequently, it still came up with the usual selection of rare and local species all the same, and jointly tallied an exceptional number of more than 700 species recorded, with 59 of these only heard or were guide only (i.e. 640+ seen by the group). This is the highest species total by far that Tropical Birding had ever recorded, was helped on by some unusual sightings like Caqueta Seedeater and White-browed Purpletuft, (both unexpected firsts for this tour); and is highly unlikely to be repeated anytime soon! This tour also included the (Esmeraldas) Woodstar Extension, and a custom add-on, (requested by some of the participants) to go and see the newly described Blue-throated Hillstar, the write up for which is also included here. The tour, as usual, covered a vast variety of habitats, from sweltering humid areas of forest and wetlands on the coastal plain, plus high Andean grasslands (paramos) and cloudforests, and lower forests on both sides of the Andes to aid in amassing this substantial bird list.

Among the highlights mentioned by the group were: Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Lanceolated Monklet, Crescent-faced and Jocotoco Antpittas, Peruvian Thick-knee (above), Esmeraldas Woodstar, Giant Conebill, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Laughing Falcon, Green-and-gold Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Blue-headed Parrot, Ochraceous Attila, Whooping Motmot, and Pale (legged) Pacific Hornero…

However, this tour is so jam-packed with headline birds, I feel the need to highlight plenty of others too that were sprinkled through the tour, and could have easily made it into this selection of “best birds”, like a good selection of owls, with Black-and-white, Band-bellied, and West Peruvian Screech-Owls by night, and Spectacled and Pacific Pygmy-Owls by day.
Additionally, all of the following could rightly be considered decent enough birds to be considered in any list, whether it be for sheer looks or that fact some are specialties, or genuine rarity: Excellent views of both Pale-browed and Gray Tinamous at forest feeding stations, Torrent Duck, Andean Condor (a rarity in the south) El Oro and Golden-plumed Parakeets, the rare Red-faced Parrot, Watkins’s Antpitta, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, Elegant Crescentchest, Velvet-purple Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Violet-throated and Neblina Metaltails, Violet-tailed Sylph, White-vented (Ecuadorian) Plumeleteer, Bluish-fronted and Coppery-chested Jacamars, White-capped Dipper, White-tailed Jay, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Pale-headed and White-headed Brushfinches, Tit-like Dacnis, and as steady stream of stunning tanagers, like Golden-eared, Orange-eared, Paradise, Rufous-throated and Orange-throated Tanagers. Some other totals were staggering on this tour – 71 hummingbirds, 96 species from the tanager family, 17 woodpeckers, 12 toucans, 8 owls seen, 8 antpittas seen, plus 97 species from the flycatcher family recorded, the latter the largest bird family on Earth. There is good reason why most Ecuadorian guides rank this as their favorite Ecuador tour, there is simply so much on offer…

Full 2019 report in PDF format LOW RES VERSION (file size 6.6MB)

Full 2017 report in PDF format HIGH RES VERSION (file size 13.5MB)