José grew up in Sani Isla, an Amazonian community in eastern Ecuador. His uncle, José Hualinga, was one of the pioneer guides of the Amazon, spawning a whole ream of quality guides that have now emerged from there. Therefore, it was only natural that José Illanes became a bird guide too, although, unusually, he began his training in the Amazon at the tender age of 12! After working at the famous Amazon lodges of La Selva and Sani (where he also helped to compile the official bird lists for the area), his reputation as a bird guide quickly grew, and so in 2002 he moved out of the Amazon and into Ecuador’s capital, Quito, after taking a job with Tropical Birding Tours and Tandayapa Bird Lodge. He is now one of the senior guides for Tropical Birding, having worked there for 14 years; and he continues to live in Quito, with his wife and young, soccer-mad son, Casey. His long-term experience as one of the most well known guides in Ecuador, has led him to make a series of overseas presentations promoting birding in both the Quito region and Ecuador as a whole, including in the US (at an ABA convention in Maine); and the UK (at the largest birding festival in the world, the British Birdfair). José has now led birding and bird photography tours to 5 different countries (Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, Australia, and the Galapagos too), and traveled to Africa and Asia too, in pursuit of birds. He is known for his relaxed guiding style, keen sense of humor, and, especially, his sharp eyesight, which leads to his uncanny ability to find roosting owls in the daytime, a skill that makes him a very popular tour leader!