Many people arrange their own trips to Ecuador, to visit the Galapagos, Amazon or Andes, and then find themselves with single days to fill. These day trips have been designed to fill in those gap days. Tropical Birding have a series of guides based in Ecuador and are connected to a network of guides in country, so usually have people available for these single day tours.
These day trips from the Ecuadorian capital Quito highlight some of the key sites that you can visit in a single day tour. The sites can be visited for birders, looking to see the most species, for Birders With a Camera, looking to see plenty of species and photograph them too, or Photographers looking to focus on shooting a selection of photogenic species only. If you are interested in any of these, please contact the office and we can doctor the day to suit your individual needs. They can be taken by advanced and beginner birders/photographers alike. All of the trips, except trip 5, include visits to sites with hummingbird feeders.
It should be noted, if you have more than one day, it is recommended that you spend a night or more at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, where some of these and others sites can be covered better over several days, in order to expand the possibilities of what you can see or photograph. If you wish to see some of the options for several day tours in Ecuador, please check out the Tandayapa Bird Lodge packages .
BIRDING, BIRDING WITH A CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR OPTIONS:
TRIP 1: HIGH ANDES – ANTISANA
This is one of the most popular day trips, as it combines easy birding in the open grasslands of the high Andes, with some of the most dramatic landscapes close to Quito. While the birding is at high altitude, at around 3800m/12,470ft, this is done along paved roads, at slow pace, with only short walks from the vehicle, and is therefore not physically challenging. Birding will be in high grasslands, known as paramos, and lunch will be taken at a local café with hummingbird feeders in the garden, and views of the Andean Condor roosting cliffs nearby. On clear days, amazing views of the 5,753m/18,875ft-high Antisana Volcano are possible too. This day trip offers some of the easiest birding of all the day trips, and along with Papallacta some of the best scenery of them all.
Selection of Possible Species: Andean Condor (this is Ecuador’s most reliable site for the species), Variable Hawk, Black-faced Ibis (one of the only sites in the country for this species), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Silvery Grebe, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, Tyrian Metaltail, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Chestnut-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant, and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch.
Travel time from Quito: c.90 minutes
TRIP 2: HIGH ANDES – PAPALLACTA AND GUANGO
Our second high Andean site, Papallacta combines a visit to the wet high Andean paramo grasslands around Papallacta Pass with a visit to a cloudforest lodge lower down for a heady selection of hummingbirds. Lunch will be taken at Guango Lodge, surrounded by hummingbirds. Even though the altitudes reached on this day are high, they can all be reached by car, and little walking is required at the highest points. Altitudes between 2700-4200m/8860-13,780ft may be reached on this day (the higher parts are optional). This reaches wetter and higher altitude paramo than at Antisana, offering some alternative species, like Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-mantled Thornbill and others not possible/unlikely on the Antisana day trip, and a different selection of hummingbirds. On clear days, this Papallacta day trip offers some awesome views of the surrounding volcanos and high Andean landscapes.
Selection of Possible Species: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Torrent Duck, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Tourmaline Sunangel, White-bellied Woodstar, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Collared Inca, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, Tawny Antpitta, Many-stripe Canastero, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Turquoise Jay, Mountain Cacique and White-capped Dipper.
Travel time from Quito: 90 minutes-2 hours.
TRIP 3: ANDEAN CLOUDFOREST – TANDAYAPA BIRD LODGE AND THE TANDAYAPA VALLEY
This tour visits one of the longest established cloudforest lodges in Ecuador, the Tandayapa Bird Lodge, situated within the rich cloudforests of the Tandayapa Valley, a mere 90-minute drive from the capital. Over 400 species have been recorded in the valley, with tanagers, hummingbirds particularly well represented. This is one of Ecuador’s most popular birding sites, with variation in species mix from the lodge, situated in the lower valley at 1750m/5740ft to the upper valley at 2300m/7545ft, even though they are only 6 miles apart from each other. We will spend time birding the lower and upper sections of the valley to gain a varied species mix, taking lunch at the lodge alongside hundreds of individual hummingbirds of a dozen or more species.
Selection of Possible Species: Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar, Andean Emerald, Buff-tailed Coronet, Brown Violetear, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Masked Trogon, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Rufous Motmot, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Redstart, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden, Black-capped, Golden-naped, and Beryl-spangled Tanagers. This day trip offers the highest number of species of any of the day trips, and is the longest of the day trips offered here.
Travel time from Quito: 90 minutes-2 hours.
TRIP 4: ANDEAN CLOUDFOREST – ZUROLOMA AND YANACOCHA
Just an hour or so out of Quito are the Andean cloudforest reserves of Zuroloma and Yanacocha. Set at higher elevations (at around 3500m/11,480ft) than the Tandayapa Valley cloudforests, the bird list is very different from there. These two sites both have hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders, which add to the birding experience, which will also involve some trail walking within the cloudforest on a flat trail, searching for mixed feeding flocks of Andean songbirds. Lunch will be taken at the small café within Yanacocha Reserve, run by a local NGO, the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation, which has been working tirelessly, and successfully, to preserve many forested birding areas throughout Ecuador.
Selection of Possible Species: Andean Guan, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Brown-bellied Swallow, White-banded Tyrannulet, Black-crested Warbler, Spectacled Redstart, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch, Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers, and Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers.
Travel time from Quito: 60-90 minutes.
TRIP 5: INTERANDEAN VALLEY & ANDEAN MARKET – JERUSALEM, LAGUNA SAN PABLO AND OTAVALO
This the most relaxed of our day trips combines visits to sites within the InterAndean Valley that divides the two chains of the Andes Mountains that run north south through the country, with a visit to an Andean market in Otavalo. If you are looking for a mix of culture and birds in a single day, this is perfect. At Jerusalem reserve, there is a strange mix of moist trees draped in lichen, with cacti in the same semi-arid area. After an early morning in this fascinating reserve, we shall After a few hours of birding here, we will carry on north to the town of Otavalo. We’ll break for lunch in a restaurant and visit its famous outdoor artisan market, one of the largest in the world, where locals sell handicrafts, sweaters, weavings, leather items, jewelry, artwork, and much more. In the afternoon, we’ll stop by the reed-fringed Laguna San Pablo in the shadow of the 19,000 ft Cayambe Volcano for some Andean waterbirds, and reed-dwelling species.
Selection of Possible Species: Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Purple-collared Woodstar, Slate-colored (Andean) Coot, the Ecuadorian version of Virginia Rail, Sparkling Violetear, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Subtropical Doradito, Scrub Tanager, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Hooded Siskin
Travel time from Quito: Up to 2 hours to Otavalo, with the other sites closer than that.
PLEASE NOTE: These are a merely suggestions of logical day trips from Quito, and we can customize these to your needs. If, for example, you wished to do a day trip to see something specific, like Oilbirds, then we can do this. Please contact us if you have other ideas, we are able to do anything you need!
Prices: Please contact the Tropical Birding office for prices. Rates are dependent on group size.
General Program for these tours:
Pick up from any Quito hotel (usually around 5:30-6am).
Drop off to any Quito hotel (usually between 5:00-6:30pm).
Meals included: Lunch only.
Other inclusions: Bird/Photo guide (with spotting scope for birding trips), transport with a local, licensed tourist driver, checklist to keep track of your records.
If focused on birding (over photography), then BINOCULARS are an essential item. If you do not have a pair, then please contact the Tropical Birding office in order to hire a pair for the day.