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Ecuador: Hummingbird Extravaganza - Gems of the Andes

Tour Overview:

Ecuador is located on the most diverse land mass in the World, South America, which is known as the Bird Continent, by virtue of its massive bird list of nearly 3500 species that contains more than 30% percent of the World birds. Some bird groups are very conspicuous there, and very well represented, with perhaps none more so than the hummingbirds. There are no less than 132 species of hummingbirds in Ecuador, or 40% of all the World hummingbirds! While neighboring Colombia holds a handful more, one of the advantages of trying to stack up a decent hummingbird list in Ecuador is its size, it is a small country, akin to the size of the US state of Colorado (Colombia is much larger), and it has a good road network, and a wonderful system of birding lodges, many of which can be visited on a relatively short visit. In short, hummingbirds are extremely accessible in Ecuador and getting a long list of hummingbirds on a single visit is very easy and illustrated well on this hummingbird-focused tour. The highest diversity of hummingbirds on Earth is found in the Andes so that is where we will spend the entirety of the tour, on all three parts. The tour takes the form of three parts, which can all be taken separately as one short tour, or combined together, to form a longer tour. The first part visits the Northwest of Ecuador, west of the capital Quito, where hummingbird species contain a number of specialties of this Choco bioregion, like the spectacular Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Gorgeted Sunangel, and dapper Purple-bibbed Whitetip, as well as other stunning species like White-booted Racket-tail. Ecuador is essentially split into two by a bichain of the Andes that runs like a spine down the middle of the country, restricting some birds species to occur on one or other side of these chains. Therefore, the second part of the tour covers the east slope of Northern Ecuador, where some of the more impressive hummingbird species that occur there are Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Wire-crested Thorntail, Gould’s Jewelfront, and Shining Sunbeam. Then comes the final part in the southern Andes of Ecuador, where species like the jaw-dropping Rainbow Starfrontlets, Purple-throated Sunangels, and Ecuadorian Hillstars can be found, in addition to rarities like Blue-throated Hillstar, Violet-throated and Neblina Metaltails, and the gorgeous Spangled Coquette occur too. More than 60 species of hummingbirds are likely by taking all 3 Parts.

 

While the hummingbirds are the stars of these tours, (focused on getting a large list of them, including some rare and local ones), we will also see plentiful other birds in this remarkably diverse tropical country, which has a bird list of more than 1650 species. Therefore, Ecuador is a true heavyweight in terms of countries with extremely long bird lists, in treasured company with the likes of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. The major distinction for Ecuador though, is it is a much smaller country, which is far easier to travel around, (due to a decent road system), and has an added advantage of boasting a network of birding lodges all over the country, something those other South American countries cannot either claim or compete with. Among the other birds we are likely to see are cock-of-the-rocks, toucans, motmots, woodpeckers,  a profusion of parrots, and “tons” of tanagers; (i.e., potentially more than 40 species from the tanager family by taking all three parts)!

PLEASE NOTE: This tour suits both BIRDERS with an interest in hummingbirds, and BIRDERS WITH CAMERAS, as we will visit plenty of feeders and have ample opportunities to photograph many hummingbird species. However, it is NOT a Photography tour, and does not use multi-flash techniques to capture perfectly frozen hummingbird pictures. That is something that is done on our Northern Ecuador Photo Tour, if you wish for something like that. Unlike that tour, we will see and enjoy more species of hummingbirds, as we will visit more sites, and more altitudes than that other, which focuses on getting near perfect photos of less species.

Upcoming Departures:

2024

Part I: 25 May - 1 June ($2890; single supplement: $250)

Part II: 31 May - 7 June ($2890; single supplement: $330)

Part III: 6 - 19 June ($4590; single supplement: $320)

If you book two parts, you will receive a $150 discount. If you book all three parts, you will receive a $300 discount.

2025

TBA

Ready to Book?
Other Tour Details:

Length: 8, 14, 20, or 26 days

Starting City: Quito

Ending City: Quito or Guayaquil (Part III only)

Pace: Moderate

Physical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Focus: Birding

Group size: 9 + 1 leader

Detailed Itinerary

PLEASE NOTE: Sometimes, (due to availability issues at the various key birding lodges), the itinerary may run in a different order. When this happens the parts may run in a different order.

 

PART I: THE NORTHWEST

Day 1: Arrival in Quito

After arrival in Quito, you will be transferred to a downtown hotel for a single-night stay. PLEASE NOTE: Most flights into Ecuador’s capital, Quito, arrive at nighttime that means you often arrive with only a short period of time to sleep that night. For this reason, we recommend coming in a day early, both to catch up on sleep, and also to begin acclimatization from high altitude. Ecuador’s capital is located at a lofty 2800m/9185ft, being one of the World’s highest capital cities. A day in the city can really help to get comfortable with that and makes the start of the tour much smoother for most people who have the time to do so. There is no birding on this day, and so you are free to arrive at any time you wish.

 

Day 2: “Quito Reserves” to Tandayapa

Within 90 minutes of Quito are two excellent bird reserves set within temperate cloud forest, which will both be visited on our first morning/early afternoon, and we will take a cooked lunch at the second of these. We will start out with a cooked breakfast at Zuro Loma, a scenic reserve overlooking Pichincha Volcano, and with a very impressive set of hummingbird feeders. The main attraction here will surely be the dramatic Sword-billed Hummingbird, which possesses the longest bill (relative to body size) of any bird species on Earth. It really is a living cartoon. Zuro Loma may also provide us with another species that rarely visits feeders anywhere within its range, and so is very difficult in most places, except here, the striking Mountain Velvebreast. Other species we should see there include the outstanding Black-tailed Trainbearer, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Collared Inca, Tyrian Metaltail, and Sapphire-vented Puffleg. Sometimes too, some yellow blossoms near the feeders attract the ordinarily difficult Purple-backed Thornbill. Other species we may see in the reserve are Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Equatorial Antpitta, Andean Guan, Red-crested Cotinga, Blue-capped Tanager and Yellow-breasted Brushfinch.

 

After much of the morning there we will drive the short distance upslope to nearby Yanacocha Reserve, run by a very successful Ecuadorian NGO that has a network of excellent bird reserves through the country, and has been instrumental in saving massive areas of land from development, and preserving them. Hummingbird wise, there will be three species of particular interest to us in Yanacocha, the burnt orange Shining Sunbeam, the thrush-sized Great Sapphirewing (the second largest hummingbird on Earth), and the Golden-breasted Puffleg. We will have a three-course, cooked lunch at Yanacocha, then drive several hours to the cloudforest-cloaked Tandayapa Valley, where we will spend five nights at the wonderful Tandayapa bird Lodge, with hummingbirds right on their porch.

Day 3: Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Birdwatcher’s House, & San Tadeo

Hummingbirds will be right at the fore straight after breakfast, with around a dozen species regularly visiting the feeders on the veranda (some of which can be seen from your rooms!). The main species of interest will be White-booted Racket-tail, Purple-throated Woodstar, the outrageous Violet-tailed Sylph, and other Choco specialty hummingbirds like Brown Inca and Purple-bibbed Whitetip. Occasionally too the Tawny-bellied Hermit visits the feeders here too, a shy and retiring species that is not known to visit feeders anywhere else. There are some good fruit feeders beside the lodge, which we can watch while having our breakfast, in case birds come in like Toucan Barbet, Rufous Motmot or Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager. Occasionally too, they are also visited by mammals, such as Tyra by day and Olingo or Kinkajou at night.

 

The latter part of the morning will involve a visit to some higher elevation cloudforest in and around Birdwatcher’s House in Mindo. Here, further hummingbirds will be on offer, including yet another regional endemic, the Gorgeted Sunangel, and rarely too the very difficult Hoary Puffleg or Rufous-gaped Hillstar. At times the latter species comes every day, while at other times it can be missing for weeks on end. If it is around during our visit, we will take time to see if it comes in with the other horde of hummingbirds. Other species of note there are likely to be Speckled Hummingbird and Collared Inca. Away from the hummingbirds there is also other feeder birds of interest as this is the most reliable place for Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans, and Flame-faced Tanagers regularly visit too. After lunch back at our cloudforest lodge (the food at Tandayapa Bird Lodge is very good too, which only adds to an amazing birding experience), we will take a side trip out to San Tadeo, where the feeders are likely to hold 2 more species for us, the incredible Velvet-purple Coronet and striking Empress Brilliant. The fruit feeders there might also lure in an assortment of tanagers, like Black-capped and Golden Tanagers, Ecuadorian Thrush or perhaps even a Collared Aracri, a small toucan.

 

Day 4: Milpe Bird Sanctuary & the Tandayapa Valley

In the morning, we will take a trip downhill to Milpe Bird Sanctuary, located lower than Tandayapa in the foothills, on the western slope of the Andes. The hummingbird feeders here are frenetic, even chaotic. There are likely to be less species than Tandayapa Bird Lodge, though they are likely to hold five new ones for us, White-whiskered Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliant and Crowned Woodnymph. Other species we may see around Milpe include Collared Trogon, Collared Aracari, Choco Toucan and Masked Water-Tyrant. We will also have some further time to explore the Tandayapa Valley further, after lunch back at base.

 

Day 5: Amagusa & Cock-of-the-rock

This will be a busy day, though with plenty of avian incident. The morning will be spent in the Mashpi area, where the feeders attract stellar hummingbirds, like Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Briliant, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph and Purple-throated Woodstar. However, we may have already seen all of these species at other feeders. Therefore, our main focus, hummingbird-wise, will be to walk the forested road looking for two much scarcer species, Green-fronted Lancebill, which nests beside small waterfalls in the area and the uncommon White-throated Daggerbill, which forages amongst the tiny roadside blooms in the area. If we are lucky too, we may also find some bright red Heliconia flowers in good condition, as these can attract the White-tipped Sicklebill. While seeking these hummingbirds there are some other amazing species to see in the area, such as Rose-faced Parrot, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanager and sometimes too even the scarce Black Solitaire. In the afternoon we will backtrack towards Tandayapa Bird Lodge, stopping on the way to the see the incredible afternoon displays of bright scarlet male Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in their cloudforest home.

 

Day 6: The Pacific Lowlands & Oilbirds

This will be the longest day of the tour, as we drive down into the Pacific lowlands to try and find a few more hummingbird species, with the main hope being to find another regional endemic, Purple-chested Hummingbird. We can also sometimes find Purple-crowned Fairy there too, as well as some interesting non-hummingbirds, like Blue-tailed and White-tailed Trogons, Broad-billed Motmot, Orange-fronted Barbet, and a host of woodpeckers including Guayaquil and Cinnamon Woodpeckers. In the afternoon, we will travel to Chontal to see their famous Oilbird sleepiung in their daytime grotto, and we may also find Rufous-tailed Jamacar or Pacific Hornero in the same area. We will return to Tandayapa Bird Lodge for a final excellent dinner and final night.

 

Day 7: Paz del las Aves Reserve to Quito

This morning, we will visit Angel Paz's famous private reserve near in the outskirts of Mindo. While it may not offer any new hummingbirds for us by this stage, we might see one of their famous antpittas. They have FIVE species on the property and each day they visit various forest feeding stations. The possible species include Giant, Chestnut-crowned, Yellow-breasted, and Ochre-breasted Antpitta. The same area can also be good for seeing roosting Lyre-tailed Nightjar, and sometimes too Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager or Crimson-rumped Toucanet. In the afternoon, after lunch back at Tandayapa, we will make our way back to Quito for the final night of the tour. On this night we will stay in a hacienda style hotel near Quito, conveniently located for both departing folks and also for those joining start of Part II, which heads east from the city the next day.

 

Day 8: DEPARTURES FROM QUITO/START PART II OF THE HUMMINGBIRD EXTRAVAGANZA

If you are only taking Part I, there is no birding planned on this day, so you are free to fly out anytime you wish on this day or late the evening before (9pm or later the evening before). The last meal of Part I is breakfast on this day.

PART II: THE EAST

Day 1: Arrival in Quito

After arrival in Quito, you will be transferred to a downtown hotel for a single-night stay. PLEASE NOTE: Most flights into Ecuador’s capital, Quito, arrive at nighttime that means you often arrive with only a short period of time to sleep that night. For this reason, we recommend coming in a day early, both to catch up on sleep, and also to begin acclimatization from high altitude. Ecuador’s capital is located at a lofty 2800m/9185ft, being one of the World’s highest capital cities. A day in the city can really help to get comfortable with that and makes the start of the tour much smoother for most people who have the time to do so. If you are not joining Part I, there is no birding on this day, and so you are free to arrive at any time you wish.

 

Day 2: The High Andes Part I

There is a double chain of the Andes running north south through Ecuador, with the outfacing slopes being the most interesting for birders. On Part I the entire tour was spent on the outfacing WESTERN slope of the Andes, while Part II travels over to the eastern slope, which offers a different suite of birds, and therefore, hummingbirds. This and the following day are likely to provide the scenic highlights of the tour, as they can provide spectacular vistas on clear days, with active, snow-capped volcanos in view while we bird some High Andes sites between 3500m/11,480ft and 4300m/14,100ft altitude (only a very short time is spent at the latter elevation). Even at these lofty altitudes, there are hummingbirds eking out a living, and some of these are spectacular indeed. We will survey burnt-orange Chuquiragua flowers, known as the “flowers of the Andes” or “national flower of mountain climbers”, for Ecuadorian Hillstars, while a local café often attracts the largest of them all, the starling-sized Giant Hummingbird, which fights off interest in the feeders from other hummingbirds such as Shining Sunbeams. The morning will be spent in the shadow of Antisana Volcano, standing at an impressive, snow topped 5,753m/18,874ft-high! Here, we may also see massive Andean Condors gliding on 12-feet wide wings, or Andean Ibis foraging with Carunculated Caracaras and Andean Gulls in high alpine meadows in the paramo grasslands. After a morning near Antisana, we will head further east, taking the main highway that links Quito with the Amazon, and crossing a high mountain pass on the way in Papallacta. We will be based in or near that town for two nights in order to access other high-altitude hummingbirds.

 

Day 3: The High Andes Part II

Much of this second day will also focus on seeing higher altitude hummingbirds, within the temperate forest around our mountain lodge, and also in the paramo higher up above the lodge. The lodge will be home to some new species for us that are restricted to the eastern side of Ecuador, like Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Tourmaline Sunangel. We are likely to also add White-bellied Woodstar, Long-tailed Sylph, and if we are really lucky, a walk in the forest may yield Mountain Avocetbill, at this, the best site in Ecuador for this rarely seen species. Other birds we come across during our time at the lodge could include the Technicolor Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Torrent Duck and White-throated Dipper. We will also head up into the open paramo grasslands above the lodge, the lair of another cool, high elevation hummingbird, the Blue-mantled Thornbill, while the nearby groves of polylepis groves are home to Viridian Metaltails. At the higher elevations, we may also run into Tawny Antpitta, Andean Tit-Spinetail or Plumbeous Sierra-Finch too. A second night will be spent in or near Papallacta.

Day 4: To the East Andean Foothills (via La Brisa and Hollin Waterfall)

Having spent the best part of two days in the High Andes and the cool temperate cloud forest below there, we will drive downhill into the considerably warmer, and more humid Andean foothills. The journey will allow us to make several important stops before we reach the next birding lodge, as there are some good new hummingbirds to search for along the route. At our first site, La Brisa, we will be on the lookout for Bronzy Inca, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Gorgeted Woodstar, and Peruvian Racket-tail.  The next stop, beside a scenic waterfall, should add Black-throated Mango and Green-backed Hillstar, among others. We will by now be within the heat and humidity of the Andean foothills of the eastern slope, which will bring a swathe of new hummingbirds and birds in this rich birding area. At the end of the day we will pull in to another fantastic birding lodges, with more new hummingbirds right on the doorstep. Three nights will be spent at a superb birding lodge in the east Andean foothills, with hummingbirds right on the veranda.

 

Days 5-6: The East Andean Foothills

We will spend these days around our wonderful lodge, of course focusing on the new hummingbirds on offer, plus we will include a visit to an antpitta feeding station and keep an eye out for mixed flocks as a vivid variety of brightly colored tanagers occur there. In terms of hummingbirds, the verbena stands in the lodge garden are convenient places to look for Violet-headed Hummingbirds and punky Wire-crested Thorntails, while the feeders play host to plenty of new species for us like Golden-tailed Sapphire, Napo Sabrewing, Black-thoated Brilliant, Many-spotted Hummingbird, and Green Hermit. We will need to work the forest nearby for the scarcer Blue-fronted Lancebill or Ecuadorian Piedtail, which are regular though not guaranteed! There are plenty of other birds besides to fill our notebooks and smartphones, including plentiful tanagers, including the smashing Paradise Tanager, and an array of toucans, barbets, antbirds and antpittas. A feeding station may yield Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Speckled Nightingale-Thrush or the shy Northern White-crowned Tapaculo.

 

Day 7: Return to Quito

After a final morning in the foothills of the Andes on the east side of the country, we will drive back to Quito, retracing our journey from before, staying in an airport hotel on this night. This will be convenient for those departing the next day, or joining Part III of The Hummingbird Extravaganza.

 

Day 8: DEPARTURES FROM QUITO/START PART III OF THE HUMMINGBIRD EXTRAVAGANZA

If you are not joining Part III, there is no birding planned on this day, so you are free to fly out anytime you wish on this day or late the evening before (9pm or later the evening before). The last meal of Part II is breakfast on this day.

PART III: THE SOUTH

Day 1: Arrival in Quito

After arrival in Quito, you will be transferred to a downtown hotel for a single-night stay. PLEASE NOTE: Most flights into Ecuador’s capital, Quito, arrive at nighttime that means you often arrive with only a short period of time to sleep that night. For this reason, we recommend coming in a day early, both to catch up on sleep, and also to begin acclimatization from high altitude. Ecuador’s capital is located at a lofty 2800m/9185ft, being one of the World’s highest capital cities. A day in the city can really help to get comfortable with that and makes the start of the tour much smoother for most people who have the time to do so. If you are not joining Part II, there is no birding on this day, and so you are free to arrive at any time you wish.

 

Day 2: Quito to Cuenca

In the morning we take a short flight from Quito to the colonial city of Cuenca, spending a night in the city within a hotel that is fed by natural volcanic springs. Depending on flight schedules, we should have time for a first visit into El Cajas National Park, where we will try for neat hummingbirds which could include an Ecuadorian endemic, Violet-throated Metaltail. Green-tailed Trainbearer sometimes visits the garden of our hotel.

Day 3: El Cajas NP to Santa Isabel

Today we'll head back to El Cajas, looking especially for some High Andean birds we will not have seen on Parts I-II. Tit-like Dacnis and Mouse-colored Thistletail are only possible in southern Ecuador, and it is one of the best places to find Giant Conebill, which is restricted to  large stands of Polylepis woodlands, the highest growing trees on Earth. On this day we will also have second chances at two localised hummingbirds, Ecuadorian Hillstar and Violet-throated Metaltail, should we need them. After a morning up high, we will move south, remaining in the province of Azuay, and stay in the town of Santa Isabel for the night, our launching point to visit the site of the critically endangered Blue-throated Hillstar the next day.

 

Day 4: Blue-throated Hillstar site to Saraguro

Today may well be the highlight of the entire Part III, southern Ecuador section, as we visit Cerros de Arcos, the site of the Blue-throated Hillstar, a critically endangered high Andean hummingbird that was only formally described in 2018. The species is confined to one mountain in Southern Ecuador and seems to be naturally rare and very local. The site is now a reserve run by an excellent local NGO, the Jocotoco Foundation, which now means in spite of its rarity there is a good chance of finding it (as long as the temperamental high mountain weather behaves). We will stake out stands of Chuquiragua flowers in the hope of seeing this violet, blue and white hummingbird as it forages well above the treeline. We will take a hot lunch at a hiker’s refuge nearby, and check their feeders for Shining Sunbeams, Viridian Metaltails, and Great Sapphirewings. In the afternoon, we will continue our journey south, heading to the Andean town of Saraguro in Loja province. We may arrive in time to have a late afternoon to visit a local reserve near town that is good for Glowing Puffleg, and a stronghold for the very rare and local Red-faced Parrot (which will still require some luck to see). A single night will be spent in Saraguro, a strongly proud indigenous town where the local folks still wear traditional, black-themed dress.

 

Day 5: Saraguro to Southeast Ecuador

Above town we will visit a mountain, where the forested lower parts of the mountain road are home to Glowing Pufflegs and Buff-winged Starfrontlets, and at the treeline, we have a chance to find the amazing Rainbow-bearded Thornbill. We could also find Lacrimose, Scarlet-bellied and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers and other temperate forest birds. After a morning there, we will take lunch in town and head further south into Zamora-Chinchipe province in southeast Ecuador, staying in a wonderful birding lodge in the foothills of the Andes run by an excellent local conservation organization, near the town of Zamora.

Day 6: Podocarpus National Park & Mi Paradise

In the morning, we will explore the nearby Podocarpus National Park, where hummingbirds will take a back step from other birds there. We will hope to bump into one of the roving flocks of tanagers, which can include birds like Paradise, Spotted, Yellow-bellied and Green-and-gold Tanagers all in the same, breathless flock! We may also run into an Amazonian Umbrellabird or a Coppery-chested Jacamar too if we are lucky. At our lodge, we will check the hummingbird feeders and flowers in the garden for species like Gray-chinned Hermit, Glittering-throated Emerald, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Violet-headed Hummingbird or Wire-crested Thorntail. Occasionally, the rare Pale-tailed Barbthroat also visits the garden flowers too. In the afternoon, we will visit a small private reserve, which is the best in the country for the astonishing Spangled Coquette and is also the most reliable site in the country for the rare Little Woodstar. A second night will be spent in the same birding lodge in Southeast Ecuador.

 

Day 7: Zamora to Casa Simpson

During the morning, we will make our way south to Tapichalaca reserve. The journey will see us move out of the humid foothills of the eastern Andes up into the temperate zone once again. There will be time in the afternoon to check the feeders at Casa Simpson for two new sunangels, Amethyst-throated and Little Sunangels among the other visitors. Tiny roadside flowers will be scoured for the diminutive and scarce and local Rufous-capped Thornbill too. A single night will be spent at Casa Simpson.

 

Day 8: Jocotoco Antpitta to “The Sacred Valley”

In the morning, we will put the hummingbirds on pause for a moment and make a hike into the forest to visit a feeding station for the rare and local Jocotoco Antpitta, which is generally easily seen there. This striking species was only discovered in the 1990s, and is thin on the ground, with this being the only reliable place to see it anywhere. Other birds we could see include Golden-plumed Parakeet, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Golden-crowned and Grass-green Tanagers, Green-and-black and Barred Fruiteaters, and Blue-backed Conebill. After a morning on site, and lunch at the lodge, we will make our way north to the tourist town of Vilcabamba (known as “the Sacred valley” due to the unusually high number of centenarians that were said to live there), for the night, checking a nearby site for Plumbeous Rail in the afternoon. We should also be able to find our first Amazilia Hummingbirds in the dry habitat around town too.

 

Day 9: Neblina Metaltail site to Macara

In the morning, we will make our way up a nearby mountain. While Vilcabamba is located in a dry, dusty valley, with a pleasantly warm climate, lacking the humidity of the lower elevations, and lacking the cold of the higher mountains, we will quickly find ourselves moving back into temperate forest, although our main target (Neblina Metaltail), will be looked for when this transitions near the timberline paramo above that. As well as this very local hummingbird, we will also have another chance to find the tricky Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and more Glowing Pufflegs in the elfin forest below that. Black-headed Hemispingus or Citrine Warbler may be found within the forested parts of the road lower down still. In the afternoon, after lunch in the field, we will move over to the western slope of the Andes heading to the reserve of Jorupe. Two nights will be spent within this reserve within sight of Peru.

 

Day 10: Jorupe, Utuana & El Tundo Reserves

This will be a day of contrasts; around the reserve at Jorupe we will be set within dry deciduous forest for the first time (before this point all of the forests we will have resided in were tropical, evergreen ones), while, in the afternoon, we will head upslope to the stunted cloudforest reserve of Utuana, where two very special hummingbirds await. We will take a field lunch beside the feeders and admire regular visits from Purple-throated Sunangel and the spectacular Rainbow Starfrontlet, arguably one of Ecuador’s most attractive hummingbirds. Just below there, we will also visit El Tundo Resrerve, often a good place to find the local, Ecuadorian form of White-vented Plumeleteer (“Ecuadorian Plumeleteer”), which some authors suggest should be considered a separate species, which is confined to southern Ecuador and northern Peru. We will return to Jorupe for a second night in the late afternoon.

 

Day 11:Jorupe to Buenaventura

After some final time in the dry deciduous forest at Jorupe, where we are likely to find Long-billed Starthroat, we will journey north to the reserve of Buenaventura, set within Neotropical Cloudforests in the western foothills of the Andes. On the journey, we may also find Tumbes Hummingbird, another regional endemic. Two nights will be spent in the reserve.

 

Day 12: Buenaventura

Buenaventura is in a unique location, where two great biogeographic regions meet, the endemic rich regions of the Choco, (which we will have visited previously in Northwest Ecuador on Part I), and the Tumbesian realm, which was represented by Jorupe that we visited just prior to this. The hummingbird feeders are amazing here, being crammed with hummingbirds in inconceivable numbers. Many of these are common and widespread species that we will likely have seen before this (if you joined Part I of this tour), like White-necked Jacobin and Green Thorntail. However, Violet-bellied Hummingbird is likely to be new, and is abundant within the reserve. Among the other enticing birds we may also find in the reserve are Long-wattled Umbrellabird and El Oro Parakeet, which are both rare, though regular at this stronghold for them.

 

Day 13: Buenaventura to Guayaquil

After a final morning in Buenaventura, we will head north to Ecuador second big city, Guayaquil, which is actually the most populous, with 2.9 million people. On the way we can search for waterbirds, including making a special stop for the local Horned Screamer. The night will be spent in a business hotel near Guayaquil airport, which is served with regular direct flights to the US.

 

Day 14: INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURES FROM GUAYAQUIL

There is no birding planned on this day, so you are free to fly out anytime you wish on this day or late the evening before (10pm or later the evening before). The last meal of Part III is breakfast on this day.

Custom extensions can be made after the Part III tour to look for Esmeraldas Woodstar (this only applied to tours running in the months of November to March, as this species is seasonal, and only reliable and accessible during those months of the year).

Trip Considerations

PACE: Moderate. Part III of the tour has the fastest pace and is the most physically demanding, though not difficult. Physically, this is generally not a difficult tour, although there are long days in the field and early starts, and in the south (Part III), there are some long drives. All the drives in the Northwest (Part I) are not long, and only a few drives are long in the East (Part II). There are some field lunches (2 lunches on Part I, 1 on Part II, and around 5 lunches on Part III), and the occasional field breakfast (1 on Part I, and possibly 1 on Part III).

 

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate. Part III of the tour has the fastest pace and is the most physically demanding, though not difficult. Almost all of Part I is easy with only some occasional, optional uneven trail walking undertaken sometimes at several sites only. There is some trail walking at WildSumaco on Part II, and there is more trail walking required on Part III at a number of sites, although this is always done at slow pace and the distances are not great, though the trails can be uneven. There are some high altitudes covered on all three parts, with the highest elevation areas on Part III. Quito is located at around 9185ft/2800m, and it is often a good idea to come in a day early to acclimatize to high altitudes in the city. The highest altitude sites covered are: Yanacocha and Zuro Loma on Part I (around 11,480ft/3500m); Antisana and Papallacta on Part II (between 11,480ft/3500m and 14,105ft/4300m; PLEASE NOTE: very little time is spent at the latter, with very little walking required at that altitude); El Cajas, the Blue-throated Hillstar site and Saraguro on Part III (between 2600-4000m at El Cajas, and around 12,140ft/3700m at the hillstar plac and Saraguro).

 

CLIMATE: Highly variable, ranging from hot and humid in the lowlands (usually around 68°-90°F, 20°-32°C), to cold in the high Andes, though it is only rarely below freezing even in the high Andes but can be very windy there at times.

 

ACCOMMODATION: Good to very good throughout. We use birding lodges regularly throughout all parts of the tour, and Ecuador is blessed with an excellent network of these, with the food often considered better in Ecuador than other neighboring countries and Costa Rica, for example. All have full time electricity, Wifi Internet, 24-hour hot water, and many of them are specifically designed and operated with birders in mind. There are some smaller lodges used on this tour, and so, sometimes, we cannot always get single rooms in all locations, depending on when you book the tour, (i.e., if you book late this is more likely to happen!).

PHOTOGRAPHY: Although this is technically a birding tour, there are many places where photography is good on all parts of this tour, as Ecuador has a great set of reserves with many fantastic feeders, and some of the best ones are included on this tour. There are feeders and good photo opps at Zuro Loma, Yanacocha, Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Birdwatcher’s House, San Tadeo, Milpe, Amagusa, and in Mindo on Part I, at Antisana, Guango, La Brisa, Rio Hollin, and WildSumaco on Part II, and at the hillstar site, Copalinga Lodge, Casa Simpson, Jorupe, Utuana, and Buenevanetura on Part III. This is a tour where you are likely to have plenty of photos by the end of it of hummingbirds, tanagers at fruit feeders, antpittas at specific forest feeding stations, and some great Andean landscapes too.

Other Information

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Tourist visas are currently not required for citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and all European countries. Visas are currently only required of a few nationalities, mostly in Asia, Africa, and the middle East. Travel requirements are subject to change; if you are unsure, please check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff for help.

 

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Tips to drivers and lodge staff; accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night of day 7 (Part I only), night of Day 1 to night of Day 6 (Part II only), night of Day 1 to night Day 12 (Part III only); from night of Day 1 to night of Day 13 (if taking Parts I and II); from night of Day 1 to Day 18 (if taking Parts II and III); from night of Day 1 to night of Day 25 (if taking all parts). Meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 8 (if taking Part I only), from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 7 (if taking Part II only), from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 13 (if taking Part III only); from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 14 (if taking Parts I and II); from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 19 (if taking Parts II and III); from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on Day 26 (if taking all parts). PLEASE NOTE: You may miss the dinner on the first night, if your flight arrives are scheduled dinners are provided, and you may miss breakfast on the final day if you leave earlier than dinner is provided. Safe drinking water and/or a soft drink during meals; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the morning of Day 2 to the penultimate day of the tour (applicable to all parts and all combinations of parts). One arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other participants of the same tour if they are on the same flight, or guests at the same hotel). Ground transport for the group to all sites listed in the itineraries above in a suitable vehicle with a local driver (for very small groups the guide may drive). Domestic flight between Quito and Cuenca at the start of Part III. Entrance fees to birding sites mentioned in all of the itineraries above. A printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

 

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the TROPICAL BIRDING tour leader; tips for luggage porters in city hotels (if you require and use their services); international flights; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not listed above.

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