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Selective Birding in Ecuador (1 Viewer)

I am trying to plan a trip to Ecuador. I'm looking for locations where things might be easy to see and fairly common. Since this is my first trip to Ecuador, I don't want to spend a lot of time chasing rare birds/wildlife, but I'd instead like to focus on the things that are easy to see and places where such sightings are most likely. I have not decided what part of the country to visit. Any help narrowing down my research would be appreciated.

Are any of the following list easy to see and if so, are there specific guides/lodges I should look into?
-Mammals (sloths, anteaters, basically any type of mammal.)
-Snakes
-"Zoo-like" birds (Tucans, brightly colored birds)
-Birds of Prey

What I am not interested in seeing:
-Turtles and Caiman
-Hummingbirds (a quick look, but not to watch them for long periods)
-LBJs

In any event, I realize this list might sound like a guy who is looking for a zoo, but I really enjoy the experience of searching for wildlife. I just want to make sure I pick the right areas where I'll see a lot of high profile species for my first visit to Ecuador.
 

ovenbird43

Well-known member
I'd recommend one of the lodges in the eastern lowlands. I really enjoyed Sani Lodge, but there are a range of others to choose from that would offer the same general range of species- La Selva Lodge and Napo Wildlife Center come to mind. These places offer opportunities to see a lot of different monkey species, sloths, toucans, and many different birds of prey. Sloths can be tricky to find, but the lodges have guides that could probably find them for you. For many of the same types of species at a more moderate climate (less hot and humid), check out Wildsumaco Lodge, in the eastern foothills.

There are probably also good places in the western lowlands for toucans and mammals, but I'm not experienced with that part of the country. But more generally, for toucans and a range of mammals, I would suggest visiting the lowlands or foothills, rather than the popular lodges high in the mountains.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
But the eastern lowlands are not easy to get too... you need to make a direct point and find them...far easier to go into the mindo area of Ecuador and travel within those roads... Hummers are all over, you will enjoy them even though they are not on your list.

Also...Toucans and the like are all over the Mindo area.... I am going down there in a few weeks, and again in June/july...when are you planning on being there? PM me if you like...

I like in south New Jersey near Forsythe and Cape May area.... jim
 

temmie

Well-known member
I think you are picking the wrong country/habitat.

Mammals are scarse and hard to see in the neotropics, at least compared to Savannah-like habitat (think Orinico, Pantanal). You'll be lucky if you see some monkeys and the occasional Oppossum or Peccary in the lowlands, or a coati higher up. You'll be very lucky to encounter e.g. a Spectacled Bear (a good place is Papallacta). Do not think or even dream about big cats or Tapir as the chance you encounter them is very, very low.

In months of walking in S-America I have very seldomly encountered snakes. You have to go searching for them and many are shy and only come out in the dark.

Birds of prey are, especially in the lush and forested areas, hard to encounter. You will easily see raptors higher up in the paramo, and the same Roadside Hawk over and over again. In the end, you can end up with a lot of raptor species on one trip, but compared to e.g. open areas in the Llanos and Pantanal, you won't see big numbers of any (except for vultures).

So that leaves us with some 'colorful' birds. Rest assured, there are plenty. Especially tanagers steal the show. A lot of them can be very easily found around lodges where they have banana feeders. The bad thing, there are also plenty of hummingbird feeders at every lodge. You can avoid hummers if you go to the lowlands (less species and less present), but I fail to see how you would NOT be interested in hummers once in Ecuador, I mean, this country is just hummer heaven! All non-birdwatchers I know that have visited Ecuador have been converted into occasional birdwatchers just by the hummers!

As for little brown jobs, you won't see them. Either these are hard-to-find birds (think tapaculos), or they are just not there. You have a lot of big brown jobs (Woodcreepers and Foliage Gleaners), but those are not little ;-)
 

ovenbird43

Well-known member
Temmie makes a very good point. I still think you could have a successful trip in the lowlands/foothills, but it is quite true that most of the mammals are very hard to find, and if you're hoping for big cats, forget it- you'd have to be extremely lucky. Canopy towers can offer decent viewing opportunities for birds of prey, but nothing compared to the numbers you can see in savannah habitats. The pantanal in Brazil would be an excellent place to consider as an alternative. A few mammals are fairly conspicuous there (capybara), you have a decent shot at Giant Anteater, and in the right areas with a guide maybe even a shot at seeing Jaguar. There are lots of large wading birds, birds of prey, Toco Toucans, and Hyacinth Macaw.
 
Good advice and I appreciate it. An unexpected turn happened when a failed Galapagos booking ended up going through. Sadly, I had just decided I would rather do the mainland with a day in "the poor man's Galapagos". The good news is next year I will have more time, so I will try both the rainforests and cloud forests. I looked up basic information on Pantanal, it looks fantastic. If only I had more time and money, I'd do all this year!
 

Ecuadorrebel

Writer, Photographer, Guide
I have been living in Ecuador for the past 13 years and I have been in areas that never see a tourist. However, seeing animals in the wild is mostly by chance. Although animals have been given "rights" in the Ecuadorian constitution, many local indigenous still hunt for food. I don't know of any areas where you are guaranteed of seeing any particular species. I can however, relate some of what I have encountered.

Keep in mind that of the more than 300 species of mammals in Ecuador, two thirds of them are either bats or rodents. The larger rodents can be observed quite frequently on both sides of the Andes. Guatusas and guantas (local names for various sizes of agouti) can be seen regularly at Cabañas San Isidro on the eastern slopes and Hacienda San Vicente in Mindo. There is also a roadside restaurant that serves up guatusa for tourists in Tena. I have seen (and eaten) sloth with some local tribes in the coastal jungles of Esmeraldas and recently observed a sloth sleeping in the top of a tree at Paz de las Aves.

The vicuña, a small wild camelid, can easily be seen on the eastern slopes of the Chimborazo volcano. Brocket deer are quite common there as well. Andean wolf are often seen in the paramo areas of the Antisana volcano. On some recent trips to Gareno Lodge I saw Giant Otter and Tayra. Tamarin and Howler monkeys can also be seen there. The Spectacled Bear is occasionally seen at Hacienda San Vicente in Mindo and some have been spotted near Papallacta Pass. Tapir and Giant Anteater are sometimes seen at San Isidro.

In the time I have been here I have not encountered many snakes, although I look for them a lot. Normally they are seen crossing roads rather than in the forest. I did encounter a large viper (don't know the exact species) on my last visit to Gareno. If you travel by canoe to some areas you may see larger snakes such as pythons and anacondas.
As for cats, I have seen many footprints but never ran across any in the wild.

My recommendation is to stay at one of the lodges such as San Isidro, Wild Sumaco or Gareno in the west or Hacienda San Vicente or other lodges in the Mindo area and take some quiet walks. This is the best way to encounter those elusive species. Staying at a lodge is also the best way to observe those larger, exotic birds such as the toucans, barbets, raptors and tanagers.
 

Two Jugs

Well-known member
Thanks, hope you enjoy it. I am in the process of writing a supplement on the northeast. If you have any questions about birding in Ecuador let me know, I would be happy to help.

Would love to have your book, but I do not own a Kindle, which is only just becomeing available in Canada. Any suggestions?

Tony
 

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