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z Ecuador: Highlights

This short version of our Northern Ecuador tour includes the best lodges with easy birding and a great sampling of hummingbird, tanager, and antpitta feeders. Cross from the western slopes of the Andes over the high passes to the eastern slopes, and expect to see more than 400 species!

Next Dates


All comfortable hotels and lodges.

Walking difficulty:

Mostly easy, but we might take a few longer walks for a couple of hours at birding pace.

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

Day 1: International arrivals into Quito International Airport (UIO) and transfer to hotel for dinner.

Day 2: Early drive for 1.5 hours to the high montane forest and fantastic scenery of Yanacocha Reserve. Our first hummingbird feeders might be visited by Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, while other highlights include Scarlet bellied and Black-chested Mountain Tanagers, Andean Guan, and Grey-browed and Yellow-breasted Brushfinches. After lunch, we continue into the Mindo Valley to Septimo Paraiso Lodge, our base for the next three nights. With luck, one of the rarer desirables like Banded Ground Cuckoo or Rufous-crowned Pittasoma will be staked out in the Mindo region during our visit, and we will of course rearrange the itinerary to accommodate these species if available! Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.

Day 3: Today, we will visit the famous Paz de las Aves Reserve, a magical site where difficult birds come to the calls of birding celebrity Angel Paz, who feeds them worms every day! Giant, Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted, Moustached, and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas, Dark-backed Wood Quail, and Rufous-breasted Antthrush are regular throughout the year but are not all guaranteed at any given time. After also checking out the phenomenal Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek and banana feeders with resident Toucan Barbets, we will visit a very easily accessible Oilbird cave and spend the afternoon back around our lodge looking for Velvet-purple Coronet, Ecuadorian Seedeater, Nariño Tapaculo, and the local Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl. Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.

Day 4: We will leave early to spend the whole day birding around Mashpi, with the majority of our time focused on Amagusa Reserve, a supreme birding site with highlights like Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Choco Vireo, Choco Warbler, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, and Moss-backed Tanagers, and many others. We will also see some lower-elevation specialties like Barred Puffbird, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Orange-fronted Barbet, and Choco Trogon. Night at Septimo Paraiso Lodge.

Day 5: Morning around Bellavista, home to several Choco specialties like Beautiful Jay, Tanager Finch, Gorgeted Sunangel, Dusky Chlorospingus, Western Hemispingus, White-faced Nunbird, and others. We then continue to Papallacta Pass, the highest point we will reach on the tour, at around 4000 m. Several Páramo specialties can be seen here, like Giant Conebill, Red-rumped Bush Tyrant, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-mantled Thornbill, and Viridian Metaltail. We will arrive at Guango Lodge for overnight in the evening.

Day 6: Guango is famous for some amazing hummingbird feeders, but also some excellent garden birding. Highlights could include Mountain Avocetbill, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Slaty Brushfinch, Tourmaline Sunangel, Masked Mountain Tanager, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, White-chinned Thistletail, Agile Tit-tyrant, and more! We will spend the day exploring the area, and maybe revisit Papallacta Pass. Night at Guango Lodge.

Day 7: Leaving early, we will drive down the eastern slope of the Andes to WildSumaco Lodge, making a stop along the way at Wayra Reserve, where there will be the chance to see the shy Rufous-breasted Wood Quail at feeders, plus several species of tanager with great photography opportunities! More stops en route to WildSumaco (if we have time) could produce Western Striolated Puffbird, Blackish Nightjar, Yellow-throated Tanager, Green-backed Hillstar, Orange-breasted Falcon, Cliff Flycatcher, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Night at WildSumaco Lodge.

Day 8-9: Two full days birding the amazing WildSumaco Lodge will have us seeking out a great variety of eastern foothill specialties like Coppery-chested Jacamar, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Grey-tailed Piha, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Foothill Screech Owl, Band-bellied Owl, Gould’s Jewelfront, Napo Sabrewing, Plain-backed Antpitta, Large-headed Flatbill, Military Macaw, and many others. With luck, we will find some of the harder species, like Black Tinamou. Nights at WildSumaco Lodge.

Day 10: After some final birding, we will drive several hours back towards Quito for overnight at Hacienda La Carriona.

Day 11: One final session of birding will see us ascending Antisana Volcano to look for Andean Condor, Andean Ibis, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Streak backed and Many-striped Canasteros, Black-winged Ground Dove, Paramo Pipit, Silvery Grebe, and several other specialties. After lunch, we will drive to Quito Airport for international flights this evening.

NOTE: Visiting the wonderful Sani Lodge for a taste of the Amazon is easy to arrange for three or more nights at the end of this tour, with their excellent and professional packages including return flights to Coca from Quito, boat transfers to the lodge, and one of their excellent local bird guides on-site. Please let us know if you would like assistance arranging this. If you wish, the Ornis leader can stay on to accompany you for a fee.

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