Travel Ecuador : Bird watching :

Spectacular Birds of Ecuador

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and the amazing variety of life in the different habitats is simply incredible. Birds are no exception and with so many species occurring in Ecuador (1600 plus), more than a few look simply spectacular. Several fancy toucans can be seen in most habitats with seven species occurring in the Amazon Rainforest and five species inhabiting the wet Choco forests of the northwestern part of the country. In the Amazon, toucans share the canopy with large, loud, gaudy macaws, colorful cotingas, turkey-like guans, many raptors, and a host of smaller, duller bird species. Although many tanagers occur in these rain forests, these small, multicolored birds are most abundant in the Andean cloud forests. The dripping wet Andean forests are also home to many hummingbird species, these insect-like flying jewels also being common in the temperate rainforests of higher elevations, and occur yet higher still in the golden-colored vegetation of the paramo above the treeline. If you tire of watching birds in rainy, humid habitats, you can still see plenty of amazing species in the hot, dry Tumbesian forests and Galapagos Islands.

Even if you aren’t visiting Ecuador to go bird watching, you will still see exquisite hummingbirds in the gardens of your hotel in Quito and dozens of bird species while kayaking and rafting the rushing rivers of the Andes. You might even see penguins while scuba-diving in the Galapagos, and could see “spirit birds” if you partake in an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Amazon rain forest. You might want to bring binoculars, though, after reading the following summary of ten of the more spectacular bird species that occur in Ecuador.

Hoatzin
Perhaps the oddest bird of the Amazon, the Hoatzin loafs in the tangled vegetation at the edge of oxbow lakes. It rarely flies, instead, preferring to use the claws on its wings to clamber through the vines and branches. If that wasn’t strange enough, this prehistoric looking creature is often called the “stink bird” by locals because of the bad smell it can give off.

Blue-footed Booby
The comical looking Blue footed Booby could win the prize for being the most clown- like bird species in Ecuador. On their nesting grounds in the Galapagos Islands, its courtship display of raising its blue feet is a site to behold. Although they might look clumsy and humorous while on land, when they take to the air and go fishing, they convert into graceful fliers that hunt for aquatic prey by boldly diving into the water headfirst.

Andean Condor
The largest flying bird on earth, the Andean Condor is a master of the high Andes. This long-lived scavenger of the high mountains has very few offspring; a trait that has made it one of the rarest species in Ecuador. Very rarely seen soaring near Quito, this giant of the barren, windswept paramo has also become rare in Ecuador because of persecution and habitat disturbance. The Cajas National Park protects important habitat for this special bird and is a good place to see it in Ecuador.

Harpy Eagle
The Harpy Eagle is to the rain forest canopy what the Jaguar is to the understory. Like a big cat with wings, the aptly named Harpy Eagle hunts by surprise in the Amazon Rainforest. One of the largest eagles in the world, it rips monkeys and sloths from the trees with massive, grizzly bear-like talons on legs as thick as a man’s wrist. A rare bird that requires a large territory, it can sometimes be seen at staked-out nests near jungle lodges on Huaroni lands.

Scarlet Macaw
The uncommon Scarlet Macaw makes everything in the Amazon rain forest aware of its presence with shrieking calls. Its appearance catches the eye as well; a large, long-tailed parrot decked out in crimson, yellow and blue that often flies in pairs. This long-lived bird utilizes holes in huge, rain forest trees for nesting and is one of the most intelligent of Ecuadorian bird species.

Red-masked Parakeet
While bird watching in the dry Tumbesian forests of western Ecuador, you might see this endemic species fly overhead in small flocks, the extensive red on its head standing out against the dark green plumage. This threatened species sometimes wanders in search of the fruiting and seeding trees that it forages upon.

Oilbird
The cave dwelling Oilbird is a large, strange bird that sleeps during the day in caves and wanders far and wide over humid forests of both slopes in search of the fruits of palms and Lauraceae species trees. It is one of the only bird species that uses echolocation and is an important agent of seed dispersal for several tree species. It is known as the Oilbird because these birds were at one time used for their high oil content acquired from consuming palm fruits.

Black-tailed Trainbearer
Just one of the many hummingbird species that occur in Ecuador, this fancy, long-tailed bird is a frequent visitor to gardens in Quito. Like other high Andean hummingbirds, it is larger than members of its family that live at lower elevations. The long tail of the Black-tailed Trainbearer may be related to courtship displays.

Andean Cock of the Rock
One of the fanciest of Ecuadorian birds and the entire Andean mountain chain, this species of Cotinga is so odd and beautiful in appearance that it looks unreal. The males of these pigeon-sized birds gather together in the early morning at particular sites in Andean cloud forests for their noisy courtship displays. They have sharp claws used to occasionally fight with other males.

Golden Tanager
A gorgeous tanager species, the Golden Tanager is one of the more common of the Andean tanagers. Its golden yellow plumage stands out against the mossy, jade green vegetation it calls home. When foraging, it frequently moves around in mixed flocks with other tanagers, feeding on small fruits and typically peering underneath branches and twigs in search of insect prey.