Travel Ecuador : Bird watching : Birds :


Bats aren’t the only denizens of caves on both slopes of the Andes. The unique Oilbird also roosts and nests in these dark, equatorial grottos. Locally known as the “Tayo” or “Guacharo”, the Oilbird gets its name from the high fat content of its young. They become so plump because they are fed a diet that consists of palm nuts and other fruits and seeds with a high amount of fat.

The Oilbird is a large, brown bird with long wings and tail, and small white spots in its plumage. Very difficult to see at night, these birds are almost always seen as they roost during the day in the caves they haunt. Although there are several nocturnal, nightjar species in Ecuador, none resemble the Oilbird, nor do they occur in colonies in caves. At dusk, Oilbirds can be seen exiting the cave as they fly out over the forest to forage.

Behavior in Ecuador
During the day the Oilbird roosts in colonies in dark caves, the floor of its subterranean home covered in mounds of palm seeds. Their clicking noises they make for echolocation can sometimes be heard as well as a variety of harsh, strange, growling and shrieking sounds. When night falls, Oilbirds use their long, powerful wings to fly out of their caves to forage far and wide over the nearby rainforests. This behavior, combined with regurgitation of the seeds of the fruits they feed upon, make them very important vectors of seed dispersal for the rainforest.

Habitat and distribution in Ecuador
The Oilbird in Ecuador occurs in the Andean foothills and middle elevations of both slopes. Although little is known about its nocturnal activities, Oilbirds are suspected to range up into the cloud forest and down into the lowlands on their nightly quest for palm and other fruits. They are most easily seen at roosting caves near Chontal in northwestern Ecuador, and in the Cordillera del Condor.