Why go birding in Ecuador?
Ecuador is one of the most popular tropical birding destinations in the world, and it is easy to see why. It has the highest density of bird species per unit area of any country in the world, and a total species list of over 1670, leading to breathtaking variety. This is down to the many different habitat types within just a small country- from the humid Amazon in the East to the warm coastal savannahs and mangroves in the west, the Andes divides the country in half from North to South and here you will find the high treeless paramo and steamy cloud-forests. Within these habitats are subtle variations with changes in Altitude, so by climbing or descending just a few hundred metres, you can find a whole new range of species! Due to this avian diversity it is easy to build a very large species list in a short space of time, without travelling massive distances.
Along with the draw of incredible birding, there are the benefits of good infrastructure, a well developed network of lodges (ranging from comfortable to basic), and some excellent professional bird guides. It is also very easy to find information about making a visit online, including hundreds of trip reports.
'Birdwatching is not as much about "getting there" as it is about paying close attention along the way, in search of colour and movement in trees, bushes, against landscape, in the sky, or on the ground. One can walk a kilometre in three hours, marvelling at everything from birds to views and frogs to orchids, participating in an experience that celebrates nature with every step.
Ecuador is, without exaggeration, the best place in the world for birdwatching. If you visit, and you don't come into contact with birds, you are simply missing out on one of this country's great attractions. A few year ago a foundation conducted an extensive survey to highlight just this, drawing up the 'major birding trails' across the country, revealing the existing infrastructure and tremendous growth opportunity that makes Ecuador the true mecca for birdwatching and ecotourism in the world. For me, it is crucial that we "spread the word" and show the world, and Ecuadorians themselves, what nature has bequeathed this tiny little portion of our planet.
There are close to 10,000 species of birds in the world. Of this number, it is fairly well known that species abundance is richer towards the equator and less so away from this magical line. The richest continent in terms of bird species diversity is South America and -wouldn't you know it- Ecuador happens to possess the thickest density of species anywhere! The concentration per square mile doesn't get any better than here. With over 1,670 species, Ecuador ranks fourth in the world, with one-sixth of our planet's birds, surpassed only by neighbouring nations, which are over four times larger.' Nelson Apolo, Bird Guide Ecuador
Avitourism in Ecuador is often intrinsically linked with conservation, an example of this is the Refugio Paz de las Aves reserve near the town of Mindo. Set up by a struggling farmer- Angel Paz, who discovered he could make more money by showing birders a range of secretive forest birds by luring them into the open with worms, it soon became a huge success and he's now responsible for a 25 ha reserve. Much of the income from the venture goes straight back into management of the reserve.
Fundación Jocotoco is an Ecuadorian NGO which currently manages 10 reserves encompassing 15,000 ha, protecting habitat for a number of critically endangered species such as the El Oro Parakeet and the Black-breasted Puffleg, some of the reserves have their own lodges which visitors can stay at and the income from this is fed straight back into conservation, the reserves are often being extended and more forest preserved. Many other lodges also have reforestation programmes.
We aim to create a library of different destination countries as a resource for individuals and tourism businesses. If you would like to add your country/destination to this library, please email photos and a text describing your country's unique selling points to an international audience to: email@example.com (in a similar format to these pages).
Photo Credits: Nelson Apolo (Golden Tanager), Ben Porter - www.benporterwildlife.co.uk