Bird Watching
Hummingbird in the birdwatching paradise that is Ecuador.Bird watching in Ecuador with binoculars.
Collared Inca hummingbird, captured and identified by birdwatchers
Birdwatching binoculars with Birds of Ecuador book
Bird photography - a tanager in Ecuador
Bird guide books for Ecuador

Ecuador is a birding paradise with some of the best bird watching in the world for ornithologists or amateur birdwatchers alike.

Bird Watching in Ecuador

Bird watching in Ecuador is incredibly rewarding, even for amateur ornithologists just starting out as birders.  Ecuador has around 1600 bird species - more than some entire continents.  Birding highlights include the cock-of-the-rock, the huge Andean condor, motmots, quetzals and over a hundred types of hummingbirds.  
Casual birders and tourists just interested in nature generally will find that at least some of the more colourful birds of Ecuador can easily be seen without booking specialised birdwatching holidays.  You can see hummingbirds in the parks of urban Quito, hummingbirds and flocks of parakeets over Mindo, vultures across most of the country, birds of prey such as the condor in the high páramo, and of course the Galápagos Islands have various endemic species.  
Ornithologists and keen bird watchers will probably want to join an organised bird watching vacation with an experienced guide for at least part of their time in Ecuador, especially those planning on doing some bird photography.  To see some of the rarer, shyer and more endangered birds of Ecuador an ornithologist guide with good knowledge of the local area is usually necessary.  On a well-planned Ecuador birdwatching tour with a professional guide it is not unusual to spot hundreds of different bird species over the course of a week or two.  There is nothing to stop you planning your own birding tour, especially if you have plenty of time and a good field guide. 
Where is best to go birdwatching in Ecuador? 
The best birdwatching spots in Ecuador are of course a matter of opinion, though you will see birds almost anywhere.  For such a small country, Ecuador has a wide range of different habitats and serious birders will want to check out  most of them.  Birdwatching in the Sierra (highlands) is very different from birding in the warm, lush rainforests or the cool, misty cloudforests.  Don't forget to spend some time on the coast spotting marine birdlife.
Mindo is one of the world's birding hotspots and is on the must-do list for most birdwatchers.  It's home to the cock-of-the-rock, it's one of the best places to watch and photograph hummingbirds and can even be done as a day trip from Quito - though most birders will want to stay much longer.  Mindo has several birding guides and most of the hotels and hostels are used to the early-morning starts so familiar to bird watchers.  (Mindo also has the advantage of offering various adventure activities for non-birding spouses or children).  Nearby Bellavista and Tandayapa are renowned among the birding community and are more specialised bird watching destinations, with their own guides to lead walks and help with bird identification around the hotels.  Mindo is at or near the top of the Christmas Bird Count every year, with usually around 460 species.
The Oriente (amazon rainforest) is teeming with birdlife including toucans, quetzals, parrots and macaws.  You almost certainly need an organised birding tour to the oriente, both for safety reasons and to see the best of the birds of the rainforest.  The Galapagos Islands offer fantastic bird watching opportunities of a limited but interesting range of species including the famous Galapagos finches.  Many of the birds will literally come and perch on the end of your camera.
Bring good bird watching binoculars and/or a spotting scope with you if you have them.  Binoculars are not easy to find here - they are available in large cities and some birding destinations but there is usually a limited choice and the quality is not always the best.   Likewise, camera equipment for bird photography is best brought from home to ensure that you have all the memory, lenses and other photographic equipment you need, and know how to use it.
With so many bird species to see, a good birding field guide is a must.  Surprisingly, bird books and identification guides are not that easy to find within Ecuador.  The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide Vol II, by Ridgely and Greenfield, is huge, heavy, comprehensive, reliable, beautifully illustrated and generally considered to be *the* bird watching guide for mainland Ecuador.  (It may be cheaper to get the Birds of Ecuador Field Guide shipped from the United States, even if you don't live there).  The book is large enough to almost require a porter and/or a wheelbarrow, so many birders buy a second copy, and cut out just the picture section to laminate and bind for use in the field.
Take a look at the Hummingbirds of Ecuador Photo Gallery to inspire you to book a bird watching tour to Ecuador soon.
Useful vocabulary for bird watching in Ecuador:
Observación de aves: bird watching
Pájaro: bird (less formal than "ave")
Pajareros: birders, birdwatchers (a less formal term than ornitólogo, ornithologist)              
Binoculares: binoculars         
Madrugada: early morning or dawn (often the best time for bird watching)
Guía: guide

Bird Watching in Ecuador
Bird photography, birding in Ecuador, birdwatching holidays, field guide to the birds of Ecuador, bird books and bird identification on a bird watching vacation to Ecuador - bring binoculars and find a good birding guide or ornithologist to make the most of a birding tour.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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