By taking day trips from the Lodge you can visit a whole range of habitats from the lowlands to temperate forest, with many different birds. Altogether, over 600 species have been recorded on tours based out of the Lodge. Click here to see the full list, with details of where to find key species.
Below are the best sites for birding on day trips from the Lodge, together with information on the species you could see.
|Upper Tandayapa Valley||25 minutes||Upper subtropical forest|
|Yanacocha||1.5 hours||Wet temperate forest|
|Pululahua and Calacalí||50 minutes||Temperate forest and arid scrub|
|Paz de las Aves||1 hour||Subtropical forest|
|Milpe||1 hour||Foothill forest and open areas|
|Mashpi||1.5 hours||Foothill and subtropical forest|
|Mangaloma||1.5 hours||Foothill forest|
|Río Silanche||1.5 – 2 hours||Lowland forest and open areas|
Click here to view a PDF map of the sites.
Please keep in mind that you will need a vehicle to visit these sites, which we can arrange for you. if you would like a guide to take you to these areas, you will need to book one in advance. Expert bird guides are unlikely to be available at the last minute. See the reservations page for information on some birding tour packages that visit many of these sites.
The Upper Tandayapa Valley (25 mins)
Between the Lodge and the pass at the top of the Tandayapa Valley, 600m higher in altitude, there is a substantial change in the avifauna. The mixed flocks here have species that rarely or never come down as far as Tandayapa, such as Grass-green Tanager, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Western Hemispingus, and Streaked Tuftedcheek, sometimes accompanied by the beautiful Plushcap. Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan is usually easily found along the roads, and if you missed them on the Lodge trails you have another chance for Toucan Barbet. More elusive are the spectacular Tanager Finch and Ocellated Tapaculo. There are fewer hummingbirds up at this elevation, but three species are commoner here than they are at the Lodge: Collared Inca, Gorgeted Sunangel, and Speckled Hummingbird. If you continue over Tandayapa Pass to San Tadeo, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager and Velvet-purple Coronet are possible, though both of these are more easily seen at Paz de las Aves.
Yanacocha (1.5 hours)
Most people visit the reserve at Yanacocha on their way from Quito, and then drive along the Old Nono–Mindo Road to get to the Lodge. The reserve was established to protect Black-breasted Puffleg, one of the rarest hummingbirds in the world. Your chances of seeing it are highest between about April and June, when it is seen more often, occasionally even at the feeders. Even if you do not find this great rarity, you will still enjoy Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, and Buff-winged Starfrontlet among others. If you get to Tandayapa before dark, you could see twenty-five or more hummer in a single day, a great start to any tour. Most of the other birds here are flock species, and they include stunning mountain-tanagers, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Barred Fruiteater, and the embarrassingly-named Superciliated Hemispingus. Between November and March, you will almost certainly hear Undulated, Rufous, Tawny, Chestnut-naped, and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas, and Ocellated and Blackish Tapaculos, but seeing them is another matter…
Pululahua and Calacalí (50 mins)
The Geobotanic Reserve at Pululahua is where a population of Rusty-breasted Antpitta was recently discovered (so new that you will not find it in the Ecuador field guide). Other birds include some of those found at Yanacocha and the Upper Tandayapa Valley, such as Ocellated and Blackish Tapaculos, Plushcap, Andean Guan, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, and and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. The dry scrub at Calacalí is home to the globally threatened White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, and other arid-zone birds such as Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Black-tailed Trainbearer, and Golden-rumped Euphonia. Giant Hummingbird can sometimes be seen when tall Agaves are in bloom.
Milpe Bird Sanctuary (1 hour)
A further 40 km along the main highway from Quito, just before the town of Los Bancos, is the Milpe road and a superb Mindo Cloudforest Foundation reserve. The road hosts good mixed flocks, and trails in the reserve allow access to the forest. A host of other tanagers call this area home, including Ochre-breasted, Rufous-throated, Lemon-rumped, and perhaps even the dazzling Glistening-green and smart Gray-and-gold; over twenty species of this spectacular family are possible here in a day. Chocó Toucans and Pale-mandibled Araçaris are often seen in the more open areas. The highlight of the forest is the Club-winged Manakin lek, where during most of the year the males display on perches close to the trail. Don’t forget to look close to the ground for Esmeraldas Antbird and the elusive Olive Finch, or in the trees for Chocó Trogon, Chocó Warbler, and superb mixed flocks. The feeders attract Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, and Green-crowned Woodnymph. If the sun gets too intense, you can cool off with some fresh fruit juice at the Restaurante Mirador Río Blanco in Los Bancos where up to a dozen species of tanager come to feed on the bananas put out for them.
Paz de las Aves (1 hour)
This small private reserve has become the latest birding sensation in the northwest and is sometimes affectionately referred to as “the antpitta farm”. Here Angel Paz, a local farmer, has gained the trust of some normally rare and shy forest species by offering them juicy worms. Yellow-breasted, Moustached, and Giant Antpittas are now regularly seen here (Yellow-breasted being the most reliable), and the local covey of Dark-backed Wood-Quail is seen on perhaps one out of three visits. Fruit feeders here can be mind-boggling with Toucan Barbet, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and Sickle-winged Guan coming to within arms reach. Other forest birds regularly encountered are Golden-headed Quetzal, Olivacoues Piha, and Scaled Fruiteater. Crested Quetzal can occasionally be found at fruiting trees. There is also a lek where gaudy Andean Cocks-of-the-rock display at dawn, and Angel and his brothers have constructed a viewing blind. If you leave ridiculously early and arrive before first light, you can witness this spectacle at close range.
Mashpi (1.5 hours)
The Mashpi area has very wet rainforest slightly lower than Tandayapa. Several rare Chocó endemics can be found here more easily than anywhere else in the region, including Black Solitaire, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter, Moss-backed Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, and Chocó Vireo.
Mangaloma Reserve (1.5 hours)
If you don’t mind some hardcore trail birding, this reserve offers some of the best forest in the region and the chance to see some neat birds difficult elsewhere in the region, including Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Plumbeous Hawk, and Golden-crowned Spadebill. Mangaloma offers your best chance to see Rufous-crowned Antpitta, and the near-mythical Banded Ground-Cuckoo has even been seen here on rare occasions.
Río Silanche/PVM (1.5+ hours)
This is real lowland Chocó rainforest, one of the most endangered habitats in Ecuador. Thanks to a generous donation, Mindo Cloudforest Foundation acquired a 70 ha. reserve in the best area. There is a superb trail system allowing easy access to the forest, and a canopy tower allowing for eye-level views of tanagers and mixed species flocks. The birding here on a good day is incredible. One or two big mixed flocks circulate in the area, and if you run into one of these you can expect to have one of your most memorable days of birding. Picking out the specialties can require some concentration as over 40 species may pass by, but the gems to look out for include Scarlet-breasted and Scarlet-thighed Dacnises, Emerald, Blue-whiskered, Rufous-winged, Golden-hooded, Gray-and-Gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanagers, Orange-fronted Barbet, and Griscom’s Antwren. Dusky Pigeon is regular, and after the mixed flock has passed you should look out for Pale-mandibled Araçari, Chocó and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Western Slaty-Antshrike, and White-tailed, Collared, and Chocó Trogons.