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Ecuador

Birding in the Ecuadorian Andes

Program No. 21607RJ
Go off the beaten path to explore the pristine environments of the Ecuadorian Andes, where you’ll join experts to spot a wealth of rare birds, including the stunning Cock-of-the-Rock!
Length
11 days
Rating (4.75)
Activity Level
Starts at
3,349
Flights start at
700

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To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 12 - Jan 22, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Itinerary Note

Maximum group size for this program is 14.

Jan 28 - Feb 7, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Itinerary Note

Maximum group size for this program is 14.

Feb 11 - Feb 21, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Mar 4 - Mar 14, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Apr 1 - Apr 11, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Sep 23 - Oct 3, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Oct 21 - Oct 31, 2023
Starting at
3,349
Nov 2 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
3,349
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jan 12 - Jan 22, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Itinerary Note

Maximum group size for this program is 14.

Jan 28 - Feb 7, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Itinerary Note

Maximum group size for this program is 14.

Feb 11 - Feb 21, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Mar 4 - Mar 14, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Apr 1 - Apr 11, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Sep 23 - Oct 3, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Oct 21 - Oct 31, 2023
Starting at
3,879
Nov 2 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
3,879

At a Glance

Journey to one of the greatest birding locales in the world — the Ecuadorian Andes. Join ornithologists and local experts to explore avian-rich national parks, private reserves and protected areas in search of unique highland species. Highlights include the brilliantly-colored Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, as well as antpittas, unique hummingbirds and tanagers.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Walking up to three hours daily on irregular forest trails in varying weather conditions. Daily early morning birding activities and standing for long periods. Elevations up to 12,800 ft.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • View an amazing variety of bird species across Ecuador’s different climatic zones and altitude ranges.
  • Enjoy lectures by experts who are part of the Ecuadorian Association of Ornithology, Aves & Conservacion and the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation.
  • Meet with members of local bird-watching clubs to learn how they are preserving the birding habitats.

General Notes

All Road Scholar birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1 in the field. We adhere to the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics. Learn more at http://www.aba.org/about/ethics.html
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Portrait of a Nation, Culture and Progress in Ecuador
by Osvaldo Hurtado
President of Ecuador from 1981 to 1984, Hurtado writes of cultural values and obstacles to change. A main one, he writes, is that beliefs and cultural attitudes in the country impede economic success.
Rough Guide Ecuador
by Harry Ades, Melissa Graham
A compact comprehensive guide to travel in Ecuador, including Quito, the Oriente and Galapagos with extensive listings, dozens of sketch maps, and a brief overview of culture, nature and history.
Forgotten Continent
by Michael Reid
Economist editor Reid draws on his years in the cities, presidential palaces and shantytowns of Central and South America in this portrait of a region rich in oil, farmland and culture, with consideration on its prospects in the face of globalization.
Through the Eyes of the Condor, An Aerial Vision of Latin America
by Robert B. Haas
This collection of stunning, oversized photographs, taken from above, shows the jungles and favellas, the reefs and ruins, wildlife and diverse landscapes of Latin America.
Banana, The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World
by Dan Koeppel
Koeppel traces the history, natural and otherwise, politics and precarious current status of modern monoculture, touching down in India (world center of banana diversity), Ecuador (world's largest producer) and Central America.
Fire from the Andes, Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru
by Susan E. Benner (Editor)
Mostly personal, many of the contemporary stories revolve around peasants, the urban poor and other marginalized members of the Andes society.
The History of Ecuador
by George Lauderbaugh
this compact book includes chapters on Ecuador today, Ecuador's indigenous and colonial past, the oil boom and other events.
Living Poor
by Moritz Thomsen
Moritz's heartfelt account of his small triumphs and tragedies as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village on the Ecuadorian coast is a classic.
Woven Stories, Andean Textiles and Rituals
by Andrea Heckman
This illustrated survey focuses on Quechua textiles, traditions, designs and daily life in the Andes, specifically in the high country surrounding Ausangate, 85 miles southeast of Cuzco.
Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook
by Lonely Planet Publications
A handy Spanish phrasebook, with a short two-way dictionary.
Culture Smart! Ecuador
by Russell Maddicks
A concise and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture with a short overview of the land and people along with practical travel advice.
The Birds of Ecuador, Vol. I and II
by Robert Ridgely, Paul Greenfield
Two-volume set with slipcase.
Ecuador, A Travel Journal
by Henri Michaux, Robin Magowan (Translator)
A brief, querulous and entirely wonderful narrative of the modernist painter Michaux's travels with the poet Gangotena, strong on color and personality. Its many pleasures include an unbeatable description of Quito's accursed mountain weather.
Birds of Ecuador, A Field Guide
by Paul Greenfield, Robert Ridgely
A comprehensive, gorgeous and exhaustively researched field guide to the birds of Ecuador (and adjacent countries), featuring 96 color plates. It's also the best bird guide for travelers in the Peruvian Amazon.
Volcanoes, Fire from the Earth
by Maurice Krafft
By the great French volcanologist (who died on the job on Mount Unzen in Japan in 1992), this pocket guide features hundreds of full-color paintings and traces the study of volcanoes from early myth and legend to modern science.
Ecuador Reader, History, Culture, Politics
by Carlos De La Torre (Editor), Steve Striffler (Editor)
A portrait of a nation. This lively sourcebook gathers selections from long out-of-print travel accounts, articles, interviews, poems, literary excerpts (and even a recipe) to document the vitality and diversity of modern Ecuador.
Birds of Northern South America, Vol. 2: Field Guide
by Robin Restall, Clemencia Rodner, Roger Williams
This comprehensive field guide, featuring an astounding 6400 paintings and 2308 maps, covers all the birds from Ecuador to Guiana.
The Andes
by Jason Wilson
Starting out in Cuzco, heart of the Inca Empire, Wilson spreads north and south along the Andes, including excerpts from South American literary giants, travelers and his own impressions.
Ecuador Map
by Berndtson & Berndtson
A laminated map of Ecuador at a scale of 1:1,000,000, with detailed insets of Quito, Guayaquil, Galapagos and the Ecuadorian Amazon on the reverse.
Birds of Northern South America, Vol. 1: Identification, Distribution and taxonomy
by Robin Restall, Miguel Lentino
The hefty companion volume, with detailed species accounts, covers 2,308 species of birds found from Ecuador to French Guiana.
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11 days
10 nights
28 meals
10 B 9 L 9 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program, Arrive Quito
Quito
Sheraton Quito Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m. Early check in subject to hotel availability. Elevations in Quito range from 9,223 ft - 9,883 ft. To minimize your chances of experiencing altitude sickness, try to get plenty of rest before you travel, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and fatty foods, eat high carbohydrate foods, and avoid strenuous exercise at high elevations. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Parque de Guápulo, Ecuador Birds, Colonial Quito
Quito
B,L,D
Sheraton Quito Hotel

Activity note: Walking on easy trail conditions at a leisurely pace to acclimate to high elevation in Quito and the Andes. Some city walking and intermittent standing.

Breakfast: Early morning (6:00 a.m.) at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll board a bus and drive to Parque de Guápulo for birding activities. The Group Leader will conduct a brief introduction to the program and go over some guidelines during the bus ride (a formal Program Orientation will be held before dinner). Parque de Guápulo is quickly becoming a favored location for birding due to its high volume and diversity of bird species. In fact, the park has recorded--within an area measuring 215 square feet-- 30 species out of approximately 200 birds. Some of the species seen here include the Eared Dove, Great Thrush, Sparkling Violetear, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Blue and White Swallow, Tufted Tit-Tyrant and Black-tailed Trainbearer. During this field trip we will also have the opportunity to enjoy great views of Quito’s surrounding valleys. Next, we will ride to the center of the city for a walking orientation to Ecuador’s capital. The architecture found in Quito’s historical center is a great example of the Baroque style which is a fusion of Spanish, Moorish, Flemish and Indigenous art. Our explorations with our Group Leader will begin at La Basilica church and continue to the Independence Square, site of the Presidential House, the Bishop’s Palace, and the Cathedral. We will pay a visit to the beautiful La Compañía church to view its lavish, gold covered interior and also stop at the San Francisco church and convent—one of Quito’s oldest churches built on the site of a pre-Hispanic trading center.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We'll drive to the Cumbaya Valley, to the home of Ecuador's prominent ornithologist and bird illustrator, Juan Manuel Carrion. After Mr. Carron's presentation on the birds of Ecuador, he will let us explore his gardens and visit his atelier. Later in the afternoon, we will drive back to the hotel. Then, before dinner, we'll join our Group Leader in a program Orientation. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Our Group Leader is a trained birding expert who will lead field trips and give educational presentations. The air conditioned Road Scholar bus doesn't have a bathroom on board. However, the program includes pit stops that help to break up longer travel times. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and tomorrow's early morning activities.

DAY
3
Birding Along the Yanacocha & Quinde Eco-Route
Mindo
B,L,D
Sachatamia Lodge and Rainforest Reserve

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; about 81 miles, approximately 3.5 to 4 hours riding time. Easy to moderate trail conditions.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Early this morning, we will depart Quito and head to Mindo via the Yanacocha and Quinde Eco-route for birding. The Yanacocha and Quinde Eco-route is one of Ecuador’s most important birding routes because of its varied ecosystems and microclimates. Yanacocha’s moss-clad temperate forest and polylepis woodland are located on the side of the Pichincha Volcano. This is the last refuge of the critically endangered Black-breasted Puffleg. Other birds found at this location include the Black-chested and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, the Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, the Great Saphirewing and Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Lunch: At a restaurant in the reserve.

Afternoon: Continue our transfer through the Eco-route with birding stops along the way. Look for Toucan Barbets, Plate-billed Mountain Toucans, and Beautiful Jays. As we head into lower elevations, we will begin to enter subtropical forests where we might see Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers and White-winged Brush Finches. While passing through Alambi, we’ll stop to visit a plant nursery that is at the heart of a community project meant to save Ecuador’s critically endangered Black-breasted Puffleg. As we walk with a community member through the nursery and garden, we’ll learn more about the project and the various species of flowering plants being cultivated for the purpose of reforesting Black-breasted Puffleg habitats. Arrive at the hotel in Mindo and check-in.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Chocó-Andean Foothills, Mashpi Protected Area
Mindo
B,L,D
Sachatamia Lodge and Rainforest Reserve

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; about 22 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Easy trail conditions and birding from an unpaved road. Elevations at Mashpi Forest ~2,300-5,000 feet.

Breakfast: Boxed breakfast en route to the Mashpi protected area.

Morning: Early this morning, the bus will take us to the Mashpi Protected Forest. Then we'll accompany our Group Leader on foot, and bird from forest trails. Mashpi was recently declared a protected area and is one of the best sites in Ecuador to see Choco Endemic birds. Among the species seen in this area are the Dark-backed Wood-Quail, the Rose-faced Parrot, the Banded Ground-Cuckoo, the Purple-bibbed Whitetip, the Empress Brilliant, the Toucan Barbet, the Brown Inca and the Indigo Flowerpiercer.

Lunch: Box meal.

Afternoon: Continue birding in the Chocó-Andean Foothills. With numerous habitats that are home to hundreds of species, the Choco lowlands are among the country's best for birding. A number of these species are endemic to the sloping lowlands. We will drive back to the hotel at the end of the day’s activities.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Birding in the Rio Silanche Reserve
Mindo
B,L,D
Sachatamia Lodge and Rainforest Reserve

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; about 50 miles, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Easy trail conditions. Average elevation ~1,000 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After an early breakfast, we'll travel by bus to Pedro Vicente Maldonado for a full day of birding in the Rio Silanche Reserve with our Group Leader. The reserve protects one of the region’s last accessible stretches of hilly lowland forest (984 ft – 1,148 ft) and is a prime birding location. Here it is possible to view many important Chocó regional endemics as well as bird species that can normally be found in some hard-to-reach areas such as the Esmeraldas province or in neighboring Colombia. Here we hope to see Purple-chested Hummingbirds, Chocó Trogons, Double-banded Graytails, Griscom’s Antwrens, Stub-tailed Antbirds, Black-tipped Cotingas, Slate-throated Gnatcatchers, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, and Blue-whiskered Tanagers.

Lunch: At a local restaurant and mirador in the San Miguel de los Bancos area.

Afternoon: We'll bird around the fruit and nectar feeders at Mirador Rio Blanco. Popular species spotted at the feeders include Silver-throated and Golden Tanagers, Orange-billed Sparrows, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Green-crowned Brilliants, Rufous Motmots, Black-cheeked Woodpecker and more. Once we are done birding, we'll board the bus and ride back to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Unwind with a friendly game of billiards, or make it an early night to prepare for tomorrow's birding activities.

DAY
6
Paz de las Aves Reserve, Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest
Quijos Valley
B,L,D
Cabañas San Isidro

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; about 136 miles, approximately 4.5 hours riding time. Moderate to difficult trail conditions. We will travel through the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest, at elevations ranging from 3,870 ft to 15,678 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After check-out, we'll begin our journey to Paz de las Aves Reserve situated near Nanegalito. Our Group Leader will take us on a birding field trip through the reserve that will include a visit to the cock-of-the-rock lek. Paz de las Aves was founded by Angel Paz, a local resident who decided to convert his property into an antpitta and cock-of-the-rock sanctuary. The reserve has slowly gained fame among birding circles since it is a great place in which to spot at least three species of antipittas including the Great, Yellow-breasted, and Moustached Antpitta. Other notable birds spotted in the sanctuary include Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Dark-backed Wood Quails, Cloud-forest Pygmy Owls, Black-chinned Mountain Tanagers, Crymson-rumped Toucanets, and Empress Brilliants. We will travel through the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest. Approximately 400 species have been recorded in this region including Sunbitterns and Spotted Woodcreepers.

Lunch: At a local restaurant and mirador. Fruit and nectar feeders situated beyond the dining area regularly attract hummingbirds, euphonias, tanagers, and more.

Afternoon: We will board the bus and continue our long journey to the Quijos Valley. Our drive will take us through the Simon Bolivar Avenue before we connect with the Via Interoceanica to Pifo. From there, the road will climb steadily up to the continental divide before it makes a dramatic descent, passing through the small towns of Papallacta and Cuyuja. Our scenic journey will continue through Baeza and Cosanga until we reach our lodge in the San Isidro Reserve. Once we arrive at the lodge, we'll check-in and settle into our rooms.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Spend a relaxing evening chatting with your new Road Scholar friends or perhaps enjoy a nightcap before turning in for the night. Prepare luggage for check out the following morning.

DAY
7
San Isidro Reserve
Quijos Valley
B,L,D
Cabañas San Isidro

Activity note: Easy to moderate trail conditions. Elevations ~6,100-6,700 feet.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We'll enjoy a full day of birding activities in the San Isidro Reserve with our Group Leader. The San Isidro Reserve serves as an important biological bridge between the Antisana and Gran Sumaco Reserves. Forest trails lead through different elevations and habitats ranging from lower temperate to subtropical zones. Regularly seen species include the Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Rufous Wren, Grass-green Tanager, and Hooded Mountain Tanager. Some exciting species we hope to encounter include Crested Quetzal, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Barred Antthrush, Greater Scythebill (rare), White-faced Nunbird (very rare), Dusky Piha, and White-rimmed Brush-Finch. Regular visitors to the reserve’s hummingbird feeders include Sparkling Violetears, Speckled Hummingbirds, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliants, and Long-tailed Sylphs.

Lunch: Boxed meal in the field.

Afternoon: Continue with birding activities at San Isidro Reserve. Then we'll take part in a local reforestation project, helping to plant indigenous trees such as the lucuma that are in danger of extinction. Lucuma trees are native to the Andean highlands of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia and the fruit they produce are used widely in local desserts. Once we are done digging and preparing the soil, we’ll plant the trees and affix metal identification tags to each plant. This will make it easier to document what has been planted and monitor plant growth over time. Another plus—we’ll be able to check on our trees’ progress if we ever come back in the future! Return to the hotel.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
San Isidro Reserve, Cordillera de Huacamayos
Quijos Valley
B,L,D
Cabañas San Isidro

Activity note: Easy to moderate trail conditions. In case of poor weather, the field trip to Cordillera de Huacamayos will be replaced with birding at the Mirador Rio Hollin.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Early in the morning we'll drive to the Cordillera de Huacamayos (also Guacamayos) to bird in its montane broadleaf evergreen forest. During our walking explorations we will search for some of the area’s close to 50 species of tanagers as well as other regulars such as Black-billed Mountain Toucans, Tourmaline Sunangels, Rufous-vented Whitetips, Black-chested Fruiteaters, Streak-capped Treehunters, Flammulated Treehunters, Glossy Flowerpiercers, Spillmann's Tapaculos and more. Return to the lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Next, we'll drive to the Baeza Bypass and make intermittent stops to bird along the way. We will look for species such as the Black-billed Thrush, Red-breasted Blackbird, Blue-necked Tanager, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Russet-backed Oropendola, and Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant. Return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare luggage for check out tomorrow.

DAY
9
Humid Temperate Forest, Elfin Forest, Transfer to Quito
Quito
B,L,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus, about 66 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Easy birding trails at 8,900 feet of elevation.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After check-out, we'll begin the transfer to the Guango Lodge (8,856 ft) located on Ecuador’s eastern slope. This zone of humid temperate forest is home to a large variety of hummingbirds including Long-tailed Sylphs, Mountain Velvetbreasts, Collared Incas, White-bellied Woodstars, Sword-billed and Speckled Hummingbirds, Tourmaline Sunangels, Buff-tailed Coronets, Glowing Pufflegs, Green Violetears, and Tyrian Metaltails. Be on the lookout for Monked, Glossy, and White-sided Flowerpiercers that commonly frequent the area.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: We'll continue birding on the lodge's property before boarding the bus for our drive to Puembo/Quito. Check in at the hotel and get settled into our rooms.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Birding in Antisana Ecological Reserve, Farewell Dinner
Quito
B,L,D
Hosteria Rincon de Puembo

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; about 110 miles, approximately 3 hours riding time. Easy trail conditions.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast we'll drive to Antisana Ecological Reserve for bird watching. The privately-owned Antisana Ecological Reserve lies between the eastern border of the Andes and the Amazon lowlands; sandwiched midst the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and Sumaco Napo Galeras National Park. The reserve’s 12,000 hectares are a birdwatcher’s paradise with ecological zones ranging from lowland rainforest to páramo (18,886 ft). Birds found at this site include the Andean Condor, Giant Hummingbird, Corunculated Cara Cara, Black-faced Ibis, Speckled Teal, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, Slate-colored Coot, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, and Aplomado Falcon.

Lunch: Boxed meal in the field.

Afternoon: We'll drive back to the hotel, then enjoy a bit of "down time" to rest and relax before meeting for dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends and take part in a final bird count during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and flights to North America. Participants with international flights departing very late this evening/before dawn next morning will check out of the hotel and transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in preparation for airline check in.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Check-out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s "Getting There" section regarding transfers at the conclusion of the program.

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times). This concludes our program.

Morning: Safe travels! If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for the next program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.