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You are here:1.5 Information for the Birder

1.5 Information for the Birder

1.5.1 When to come
One of the many advantages for birding in Ecuador is that special birds can be seen almost year round. Ecuador can be viewed as the country of eternal spring and depending on when and where you go, this “spring” could be dry or could be rainy but no matter what, birding will be exceptional almost at any time. It is important to  remember that Ecuador is located right on the Equator and therefore it does not  have four  seasons but two different climate periods during the year, a rainy and a dry season.   The weather will depend on the itinerary of your trip and the different geographical areas you will be visiting. For a person who relies strongly on birds vocalizations to locate them, the rainy season is a good choice since many birds will be singing and they are often easier to locate. The down side of choosing the rainy season for is that it is possible that your visit to a given site might take place through a period of two or three rainy days, reducing valuable birding time. On the other hand, visiting an area of Ecuador during its dry season will restrict your quality birding to four hours in the early morning and the last three/four hours of light in the late afternoon. I recommend reviewing the prevailing weather pattern for the places you are planning to visit. Detailed information on weather pattern for the different regions of Ecuador can be found in the Climate and Seasons write-up. And remember, anytime you come you can be sure it will be a great experience full of many wonderful birds.
The weather in Ecuador is difficult to summarize because weather patterns vary so greatly in each geographical region. There are numerous microclimates due to extremely varied topography causing highly varied weather patterns in neighboring geographical locations.  Weather patterns differ west and east of the Continental Divide. Generally the west side is dominated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean and has its rainy season from late December to early May.  The rainy season for the eastern side is usually from May to November with the rainiest months June and July.
The general tourism high season for Ecuador (but not Galápagos Islands), goes from mid-December to January and from June to August. The high season when birding lodges have a high rate of occupancy and many of the best Ecuadorian birding tour agencies and birding guides are very busy ectends from October to mid April. Late April to June is the birding-low season, meanwhile July to September are intermediate.
The Galápagos high season goes from November to April and again late June to early September; the low season goes from May to early June and from late September to October. The Galápagos Islands have no high birding seasons. The main objections to take a birding trip to the islands will be that from late December to mid March the Waved Albatross colony is deserted and the Galápagos Rail does not vocalize. Nevertheless both species might still be seen, some of the albatrosses might be seen flying near Española Island and the rail could be seen with some effort in the highlands of Santa Cruz.
One other consideration for planning your trip to Ecuador is the dates for the National Holidays and major festivals. On those days you might have trouble accessing certain areas or getting certain services.

1.5.1.1 National Holidays and Major Festivals.

January 1. New Year’s day. Bus transportation connecting cities may be totally absent and the few available are so overcrowded that traveling is almost impossible. In the different cities there are far fewer buses and taxis and most restaurants and shops are closed. January the second has normal bus transportation (city to city) but buses could be crowded. Life inside the cities resumes unless January 1st happens to fall on a Friday.
 February 12. Discovery of the Amazon River. Be aware of parades in major cities in the eastern lowlands e.g. Puerto Francisco Orellana (also known as Coca), Lago Agrio, etc.
February 27. Battle of Tarqui.
March or April. Carnival and Easter.  Carnival is the equivalent to New Orleans’s Mardi Gras and is held forty days before Easter, therefore it’s a changeable date. It lasts 2 days but it could turn into a long holiday if it falls on Monday or Thursday because the weekend will be added to it, (the same for the case if held on Tuesday and Friday). Carnival is very popular among Ecuadorians because many enjoy holidays on the beach. Be aware that traffic will be heavy on major roads and highways at the start of Carnival when leaving the cities and at the end of it when returning home. The Carnival celebrations are famous and attended by thousands of visitors in the cities of Guaranda and Ambato too (Fiesta de las Flores y las Frutas) and finding a hotel room throughout Carnival is very hard at the beach and in the above mentioned cities. One another inconvenience from Carnival is the infamous practice of throwing water and other liquids at each other as part of the celebration. This practice can be a lot of fun if held among relatives and people with a bond of friendship and especially if agreed to beforehand. However if you are walking on a street and an unknown person throws water on you, drenching your equipment and clothing, this could be very annoying, to say the least. The same can happen if you are driving with the windows down in town, for people might try to soak you through the open windows! This very unpleasant practice is banned but has managed to survive despite the authorities and people like me, (I hate it!). On the other hand, Easter is very calm and full of peace.
May 1. Labor Day. It is ironic that to celebrate Labor Day, people do not work, especially for government supplied jobs, factories and other industries. On the other hand transportation, hotels and restaurants attend their business normally. From the tourist standpoint, there is not much to worry about other than some peaceful demonstrations taking place in major cities.
May: Second Sunday of the month. Mothers´s Day. Restaurants are totally full for lunch and dinner.
May 24. Battle of Pichicha. Quito´s Independence Day. It is a national holiday with parades only in Quito where traffic could be difficult along the De Los Shirys Avenue and surroundings where the main parade takes place.
June 24. Saint John the Baptist Day. This is not a major festivity and is particularly held in small villages and towns where as a result of late afternoon parties you might find some drunken people on the street.
June 29. Saints Peter and Paul Day. This also is not a major festivity, and is similar to the preceding.
July 25. Founding of Guayaquil, it is also the Day of the Nation. It is commemorated throughout the country as a newly approved holiday (2008). In Guayaquil there are parades and traffic can be difficult along the 9 de Octubre Avenue and nearby where the main parade takes place.
August 10. Independence Day.  Country wide holiday with no particular celebration through there are a few parades and speeches.
    August 20: Virgen del Cisne (The Swan´s Virgin). This festivity is celebrated in Loja Province but people from all over the country attend it. A pretty statue of Virgin Mary leaves from San Pedro de la Bendita, goes by the town of Catamayo (where Loja local airport is located) and completes a procession of 75 k (46 miles) to the city of Loja from which it returns on November the 3th. In 2007 this procession was attended by 20,000 people and as a result of this religious event the road connecting Loja city with its airport is closed for the day.
September 1 to 15. Del Yamor Festivities. It is only held in Otavalo.
October 9. Guayaquil´s Independence Day. Even though commemorated throughout the country it is only celebrated in Guayaquil where it is a holiday, with parades causing congestion along the 9 de Octubre Avenue and nearby where the main parade takes place.
November 2. All Saint´s and All Soul´s Day. People visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of the deceased people, special food is prepared. It is a holiday throughout the country.
 November 3. Cuenca´s Independence Day. Even though commemorated throughout the country it is only celebrated in Cuenca where it is a holiday, with parades on the more important avenues.
    December 6. Founding of Quito. Even though commemorated throughout the country it is only celebrated in Quito where it is a holiday, with parades along the more important avenues. On the night of Dec 6 there might be live music and dancing on the street and therefore traffic might be difficult.
    December 24 and 25. Christmas. Celebrated very much like anywhere in the world.
    December 31. New Year´s Eve. Celebrated very much like anywhere in the world with the only outstanding feature of live music and dancing on the streets (traffic might be difficult) and the burning of muppets to get rid of all the bad memories from the finishing year.  

1.5.2 Birding in Ecuador

1.5.2.1 A Daily Pattern.

In Ecuador, as everywhere in the tropics, bird activity is greatest in the morning. From 6:00 AM to 9:30 AM the birds tend to be quite vocal and are more active than during the rest of the day. Bird activity usually slows down considerably after 9:30 AM or 10:00 AM, and starts to pick up in the mid-afternoon from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM. At this time there is a second round of bird activity. The forest edges and roads tend to be more active than inside the forested areas in the afternoon.
One of the most interesting patterns for the song birds from all sorts of habitats is that at dawn, sometimes even just before dawn, all song birds engage in a frenzy of song which can be used to locate them and to approach their territories later in the day. This technique provides an improved chance of finding the more sought after species.  
For most nocturnal birds the best time to look for them is at dusk or right after dusk, when they tend to be much more vocal and easier to locate. The predawn hour is also a good time to locate these nocturnal species.
    It is a general rule that when rain or heavy drizzle sets on, you want to avoid being inside any kind of forest. Rainwater dripping off the many leaf layers inside forest will make bird spotting next to impossible. After the rain has come to a stop you have to wait for at least half an hour for the dripping to stop.

1.5.2.2 Some considerations about Ecuador’s daily bird rhythms.

Birds behave slightly different depending on the kind of habitat and weather conditions on a given day.

1.5.2.2.1 In the Lowland Rain Forest, Foothill Forest and Lower Mountain Forest.
I suggest you start at first light, when there is still dim light and viewing conditions are poor, along the forest edge or along roads until it becomes light enough to see on trails inside the forest, or when bird activity drops considerably. When alone or in a small group, after becoming acquainted with the more commonly seen birds from the forest edge, it is a good idea to walk trails at dawn for some of the skulking forest species. They might be seen when they move along the trail (e.g. antpittas, antthrushes, quail-doves, wood-quails and others). Sometimes when the sky is overcast or a constant drizzle prevails all day long bird activity can remain high along roads and forest edges.
    When it turns hot after 9:30 AM or 10:00 AM, it is always better to walk the inside forest trails. Mixed understory flocks reach their peak between 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and often canopy flocks can be surprisingly active then (if sun is not too bright).
    When rain has dominated the morning and it finally stops and the sun comes out in the mid-afternoon, you should go out along roads or forest edges or even better atop a viewing platform for birds will come out to dry out their wet feathers and start a quick activity before it gets dark.

1.5.2.2.2 In the Cloud Forest.

In cloud forest, birds often wait for the day to warm before they begin activity in earnest.  When the weather remains misty and overcast, even with constant drizzle, bird activity can remain high throughout the day.  These days can be good for mixed species flocks. The problem here is that it can be hard to see birds through the mist or rain.  For these conditions you need to master the art of birding with an umbrella.  It would be good to practice this skill before you come!
    When it turns bright and sunny, bird activity can completely shut down. At this time it is best to find a fruiting tree or go find some hummingbird or fruit feeder.

1.5.2.2.3 In the Páramo.
    Getting up super early is not so important in this habitat because birds will remain active all day long. They typically will be easier to find in the early morning when they are singing, but often when it is sunny and clear birds carry on. In Páramo this weather is the best from a birder’s point of view. The worst conditions here are windy and blustery misty weather. If such bad conditions exist in the higher elevations it is better to descend to lower elevations where the weather might be bird friendly.

1.5.2.2.4 In the Coastal habitats.

It is important to start early because it can be very hot here and quite uncomfortable even before 9:00 AM. Windy days are not good for birding here either.

1.5.3 Clothing and Equipment

1.5.3.1 Clothing.

The choice of field clothing depends on the kind of activity you are planning. In Ecuador the clothing you are going to use largely depends on your personal taste. What is for sure is that you want to travel light and to make sure the weight and size of your bag complies with the standards and limits of your airline.  If you're going to the cold highlands your needs will be different than if you are going to the hot lowlands.
Once in country and if you are using a city as a center of your travels and taking shorter trips from there, you should leave unnecessary clothing for the place you are heading. I suggest taking a soft bag that you can leave behind in storage while you take your regular travel bag along with you.   This should be hard case or duffel bag with a large and beefy zipper.  If you are the adventurous kind of traveler, a backpack or pack with a hidden harness system is best. A small day pack or shoulder bag is also quite a good idea.
The color of your clothing can be extremely important to your success in seeing shy and elusive birds. Drab, neutral colors, such as olive, khaki, brown, or gray do not contrast strongly with vegetation, allowing you to blend in with the background. Bright colors and whites turn you into a huge mobile light!

1.5.3.1.1  Travel in the lowlands.

Here you must deal with heat and humidity and depending on the season and location, insects as well. Take three sets of clothing, two for the trail and one for camp. Take a lightweight pair of shoes and/or sandals that you will keep dry for camp. Lightweight materials of synthetic or cotton blend for pants and shirts with long sleeves work best. Long sleeve shirts that can be rolled up and allow air-flow are best. They breathe well and vent heat from your body. A pair of shorts and cotton t-shirts are quite good as well. Long pants will protect against most biting insects, as well as against accidental scrapes from bushes.  I strongly recommend pre-treating field clothing with premethrim.
     Lightweight waterproof hiking boots or trail shoes can be worn almost daily. Rubber boots will be useful in some areas, but are unnecessary in others. I suggest you consider the Neos overshoe boots that are light, waterproof and travel easy. It is very important to get a pair that will give you good traction. For more information search for the Neos overshoes at: www.overshoe.com.
A good hat with a wide brim all the way around is better than baseball caps as it affords better protection for your ears and neck from the intense tropical sun. A small lightweight collapsible umbrella is often the best protection against occasional rain showers and it will allow you to remain dry at the same time while shielding your binoculars from the rain.
A rain jacket or poncho of some type may still be necessary for some areas with heavier rainfall; Goretex jackets make noise every time you move. Try to find a jacket with fabric that is quiet when in motion with arm movement and binocular usage while birding.

1.5.3.1.2 Travel in the Highlands.

A system of layering is best where you add or subtract a layer of clothing as needed. The inner layer, close to your skin, should be light, warm and comfortable, and synthetic. Stay away from cotton because it does not dry quickly and retains water and perspiration.  The middle insulating layer can be any piece of clothing that helps you maintain heat.  This could be a thick shirt, sweat shirt, sweater, or synthetic fleece jacket and weather protected pants. A shell or jacket (and pants) that is windproof and waterproof with a removable or stow-away hood is great. Some light synthetic gloves, a wool/synthetic hat and wool socks round off highland clothing.
As you become colder or warmer you can add or subtract a layer as needed. Take three sets of clothing; one for the trail and one for the camp, that way you can remain clean and comfortable when your trail clothing is drying. If you are combining the lowlands and highlands in your trip you can use the same lowland clothing as part of your highland outfit.
    
 1.5.3.2 General Items for any trip.

A supply of powered re-hydration salts like Gatorade to put in your water bottle is recommended. It is easy to become dehydrated without knowing it. A good water bottle or canteen should be considered an essential piece of your equipment.
    Plastic zip-lock bags and garbage plastic bags can come in handy for keeping expensive equipment dry during rain, or dust-free in open areas.
    I suggest bringing along a pair of lightweight gloves for hand protection against insects.
Consider carrying a back-up pair of binoculars. Having the trip of a lifetime ruined by a fogged or dropped pair of binoculars is a huge price to pay for not carrying a spare pair.
    If you wear glasses, consider using contact lens when birding. If that possibility is negated due to your eye conditions, you should carry an ample supply of lens-defogger and a clean cloth (or two) for wiping your lenses clean.
    For birding inside forest I recommend binoculars 7x42 or 8x42, bright and with close focus. With these binoculars you will have a much easier time getting on birds in shady areas and through the many foliage layers inside forest. On the other hand, when birding in open habitats such as the beach or grasslands, it is better to use 10x42 or similar for they will give much needed extra power. High quality sealed, nitrogen-filled binoculars are recommended.
    A telescope is useful for birds in open areas and those on distant perches.
If you plan on doing night birding, a head light will be helpful for it allows you to hold your binoculars with both hands. A spotlight can also be very helpful.

1.5.3.3 Checklist of Essential Materials

         2 good flashlights
         insect repellent
         water bottle (1/2 to 1 quart plastic bottle)
         towel, washcloth, and soap (but necessary only if you are not going to regular hotels)
         sunscreen lotion and good hat
         plastic bags
         walking shoes (boots) and a pair of sneakers (thongs optional for showers)
         raincoat  and collapsible umbrella
         all personal medication, including first aid items; extra eyeglasses
         small pocket notebook and writing materials
         binoculars (2 pairs)
         day pack or small backpack
            Yellow fever card vaccination
         passport
         Other useful but optional items include: cigarette lighter (for lighting candles, repellent coils, etc.) and a pocket knife.

1.5.4 Field guides and recordings

1.5.4.1 Field Guides

The indispensable guide for birding in Ecuador is the monumental work The Birds of Ecuador by Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield (2001). The English version was published in two volumes:
Volume I, Status, Distribution, and Taxonomy contains detailed information on the ecology, status, and distribution of all Ecuadorian species. The introductory chapters deal with geography, climate, and vegetation; bird migration in Ecuador. In this volume Ecuadorian ornithology; endemic bird areas in Ecuador and conservation are discussed. Volume I also includes individual species accounts and discusses habitat, distribution, and taxonomy of Ecuadorian birds.  It is complementary to volume II and contains 848 pages and costs approximately US $ 85.
Volume II, Field Guide contains 96 full-color plates and facing pages of descriptive text, a color map of Ecuador, two line drawings of bird anatomy. Also included are 115 silhouette outlines, and nearly 1600 distribution maps. All species are illustrated in full color, including migrants and vagrants and visually distinctive subspecies. The text focuses on the field identification aspects of each species, including their behavior, vocalizations, and nest appearance. The field guide is 740 pages long. This comprehensive work’s only downside in the size of the book itself, which you can carry in the field only with effort as it weighs 0.9 kg (2 pounds). The cost of this volume is US $ 55.
    The two volumes are available separately or may be purchased as a slipcase set.
    Some birders remove the plates from volume I and bind them in many different ways, leaving the text in the suitcase or at home. This solution seems to me to be “butchery” in a way.   A solution to the weight of Volume II  in the English version is presented in the Spanish version of the book, which was published in 2006 and is only available in Ecuador.   The Spanish version is also presented as two volumes but Volume I is only the 96 plates themselves and Volume II contains the text  as presented in Volume I of the English version.
    The plates of both versions have a short text with important distributional information, major field marks and species status. The Spanish version also has the English names in both text and plates and therefore if you understand Spanish, buying the Spanish version will provide with bound plates that are easily carried around in the field.

1.5.4.2 Galápagos Islands Field Guides
    
Swash, A., and R. Still, 2000. Birds, Mammals & Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands.       Midas printing, Hong Kong. Probably the best guide for the birds in the Galápagos Islands, the information presented being brief but precise.


1.5.4.3 Other suggested references

Constant, P., (2006) Galapágos a Natural History Guide. Edit Helen Northey, Hong Kong. 316 pp.

Dunning, J. S. (1989) South American Birds: A Photographic Aid to Identification. Harrod Books

Fjelsa, J. & Krabbe, N. (1990) Birds of the High Andes: a manual to the birds of the temperate zone of the Andes and Patagonia, South America. Apollo Books and University of Copenhagen.

Fitter, J., Fitter, D., and Hosking D., (2000)  Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands

Hilty, S. L. & Brown, W. L. (1986) A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hilty, S. L., Gwynne,  J.A., Tudor, G. (2002) Birds of Venezuela. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jackson, H. M., (1999)  Galápagos a Natural History Guide. University of Calgary Press. Canada.

Restall, R., Rodner, C., Lentino, M. (2007) Birds of Northern South America: Volume 1 An identification guide. Yale University Press.

Restall, R., Rodner, C., Lentino, M. (2007) Birds of Northern South America: Volume 2 An identification guide. Yale University Press.

Ridgely, R. S., Greenfield, P. J., Guerrero, M. G. (1998) An Annotated List of the Birds of Mainland Ecuador. Fundación Ornitológica del Ecuador, CECIA.
 
Ridgely, R. S. & Tudor G. (1989) Birds of South America. Volume I: The oscine passerines. University of Texas Press.

Ridgely, R. S. & Tudor G. (1989) Birds of South America. Volume II: The suboscine passerines. University of Texas Press.

Ridgely, R. S. & Tudor G. (2009). The Songbirds of South America. University of Texas Press.

Schulemberg, T. S., Stotz, D. F., Lane, D., O´Neill, J. P., Parker, T. P. III. (2007) Birds of Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

 1.5.4.4 Journals

Cotinga
The twice –yearly journal of the Neotropical Bird Club; Publishes articles, news and reviews exclusively on Neotropical Birds.

Auk, Bird Conservation International, Bulletin of the British Ornithologist´s Club, Condor, Ornitología Neotropical, Wilson Bulletinn.
All these journals occasionally publish papers on Ecuadorian ornithology.

General Travel Books

Palmerlee, D. (2007) Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Lonely Planet editions.

Pearson, D. L., Beletsky, L.D., Barret, P. (2005) Ecuador and the Galapagos. Travelers WildlifeGuides, Interlink Books.

Hopey, M., Minster, C., Tibbetts, K. (2007) Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. V!VA travel guide editions

1.5.4.5 Other Wildlife literature

Emmons, L. H. & Feer, F. (1990) Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, a Field Guide. Chicago University Press.

Eisenberg, J. F. & Redford, K. H. (1989) Mammals of the Neotropics. Volume 1: The Northern Neotropics. Chicago University Press.

Kricher, J. C. (1989) A Neotropical Companion. Princeton University Press.

1.5.4.6 Audio References

- Bird Songs and Calls from Southeast Peru. Ben B. Coffey, Jr. and Lula C. Coffey. TAPE
-Birds of Bolivia/Aves de Bolivia 2.0 Sjoerd Mayer. CD-ROM
-Birds of Eastern Ecuador. Peter H.English and Theodore A. Parker III. TAPE
- Birds of Ecuador /Aves de Ecuador. Neils Krabbe and Jonas Nilson.DVD-ROM
- Birds of Ecuador: Sounds and Photographs. Neils Krabbe and Jonas Nilson.DVD-ROM
-Birds of Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. Sjoerd Mayer, CD-ROM
- Birds of the Ecuadorian Highlands. The Upper Montane and Paramo Zones of Ecuador. Neils Krabbe, John V. Moore, Paul Coopmans, Mitch Lysinger andRobert S. Ridgely. 4 CD Set
- Birds of Venezuela / Aves de Venezuela 1.0 Peter Boseman CD-ROM
-Ecuador: more bird vocalizations from the Lowland Rainforest. Vol 1. John V. Moore. TAPE
-Ecuador: more bird vocalizations from the Lowland Rainforest. Vol 2. John V. Moore. TAPE
-Ecuador: more bird vocalizations from the Lowland Rainforest. Vol 3. John V. Moore. TAPE
-Song of the Antbirds. Phyllis R. Isler and Bret M. Whitney. 3 CD Set
-Songs of Vireos and their allies (2nd edition, 1995) Jon C. Barlow and John W. Hardy. TAPE
- Sounds of La Selva, Ecuador. John V. Moore. TAPE
-  The Birds of Cabañas San Isidro. John V. Moore and Mitch Lysinger. 2 TAPE Set
-The Birds of Eastern Ecuador. Volume I: The Foothills and Lower Subtropics. Mitch Lysinger, John V. Moore, Neils Krabbe, Paul Coopmans, Daniel F. Lane, Lelis Navarrete, Jonas Nilson and Robert S. Ridgely. 5 CD Set.
-The Birds of Eastern Ecuador. Volume II: The Lowlands (forthcoming)
-The Birds of Northwest Ecuador. Volume I: The Upper Foothills and Subtropics. John V. Moore, Paul Coopmans, Robert S. Ridgely and Mitch Lysinger. 3 CD Set.
- The Birds of Northwest Ecuador. Volume II: The lowlands and the Lower Foothills. Olaf Jahn, John V. Moore, Patricio Mena, Neils Krabbe, Paul Coopmans, Mitch Lysinger and Robert S. Ridgely. 2 CD Set.
- The Birds of Southwest Ecuador. Paul Coopmans, John V. Moore, Neils Krabbe, Olaf Jahn, Karl S. Berg, Mitch Lysinger, Lelis Navarrete and Robert S. Ridgely. 5 CD Set.
- Voices of Amazonian Birds: Rainforest of Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia Vol. 1 Tinamous through Barbets. Thomas S. Schulenberg, Curtis A. Marants and Peter H. English. CD
- Voices of Amazonian Birds: Rainforest of Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia Vol. 2 Toucans through Antbirds. Thomas S. Schulenberg, Curtis A. Marants and Peter H. English. CD
- Voices of Amazonian Birds: Rainforest of Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia Vol. 3 Ground Antbirds through Jays. Thomas S. Schulenberg, Curtis A. Marants and Peter H. English. CD
- Voices of Andean Birds Vol. 1, Birds of the Hill Forest of Southern Peru and Bolivia. Thomas S. Schulenberg.
- Voices of Andean Birds Vol. 1, Birds of the Cloud Forest of Southern Peru and Bolivia. Thomas S. Schulenberg.
- Voices of Neotropical Wood Warblers. John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE
- Voices of NewWorldParrots. Bret M. Whitney, Theodore A. Parker III, Gregory F. Budney, Charles A. Munn, Jack W. Bradbury. 3 CD Set
- Voices of the New World Cuckoos and Trogons (2nd edition, 1995) John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Jays, Crows and their allies. John W. Hardy. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Mockingbirds, Thrashers and their allies. John W. Hardy, Jon C. Barlow and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Nightjars and their allies. John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Owls. John W. Hardy, Ben B, Coffey and George B. Reynard. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Pigeons and Doves. John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Quails. John W. Hardy and Ralph J. Raitt. TAPE
- Voices of the New World Rails. John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Terry Taylor. TAPE.
- Voices of the New World Thrushes. John W. Hardy. TAPE
- Voices of the Peruvian Rainforest. Theodore A. Parker III. TAPE
- Voices of the Tinamous. John W. Hardy, Jacques Vielliard, J. & Roberto J. Straneck. TAPE
- Voices of the Toucans. John W. Hardy, Theodore A. Parker III and Terry Taylor. TAPE
- Voices of the Troupials, Blackbirds and their allies. John W. Hardy, George B. Reynard and Terry Taylor. TAPE.
- Voices of the Woodcreepers. John W. Hardy, Theodore A. Parker III and Ben B, Coffey (revised by Terry Taylor). TAPE
- Voices of the Wrens (3th Edition, 1996). John W. Hardy and Ben B, Coffey. TAPE

1.5.5 Birding tour companies and guides in Ecuador

Ecuador is a small country with great biodiversity and one of the world’s birding hotspots. It is turning into a major destination for birders around the world.   To meet the increasing number of birding tourists a number of international tour companies offer birding trips to Ecuador. As anyone who browses on the internet will see, there are countless web-pages with advertisements about birding trips to Ecuador.  The birding tourist should beware that if a tour company offers trips for many kinds of interests and not only birding, this means it is not a specialized agency.  These generally are companies that only are playing a middleman role and they often know little about birding and birds.   If you plan to do a tour with a large international outfit or a local company make sure that they have a high reputation.  Most of the large international birding companies are well organized and normally use an Ecuadorian based ground company and in most cases local birding guides to assist their tours.   Using less reputable international birding tour companies can result in a trip fiasco that includes odd itineraries and a guide with very little or poor birding skills.  Often these companies employ guides that are general interest nature guides and not bird specialists.
    There are several Ecuador based tour companies that offer trips designed specifically for birders.   These have the capacity to organize trips for groups or private individuals even down to “one on one” tours.  Of course, pricing will be affected by group size and the nature of the places to be visited.  The companies listed below are all outfits that have been in business long enough to show proof of their efficiency and that have a good reputation.  These are generally locally based companies and their prices will be cheaper than those of the international companies.  If you decide to use a different Ecuadorian tour agency you might learn the hard way with a ruined holiday.   In the future surely other companies will meet the standard of quality needed to fulfill the requirements of a fine birding holiday and they will be added to this list as they emerge.

1.5.5.1 Ecuador based Birding Tour Companies.

The following companies are listed in alphabetic order and by no means do I intend to suggest which one is the best. A good way to judge is to contact people with previous experience with these companies. At the same time I suggest contacting the companies personally and asking a lot of questions.

-Andean Birding. Owned by Jonas Nilsson (Swedish) and Charlie Vogt (USA American). Andean Birding had been organizing trips in Ecuador since 1999.
http://www.andeanbirding.com/
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
-Aves Travel. Owned by Robert Jonsson  (Swedish). Aves Travel has been organizing trips in Ecuador since 1996.
http://www.avestravel.com/
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- Bird Ecuador. Owned by Irene Bustamante (Ecuadorian)
organizing trips since 2003
whttp://www.birdecuador.com
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- Exploraves Birdwatchers. Owned by Pablo Andrade (Ecuadorian). This is a tour company mainly restricted to southern Ecuador (El Oro, Loja and Zamora-Chinchipe provinces) They have been organizing trips since 2001
http://exploraves.com/web/
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-Mindo Bird Tours. Owned by Jane Lyons (USA American). Mindo Bird has been organizing trips since 1999.
www.mindobirds.com.ec/
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-Neblina Forest. Owned by Mercedes Rivadeniera and Xavier Muñoz (both Ecuadorians). This is the first Ecuadorian established birding agency and has been organizing trips since 1994
www.neblinaforest.com
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-Tropical Birding. Owned by Ian Campbell and others. Tropical Birding has been organizing trips since 1999.
http://www.tropicalbirding.com
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1.5.5.2 Birding Guides in Ecuador.

The tourist attempting to get the most out of a birding vacation should consider hiring a good birding guide. Some people prefer to bird independently, but doing so means trying to come to grips with hundreds of calls and familiarizing oneself  with locations, behaviors and plumages of a bewildering array of antbirds, antwrens, flycatchers, spinetails and many others. At the same time they also run the risk of missing a lot of species. This virtual book is intended for the independent birder but it will not make up for you to choose of not using a professional guide.   There are many good general guides in Ecuador but rather few good birding guides. There are many people who call themselves birding guides for they know the common species and the showier birds. When faced with the problem of identifying the more cryptic and less conspicuous birds they will be of little help.  These are the birds that you will need the most help with, and in order to please their clients these guides will often come up with an inaccurate bird identification. There are several foreigner birding guides that are exceptionally good but I am not listing them because they do not live in the country.
A good birding guide is hard to describe, but there are characteristics that are important to consider when choosing a guide.  That the guide needs to know the birds by eye and by ear is obviously essential, but there are other important considerations to make before choosing a good birding guide.  It is critical for the guide to have:

- proper equipment, telescope, audio recorder, preset bird sounds, laser pointers and know how to use them al effectively.  
- needs to be good in calling the birds appropriately and in a timely fashion.
- The guide needs to be good at giving instructions to assist the bird group in seeing/finding the bird (s) rapidly and clearly understandable by the entire group.
- evaluates the capacities, skills and limitations of the people in the group and tries to compensate activities so every person gets the most out of the trip
- always thinks of the safety, health and integrity of the people on the trip before taking any decisions.
In sum a good birding guide must be energetic and have good people skills.
Once again, I am not trying to suggest who is best, but as a general rule there is a lot of truth in the following saying.
  “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is the king”                                         I have traveled throughout Ecuador birding for nineteen years and have had the chance to meet all the people listed here bellow. I have run onto them many times in the field and I never heard a complaint from their customers, and in their groups everyone seemed quite happy and pleased.  The list of birding guides is in alphabetical order by surname; all are very capable people.   Some are better known than others but they all are all fine guides.   One should judge who they want to travel with by contacting people with previous experience with each guide.  This information can be found by asking the guide for references or surveys from past clients.


Roger Ahlman    Swedish        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Nick Athanas        USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dušan Brinkhuizen    Dutch             This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Edison Buenaño    Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Juan Calvachi        Ecuadorian        (593) 99664503    
Charles Hesse        USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Francisco Enriquez    Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rudy Gelis        USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Paul Greenfield    USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    
José Illanes         Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Robert  Jonsson    Swedish        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mitch Lysinger    USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Xavier Muñoz        Ecuadorian           This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tony Nunnery        USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lelis Navarrete    Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jonas Nilsson         Swedish        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Scott Olmstead    USA            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
William Perez        Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Alejandro Solano     Costarican        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Vinico Perez        Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pablo Andrade    Ecuadorian        This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Only in the Southern areas, Loja and Zamora Chinchipe provinces     

Many lodges and popular birding areas have very capable birding guides.   At this time most of them only work with local birds at the various sites.  You can find about them through the local agents or through the lodges and resorts.

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.

 

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