You are here:1.3 Bird Migration in Ecuador

1.3 Bird Migration in Ecuador

The majority of migrants occurring in Ecuador are non-breeding visitors from North America (including Middle America, Mexico to Panamá).  These here will be called “Boreal Migrants”.   There is also a small number of species breeding in the Southern Hemispheres that visit Ecuador during the Austral winter. These are the “Austral Migrants”. Most of the species migrating from the South are restricted to the Amazonian side of Ecuador.

There are also a small number of species that breed in a region within the tropics and migrate to another tropical region for the non-breeding season.   These are “Intratropical Migrants”. A good number of species show up in Ecuador as pelagic visitors along the Pacific coast off Ecuador.   Other pelagic species disperse from Perú.   Finally there are some very rare wanderers that turn up in Ecuador from time to time.

1.3.1 Boreal Migrants

These birds breed in different regions of the Northern Hemisphere and migrate southward during the boreal winter and they include Ecuador as part of the wintering grounds or, for a few, as a passage on their way further south.   This later case is especially true for shorebirds. At least 7.5% of the Ecuadorian avifauna are Boreal migrants.  These occur throughout the country with the greatest concentration in the west due to the number of shorebirds.

The proportion of boreal migrants within Neotropical avian communities decreases with latitude, and because of this Ecuador has a reduced number of migrant warblers. This largest family of boreal migrants occurs in lower numbers in Ecuador when compared to other tropical countries in Central America and South America to the north of Ecuador. Most of the boreal migrants in Ecuador occur below 1,500 m (5,000 ft).  A few of these Boreal migrants have separate breeding populations in Ecuador.

Not all migrants show up in Ecuador at the same time.   Inland shorebirds occur mainly from July to October/November, the coastal shorebirds occur mainly from February to October and very large numbers also over-winter; and the land birds (warblers, flycatcher, etc) show up from September/October to April/May.

Boreal Migrants in Ecuador (122)

Blue-winged Teal                                Anas discors

Cinnamon Teal*                                  Anas cyanoptera septentrionalium

Northern Shoveler*                            Anas clypeata

Lesser Scaup*                                     Aythya affinis

Least Bittern                                       Ixobrychus exilis exilis (?)

Great Blue Heron*                              Ardea herodias

Great Egret2                                        Ardea alba

Little Blue Heron2                               Egretta caerulea

Tricolored Heron                                 Egretta tricolor ruficollis

Cattle Egret2                                       Bulbucus ibis
Green Heron*                                     Butorides virescens
Black-crowned Night-Heron2             Nycticorax nycticorax

Osprey                                                 Pandion haliaetus

Swallow-tailed Kite                            Elanoides forficatus forficatus

Plumbeous Kite2                                 Ictinia plumbea

Mississippi Kite*1                               Ictinia mississippiensis

Broad-winged Hawk                          Buteo platypterus

Swainson's Hawk*1                            Buteo swainsoni

Merlin                                      Falco columbarius

Peregrine Falcon                                 Falco peregrines tundrius

Sora                                                     Porzana carolina

Greater Yellowlegs                             Tringa melanoleuca

Lesser Yellowlegs                               Tringa flavipes

Solitary Sandpiper                              Tringa solitaria

Wandering Tattler                               Heteroscelus incanus

Willet                                                  Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Spotted Sandpiper                              Actitis macularius

Upland Sandpiper1                              Bartramia longicauda

Whimbrel                                            Numenius phaeopus

Hudsonian Godwit1                            Limosa haemastica

Marbled Godwit*                               Limosa fedoa

Ruddy Turnstone                                Arenaria interpres

Surfbird                                               Aphriza virgata

Red Knot*1                                         Calidris canutus

Sanderling                                           Calidris alba

Semipalmated Sandpiper                    Calidris pusilla

Western Sandpiper                              Calidris mauri

Least Sandpiper                                  Calidris minutilla

White-rumped Sandpiper*1                Calidris fuscicollis

Baird’s Sandpiper1                              Calidris bairdii

Pectoral Sandpiper1                             Calidris melanotos

Dunlin*                                               Calidris alpina

Curlew Sandpiper*                             Calidris ferruginea

Stilt Sandpiper                                    Micropalama himantopus

Buff-breasted Sandpiper1                   Tryngites subruficollis

Short-billed Dowitcher                       Limnodromus griseus

Long-billed Dowitcher*                     Limnodromus scolopaceus

Common Snipe*                                 Gallinago gallinago

Red-necked Phalarope 1                      Phalaropus lobatus
Wilson's Phalarope                              Phalaropus tricolor
Red Phalarope1                                   Phalaropus fulicarius

American Avocet*                              Recurvirostra americana

Black-bellied Plover                            Pluvialis squatarola

American Golden-Plover1                   Pluvialis dominica

Pacific Golden-Plover*                       Pluvialis fulva

Semipalmated Plover                          Charadrius semipalmatus

Killdeer                                               Charadrius vociferus

Piping Plover*                                     Charadrius melodus

Laughing Gull                                     Leucophaeus atricilla

Franklin's Gull1                                   Leucophaeus pipixcan

Lesser Black-backed Gull*                 Larus fuscus

Herring Gull*                                      Larus argentatus

Ring-billed Gull*                                Larus delawarensis

California Gull*                                  Larus californianus

Least Tern*                                         Sternula antillarum

Caspian Tern*                                     Hydroprogne caspia

Common Tern                                     Sterna hirundo

Arctic Tern1                                         Sterna paradisaea

Royal Tern                                          Thalasseusmaxima

Elegant Tern1                                      Thalasseuselegans

Sandwich Tern                                    Thalasseussandvicensis

Black Tern                                           Chlidonias niger

Black-billed Cuckoo1                          Coccyzus erythropthalmus

Yellow-billed Cuckoo1                       Coccyzus americanus

Common Nighthawk                          Chordeiles minor

Chimney Swift                                    Chaetura pelagica

Western Wood-Pewee                        Contopus sordidulus

Eastern Wood-Pewee                         Contopus virens

Olive-sided Flycatcher                        Contopus cooperi

Acadian Flycatcher                             Empidonax virescens

Alder Flycatcher                                 Empidonax alnorum

Willow Flycatcher*                             Empidonax traillii

Great Crested Flycatcher*                  Myiarchus crinitus

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher                  Myiodynastes luteiventris

Eastern Kingbird1                               Tyrannus tyrannus

Gray Kingbird*                                   Tyrannus dominicensis

Yellow-throatedVireo *                      Vireo flavifrons

Red-eyed Vireo                                  Vireo olivaceus olivaceus

Yellow-green Vireo                            Vireo flavoviridis

Gray-cheeked Thrush                          Catharus minimus

Swainson’s Thrush                              Catharus ustulatus

Red-throated Pipit*                            Anthus cervinus

Purple Martin*1                                   Progne subis

Tree Swallow*                                    Tachycineta bicolor

Sand Martin1                                       Riparia riparia

Barn Swallow                                     Hirundo rustica

Cliff Swallow1                                    Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Golden-winged Warbler*                   Vermivora chrysoptera

Tennessee Warbler                              Leiothlypisperegrina

Yellow Warbler                                   Dendroica petechia

Blackpoll Warbler                               Dendroica striata

Cerulean Warbler                                Dendroica cerulea

Black-throated Blue Warbler              Dendroica caerulescens

Bay-breasted Warbler*                       Dendroica castanea

Black-throated Green Warbler *         Dendroica virens

Blackburnian Warbler             Dendroica fusca

Chestnut-sided Warbler*                    Dendroica pensylvanica

Black-and-white Warbler                    Mniotilta varia

American Redstart                              Setophaga ruticilla

Prothonotary Warbler*                       Protonotaria citrea

Ovenbird*                                           Seiurus aurocapilla

Northern Waterthrush                         Seiurus noveboracensis

Connecticut Warbler*             Oporornis agilis

Wilson´s Warbler*                              Wilsonia pusilla

Canada Warbler                                  Wilsonia canadensis

Summer Tanager                                 Piranga rubra

Scarlet Tanager                                   Piranga olivacea

Rose-breasted Grosbeak                     Pheucticus ludovicianus

Blue Grosbeak*                                  Passerina caerulea

Dickcissel*                                          Spiza americana

Baltimore Oriole*                               Icterus galbula

Bobolink1                                            Dolichonyx oryzivorus




Species with boreal migrant subspecies noted have a resident race in Ecuador

* The species is a rare vagrant

1 The species is a transient

2 The species also has breeding population in Ecuador

(?) The occurrence of the subspecies is uncertain

1.3.2 Austral Migrants

The austral migration is a phenomenon that has received attention only during the last few decades. For some North-American and European birders it comes as a surprise to learn that some austral hemisphere breeding birds migrate to the tropics for the austral winter.  Austral migration is weakly represented, however, in Ecuador, unlike boreal migration, austral migration is heavily dominated by the flycatcher family (Tyrannidae).  Most of the austral migrants occur in Ecuador from March/April to October/ September with a smaller group restricted to July to September.

Austral Migrants in Ecuador (20)

Pearly-breasted Cuckoo*                    Coccyzus euleri

Dark-billed Cuckoo2                           Coccyzus melacoryphus

Nacunda Nighthawk                           Podager nacunda

Large Elaenia                                      Elaenia spectabilis

Small-billed Elaenia                            Elaenia parvirostris

Vermilion Flycatcher                          Pyrocephalus rubinus rubinus

White-browed Ground-Tyrant            Muscisaxiola albilora

Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant*               Muscisaxiola macloviana

Swainson's Flycatcher                         Myiarchus swainsoni

Streaked Flycatcher                            Myiodynastes maculates solitarius

Crowned Slaty Flycatcher                  Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus
Variegated Flycatcher                         Empidonomus varius

Tropical Kingbird2                              Tyrannus melancholicus

White-throated Kingbird*                  Tyrannus albogularis

Fork-tailed Flycatcher1                       Tyrannus savana
Red-eyed Vireo2                                 Vireo olivaceus chivi

Brown-chested Martin2                       Progne tapera  fusca

Southern Martin*                                Progne modesta

Blue-and-white Swallow2                   Notiochelidon cyanoleuca patagonica

Lined Seedeater                                  Sporophila lineola


Species with austral migrant subspecies noted have a resident race in Ecuador

* The species is a rare vagrant

1 The species is a transient

2 The species also has breeding population in Ecuador

1.3.3 Intratropical Migrants

A small number of species that breed in a region within the tropics and migrate to another tropical region for the non-breeding season

Intratropical Migrants in Ecuador (6)

Snowy-throated Kingbird                   Tyrannus niveigularis

Andean Slaty-Thrush                          Turdus nigriceps

Black-and-white Tanager                    Conothraupis speculigera

Crimson-breasted Finch                      Rhodospingus cruentus

Lesson’s Seedeater                             Sporophila bouvronides

Black-and-white Seedeater                 Sporophila luctuosa

1.3.4 Pelagic Visitors

They occur mainly offshore in The Pacific Ocean in very deep waters and they show up from both Austral and Boreal areas. Others breed close to the Ecuador mainland in either Peru or the Galápagos Islands.

Pelagic Visitors (30)

Black-browed Albatross*1                  Diomedea melanophris

Southern Giant Petrel*1                      Macronetes giganteus        

Southern Fulmar*1                              Fulmarus glacialoides        

Pintado Petrel*1                                  Daption capense            

Galápagos Petrel                                 Pterodroma phaeopygia

White-chinned Petrel*1                       Procellaria aequinoctialis    

Parkinson's Petrel1                               Procellaria parkinsoni        

Buller's Shearwater*1                          Puffinus bulleri

Pink-footed Shearwater1         Puffinus creatopus

Sooty Shearwater1                              Puffinus griceus

Galápagos Shearwater*                      Puffinus subalaris

Wilson's Storm-Petrel1                        Oceanites oceanicus

White-vented Storm-Petrel                 Oceanites gracilis

White-faced Storm-Petrel*1                Pelagodroma marina        

Least Storm-Petrel2                             Oceanodroma microsoma

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma tethys

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel*               Oceanodroma castro

Ashy Storm-Petrel*2                           Oceanodroma homochroa

Black Storm-Petrel2                            Oceanodroma melania

Markham's Storm-Petrel         Oceanodroma markhami    

Hornby’s Storm-Petrel                        Oceanodroma hornbyi

Great Frigatebird*                              Fregata minor

Brown Booby*                                   Sula leucogaster

Chilean Skua*1                                    Catharata chilensis

South Polar Skua*1                             Catharata maccormiki        

Pomarine Jaeger2                                 Stercorarius pomarinus    

Parasitic Jaeger2                                  Stercorarius paraiticus

Long-tailed Jaeger*2                           Stercorarius longicaudatus

Sabine’s Gull2                                     Xema sabini

Swallow-tailed Gull                            Creagrus furcatus


* The species is a rare vagrant

1 The species primarily shows up during the austral winter

2 The species primarily shows up during the boreal winter

1.3.5 Dispersers from Perú

These species breed in coastal Perú and disperse into the coastal Ecuadorian waters. Some do occur regularly in Ecuadorian waters, especially during “El Niño” years.

Dispersers from Perú (10)

Humboldt Penguin                              Spheniscus humboldti

Peruvian Booby                                  Sula variegata

Guanay Cormorant                             Phalacrocorax bougainvilli

Peruvian Pelican                                  Pelecanus thagus

Chilean Flamingo                                Phoenicopterus chilensis

White-backed Stilt                              Himantopus melanurus

Gray Gull                                            Larus modestus

Band-tailed Gull                                 Larus belcheri

Peruvian Tern                                      Sternula lorata

Inca Tern                                 Larosterna inca


1.3.6 Wanderers (18)

These birds have been recorded in Ecuador on a very irregular basis.  Some might still be considered as uncertain species for the country. They all are very rare here.

Belted Kingfisher                               Megaceryle alcyon

Stripe-backed Bittern                          Ixobrychus involucris
Whistling Heron                                  Syrigma sibilatrix

Bare-faced Ibis                                   Phimosus infuscatus
Scarlet Ibis                                          Eudocimus ruber
Rufous-thighed Kite                           Harpagus diodon

South American Snipe                        Gallinago paraguaiae

Chapman’s Swift                                Chaetura chapmani

Rufous-crested Coquette                    Lophornis delatrii

White-chinned Sapphire                     Hylocharis cyanus

Sapphire-spangled Emerald                Amazilia lacteal

Blue-tufted Starthroat                        Heliomaster furcifer

Peruvian Sheartail                               Thaumastura cora

Little Ground-Tyrant                          Muscisaxiola fluviatilis

Pied Water-Tyrant                              Fluvicola pica

White-headed Marsh-Tyrant               Arundinicola leucocephala

White-eyed Attila                               Attila bolivianus
Bicolored Conebill                              Conirostrum bicolor


1.3.7 Altitudinal Migration

There is little definitive evidence of Altitudinal Migration in Ecuador but scattered observations are pointing to the fact that this seems to be the case. Researchers or institutions (Foundations and Lodges) with the capacity to keep detail records might be in a position to throw more light on this issue in the near future. Hummingbirds in particular seem to be prone to engage in movements, and this can easily be tracked at feeders establishments.


1.3.8 Migration in Galápagos Islands

From a total of 141 bird species recorded in the Galápagos Islands a majority (surprisingly large number, 92) are migrants that occur in an annual basis or as vagrants.

Migrants occurring in Galápagos annually (26)

Sooty Shearwater                                Puffinus griseus

Blue-winged Teal                                Anas discors

Laughing Gull                                     Leucophaeus atricilla

Franklin's Gull                         Leucophaeus pipixcan

Royal Tern                                          Thalasseusmaxima

Common Tern                                     Sterna hirundo

Ruddy Turnstone                                Arenaria interpres

Semipalmated Plover                          Charadrius semipalmatus

Black-bellied Plover                            Pluvialis squatarola

Willet                                                  Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Short-billed Dowitcher                       Limnodromus griseus

Whimbrel                                            Numenius phaeopus

Greater Yellowlegs                             Tringa melanoleuca

Lesser Yellowlegs                               Tringa flavipes

Solitary Sandpiper                              Tringa solitaria

Sanderling                                           Calidris alba

Spotted Sandpiper                              Actitis macularius

Wandering Tattler                               Heteroscelus incanus

Least Sandpiper                                  Calidris minutilla

Wilson's Phalarope                              Phalaropus tricolor

Red-necked Phalarope                        Phalaropus lobatus

Red Phalarope                                     Phalaropus fulicarius

Belted Kingfisher                               Ceryle alcyon

Purple Martin                                      Progne subis

Barn Swallow                                     Hirundo rustica

Bobolink                                             Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Migrants occurring in Galápagos as vagrants (66)

Black-footed Albatross                       Diomedea nigripes

Parkinson's Petrel                                Procellaria parkinsoni        

Wedge-tailed Shearwater                   Puffinus pacificus

Pintado Petrel                                                 Daption capense            

Antarctic Prion                                    Pachyptila desolata    

White-bellied Storm-Petrel                 Fregatta grallaria

White-faced Storm-Petrel                   Pelagodroma marina

Leach 's Storm-Petrel                          Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Black Storm-Petrel                              Oceanodroma melania

Markham's Storm-Petrel                     Oceanodroma markhami

Red-tailed Tropicbird                         Phaethon rubricauda

Brown Booby                                     Sula leucogaster

Pomarine Jaeger                                  Stercorarius pomarinus 

Kelp Gull                                            Larus dominicanus

Ring-billed Gull                                  Larus delawarensis

Gray-hooded Gull                               Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus

Elegant Tern                                        Thalasseus elegans

Black Tern                                           Chlidonias niger

White Tern                                          Gygis alba

Cinnamon Teal                                    Anas cyanoptera

Masked Duck                                      Nomonyx dominica

American Coot                                    Fulica americana

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck            Dendrocygna autumnalis

Osprey                                                 Pandion haliaetus

Peregrine Falcon                                 Falco peregrinus

Purple Gallinule                                  Porphyrula martinica

Sora                                                     Porzana carolina

Little Blue Heron                                Egretta caerulea

Snowy Egret                                       Egretta thula

Black-crowned Night-Heron              Nycticorax nycticorax

Black Turnstone                                  Arenaria melanocephala

Surfbird                                               Aphriza virgata

Wilson's Plover                                   Charadrius wilsonia

Killdeer                                               Charadrius vociferus

Tawny-throated Dotterel                    Oreopholus ruficollis

Hudsonian Godwit                             Limosa haemastica

Marbled Godwit                                 Límosa fedoa

Stilt Sandpiper                                    Calidris himantopus

Pectoral Sandpiper                              Calidris melanotus

Red Knot                                            Calidris canutus

Semipalmated Sandpiper                    Calidris pusilla

Western Sandpiper                              Calidris mauri

White-rumped Sandpiper                    Calidris fuscicollis

Baird's Sanpiper                                  Calidris bairdii

Common Nighthawk                          Chordeiles minor

Eared Dove                                         Zenaida auriculata

Chimney Swift                                    Chaetura pelagica

Eastern Kingbird                                 Tyrannus tyrannus

Sand Martin                                        Riparia riparia

Cliff Swallow                                     Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Red-eyed Vireo                                  Vireo olivaceus

Blackpoll Warbler                               Dendroica striata

Cedar Waxwing                                  Bombycilla cedrorum

Summer Tanager                                 Piranga rubra

Scarlet Tanager                                   Piranga olivacea

Rose-breasted Grosbeak                     Pheucticus ludovicianus

Indigo Bunting                                   Passerina cyanea

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

All rights reserved. This web book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and Jocotoco Foundation except for the use of brief quotations in a book review and to print the information for traveling in Ecuador purposes.

You may not mirror, modify or otherwise alter any files in this website for rebroadcast, print or distribute in anyway the information contained therein with commercial purposes , without written permission from the author. Except as expressly provided above.

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.


Jocotoco Foundation

  • Lizardo García E9-104 y Andrés Xaura,
  • Quito - Ecuador
  • Tel: +593 2 250-5212
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.