Why do so many avid birders agree that Ecuador is the best spot in the Amazon for birdwatching? Thanks to the geographic positioning of the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Equator, a unique variety of habitats support more bird species here per square mile than anywhere else. The Tropical Andes and Amazon are known internationally as having the greatest documented bird richness world-wide, and there is no better place to see them in their natural surroundings than at the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve. A UNESCO designated park spanning the Napo River Basin, this is a bucket list destination you will want to return to time and time again!
There are at least 571 confirmed species of birds who thrive in the Yasuní National Park, of the 1600 species in the country at large. This is no surprise, as the forests here harbour peak global richness for many species of insects and plants among other things. The different layers of the canopy are like high-rise buildings in that they are home to different birds as well as many other creatures. Come spot individuals, pairs, fledglings learning to fly, and whole flocks of winged wonders.
One family of avian marvels is the Throchilidae, more commonly known as Hummingbirds, of which there are 132 species found in Ecuador. The Olive-spotted Hummingbird (leucippus chlorocerus) is regionally endemic to Yasuni as it is not found anywhere else. These tiny creatures, weighing only a few grams, flit from flower to flower to extract nectar and are important pollenizers. They are masters of camouflage so be sure to survey your surroundings thoroughly!
This is not the only species of bird endemic to Ecuador. There are another 18 species of birds found only here, and 7 more that are considered “Vulnerable” or “Near Threatened” according to the IUCN Red List. The Harpy Eagle is the largest and most formidable, sporting talons measuring over 13 cm long which it uses to catch prey like Sloths and Monkeys. The divided crest on the crown of its head creates two distinct tufts. This distinguishing feature acts as an acoustic funnel which allows the Harpy Eagle to efficiently track its quarry. It is one of the most emblematic predators of the skies.
In contrast, the stunning Masked Tanager (Tangara nigrocincta) has been spotted foraging for fruit at observation towers within Yasuní National Park. With so many different variations in colour, Tanagers (Thraupidae) are arguably one of the most colourful families of birds. These neotropic songbirds are sought-after by naturalists and photographers because of their striking plumage. With a lush backdrop of rainforest canopy, images of these individuals are like vivid portraits.
Ecotourism like this is not only enjoyable for nature enthusiasts, but promotes the protection of these and other species in a responsible way. By helping to preserve the natural habitats of these creatures we ensure future generations can appreciate these priceless marvels. Ecuador’s rich biodiversity provides extraordinary opportunities for bird watchers from around the globe, making this the number one destination for your bucket list. Come to Yasuní National Park and see how many unique specimens you can discover!
Diego Escobar is Marketing Director at Napo Wildlife Center. Napo Wildlife Center is an eco-lodge offering unforgettable experiences in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, inside Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, which is managed by the Añangu kichwa aboriginal community.
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