Bird-watchers from all over the world flock to Ecuador for one simple reason: the country is home to more than 1500 species, twice the number found in any one of the continents of North America, Europe or Australia! It’s impossible to give a precise number because new species (most of which are already known in other South American countries) are often reported. Very occasionally, a new species is discovered – an incredibly rare event in the world of birds – and it is likely that bird species exist in Ecuador that have never been described by scientists. Bird-watching is outstanding year-round and every part of the country is unique.
Ecuador’s most emblematic bird is most likely the Andean condor, whose 3m wingspan makes it one of the largest flying birds in the world. In 1880, the British mountaineer Edward Whymper noted that he commonly saw a dozen on the wing at the same time. Today, there are only a few hundred pairs left in the Ecuadorian highlands, so sighting one is a unique experience. Another majestic highland bird is the carunculated caracara, a large member of the falcon family with bright-orange facial skin, a yellowish bill, and white-on-black wings and body. The bird is often seen in the páramo (high Andean grasslands) of Parque Nacional Cotopaxi.
For many visitors, the diminutive hummingbirds found throughout Ecuador are the most delightful birds to observe. About 120 species have been recorded in Ecuador, and their exquisite beauty is matched by extravagant names, such as green-tailed goldenthroat, spangled coquette, fawn-breasted brilliant and amethyst-throated sunangel.
In the Galápagos, about half of the 58 resident species are endemic (meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world) to the islands.