Mindo in detail

Activities

Bird-Watching in Mindo

With more than 500 species of birds recorded, the area around Mindo has become a major destination for bird-watching. Mindo has 'won' the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Count six times, counting the most species in a 24-hour period at year's end. If you don't know your rufous-headed chachalaca from your rufous-fronted wood-quail and your interest is casual, you can access trails on your own from Casa Amarilla (Yellow House), located a couple of blocks from the parque central. In addition to a wide variety of birds, locals claim to have spotted pumas, spectacled bears and monkeys here.

Keep in mind that bird-watching is an activity for early risers, generally taking place from 6am to 10am. And the majority of the top flight bird-watching doesn't happen in Mindo itself but in privately owned reserves (most have admission costs) scattered throughout the area, anywhere from a hike to a two-hour drive away. In addition to the cloud forest reserves and lodges, which undoubtedly are excellent, there are a raft of day-trip destinations:

  • Rio Silanche Sanctuary Located between Pedro Vicente Maldonado and Puerto Quito at an elevation of around 400m, Silanche is more akin to a tropical rainforest and is known for its very high concentration of birdlife.
  • Milpe Bird Sanctuary This 250-acre reserve in the upper foothills 15km west of Mindo is close to Los Bancos.
  • Paz de las Aves Private reserve of subtropical forest an hour from Mindo, off the highway towards Quito.
  • Yanacocha One of the Jocotoco Foundation's 12 reserves, at 3400m this cloud forest borders the páramo. It's around a $60 round-trip taxi ride from town.
  • Pululahua & Calacalí Temperate forest with arid scrub 50 minutes from Mindo.
  • 23 de Junio Farming community south of Los Bancos renowned for the long-wattled umbrella bird.
  • Reserva El Bravo Within walking distance at the end of the San Lorenzo Rd.
  • Coyote la Pena Taxi ride and admission $20 each.
  • Las Tangaras Run by volunteers, a steep, downhill hike off the road to the tarabita.
  • San Lorenzo Along the road to the tarabita, the most basic bird-watching trip for beginners.
  • Yellow House (Hacienda San Vicente) This private reserve is close to town and features five marked trails: 300 orchid species, 360 bird species, including 39 hummingbird species, can be seen here, all for $6.
  • Las Cotingas(San Tadeo) A private home at the top of the hill just outside of Mindo, and for $5 it's hummingbird (and tanager) heaven. You might catch the colorful toucan barbet here, too, and the coffee and tea are free.
  • Birdwatcher's House Vinicio Perez has been a bird guide for over 30 years, but now spends a lot of time on his property half an hour outside Mindo, with two bird blinds and one hummingbird station. Awesome site for photographers ($10 plus taxi fare).

Birdwatching Guides

Locally there are many competent, professional guides. Most charge a minimum of $50 to $75, and depending on the number in the group and the particular reserve, that could go up to $100 or more per day.

Cocks-of-the-Rock

While most birds preen and strut to attract members of the opposite sex, the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) takes top prize for persistence.

Every day, rain or shine, male cocks-of-the-rock, with their bulbous coif of blood-red or orange feathers, gather at 6am and squawk loudly, dance on branches and dive and wrangle with each other, hoping to win some female attention. This all-male revue is called a ‘lek’ for any bird species. If they’re lucky, a drab-brown female will dive into the crowd and choose a mate, but more often than not, females don’t show.

How can the plainer sex resist the impressive display? Maybe they’re too busy single-parenting; alone, females build nests and care for their offspring while males remain focused on the daily possibility of mating.