Gone Birding in Ecuador’s NW Andes

Choco toucan, Ecuador (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

28 Jan 2023, WINGS in Ecuador: Day 0, Fly to Quito before the tour begins

Today I’m on my way to a 9-day WINGS Birding Tour in Ecuador’s Mindo and Northwest Andes. I expect to see at least 200 Life Birds including the choco toucan (Ramphastos brevis), described as the most emblematic bird of the Pichincha Province where we’ll be birding.

This is my first trip to Ecuador so everything will be new. Located on the Pacific Coast of South America, it’s about the size of Oregon with a population density similar to Michigan’s. Amazingly, it is directly south of Pennsylvania and presently in the same time zone because PA is on Standard Time right now.

Map of Ecuador and its neighbors (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Ecuador is famous for its biodiversity and especially its birds. The country’s checklist of 1,656 species is considerably more than the number in the entire U.S. Our tour in the Northwest Andes won’t need to travel far to see them. Staying within Pichincha Province and 100 miles of Quito, our checklist contains 535 species including 51 hummingbirds and 59 tanagers.

WINGS Birding Tours route in Ecuador NW Andes, 29 Jan – 5 Feb 2023 (image from WINGS Birding Tours)

This large number of birds is directly related to the Ecuador’s diverse habitats.  Though we will never see the ocean we’ll travel in cloud forest from 5,000 to 12,000 feet. At the higher elevations we may see the Chuquiraga plant (Chuquiraga jussieui), a hummingbird favorite and the national flower of Ecuador.

Chuquiraga jussieui, the National Flower of Ecuador (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Though we’ll have WiFi at the lodge I know I’ll be too busy to blog so I’ve written all 10 days of articles in advance.  For now, I’m (mostly) off the grid until I my return to Pittsburgh on Monday evening, February 6.


  • The National Bird of Ecuador is the Andean condor. It is extremely unlikely we’ll see it.
  • The number of species in the U.S. varies based on what’s included. Wikipedia’s list of 1,125 includes 155 accidental, 101 casual, 55 introduced and 33 extinct. The real wonder is that the U.S. spans a continent and includes arctic Alaska and tropical Hawaii yet it has fewer species than Ecuador, which is only the size of Oregon.

(photo and maps from Wikimedia Commons and WINGS. Click on the captions to see the originals.)

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