For its size, Ecuador is the most bird-diverse country on Earth. Neighboring Colombia can boast the highest bird list of any country in the world (1,933 species), but Ecuador hosts a staggering 1,680 species -- and it's only one-quarter of the size of Colombia! With that many species available in a country the size of Nevada, one can discover a massive number of birds in a short space of time without covering very long distances. From the heights of the Andes, the world’s second highest mountain range, to the Amazonian lowlands, to the dry forests that share range-restricted birds with Peru, Ecuador is arguably the best country to start exploring South America. The mega-diversity of Ecuador can be explained by its topography, in which the bird communities change rapidly as one passes through different forest types as one ascends from the coast along the western slopes of the Andes, eventually reaching the stunted “Paramo” above the tree line). On the eastern side one descends towards the Amazon basin, which contains the most bird-rich habitat on the planet.
Ecuador is also a photographer’s paradise. In addition to the diversity, a great many of the spectacular birds often pose for photos. It must surely be the best place in the world to see hummingbirds – many lodges, which are well-accustomed to hosting birders, have feeders which attract 30-plus species! The Sword-billed Hummingbird is one of Ecuador’s most sought-after, though this one typically shies away from feeders.
There are 44 bird species endemic to Ecuador, many of which are found only on the famed Galapagos Archipelago. These include Galapagos Penguin, the breeding endemic Waved Albatross, and last but not least, the famed Darwin’s finches. These islands, 600 miles off the coast of the mainland, are a world away from the verdant forests of mainland Ecuador. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.