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Birds of EcuadorDiverse bird fauna of Ecuador






Ecuador is a birdwatcher's paradise with around 1600 species registered and some new ones are still added to the list occasionally. 22 avian orders of the 29 worldwide with 82 families are represented in the country. As there are 3000 species in the whole continent of South America, therefore more than half can be already observed in this small country. Furthermore, if you consider that in all of North America or Europe are less than 800 species found, the diversity of Ecuador's bird world becomes that much more amazing and intriguing.


Mainland Ecuador only has 14 endemic bird species but its national territory boasts of some very important and sensitive endemic bird areas (as established worldwide by BirdLife) which it shares with its neighboring countries. Those restricted ranges have a high number of endemic birds, which are only found in that limited area and therefore are important to be protected as habitat destruction would eventually lead to extinctions of those range restricted birds. Two of the world's most important ones are found in the country, the Chocσ area, comprising Western Colombia and Northwestern Ecuador, a mainly forested low and highland region and the Tumbesian Region, comprising the mountain and lower regions of southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru. Other significant regions are the Western Amazonian Lowlands, East Andes slopes and Inter-Andean valleys, all reaching also into parts of Colombia and a small part of the Rio Maraρon region sharing endemic birds with northwestern Peru.

Galapagos Islands are considered by ornithologists a separate and distinct bird region. There you encounter only 58 species of birds but with 28 endemic ones. One of the most amazing things on the islands is that the birds did not develop any fear of humans and therefore you might walk among breeding colonies of seabirds without them flying off or a hawk might land only a few meters from you.


Mainland Ecuador with its many distinct geographical regions and the Galapagos islands are home to a wide range of birds. Many of them show interesting features and behavioral characteristics which we try here to bring closer to your understanding. Their life styles and habitats are explained, also where to find them in the country and photos, videos and audios are exhibited. We start with the one bird, which inspired already the indigenous people many centuries ago and still commands awe today, the mighty Andean Condor. It is one of the largest flying bird in the world with a wingspan of over 3 meters. It belongs to the American Vultures family, which among others include the now rare King Vulture. In Raptors you find descriptions of Eagles, Hawks, Kites and Falcons, the large group of diurnal birds of prey, well represented worldwide and in the country. A special page is dedicated to the Caracaras, a sub-family of the falcons, only found in the Americas, interesting for their distinctive behavior. Owls, which are nocturnal predatory birds, are also well represented in the country and found in many habitats. Woodpeckers are more often heard than seen in the forests. Well known birds with representative species encountered throughout the four major regions of Ecuador are the Pigeons & Doves. Herons, Egrets and Shorebirds can be observed wading along the river banks, ponds, beaches and marshes of the country.

We continue with the smallest of all birds, the amazing flying acrobats called Hummingbirds, represented by many species, living from sea level right up to the high glaciers.
Flycatchers, Swallows, Wrens, Tanagers and Finches are smaller songbirds and also widespread. Cuckoos and Anis are mostly arboreal birds found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the country. On the many lakes and ponds in the country swim the Ducks and the similar but not at all related Coots and Gallinules. In the same habitat but at the shorelines you find the long-toed Jacanas.

Continuing with our avian friends we get to well-loved Parrots with many species in the in the subtropical and tropical regions of the Amazon and coastal forests. Largest among them are the colorful Macaws which deserve their own separate page. There live also the much admired Toucans with their enormously huge bills. Furthermore you find the Caciques & Oropendolas, which are experts in weaving nests suspended from branches of tall trees. A very special bird of the Amazon is the strange and bizarre looking
Hoatzins. Trogons including the Quetzals are colorful birds as are the Motmots. Not so common and thus of interest to some is the Cock-of-the-Rock, inhabiting the cloudforest regions of the Andes and where males gather in leks.

The masterful and aptly named Kingfishers are seen along rivers. Gulls are mostly along ocean shores but one specie inhabits Andean ponds far away from the Pacific.
The flightless cormorant, endemic to Fernandina and Isabela islands of the Galapagos, is unique among the Cormorants as it lost its ability to fly. Other flightless birds in the archipelago and which are usually associated with the cold Antarctic waters are the Penguins. Those islands far out in the Pacific ocean are important breeding grounds for seabirds like the Boobies, Frigatebirds, Pelicans and Albatrosses. On the same isles are also found the graceful Flamingos. 



For Photos

of those wonderful creatures

go to the
Bird Pages of

Ecuador -



Condor - Vulture - Raptor - Caracara - Owl - Woodpecker - Dove - Heron - Egret - Shorebird

Hummingbird - Flycatcher - Swallow - Wren - Tanager - Finch - Cuckoo - Duck - Coot - Jacana

Parrot - Macaw - Toucan - Cacique & Oropendola - Hoatzin - Trogon - Motmot - Cock-of-the-Rock

Kingfisher - Gull - Cormorant - Penguin - Booby - Frigatebird - Pelican - Albatross - Flamingo

 Natural History

Birds areclass of warm-blooded vertebrates and evolved from some unknown dinosaur or reptilian ancestor. They are however not descended from the flying reptiles of those ancient times, the pterosaurs. They are relatively recent arrivals in the animal world with the first known specie some 150 million years old. This famous fossil find called Archaeopteryx shows both characteristics of a dinosaur / reptile (toothed beak) and a modern bird (feathers). At the time of the dinosaur's reign eight subclasses of aves roamed about. Not all could fly and feathers might have evolved primarily not for flight purposes but for insulation or sexual display. Of those eight sub-classes only one sub-class, the neornithes made it through the extinction bottleneck of 65 million years ago and carried on their lineage to our present times. The surviving birds radiated rapidly into many diverse forms and most bird orders with the exception of the passerines had their beginnings then. The perching birds evolved later in the Miocene but are now the most diverse with 60% of all bird species. Not all birds considered flight necessary and some reverted back to their ancestral flightless state. Huge tow-legged birds (like the 3 meter high standing terrorbirds in South America) evolved on islands or island continents devoid of mammals. Only after mammals reached those lands, did they have to yield (?) and became extinct. Most birds as known today were well established some 10 - 15 million years ago.

 Avian Classification

This class of animals has around 10 000 species worldwide. Below you find a traditional classification of the bird world with 29 avian orders, based mostly on their internal anatomy. New fossil finds and advances in behavioral studies and new techniques in DNA tracing and biochemistry question often those classifications and quite a few more tables exist which try to group our feathered friends.

ANSERIFORMES Ducks, Geese, Swans
APODIFORMES Swifts, Hummingbirds
CAPRIMULGIFORM Night Hawks, Oil birds
CASUARIIFORMES Cassowaries, Emus
CHARADIIFORMES Gulls, Plovers, Auks, Stilt, Oystercatcher, Sandpipers, Jacanas
CICONIIFORMES Egrets, Herons, Storks, American Vultures, Ibises, Condor
COLUMBIFORMES Pigeons, Dovesgeons
CORACIIFORMES Kingfishers, Todies, Motmots, Bee-eaters
CUCULIFORMES Cuckoos, Ani, Roadrunners, Hoatzin
FALCONIFORMES Eagles, Hawks, Kites, Falcons, Caracara
GALLIFORMES Pheasants, Grouse, Turkeys, Quails, Guans
GRUIFORMES Cranes, Rails, Coots, Limpkins, Gallinules, Sunbittern
PASSERIFORMES Wrens, Warblers, Crows, Flycatcher, Cock-of-the-Rock, Finches, Shrikes, Thrushes, Caciques, Oropendulas, Tanager Blackbirds, Swallows
PELECANIFORMES Pelicans, Boobies, Cormorants, Anhingas, Frigatebirds, Tropicbirds
PICIFORMES Woodpeckers, Toucans Puffbirds, Barbets
PROCELLARIIFORMES Albatrosses, Petrels, Shearwaters
TROGONIFORMES Trogons, Quetzals
 Biologically Speaking

The most important features of modern birds which distinguish them from other animals are their feathers, toothless bills and vocals. Their most important trait is that all of them can fly or in the case of some birds, like the ostriches and kiwis were descended from flying ancestors. Adaptations to flight greatly influenced their evolutionary process till they became the most efficient flying vertebrates. To achieve that, profound changes had to take place, like forelimbs fusing into wings, bones becoming light and hollow, feathers covering the body and the wings. Flight also enables them like no other animal to move around freely without any major geographical restrictions and large migrations of birds take place every year. One bird, the Arctic Tern, covers every year 50 000 km moving from the Arctic to the Antarctic continent. Like their reptile ancestors, birds lay eggs for reproduction but in contrast all bird eggs are hard-shelled. Having this kind of external reproduction has the advantage that the female bird is not hindered by extra weight, which would make flying difficult or impossible. After the young hatch, one or both parents take care of their offspring feeding them till they can survive on their own. Sexual maturity is reached quickly. Birds are highly adapted animals and are found on all continents and in all ecosystems from polar regions to the driest deserts and feeding on any possible food items.

 Recommended Books (used in research)

by Robert Ridgely & Paul Greenfield

THE BIRDS OF ECUADOR    Status, Distribution & Taxonomy  by Robert Ridgely & Paul Greenfield

THE SIBLEY GUIDE to Bird Life & Behavior 
by David Allen Sibley


by Alan Feduccia


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