Birdwatchers from around the world come to Ecuador in hopes of seeing as many as 132 species of hummingbirds! That’s almost half of all hummingbird species in the entire world. This diversity makes this small Andean nation one of the best places in the world to check many species off your life lists. It also means that less serious birdwatchers can find joy as so many of these species readily visit bird feeders or come to well-designed hummingbird gardens. If you want to see hummingbirds in Ecuador, there should be no barriers to success.
Understanding Where Ecuador’s Hummingbirds Live
The first step to planning a visit that includes hummingbirds is to understand where hummingbirds live in the wild. While Ecuadorian hummingbirds can be found from sea level to Ecuador’s tallest mountain, Chimborazo, the largest concentrations are often found in or near the cloud forests. These are found on both slopes of the Andes. In fact, most lodges will advertise as an East Slope lodge (located on the Amazon Basin side of the Andes) or a West Slope lodge (located on the Pacific Coast side of the Andes). This isn’t to say that there aren’t hummingbirds in the jungles of the Amazon or along the Pacific Coast. There are! But to maximize the number of species you see, it’s best to visit places close to these slopes.
The Ecuadorian East Slope
Like most visitors to Ecuador, you will most likely fly into Quito, Ecuador. From Quito, driving east on the road that goes past Papallacta, you will enter the East Slope. Almost immediately, you will find Guango Lodge. Located a few kilometers past the Papallacta Pass, Guango is home to an excellent hummingbird garden where Sword-billed hummingbirds and Gorgeted Sunangels visit feeders hidden among mossy branches of cloud forest trees.
Continue east to the town of Cosanga where there are other birding lodges. The most well-known is the Cabañas San Isidro (reserve with Booking.com). It is a great place to photograph the Collared Inca, the Long-tailed Sylph, and the Fawn-breasted Brilliant, among others. If you are a budget traveler, check out the small research center that rents out dormitory-style rooms, the Yanayacu Biological Research Station.
Further downslope, about five hours from Quito, is a little visited lodge owned by a non-profit called Wildsumaco. Wire-crested Thorntails compete for attention at the many feeders as do Fork-tailed Woodnymphs, Sparkling Violetears, and Many-spotted Hummingbirds.
The East Slope Further South
But don’t limit yourself to the northern East Slope. There are other ways to the Amazon through Baños in central Ecuador and via Loja much further south. The Baños area is not known for birding lodges. However, it isn’t for a lack of birds. We’ve spent hours watching Booted Racket-tails, Green-fronted Lancebills, and Sparkling Violetears sip nectar from pink flowering bushes along the river’s edge in Rio Verde. In fact, we think Rio Verde may be a future birding hotspot. If you are looking to open a small tourism business and would like our insight, let us know!
The best lodge for hummingbirds on the southern East Slope is Copalinga. Home to the Spangled Coquette, the Copalinga gardens also attract many different hummingbirds of the Brilliant family. But don’t feel limited to a single destination. This region is ripe for further hummingbird exploration. Look for hotels with gardens full of brightly colored flowers and you are almost certain to see hummingbirds, even when there are no feeders on the grounds.
The Ecuadorian West Slope
Most birders new to Ecuador cut their teeth on the West Slope. They visit Mindo, a well-known and oft-visited birding area. And while we love Mindo and its wide selection of places to stay, we are partial to other birding areas on the West Slope. You might like to consider a small, family-run establishment near Mindo called the Birdwatcher’s House (reserve with Booking.com). Or Angel Paz’s excellent Cock-of-the-Rock lek and hummingbird garden.
Closest to Quito is the Tandayapa Valley with three well-known lodges: Bellavista (reserve with Booking.com), San Jorge de Tandayapa, and the Tandapaya Lodge. All are located at slightly different altitudes and provide plenty of opportunities to see different species. Some of the common ones found at all three are Booted Racket-tails, Violet-tailed Sylphs, and Purple-throated Woodstars.
And then a little further out, requiring more than a day trip, is the town of Milpe. When looking for lodging, you might try using San Miguel de los Bancos (Check out availability on Booking.com) in the search engine. We have enjoyed San Jorge de Milpe, one of five lodges run by the Alvarez family and their Magic Birding Circuit. If that interests you, let us know so that we can arrange a discount for your stay.
The West Slope lodges in northern Ecuador have recently expanded to include a new offering from the Jocotoco Foundation, the Chocó Lodge Canandé.
The West Slope in Southern Ecuador
Few people other than avid birders venture to parts south. But they are missing out on lots of potential adventure! Read about our own trip: On the Road in Southern Ecuador. There is one location, in particular, that is great for hummingbirds, the Umbrellabird Lodge on the Buenaventura Reserve.
The interesting part about traveling in this part of Ecuador is that distances can be deceiving. It can take far longer to travel from one town to another even when Google Maps tells you it’s not that far! If you plan on combining the Umbrellabird Lodge with other destinations, consider hiring us to make you a personalized itinerary.
Hummingbirds Near Quito
Many visitors will want to see hummingbirds as close as possible to Quito. Here are a few suggestions.
Our favorite is the Yanacocha Reserve with the Tyrian Metaltail, the Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and the second largest hummingbird in Ecuador, the Great Sapphirewing. If you’re lucky, you might also see the endangered and rare Black-breasted Puffleg.
On the road from Quito to Mindo is the lovely Alambi Garden. It is well worth the $5 entry fee to sit on their back patio and enjoy dozens and dozens of hummingbirds as they flit from feeder to feeder. Another close to the road option is the Restaurante Los Armadillos (article coming soon!).
And, of course, there are the parks and gardens in Quito proper. We highly recommend a visit to the Quito Botanical Garden in the early morning or mid-to-late afternoon.
Other Hummingbird Locations in Ecuador
While the two slopes are the best-known locations for seeing hummingbirds en masse, there are other places to visit. Our best recommendation is to look for lodging that includes colorful gardens with plants that attract hummingbirds. In fact, birders looking for lodging on the cheap would do well to search for non-birding lodges with access to birding hotspots along the E-45 in the Amazon and the coastal highway on the Pacific Coast.
If you know a great hummingbird destination that should be added to this article, please let us know in the comments below! In the meantime, you might like some of the hummingbird articles found in the “Birds” category.” Enjoy!