Ecuador has the highest bird diversity per square mile in the world. Its varied geography, including the Andes, the Amazon Basin, the Choco Coastal lowlands, and the Galapagos Islands, provides a wide range of habitats for numerous bird species. In fact, over 1600 avian species, more than double the number in the United States and Canada combined, make their homes in Ecuador.
As part of the Tropical Andes and Chocó-Darién-Western Ecuador bioregions, La Hesperia is inside the Río Toachi-Chiriboga Important Birds Area (IBA) designated by Bird Life International and Conservation International. Researchers, staff, and volunteers have identified 287 bird species within the reserve, ten of which are endemic to the region and seven of which are vulnerable or in danger of extinction. The official bird list is not yet complete, but it is believed that there are approximately 320 species. The birds found within the boundaries of the station include:
•Crested Guan and Wattled Guan
La Hesperia is an ideal place to observe birds because of its geography, ecology, land use, and range in altitude (1100 to 2040 m). At the reserve, there are both primary and secondary forests. Though cloud forests are often characterized by their steep topography, there are flat areas within the reserve that make birdwatching easier. There are also open areas near the house where there are gardens, pastures, and a pond that attract migratory birds. Birdwatchers often observe birds like tanagers, flycatchers, hummingbirds, and toucans in the floral gardens as well as birds feeding on the citrus, guava, Inga, and fig trees. In the tall grasses of the pastures, visitors will find seedeaters and birds of prey as well.
To make your birdwatching experience more enjoyable, La Hesperia offers special services:
- We will help you establish a personalized birdwatching programme. The reserve provides a flexible meal schedule based on your programme.
- We offer bilingual (English and Spanish) guides who specialize in birdwatching. A guide can be secured when making your reservation.
- The staff has designed several trails for optimum birdwatching, including the main road that goes from the lowest part of the reserve to the highest. Following the main road, you can observe birds of the pre-montane evergreen forest, low montane forest, and high montane cloud forest.
- When you set up a trip you can request exclusivity, so you will not meet with other groups of visitors during your stay. Your group can enjoy privacy and no interruptions to your birdwatching experience.
NOTE: When organizing your visit, consider planning around the weather. The rainy season occurs between January and May; however, this does not mean that you will see fewer birds. Also, note that during boreal winter (October to March) the Choco Ecoregion receives migrant species from North America. The large number of resident species is present year round.
Contact us for more information about accommodations and pricing.
Roger Littlewood has years of birdwatching experience. He spent two months at the station during two different seasons. Littlewood observed the following about La Hesperia:
La Hesperia Biological Station, situated amongst spectacular forest and mountains at 1384 metres on the western slope of the Andes in Ecuador, is a newly discovered birdwatchers´ paradise.
Ranging in altitude from 1100 metres to 2040 metres, the station’s 814 hectares (2031 acres) encompasses three distinct forest types, each with its own special plants, insects, trees, butterflies, and birds. The subtropical and temperate forest cloaking the western Andes is one of the most biologically diverse in the world, and its birdlife is correspondingly rich and exotic.
From the tiny Green-fronted Lancebill Hummingbird, perched quietly over rushing mountain streams at La Hesperia’s lowest altitudes, to noisy groups of stunning Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans in the high temperate forest, the station is bursting with birds. Already 287 species have been found at the station, but large tracts of the forest still remain to be explored. So, for visiting birdwatchers, there is every chance to add new birds to the growing list.
Within 300 metres of the lodge accommodation—with no extraneous walking involved—at least 80 species may be seen including toucanets, araçaris, barbets, and a wonderfully colourful array of tanagers and a spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
The excellent accommodation is set in flower and bird-filled gardens—and guests enjoy splendid Ecuadorian cuisine in a family atmosphere. A complete list of the birds that have so far been found at La Hesperia is detailed on this website, together with a list of the birds that can be found in the immediate environs of the lodge.
Dr. Xavier Silva has a Ph.D. in biology and is the director of the Birdquest programme, a friendly birdwatching contest that contributes to bird conservation, supports local reserves, and provides work for local people. He had the following to say about La Hesperia:
La Hesperia is a beautiful place, located south of Mindo. It includes more than 700 hectares of pristine and secondary forests, at one of the most well-known bird areas in the world. There you can see special Choco endemics, such as the colorful Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, the blood-red Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, and the Pale-mandible Araçari endemic to coastal Ecuador.
In one tree you can see these toucans and capuchin monkeys just meters away from each other! Also there are dozens of hummingbirds, two large Quetzals, the Golden-headed Quetzal and the Crested Quetzal, the Powerful Woodpecker, a large number of tanagers, lots of parrots like the Red-billed Parrot, and the huge Black-and chestnut Eagle flying over the forest. As an alternative to walking, you can go horseback riding around the reserve.