birding photography in ecuador
Cock-of-the-rock display

Self Birding in Ecuador

For those with limited time and budget and want a great way to view some of the most sought after species in Ecuador, consider the Mindo Valley and chasing after the Andean cock-of-the-rock. This bird is considered as one of the most beautiful birds in this region. Its bright brilliant orange plumage and entertaining mating display attracts birding and wildlife enthusiasts throughout the world.

Our recent birding tour in Ecuador

During a recent Ecuador birding tour, this was one of our prime targets. We noticed that there are many different areas very close to Quito (within a 2 hour drive) where the Andean cock-of-the-rock can be found. In the Mindo Valley, the Reserva Las Tangaras is one area where the Andean cock-of-the-rock is one such area where this bird can be found. However, getting to this reserve requires a fair amount of fitness, as you will have to hike in muddy trails for 30 to 45 minutes to reach the property. Staying at this property for a bird tour, especially to view the cock-of-the-rock might be a good option but it requires a further hike from the lodge to get to the lek and can be difficult for some.
On one of the days we drove to Los Bancos and entered an old gravel road not to far from Milpe and Rio Silanche birding reserves. After about a 30 minute drive with the NEST Ecuadorian bird guide, we entered a private property owned by a friend of the guide. Within 30 minutes we were able to view over 30 species of birds feeding amongst the Cecropia trees. We hiked through the property in the late afternoon along unkept trails and after descending a steep hill amongst the forests, we came across a brilliant cock-of-the-rock display next to a 30 feet waterfall.
The hike to get here was difficult and on private property so we will not recommend this route. There are also areas around Otavalo and Volcan Cayambe containing numerous leks and other reserves such as Santa Lucia which indicates that it is very possible to view this bird within a reasonable drive from Quito on any self guided bird tour.

The best place in Ecuador to find the Andean Cock of the Rock

Of all the places where the cock-of-the-rock can be seen, the best place to view and photograph this bird is at the Paz de las Aves Bird Refuge. This is located about 15 minutes from Mindo, on the main road heading back to Quito. As we entered this refuge there is a hut located a few meters from the lek. Here we saw 8 males performing their mating rituals and competing with each other, first prize being the breeding female. This was an amazing display by some beautiful and at the same time, unique birds. This refuge is very easy to get to and convenient for photographing these birds. If you are in this area and looking for a one day Ecuador bird tour that you can do on your own quite easily, with an interest in finding the Andean cock-of-the-rock and other species, this will be one of the most convenient places to do so.
Our cloud forest birding adventure bird tour passes through this refuge and it is only one of the many birding reserves which are on our itinerary. If you don’t have the time to join us on this bird tour, you can always stop off on your own to view this spectacular display.