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You are here:2.2.1 La Mitad del Mundo area. San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí

2.2.1 La Mitad del Mundo area. San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí

This dry valley north of Quito is very accessible via a short drive which will take you to this popular tourist spot.  It is the Equator line monument located very close to the small town of San Antonio de Pichincha. The modern area has pleasant weather and is quite developed with middle and high income neighborhoods.  The more remote and less desirable housing areas once were farmed, but have now been developed thus changing the landscape.  Now the only habitat left for the common birds found originally in the region are the much less accessible and steep slopes.  These areas retain the natural habitat that once dominated the northern dry valleys of Quito.

There are numerous roads and trails providing many opportunities to bird the dry inter-Andean scrub of the region.

 The western Andean Mountains project a strong barrier hiding the area from most rain and creating a dry habitat.  This then becomes an isolated “rain shadow valley” in the west Inner-Andes which projects north to the valleys of Guayllabamaba and Chota.



Dry Montane Scrub.



La Mitad del Mundo area. San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí.


This valley north of Quito can easily be accessed taking the four-lane Ave. Dr Manuel Córdova Galarza which begins at the intersection of Av. De la Prensa and Av. Mariscal Antonio Jose de Sucre at a roundabout in the northwest end of the city. This roundabout is also a good place to take any of the buses heading to San Antonio de Pichincha,“La Mitad del Mundo”, Calacalí or any of the sites along the Calacalí –La Independencia highway.   Make sure the bus you take goes as far as your destination.  Some buses run the entire length of the highway heading to the lowlands along the coast.   Others only run part of it with different destinations. You can also visit this site when returning from the Nono-Mindo road.

Birding this area can be done by any kind of transportation: bus, taxi and even on a bike, there are no entrance fees to pay, unless you are planning to visit the Equator line monument.



La mitad del Mundo area. San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí.


Take the Avenue Dr Manuel Cordova Galarza heading north starting on the northwest end of the city.  Call this point 0.0 km.  At 12.7 km from this point you will reach the roundabout right on to access the Equator Line monument.   Keep going north and straight ahead as the right exit goes to San Antonio town and the left heads to the monument. 

 (Click here to download Map. Mitad del Mundo English).

 This is the end of the 4 lane highway, and the road starts climbing towards the west.   Look for any site where the Agave or century plant, Agave americana, is in flower.  In some seasons flowers may not be present.   The tricky part is to find a safe spot to stop along the road.  The big Agave flower stalks produce large amounts of nectar which attracts the astonishing Giant Hummingbird.  There may be others species visiting the flowers.   Look especially for Rusty Flowerpiercer.

At 18.8 km from Quito after a long uphill climb and right when entering a pronounced bend to the right there is a Virgin Mary Shrine at 2410 m, with a small parking area on the left.  Parking when driving uphill could be dangerous.  I recommend that you drive beyond, turn around in a safer place and park when going downhill.   The parking place is the start of a narrow trail cutting through the dense dry scrub and descending gently to the horse race track down below. From this Virgin Shrine at the parking lot walk to the first 1500 meters along the trail.  Start looking for White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant which is the main attraction at the site.  This rare bird´s territory includes the entire slope, but the first section of the trail is usually your best chance for finding this species.   The bird could be quietly sitting on top the bushes.  Walk slowly while looking for it up and down the slope.  Also look for Variable Hawk (the lowland form),  Black-tailed Trainbearer, Purple-collared Woodstar, Streak-backed Canastero (the aequatorialis race), Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant and Grassland Yellow-Finch.  The yellow-finch may be nesting on the exposed banks along the track, along with Golden-rumped Euphonia preferring the mistletoe loaded bushy trees.  You must return to your parking spot at the shrine along the same track.  

Returning to the highway and heading west for some 1.9 km on the right hand side there will be a dirt side road at 20.5 km from Quito.   This side road enters the Pululahua Geo-Botanical Reserve “Reserva Geo-Botánica del Pululahua”.   The flatter area from the gas station to this turn off, on both sides of the road, is good habitat for the Band-tailed Sierra-Finch.   Look also for the finch along the dirt road heading to the “Pululahua reserve” before descending into the valley.  Continuing along the highway for 500 meters more, at 21 km from Quito, you will reach to a fork in the highway.  The left road continues along the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway to the west, and the right hand road goes to the small town of Calacalí.


Birds to look for

La Mitad del Mundo area. San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí.

Cultivated   fields (CF), Dry Montane Scrub (DMS)

Common: American Kestrel (CF, DMS), Eared Dove (CF, DMS), Sparkling   Violetear (CF, DMS), Azara's Spinetail (DMS), Tufted Tit-Tyrant (DMS), Great   Thrush (CF, DMS), Blue-and-white Swallow (CF, DMS), Southern House Wren (CF,   DMS), Band-tailed Seedeater (CF, DMS), Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch (CF, DMS), Rufous-collared   Sparrow (CF, DMS), Hooded Siskin (CF, DMS).

Uncommon: Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle (DMS), Variable Hawk   (DMS), Common Ground-Dove (DMS), Black-tailed Trainbearer (CF, DMS), Purple-collared   Woodstar (DMS), Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant    (DMS), Cinereous Conebill (DMS), Rusty Flowerpiercer (DMS), Golden-rumped   Euphonia (DMS), Blue-and-yellow Tanager (CF, DMS), Southern Yellow-Grosbeak   (CF, DMS), Grassland Yellow-finch (seasonal), (DMS).

Rare: Giant Hummingbird (CF, DMS), Streak-backed   Canastero (DMS), White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant (DMS).


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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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