• JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 44

You are here:3.10.1 Palacara River and Tumbambiro Valley

3.10.1 Palacara River and Tumbambiro Valley

The ChotaRiver valley is a dry, inter-Andean area, located close to the city of Ibarra.  Just a bit north and north-west of the town, the ChotaRiver, and tributaries pass, having begun high up in the Andes. The dry habitat surrounding the Chota River has no current protection status, but most of the species living in the area seem to survive in altered habitats.    It is Andean Montane scrub dominated by Acacias growing between 1700 m to 1300 m of elevation. This is only known site in Ecuador where you are able to see the White-tailed Nightjar. Therefore the area is of  interest from a birder’s perspective.



Andean Montane Scrub.



Palacara River and Tumbambiro Valley.

You can visit this site before heading to the lowlands along the Ibarra-San Lorenzo road, or on your return to Quito once you have visited different sites near the Colombia border.  There is plenty of public transportation from Ibarra to Tulcán, and from Ibarra to San Lorenzo as all of the buses pass the point where the Ibarra San Lorenzo highway meets the Pan-American Highway, just north of Ibarra.  At this crossroad there are a group of pickup trucks that provide local transportation to spots in the valley.  Depending on your plans, this might be a good place to hire a vehicle to explore the area. There are no restrictions for any type of vehicles needed for traveling the area.  The towns of Chachimbiro and Tumbabiro have many places to stay, but could possibly have few vacancies if a major national holiday occurs during your visit. The closest town to the White-tailed Nightjar habitat is Tumbabiro.   You could stay at Residencial Tio Lauro, phone numbers: (6) 293 4148, (6) 293 4041 or the cell phone 092708337 for $12US/ per person, per night.  If you like a more comfortable and upgraded place you can stay at Hostería Pantaví, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call Monday through Friday (2) 2347 476 and to the cell phone: 09 1928 280,  for 47 $USA/ double room per night.



Palacara River and Tumbambiro Valley.

If you are continuing from your visit to San Pablo and Yaguarcocha Lakes, see the birding instructions in those respective subchapters on how to get there.   After you have visited YaguarcochaLake, continue driving north for 19.3 km on the Pan American highway.  After descending to the bottom of a low valley you will get to a fork in the highway.  This will be our point of reference 0.0 km, as this is the beginning of the Ibarra-San Lorenzo Road.

(Click here to download Map. Palacara River).    

From the beginning of the Ibarra-San Lorenzo road, drive toward the lowlands for 1.5 km.   Here there will be a road on the left.  This left turn takes you to the small town of Tumbambiro, where you can stay overnight.   Continue along the Ibarra San Lorenzo road for 0.9 km and you will be driving by the small town of Salinas or 2.4 km from the Pan-American Highway.

If you want to look for the highly restricted White-tailed Nightjar, you must to be at the sites at dawn or dusk.   Dusk is the primary time for activity.   Drive further 5.7 km toward the west. The road goes up for a while and then begins to descend again.  Just before you get to a pronounced bend to the right, or 8.1 km from the Pan-American Highway, you will be at the canyon of the PalacaraRiver.  There will be a parking place on the inner side of the bend before you get to the bridge.   Be careful when parking, as it can be dangerous due to speeding vehicles on this road.  Park here, walk across the road, and follow an obscure trail heading upstream along the left bank of the Palacara River.  You do no not need to go more than 200 meters until you see some flatter areas slightly above the highway.   Wait here for the nightjar to display.  They normally fly up and down the canyon and like to sit on some flat areas along the canyon walls.   Listen for the bird’s high-pitched whistle, as this will give you a good idea of its location.

The only other known reported site for this nightjar, according to Ridgely and Greenfield 2001 Field Guide for the Birds of Ecuador is near Tumbambiro.

From the beginning of the Ibarra San Lorenzo road, drive toward the lowlands for 1.5 km where will be a turn to the left.  The left turn takes you to the town of Tumbambiro where you can stay overnight.  Heading toward Tumbambiro for 5.0 km, or 6.5 km from the Pan-American Highway, there will be a dirt road crossing the surfaced road.  Take a left turn along this dirt road and drive for 1.0 km.  Here you will reach a narrow canyon with scrubby Acacia habitat. This is the second site reported for the White-tailed Nightjar.  I believe the bird used to be probably much more common than it is at present, as habitat destruction has confined the birds to steep canyons where the last suitable habitat remains.  On the other hand, I suspect the bird can be also found along many of the isolated steep canyons running down the Salinas-Tumbambiro valley.

The dry scrub habitat with scattered trees all over the valley is a good place to look for Common Ground-Dove, Tropical Mockingbird, and Scrub Tanager.   The localized Blue-headed Sapphire and Western Emerald can be found around flowering plants.

In the event you do not want to continue to the western lowlands, and you wish to return to Ibarra and Quito without back tracking your steps, you can take an alternate road from Tumbambiro to Ibarra to connect with the Pan-American Highway.  If you plan to continue to the lowlands return to the Ibarra-San Lorenzo highway.

To return to Ibarra via a short cut you must drive to Tumbambiro.  Tumbambiro is only 3.4 km to the entrance of the second site described for the White-tailed Nightjar, as you continue up the hill.  Only 0.6 km before reaching the small town of Tumbambiro you will reach the Hostería Pantaví.  Opposite to the entrance to Hostería Pantaví there is a dirt road.  Here, in May, 2009, I saw a Gray-capped Cuckoo, probably a vagrant individual.

Once you arrive to Tumbambiro’s main plaza, reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references. From the main plaza in Tumbambiro head uphill from the park and at only 0.3 km there is a fork. Take the left road here and drive for another 1.1 km, or 1.4 km from Tumbambiro.   You will arrive to a village named Cruz Tola.  Continue on for 0.2 km to another fork, or 1.6 km from Tumbambiro, and take the left turn up the hill.   Avoid the asphalt road to the right.  After only 0.3 km you will come to a yet another fork, 1.9 km from Tumbambiro.  

Take the left road and continue on for another 1.6 km, or 4.9 from Tumbambiro.  Here there is a steep canyon where, even though I have not looked at this spot, I am confident the White-tailed Nightjar occurs as well.

Driving for another 2.9 km, or 7.8 km from Tumbambiro, there is a fork.  You should stay to the left road up the hill.  Shortly after a “One Way” sign you will have to take the right road and will arrive at the small town of Urcukí at 8.5km from Tumbambiro.

From Urcukí you drive toward Ibarra for 13.5 km, or 21.8 from Tumbambiro, and you will arrive at the village of Imbaya.  At this point, you carry on for 5.1 km, or 16.9 from Tumbambiro and will be at a cross road with a traffic light.  Turning left will take you toward Tulcán, going straight ahead will take you to Ibarra downtown,  and turning right takes you back to Otavalo and Quito.


Birds to look for

Palacara River and Tumbambiro Valley.

Cultivated   fields (CF), Dry Scrub (DS)

Common: Eared Dove (CF, DS), Vermilion Flycatcher (CF),   Scrub Tanager (CF, DS).

Uncommon: Common Ground-Dove (CF, DS), Blue-headed Sapphire (CF,   DS), Western Emerald (CF, DS)and (CF, DS) Tropical Mockingbird,

Rare: White-tailed Nightjar (DS)

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

All rights reserved. This web book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author and Jocotoco Foundation except for the use of brief quotations in a book review and to print the information for traveling in Ecuador purposes.

You may not mirror, modify or otherwise alter any files in this website for rebroadcast, print or distribute in anyway the information contained therein with commercial purposes , without written permission from the author. Except as expressly provided above.

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.


Jocotoco Foundation

  • Lizardo García E9-104 y Andrés Xaura,
  • Quito - Ecuador
  • Tel: +593 2 250-5212
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.