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You are here:4.2.6 Cabañas San Isidro

4.2.6 Cabañas San Isidro

The privately owned 1.170 hectare San Isidro Preserve holds expanses of very accessible and pristine Cloud Forest. San Isidro is located at an elevation of 2.000 m close to the small town of Cosanga in Napo province.  Some of the San Isidro forest is also a buffer zone for the 120.000 hectare Antisana Ecological Reserve.

The outstanding birding, great lodging facilities and exquisite cuisine makes Cabañas San Isidro a place that must be visited by any bird lover traveling through Ecuador.

The current San Isidro bird list surpasses 320 species.



Middle Montane Forest.



Cabañas San Isidro.

There is plenty of bus transportation running along the E28, Interoceánica Highway, and connecting to Baeza along the E45 highway.  You can easily get a bus from Quito heading to Baeza and Cosanga from the Cumandá Bus Terminal.  Ask for bus lines heading to Baeza and Tena.  You can also jump on one of these buses after your visit to Guango Lodge, just make sure the bus is heading to Cosanga or Tena.  A vehicle is not necessary

to bird the Cabañas San Isidro Preserve, but having one will certainly facilitate your birding and broaden the spectrum of areas you can visit from San Isidro.  The Cabañas San Isidro office can help you organize any kind of transportation.  More information regarding Cabañas San Isidro can be obtained at It is possible to contact the Cabanas at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (2) 2547 403 during working hours from Monday to Friday.  Some of the birding at Cabañas San Isidro is performed along a public road.  If you are not a guest at the lodge it is recommended, because you are using their forest, to announce your visit and pay the daily $15 US per person entrance fee. This way you can also visit their hummingbird feeders, and walk the nicely maintained forest trails.



Cabañas San Isidro.

You can visit the Cabañas San Isidro after visiting the Guango Lodge and the Baeza surroundings. To get instructions as to how to continue on to this site, please see the birding instructions on the respective chapter on how to get to Guango Lodge.  Leaving Guango Lodge to the entrance road to Cabañas San Isidro is a 46.3 km trip from Guango Lodge.   Cosanga is the closest town to San Isidro along the E45 highway and is located 47.1 km from Guango Lodge.

When driving from Guango and Baeza toward Cosanga the entrance road to San Isidro will be on your right hand side.  From the San Isidro entrance along the E45 highway reset your odometer to 0.0 km for we will use this point for future references. 

(Click here to download Map. Cabañas San Isidro English).

Take the unsurfaced road toward Cabañas San Isidro for 2.0 km and you will reach some good forest along the roadside.  This piece of forest stretches almost to the San Isidro main gate for another 0.7 km ahead, or 2.7 km from the highway.  Once you enter San Isidro driveway the parking place will be only about 100 m ahead.

If you continue along the dirt road past the entrance, the tall forest stretches for almost 2.5 km from the San Isidro driveway.   This is one of the finest walks and as it is one of the best birding areas of San Isidro Reserve.

Cabañas San Isidro has a few street lights that are kept illuminated along the driveway during the night. The stretch between the parking lot and the dining room has three of them.  Many insects are attracted during the night to these lights. The “San Isidro Owl” Ciccaba sp, is most likely a new species for science.  This bird is fond of these lights, and a few nights staying at the lodge should allow great views of it.

Look after dark in the tree tops and upper-story branches near the street lights.  During the first two hours in the morning there is a constant “rain” of birds by the lights.  Bird flocks keep returning to these lights to feed on the insects.

 Allow plenty time to hang around these lights on one of the mornings of your visit and look for:  Masked Trogon, Highland Motmot, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-colored Pewee, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Inca Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike, Brown-capped Vireo, Mountain Wren, Slate-throated and Spectacled Whitestarts, Russet-crowned Warbler, Capped Conebill, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Black-eared Hemispingus, Northern Mountain-Cacique, Subtropical Cacique and Russet-backed Oropendola. The hummingbird feeders by the dining rooms and the social area, where most of the cabins are located, are very active with regular visits of Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Long-tailed Sylph. Other hummingbirds are seasonal and show up only sporadically at the feeders: Green and Sparkling Violetears, White-tailed Hillstar, Mountain Velvetbreast, White-bellied Woodstar, and Gorgeted Woodstar.   The feeders have even had a few visits of the very rare Lazuline Sabrewing.

Many of the tanagers show up by the lodge.    Look especially for Golden-rumped Euphonia, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Black-capped Tanager and Blue-necked Tanager.

The San Isidro staff has been able to successfully use the antpitta feeding technique to show to visitors the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta.  The two feeding points are located close to the dining room, and you want to organize your time to attend the show and be able to see a couple of species that otherwise could be very difficult to lure into view.

The forest surrounding the cabins and the social room is also quite productive. Try to be out slightly before dusk on top of the observation deck above the social room, and use your scope to scan the treetops down below in the valley to look for the Wattled Guan. The bird sits on top of the trees along exposed branches during the breeding season.  The Rufous-bellied Nighthawk may fly over head just after dusk, and can be quite vocal.  The nomadic White-capped Tanager tends to show up by the forest close to the lodge, and you should be alert to listen for their loud, far-carrying voices.

The 700 m stretch of forest along the access road to the lodge, as you turn right out the driveway toward E45, is quite productive and many of the bird species seen at the Lodge’s street lights can be seen here. 

These include Long-tailed Antbird, Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Dusky Piha, Pale-eyed Thrush, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren and Olivaceous Siskin.

From the San Isidro entrance you should also bird the 2.5 km stretch of forest to the left heading to the Cosanga Valley.  This road has almost all the birds previously mentioned for the areas close to the lodge, and will also be your best chance for:  Sickle-winged Guan, White-capped Parrot, Scaly-naped Amazon, Rufous-banded Owl, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Crested Quetzal, Golden-headed Quetzal, Emerald Toucanet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Spotted Barbtail, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Flammulated Treehunter, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, Barred Antthrush, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Flavescent Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-chested Fruiteater, Turquoise Jay, Andean Solitaire, Glossy-black Thrush, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Plain-tailed Wren, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Grass-green TanagerRufous-crested Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Plushcap, and Slaty Finch. Some of the clearings along this productive forest are used during the nights as the hunting grounds by the rare Andean Potoo.

The log trail up the mountain, opposite the San Isidro driveway is a difficult trail to walk, but here the very rare White-faced Nunbird, Brown-billed Scythebill and Bicolored Antvireo can be also seen. The first section of damp grassy habitat has had the constant visit of a South American Snipe pair.

The Bicolored Antvireo only vocalizes for a few weeks during the year.   This bird is a secretive forest understory dweller.  One of the best trails to look for it is the unsurprisingly named “Antvireo Trail”.   San Isidro also has an active Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek.   Ask for the lek status before taking the roughly 2.0 km forest walk to it.  Out of the breeding season the lek is inactive and the birds do not attend it.  Walking the forest trail down to the Cock-of-the-rock lek could be your best chance for many inside forest birds including: Highland Tinamou, Giant Antpitta, Peruvian Antpitta, Blackish Tapaculo, Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-winged Manakin, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush  and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch.

When hanging around in open spaces and walking along the roads you should keep on surveying the sky and looking for Barred Hawk, White-rumped Hawk, Black-and-chestnut Eagle and Spot-fronted Swift.

A complementary site to Cabañas San Isidro is the nearby, famous Guacamayos Ridge which you can access after a short drive.

Birds to look for

The Cabañas San Isidro.

Second Growth Forest (2GF), Forest (F), Hummingbird   feeders (hf), Grasslands (G).

Common: White-capped   Parrot (2GF,F), “San Isidro Owl” (2GF), Golden-headed Quetzal (2GF,F), Emerald Toucanet   (2GF,F), Speckled Hummingbird (hf), Fawn-breasted   Brilliant (hf), Bronzy Inca (hf), Collared Inca (hf),   Chestnut-breasted Coronet (hf), Long-tailed Sylph (hf), Masked Trogon (2GF,F), Crimson-mantled   Woodpecker (2GF,F), Streaked Tuftedcheek (2GF,F), Pearled   Treerunner (2GF,F), Spotted Barbtail (2GF,F),   Lineated   Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Montane Woodcreeper (2GF,F), Olive-backed Woodcreeper (2GF,F), Long-tailed   Antbird (2GF), Chestnut-crowned Antpitta   (2GF), White-bellied Antpitta (2GF,F), Blackish Tapaculo (2GF,F),    Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo (2GF,F), Ash-colored Tapaculo (2GF),  Ashy-headed Tyrannulet (2GF,F), White-tailed   Tyrannulet (2GF,F), Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet (2GF,F), Marble-faced   Bristle-Tyrant (2GF,F), Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher (2GF,F),  Flavescent Flycatcher (2GF,F),  Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (2GF,F), Streak-necked   Flycatcher (2GF,F), Cinnamon Flycatcher (2GF,F), Yellow-bellied   Chat-Tyrant (2GF,F),    Smoke-colored Pewee (2GF,F), Pale-edged Flycatcher (2GF,F), Golden-crowned   Flycatcher (2GF,F), Barred Becard (2GF,F), Green-and-black Fruiteater (2GF,F), Inca Jay (2GF,F), Turquoise Jay, (2GF,F), Black-billed   Peppershrike (2GF,F), Brown-capped Vireo (2GF,F), Mountain Wren (2GF,F), Plain-tailed Wren   (2GF),    Slate-throated Whitestart (2GF,F), Spectacled Whitestart (2GF,F), Russet-crowned   Warbler (2GF,F), Glossy-black Thrush (2GF,F),   Masked Flowerpiercer   (2GF,F),    White-sided Flowerpiercer (2GF,F), Golden-rumped Euphonia (2GF,F),  Saffron-crowned Tanager (2GF,F),  Flame-faced Tanager (2GF,F),  Beryl-spangled Tanager (2GF,F),  Black-capped Tanager (2GF,F),  Blue-necked Tanager (2GF,F), Blue-winged   Mountain-Tanager (2GF,F),  Common   Bush-Tanager (2GF,F), Fawn-breasted Tanager (2GF,F),  Orange-bellied Euphonia (2GF,F), Northern Mountain-Cacique   (2GF,F), Subtropical Cacique (2GF,F), Russet-backed   Oropendola (2GF,F), Gray-breasted Wood-Wren (2GF,F), Chestnut-capped   Brush-Finch (2GF,F), Olivaceous Siskin (2GF,F).

Uncommon:  White-rumped Hawk (2GF,F),   Black-and-chestnut Eagle (2GF,F), Barred Hawk (2GF,F),  Sickle-winged   Guan (2GF,F), Scaly-naped Amazon (2GF,F),   Rufous-banded Owl   (2GF,F), Rufous-bellied Nighthawk   (2GF,F), Yellow-vented   Woodpecker (2GF,F), Powerful Woodpecker (2GF,F), Highland Motmot (2GF,F), Tawny-bellied   Hermit (2GF,F), Crested Quetzal (F),  Green Violetear (hf),  Sparkling Violetear (hf), Mountain   Velvetbreast (hf), White-bellied Woodstar (hf),  Gorgeted Woodstar (hf), Strong-billed   Woodcreeper (2GF,F), Rusty-winged Barbtail (2GF,F),  Flammulated Treehunter (2GF,F),  Tyrannine Woodcreeper (2GF,F), Variegated   Bristle-Tyrant (2GF,F),  Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant (F), Rufous-headed   Pygmy-Tyrant (2GF,F), Handsome Flycatcher (2GF,F),  Black-chested Fruiteater (2GF,F), Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (F), Golden-winged Manakin (2GF,F),  Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (2GF,F),  Andean Solitaire (2GF,F), Pale-eyed Thrush    (F), Chestnut-bellied Thrush, (2GF,F), Golden-collared   Honeycreeper (2GF,F), Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia (2GF,F), Capped Conebill (2GF,F), Bluish Flowerpiercer   (2GF,F), Grass-green Tanager (2GF,F), Rufous-crested Tanager (2GF,F), White-capped tanager (2GF,F), Oleaginous Hemispingus (2GF,F), Plushcap (2GF).

Rare: Highland Tinamou (F), South American Snipe  (G) Wattled Guan   (F), Andean Potoo (2GF,F),   Black-billed Mountain-Toucan (F), White-faced   Nunbird (F), Spot-fronted   Swift (2GF,F), Lazuline Sabrewing (hf),    Brown-billed Scythebill (F), Bicolored Antvireo (F), Barred Antthrush   (F) Giant Antpitta (F), Peruvian Antpitta (F), Slate-crowned Antpitta (F)   Dusky Piha (F), Lemon-browed Flycatcher (2GF,F), Slaty Finch (2GF).

For further information on the San Isidro Lodge Bird List go to


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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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