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5.0 Introduction

The Southern Andes: From the Highlands to the Eastern Foothills near Cuenca and Loja.

Starting with Cuenca or Loja as gateways, the Southern Andes offer access to some of the protected areas run by the Ecuadorian Government.  The last decade has also seen the establishment of several private reserves and newer resorts, lodges, and hotels that have turned the tourism in the south into a far more pleasant and easier experience.  Many of the birding sites in the Southern Andes are easily accessible and provide the opportunity to look for a number of restricted-range birds found only in the Isolated East-Andean Ridges, the Marañon River drainage and some high elevation habitats in the South of Ecuador.


5.1 Areas near Cuenca

Cuenca’s architectural beauty is the perfect starting point to bird many different habitats from above treeline above 3600 m of the Cajas National Park, to cloud and foothill forest in the Gualaceo-Limón Road.  Cuenca is also the gateway to visit the renowned Yunguilla Reserve, which is home to one of the rarest birds in the world, the Ecuadorian Endemic Pale-headed Brush-Finch.


Biogeography Regions: High Andes, East Slope of Andes, Southwestern Montane, Isolated East-Andean Ridges.


5.2 Areas near Loja City

Loja is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador.   Its small size and its vicinity to the Podocarpus National Park makes it a convenient gateway to explore habitats ranging from treeline at 3600 m to the eastern foothills at 900 m near the small town of Zamora. Loja also provides access to the superb Tapichalaca Reserve, home of the Ecuador’s last and biggest ornithological discovery, the Jocotoco Antpitta.


Biogeography Regions: High Andes, Tumbesian Lowlands, East Slope of Andes, Isolated East-Andean Ridges, Marañon River drainage.


5.3 Valleys of the Marañon River

The southeastern corner of Ecuador is a very remote area that few ornithologist visited until the discovery of the Jocotoco Antpitta in 1997. After this striking antpitta was discovered the Jocotoco Fundation moved to protect its habitat with the creation of its Tapichalaca Reserve. The subsequent construction of “Casa Simpson”Lodge facilitated visits to the area and the habitats. This region is home to a handful of restricted birds species only shared with Northeaster extreme Perú.


Biogeography Regions: East Slope of Andes, Marañon River drainage.


Click here to downloa Map. South east and Southern Andes

More in this category: 5.1.1 Cajas National Park »

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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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