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You are here:5.1.2 Yunguilla Reserve

5.1.2 Yunguilla Reserve

The small 200 hectares reserve protects a remnant of Andean Mountain Scrub which is the last suitable habitat for the Critically Endangered Pale-headed Brush-finch. The brush-finch is one of the Ecuadorian endemics and one of the rarest birds of the world with a population no greater than 240 individuals. When Dr. Neils Krabbe rediscovered the species the population was reduced to only 12 pairs. Thanks to the opportune protective action by Jocotoco Foundation this species was brought back from the brink of extension much to the joy of nature and bird lovers.

The Yunguilla valley is a well known place for the citizens of Cuenca to rest during weekends and holidays. The elevation in the reserve ranges between 1650 to 2000 meters. The area is located close to the small town of Yunguilla in the Azuay Province and can be accessed from Cuenca city taking the Cuenca-Girón Pasaje Highway.

 

Habitat.

Andean Mountain Scrub, Middle Montane Cloud forest.

 

Logistics.

Yunguilla Reserve

Due the rarity of this brush-finch, and all the potential risks the bird and its habitats are facing,  the reserve can only be visited upon request and permission from the Jocotoco Foundation www.fjocotoco.org / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Phone: 02-2457090 during working hours, Monday to Friday). The foundation will schedule your visit and make sure the park rangers are informed about your visit.  One of the park rangers will be waiting for your visit.  The Jocotoco Fundation will provide you with a phone number as a mean to communicate with the park ranger in case of need.  Visitors will be asked to pay the US $10 and $2 for Ecuadorians for entrance ticket fee and registration. Use of playback to attract the brush-finch is forbidden.  The park ranger will know of the best place to find the bird for when you visit, so please follow his advice as per timing and where to go.  

To reach the town of Yunguilla you can take one of the many buses running from Cuenca to Yunguilla and Pasaje.  Make sure the bus heading to Machala goes along the Cuenca-Girón-Pasaje highway.  The bus terminal of Cuenca City is located at the intersection of Avenues España and Héroes de Verd close to Cuenca’s airport.  Should you take the bus to the town of Yunguilla, you can hire a pickup truck to visit the reserve.  Do not hire a taxi or attempt the visit in a small vehicle.  A high clearance vehicle is needed and during the rainy season (Dec-April), a four wheel drive vehicle is mandatory.

You can stay at Hostería Sol y Agua.  Information regarding this hostería can be obtained writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling the Cuenca office (07) 2847 277 or the hostería at the telephones (07) 2270 696 or (07) 2270 436.  For an upgraded alternative to this accommodation in Yunguilla, you can choose the Hostería Jardín del Valle.  This hostería can be contacted at the Telephone number (07) 2262 046 or (07) 2262 788, or writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  More information regarding Hostería Jardín del Valle can be obtained at www.jardindelvalle.com

 

Birding.

Yunguilla Reserve

The Cuenca-Girón-Pasaje Highway starts in Cuenca at the roundabout where the Avenues Loja and De Las Americas merge into each other in the south side of the city.

(Click here to download Map. Yunguilla Reserve)

Take the Pan-American Highway heading south and drive for 10.7 km.  At this point there will be a fork in the road.  Avoid the left turn heading to Tarqui.  Continue driving for 0.9 km, or 11.8 km from Cuenca.  Here you will find another fork in the road. Avoid the right and fork heading to Portete.   Take the left hand road and drive for another 2.7 km, or 14.5 km from Cuenca.  At this point there is, yet another, fork in the road.  The left road is the continuation of the Pan-American Highway heading south toward Saraguro and Loja.  Take the right hand road heading straight ahead toward Girón. Continue driving for 24.8 km, or 39.3 km from Cuenca.  Drive through Girón and continue ahead for another 14.2 km, or 53.5 km from Cuenca.  At this point, there is a fork on the road just before arriving to a gas station on the right.

The road on the right can be used to go to Yunguilla town, and the reserve when coming from Cuenca.  The entrance road heading to the reserve will be only 850 m from this point.  Here at the beginning of the dirt road heading to the reserve reset your odometer to 0.0 km.

Returning to the main highway from the gas station; continue down along the main highway 850 m and you will get to a fork with a statue of two beautiful horses.  The road down and ahead continues toward Pasaje, and is the one to take if you are staying in Hosteria Sol y Agua.  Taking the road to your right will take to Hosteria Jardín del Valle, and to the entrance of the road heading to the reserve, driving through the town of Yungilla in further 0.94 km.

At the start of the dirt road heading to the Yunguilla Reserve (0.0 km) drive for 0.3 km. At this point you will arrive at a crossroad. Here you have to turn to the right at this road.  Drive for 0.8 km, or 1.1 km from town.  Here you will find a fork in the road. Stay on the main road avoiding the fork to your right.  Immediately after this spot, there is a road heading to the left.  Stay on the main road. Continue for 0.3 km, or 1.4 km from town.  Here you will come to yet another fork. Take the right hand road and continue for 0.6 km more, or 2.0 km from town.  At this point you will arrive at another fork. Take the left hand road and drive for further 1.6 km or 3.6 km from town. Here you will arrive to a yet another fork. Take the left and road.

Shortly after there will be another fork where you have to take the right hand road. Drive on this road for 0.5 km, or 4.1 km from town.  Here you will find another fork. You have to take the left hand road.  And continue another 0.3 km, or 4.4 km from town.  

Here you will see a drive way heading to house on the right.  From this spot, the main road deteriorates but you have to drive uphill for further 0.6 km, or 5.0 km from town.  At this point there will be a steep and obscure road heading left.  Take this left hand road and drive further 0.3 km, or 5.3 km from town.  Here, inside forest, you can park and continue on foot, or if the road allows, drive another 0.5 km, or 5.8 km from town till the end of the road.  Shortly after the end of the road you can find the first place where you can see the brush-finch.  From here onward you will have to follow the advice of the Jocotoco Foundation park ranger.

The taller forest before reaching the end of the road is a good place to look during the nights for the local and rare Buff-fronted Owl, and the much more common Mottled Owl.

The Andean Mountain Scrub covering the hill side beyond the end of the road is the place to look for the Pale-headed Brush-Finch, especially along the main trail. The bird is much more active in the early morning and late afternoon. To maximize your opportunity to see the bird follow the advice of the park rangers, as they look for the bird in a daily basis and know where the birds hang out and where they are feeding.

Other birds that can be seen in the Yunguilla Reserve include: Purple-collared, White-bellied and Little Woodstars, Ecuadorian Ground-Dove, Pacific Pygmy-Owl, Amazilia Hummingbird (of the newly described and quite distinct, almost pure white below, race azuay), Line-cheeked Spinetail, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Black-and-white Tanager (only during rainy season), Rufous-chested Tanager and Drab Seedeater.

From the horses’ statue, close to Yunguilla town you can continue to the coastal lowlands.  Driving 80.6 km or 134.1 km from Cuenca you will get to Pasaje.  And after driving further 16.5 km or 150.6 km from Cuenca you will join the coastal highway connecting Machala with Guayaquil.

 

Birds to look for

Yunguilla Reserve

Second-growth (2G), Andean Mountain Scrub (AMS), Forest (F).

Common: Eared Dove (2G,AMS), Amazilia Hummingbird (AMS, 2G), Azara’s   Spinetail (2G,AMS), Southern   Beardless-Tyrannulet (AMS, 2G), Blue-and-white Swallow, Stripe-headed   Brush-Finch (2G,AMS), Drab Seedeater (AMS, 2G), Hooded Siskin (AMS, 2G).

Uncommon: Plain-breasted Hawk  (F,AMS), Harris's Hawk (AMS),   Ecuadorian Ground-Dove (AMS), Mottled Owl (F), Pacific Pygmy-Owl (AMS,   2G),  White-tipped Swift,   Purple-collared Woodstar (AMS,2G), Golden-olive Woodpecker (F,AMS),   Crimson-mantled Woodpecker (F), Line-cheeked Spinetail (AMS, 2G), Chestnut-crowned   Antpitta (AMS, 2G), Blackish Tapaculo (AMS, 2G), Rufous-winged Tyrannulet   (AMS,2G), Tumbesian Tyrannulet (AMS, 2G), Rufous-browed Peppershrike   (AMS,2G),Rufous-chested Tanager (AMS,2G), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (F), Southern Yellow-Grosbeak (AMS,2G), Pale-headed   Brush-Finch (AMS, 2G).

Rare: Andean Tinamou (AMS, 2G), Buff-fronted Owl (F), Black-and-white Tanager (AMS, 2G).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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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.

 

Jocotoco Foundation

  • Lizardo García E9-104 y Andrés Xaura,
  • Quito - Ecuador
  • Tel: +593 2 250-5212
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  • www.fjocotoco.org