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You are here:5.1.3 Gualaceo Limón Road

5.1.3 Gualaceo Limón Road

The Gualaceo Limón Road was built in 1970 and connects the Azuay and Morona Santiago Provinces. This roughly 77 km road, despite being the only way to access the eastern lowlands from Cuenca, has little traffic and a good gravel surface.  In May 2010, a contract to pave the road was signed with the goal to have it finished in the year 2012.  There is almost no formal protection for any of the habitats along the road, but many range restricted and rare birds can be seen along it.  The small town of Gualaceo has plenty of lodging and restaurants to make a day visit to bird the road not difficult. The birding areas are located at elevations between 3360 to 1900 meters



Páramo Grassland, Elfin Forest, Temperate Forest, Upper Montane Forest and Middle Montane Forest.



Gualaceo Limón Road

No special arrangements are needed to visit the road. The best place to stay in order to access the road is the small town of Gualaceo.  Gualaceo has pleasant weather and many citizens of Cuenca visit it during weekends and holidays.  A 45 minute drive will take you from Cuenca to Gualaceo along a very good highway.  Bus transportation from Cuenca-Gualaceo to Limón is regular and frequent during the day.  Buses run almost every other hour but using them for birding might be difficult.  Hiring a pickup truck or taxi is a much more desirable idea.  The road can be driven throughout the year, though until the road improvement is complete it is recommended to hire a high clearance vehicle.

The best places to stay in Gualaceo are Hostería Uzhupud telephones: (07) 2250 374, (07) 2250 373 Cuenca office: (07) 2836 947 or a email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Parador Turistico Gualaceo telephones: (07) 2255 010, Telefax (07) 2842 443 / (07) 2255 126



Gualaceo Limón Road

Starting from Cuenca you should take the Gonzáles Suárez Avenue until it merges into the Pan-American Highway at a roundabout on the northern end of the city.  From the end of Gonzáles Suárez Ave. you have to take the Panamerican Highway heading north for roughly 11 km until you reach the beginning of the road heading to Gualaceo.

You can also take the De Circunvalación Avenue heading north until you see sewage ponds.  Here connect with the Pan-American Highway on your left and across the river.  Then drive until the beginning of the road heading to Gualaceo.

(Click here to download Map. Gualaceo Limón Road)

From the start of the road heading to Gualaceo 0.0 km drive for 5.9 km.  Here you will find a toll booth.  Continue further for 2.3 km, or 8.2 km from the Pan-American Highway.  At this point you will find a fork in the road. The left hand road heads to Paute.  Continue on your right to Gualaceo for another 5.1 km, or 13.3 km from the Pan-American Highway.  At this point there is another fork in the road.  The left road takes you to Hostería Uzhupud which is 5 km from here.  Continue instead to the right along the main road 3.1 km, or 16.4 km from the Pan-American Highway.  

Here you will arrive at the small town of Gualaceo.  Stay on the main street across town. Down this road 1.2 km, or 17.6 km from the Pan-American Highway, you will find a roundabout.

A few meters before this roundabout, you will see the entrance street to Parador Turístico Gualaceo.  Reset your odometer here to 0.0 km for future references.  From the roundabout take the road heading up and over the bridge and continue for 0.5 km. Here there road goes in two directions.  Continue along the road to your left for 1.3 km, or 1.8 km from Gualaceo.   Here you will get a crossroad.  As of May 2010, this was the end of the asphalt.

Take the road heading to your right, as it goes to Limón, and drive 4.1 km, or 5.9 km from Gualaceo.  The canyon and the river you can see on your right are a good place to look for White-capped Dipper.   Look for the dipper for the next 0.5 km up the road until you arrive at a bridge located 6.4 km from Gualaceo.

Drive for a further 9.0 km, or 15.4 km from Gualaceo, and you will see an obscure trail heading up on your right. Park here, walk up the trail, and look for: Red-faced Parrot, Great Sapphirewing, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Purple-throated Sunangel, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-browed Spinetail, Blackish Tapaculo, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Black-crested Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Golden-crowned Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager among others.

Return to the road and drive further up for 3.4 km, or 18.8 km from Gualaceo.  The scrubby habitat along the left side of the road is a good place to look for Mouse-colored Thistletail and Pale-naped Brush-Finch.  From here on your way up, look for the Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant as the bird might be perched on the power lines and Many-striped Canastero which occurs in the bunchgrass.

Continue driving for 5.5 km, or 24.3 km from Gualaceo.  Here you will be crossing over the continental divide and start heading down along the eastern flank of the eastern  Andes.  This spot is located at an elevation of 3360 meters. The stunted forest just 0.2 km ahead, or 24.5 km from Gualaceo, is a good place to look for Páramo Tapaculo, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Viridian Metaltail and at times also Rainbow-bearded Thornbill.  Considering that the weather is good, the first bend to the left will allow you to search the treetops of the forest patches above. I have not seen the bird but people have reported viewing Chestnut-bellied Cotinga here.

Continue for further 0.5 km or 25.0 km from Gualaceo. The stunted forest from here until further 1.5 km or 26.5 km from Gualaceo is the best place to look for Masked Mountain-Tanager, Black-backed Bush-Tanager and Pale-naped Brush-Finch; particularly along a wide bend where a big concrete sign announced your visit to the Amazonia drainage.

The bird flocks can be very productive with:  Barred Fruiteater, Rufous Wren, Black-capped Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager and Páramo Seedeater.

The area around 2900 meters elevation should be surveyed listening and looking for the rare and local Crescent-faced Antpitta.  Look especially where forest is heavily intermixed with Andean Bamboo stalks.

Drive along for 3.0 km, or 29.5 km from Gualaceo, and walk along the road looking for bird activity.  The Black-headed Hemispingus can be seen here along with: Andean Pygmy-Owl, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Purple-backed Thornbill, Masked Trogon, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, White-browed Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, White-banded Tyrannulet, Red-crested Cotinga, Blue-and-black Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager,

The forest continues along the road with gaps and clearings of different sizes.  You could drive and bird your way down according to the weather and timing.

You could easily bird your way down for another 25 km more, or 54.5 from Gualaceo and still find wonderful forest just along the road.

The list of possibilities is bigg, as you will be covering a gradient of altitudes ranging from 2850 to 2000 meters.  Some of the species worth mentioning from the upper part of this section are:  Andean Guan, Glowing Puffleg, Rufous Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Torrent Tyrannulet, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Smoky Bush-Tyrant,  Barred Becard, Turquoise Jay, Rufous Wren, Plain-tailed Wren, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-crested Warbler, Citrine Warbler, Lacrimose Mountain-TanagerPlushcap and Slaty Brush-Finch

The lower section might produce Sickle-winged Guan, White-capped Parrot, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Long-tailed Sylph,  Crested Quetzal, Golden-headed Quetzal, Emerald ToucanetBlack-billed Mountain-Toucan, Strong-billed Woodcreeper,  Montane Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet,  Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-colored Pewee, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Flavescent Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Dusky Piha, Black-billed Peppershrike, Brown-capped Vireo, Mountain Wren, Slate-throated Whitestart, Russet-crowned Warbler, Bluish Flowerpiercer,  Masked Flowerpiercer, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Black-eared Hemispingus, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, White-capped Tanager, Grass-green TanagerRufous-crested Tanager, Slaty Finch,Northern Mountain-Cacique, Subtropical Cacique  and Russet-backed Oropendola.

The lower section of the road is much degraded and the habitat is dominated by pasture and agricultural land.  The little village of Plan de Milagro is the next point of reference that you will find at a fork some 70 km from Gualaceo.  The left hand side road takes you to Limon in some 11 km, and the right hand road descends downward 54 km more to Gualaquiza in the eastern Foothills.


Birds to look for                                                                                             

Gualaceo Limón Road                                                                

Grasslands (G), Second-growth (2G), Stunted  Forest (SF), Forest (F), Rivers (R),

Common: Shining   Sunbeam (SF,F), Tyrian Metaltail (2G), Speckled Hummingbird (2G,F), Fawn-breasted Brilliant (2G,F), Bronzy Inca    (2G,F), Collared Inca (2G,F),   Chestnut-breasted Coronet (2G,F), Long-tailed Sylph (2G,F), Pearled Treerunner (2G,F), Blackish   Tapaculo (F,SF,2G), Ashy-headed   Tyrannulet (2G,F), White-banded   Tyrannulet (2G,F), White-tailed Tyrannulet (2G,F), Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet (2G), White-throated Tyrannulet (2G,F),   Rufous-crowned   Tody-Flycatcher (2G), Flavescent Flycatcher (2G,F), Streak-necked   Flycatcher (2G,F), Cinnamon Flycatcher (2G,F),    Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant  (2G,F), Smoke-colored Pewee  (2G,F), Pale-edged   Flycatcher  (2G,F), Golden-crowned   Flycatcher (2G,F), Grass Wren (2G,G), Mountain Wren (2G,F), Spectacled Whitestart (2G,F),   Slate-throated   Whitestart (2G,F), Brown-capped Vireo  (2G,G), Black-crested Warbler (2G), Russet-crowned Warbler (2G,F), Bluish Flowerpiercer (2G,F), Masked   Flower-piercer (2G,F),  Glossy Flowerpiercer (2G,F,SF),   Black-eared   Hemispingus (2G,F), Blue-backed Conebill (2G,F), Saffron-crowned Tanager (2G,F),Flame-faced Tanager (2G,F), Beryl-spangled   Tanager (2G,F), Black-capped Tanager (2G,F), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Blue-winged   Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Common Bush-Tanager (2G,F), White-capped Tanager (2G,F), Grass-green Tanager  (2G,F),  Rufous-crested Tanager (F),  Northern Rufous-naped Brush-Finch (2G),   Plain-colored Seedeater (2G,G),   Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (G), Northern   Mountain-Cacique (2G,F), Subtropical Cacique (2G,F), Russet-backed Oropendola (2G,F), Orange-bellied Euphonia (2G,F).

Uncommon: Andean Guan (F), Sickle-winged Guan (F), White-capped Parrot (F), Glowing Puffleg (2G,F),   Rainbow Starfrontlet (2G,F),   Purple-throated Sunangel (2G,F),   Viridian Metaltail (SF,F),   Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (SF,F), Great Sapphirewing (2G,F),   Sword-billed Hummingbird (2G,F), Mountain   Velvetbreast (F), Masked Trogon (F), Crested Quetzal (F), Golden-headed   Quetzal (F), Emerald Toucanet (F), Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan (F), Black-billed Mountain-Toucan (F), Crimson-mantled Woodpecker   (F), Bar-bellied Woodpecker (F), Mouse-colored   Thistletail (2G,SF), Many-striped Canastero (G), White-browed Spinetail (F), Rufous Spinetail (2G,F), Streaked Tuftedcheek (F),   Pearled Treerunner (2G,F),   Strong-billed   Woodcreeper  (2G,F), Montane Woodcreeper (2G,F), Long-tailed   Antbird (2G,F), Equatorial   Rufous-vented Tapaculo (2G,F), Tawny-rumped   Tyrannulet (2G,F), Black-capped Tyrannulet (2G,F), Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (2G,F), Torrent Tyrannulet (R), Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant (2G,F),   Crowned Chat-Tyrant (F), Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant (2G,F), Smoky Bush-Tyrant (2G,F), Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant (G), Páramo   Ground-Tyrant (G),   Lemon-browed   Flycatcher  (2G,F), Green-and-black Fruiteater  (2G,F), Barred Fruiteater (2G,F), Red-crested   Cotinga (2G,F),   Turquoise Jay (F),   Rufous Wren (2G,F),   Mountain Wren (2G,F),   Plain-tailed Wren   (2G,F), White-capped Dipper (R),   Black-billed   Peppershrike (2G,F), Citrine Warbler (2G,F),   Superciliaried Hemispingus (F),   Black-capped Hemispingus (2G,F),   Oleaginous   Hemispingus (2G,F), Blue-backed Conebill (2G,F),   Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager (2G,F),   Black-backed Bush-Tanager (SF), Golden-crowned Tanager (SF,2G), Blue-and-black Tanager (2G,F), Hooded Mountain-Tanager   (2G,F),   Black-chested Mountain-Tanager (2G,F),   Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager   (2G,F), Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager  (2G,F), Plushcap (2G,F), Pale-naped   Brush-Finch (SF), Slaty Brush-Finch (2G,F).

Rare: Red-faced Parrot (F), Andean   Pygmy-Owl (F), Purple-backed Thornbill (2G,F), Crescent-faced   Antpitta (F), Chestnut-bellied Cotinga (SF), Dusky Piha (F), Black-headed Hemispingus (F), Páramo Seedeater (2G,F), Slaty Finch (2G,F).

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.


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