You are here:5.1.4 Cordillera del Condor-Condor Mirado

5.1.4 Cordillera del Condor-Condor Mirado

Cordillera del Cóndor is an isolated mountain range located in the Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe Provinces in the southeastern part of the country adjacent to the Peruvian border.  This is one of the areas in Ecuador that has received the least attention from the ornithological point of view.  The birding areas are located at an elevation of 800 to 1800 meters.  The Ecuadorian Government had set aside three protected areas in the region; El Cóndor Park, El Quimi Biologic Reserve and El Zarza Wildlife Refuge. These mountains are remote and difficult to access.  Cóndor Mirador is a military base located close to Quimi and provides some opportunity to visit and see some of the habitats of the mountain range.

Habitat.
Middle Montane Forest, Lower Montane Forest, Foothill Forest, Stunted Forest.

Logistics. 
Cordillera del Cóndor-Cóndor Mirador

This is a remote area and the access to it is difficult and time consuming. The only places to stay are at the military base in the area.  Otherwise, you could camp near the military base or near a house.  The area is very safe due military presence.  The Ecuadorian Army keeps a close control of the human activities in the area.  One must remember that the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border near this area was disputed for years and this fact is the reason for the strong Ecuadorean military visibility here.  The area DOES NOT have free access and you have to obtain a permit for the Ecuadorian Army.

The army will let you know about the conditions during the time of your visit, especially due to the fact that areas in the Cordillera del Cóndor have landmines dating from the 80´s and early 90´s.  Cóndor Mirador is a safe place but you should not wander off the trails or go beyond the permitted areas.  The day of your visit a soldier will make sure you know what areas you can visit.

The closest city to Cóndor Mirador is Gualaquiza, where there are a couple of very basic hotels that could be use to approach the area.  The city of Gualaquiza is not close enough to the site to drive in a single day, so camping closer to the birding site is recommended.

There is regular bus transportation from Tena and Zamora to Gualaquiza along the E45 Troncal Amazonica Highway.   The easiest and fastest way to reach Gualaquiza is via Zamora.

Should you take a bus you could hire a pickup truck in Gualaquiza to take you to Cóndor Mirador.  The road to Cóndor Mirador has no public transportation so driving your own vehicle is mandatory.   A high clearance vehicle is needed and a four wheel drive is desirable. 

 

Birding.
Cordillera del Cóndor-Cóndor Mirador

To get to Gualaquiza you can take the Cuenca-Gualaceo-Limón-Gualaquiza approximately 152 km away.  You can get to Gualaquiza from the southern city of Zamora, which is approximately 95 km away.  From Zamora you must take the E45 Troncal Amazonica Highway due north. Alternatively, you can go along the E45 Troncal Amazonica heading south from any of the big cities along it; Tena- Puyo-Macas-or Santiago de Méndez.  The distance from Tena to Gualaquiza is approximately 435 km.

From Gualaquiza, take the E45 Troncal Amazónica Highway heading south and drive for 16.3 km. At this point you will be cross along a bridge over the Chuchumbleza River. As soon as you get across the river you will see a road turning to the left. Reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references and enter this side road.

Continue for 6.6 km until you will ford the Zamora River.   Drive another 0.4 km, or 7.0 km from the E45 highway.

At this point there are two roads.  Take the left hand road and drive for 5.3 km, or 12.3 km from the highway.  Here you can see the entrance to Tundayme military base.   From this spot there will be some forest patches along the way where many species from the subtropical areas can be seen.  The higher you go the better the habitat becomes and better the chances to see: Sickle-winged Guan, Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, Spot-winged Parrotlet, Foothill Screech-Owl, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Napo Sabrewing, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thorntail, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Greenish Puffleg, Booted Racket-tail, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Golden-headed Quetzal, Red-headed Barbet, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager, Yellow-throated Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Olivaceous Siskin and Bronze-green Euphonia.

After driving on another 9.9 km or 22.2 km from the E45 highway, you will get to the Cóndor Mirador Military Base.  From here you will have to continue on foot.  The Bar-winged Wood-Wren is relatively common around the dense vegetation near the military base, located at an elevation of 1750 meters. 

There are a couple of trail heading out from the camp.  The trail that deserves the most of your time is the one heading to Condor 1.  This trail begins in thick Second-growth, but soon comes to a tall and mature forest where the rare Cinnamon Screech-Owl can be seen.  Other birds of note here are:  Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Crested Quetzal, Brown-billed Scythebill, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Uniform Antshrike, Long-tailed Antbird, White-backed Fire-eye, Jet Manakin, Golden-winged Manakin, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Cliff Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Grass-green Tanager and Metallic-green Tanager.

The trail to Cóndor 1 climbs to the top of the mountain at 1850 meters of elevation. Here the sandy soil creates a stunted forest where two very localized and rare birds for Ecuador occur, the Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner and Masked Saltator.  At the top of the mountain in 2001 we were able record Andean Black-Tyrant for the first time to Ecuador.

 

Birds to look for
Cordillera del Cóndor. Cóndor Mirador.

Stunted Forest (SF), Forest (F), Second-growth (2G).Common: Violet-headed Hummingbird (F,2G), Violet-fronted Brilliant (F,2G), Bronzy Inca (F,2G), Collared Inca (F,2G), Chestnut-breasted Coronet (F,2G), Amethyst-throated Sunangel (F,2G), Long-tailed Sylph (F,2G), Masked Trogon (F,2G), Olive-backed Woodcreeper (F,2G), Ash-browed Spinetail (F,2G), Pearled Treerunner (F,2G), Plain Antvireo (F,2G), Long-tailed Antbird (F,2G), Blackish Antbird (2G), Blackish Tapaculo (F,2G), Golden-faced Tyrannulet (F,2G), Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant (2G), Cinnamon Flycatcher (F,2G), Inca Jay (F,2G), Mountain Wren (F,2G), Gray-breasted Wood-Wren (F,2G), Bar-winged Wood-Wren (2G,SF), Brown-capped Vireo (F,2G), Magpie Tanager (2G), Common Bush-Tanager (2G,F), Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager (2G,F), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Paradise Tanager (2G,F), Green-and-gold Tanager (2G,F), Golden Tanager (2G,F), Saffron-crowned Tanager (2G,F), Bay-headed Tanager (2G,F), Blue-necked Tanager (2G,F), Beryl-spangled Tanager (2G,F), Orange-bellied Euphonia (2G,F). Uncommon: Sickle-winged Guan (F), Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail (F), Foothill Screech-Owl (F), Tawny-bellied Hermit (2G,F), Blue-fronted Lancebill (2G,F), Wedge-billed Hummingbird (2G,F), Napo Sabrewing (F), Wire-crested Thorntail (2G,F), Ecuadorian Piedtail (F), Greenish Puffleg (2G,F), Booted Racket-tail (2G,F), Golden-headed Quetzal (F), Crested Quetzal (F), Lineated Foliage-gleaner (2G,F), Montane Foliage-gleaner (2G,F), Uniform Antshrike (2G,F), Yellow-breasted Antwren (2G,F), White-backed Fire-eye (2G,F), Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo (2G,F), Green-and-black Fruiteater (2G,F), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (F), Jet Manakin (F), Golden-winged Manakin (F), Variegated Bristle-Tyrant (2G,F), Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant (2G,F), Rufous-browed Tyrannulet (2G,F), Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant (2G,F), Black-throated Tody-Tyrant (2G,F), Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher (2G,F), Fulvous-breasted Flatbill (2G,F), Cliff Flycatcher (F), Grass-green Tanager (2G,F), Yellow-throated Tanager (2G,F), Golden-eared Tanager (2G,F), Flame-faced Tanager (2G,F), Spotted Tanager (2G,F), Metallic-green Tanager (2G,F), Golden-collared Honeycreeper (2G,F), Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer (2G,F), Masked Saltator (F,SF),  Bronze-green Euphonia (2G,F). Rare: Cinnamon Screech-Owl (F), Spot-winged Parrotlet (F), Brown-billed Scythebill (F), Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner (SF), Andean Black-Tyrant (SF). 

 

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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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