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You are here: Loja Zamora Highway Loja Zamora Highway

The Loja Zamora road was built in 1969 and connects the Azuay and Loja Provinces.  The 57 km length road is very busy, and birding along it is difficult.  This road, however, provides access to many different habitats ranging from an elevation of 2700 to 900 meters.  The upper section of the road runs parallel to the Podocarpus National Park along the San Francisco River, which allows visiting several sites in the area.  Your birding will depend on which end of the road is closest to the site you want to visit.   You can stay either in Loja or Zamora.



Elfin Forest, Upper Montane Forest, Middle Montane Forest, Lower Montane Forest and Footjill Forest.



Loja Zamora Highway

No special arrangements are needed to visit the road.  To visit the sites along the upper part of the road you can stay in one of the many hotels in Loja, and to visit the lower part you can stay in one of the many hotels in Zamora where Cabañas Copalinga deserves a special mention.  Further information regarding Cabañas Copalinga could be obtained at, writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling the cellphone: 093477 013.

The San Francisco entrance to Podocarpus NP has a ranger station where people can stay for US $10 per person per night.  The station has shared bathrooms without hot water.  Should you plan to stay in San Francisco you have to take your own food supplies.  Further information regarding the San Francisco station can be obtained by visiting, or writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or calling the phone numbers: 2572926 / 2577449.
There are many buses running on the Loja-Zamora Highway and you can easily transport from one site to the next one.  There are several areas of interest for birding but the only one that requires an entrance fee is San Francisco entrance to Podocarpus National park.  The entrance fee is US $10 per person per day for foreigners, and US $2 person per day for Ecuadorian residents.



Loja Zamora Highway

Staring in Loja city at the roundabout in front of the bus terminal, take Guayaquil Avenue heading east.  At the intersection of Guayaquil Ave. and Portoviejo Street you can see an archway.  This is the beginning of the Loja Zamora road located in the central-east side of the city. 

(Click here to download Map. Loja Zamora Road)

Drive through the archway 0.0 km and continue for 13.4 km toward Zamora.  Here you will arrive to the road summit and continental divide at an elevation of 2700 meters.  At this point and before you start descending to Zamora you can see a side road on your left.  Take this side road and look for birds along the scrubby habitat.  This side road is part of the old Loja-Zamora road.  It is no longer in use due several landslides.  You can drive to as far as the first landslide some 1.0 km ahead.  You can also continue on foot beyond the landslide for a short distance until the habitat is too disturbed.  Here in the scrubby habitat look for:  Tyrian Metaltail, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Rufous Antpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Blackish Tapaculo, Glossy Flowerpiercer y Pale-naped Brush-Finch.

Returning to the highway, continue down toward Zamora for another 9.9 km, or 23.3 km from Loja.  At this point you will see a parking spot on the right hand side.  Enter here, as this is the San Francisco entrance to Podocarpus National Park at an elevation of 2150 meters.  Walk the trail heading into the second-growth habitat until you arrive to the San Francisco park headquarters.   The main trail heading to San Francisco River starts on the right side of the house.  You can follow this very steep trail for a long distance. Some of the birds to look for are:  Sickle-winged Guan, Barred Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, White-capped Parrot, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Andean Emerald, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Flame-throated Sunangel, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Long-tailed Sylph, Emerald Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Ash-browed Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Uniform Antshrike, Long-tailed Antbird, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, White-bellied Antpitta, Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, Sierran Elaenia, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Handsome Flycatcher, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Golden-winged Manakin, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Turquoise Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Andean Solitaire, Plain-tailed Wren, Mountain Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, Capped Conebill, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Rufous-chested Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Rufous-crested Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch.


Continue down the highway toward Zamora for 8.6 km, or 31.9 km from Loja.  At this point there is bus a stop and a side road on your right.  When coming from Loja, the access to this side road could be difficult, as it will be a sharp turn, and you should be careful with highway traffic.  This side road might be signed as the entrance road to “Ingeniero Carlos Mora Carrión” hydroelectric power station.  This is a very short road and it is only 100 meters to a bridge across the San Francisco River, and another 100 meters farther to the power station.  The site is located at an elevation of 1770 meters. Look on the river below for Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper.  Once at the power station, explain you are looking for birds and nature and ask permission to walk the trails up the hill, and use the bathroom facilities if needed.  The electric company staff is very welcoming and helpful.  Just at the power station, a steep trail heads up the mountain zigzagging through second-growth.  While you walk up the hill look for Yellow-throated Tanager and Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager.

At the end of the zigzag trail you will get to water ditch at an elevation of 1990 meters. You can explore the water ditch that collects water from both sides of the mountain.  The trails along the ditch are easy walking, as they have been graded.  The left hand trail is much shorter but could be as productive as the right hand one.  Many of the birds mentioned from San Francisco entrance occur here, plus:  Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, Green-fronted Lancebill, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy Inca, Booted Racket-tail, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Spotted Barbtail, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, White-backed Fire-eye, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Ornate Flycatcher, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Golden-naped Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, White-capped Tanager and Olivaceous Siskin.


Once you return to the highway; drive for another 5.8 km, or 37.7 km from Loja to a point that is an elevation of 1620 meters.  You will see a side road on your left.  This side road could also be explored from Zamora and if you are interested in visiting the first kilometers along this dirt road, please read the birding instructions in the La Frangancia. Old Loja-Zamora Road subchapter.   Continue driving for 5.6 km along the highway, or 43.3 from Loja.  Here you will see a pretty waterfall on your right and a place to stop on the left.  This is another good place to look for White-capped Dipper. Drive for 2.9 km more, or 46.2 km from Loja. Here, at a series of narrow bends, you should stop to look for Cliff Flycatcher on the steep rocky walls.  The bird is also present on the rocky slopes near a big bridge some 3 km further down or 49.2 km from Loja.  

Keep driving for 3.3 km, or 52.5 km from Loja.  At this point you will see a gravel road on your left. This side road is better explored from Zamora, and you can read more information regarding this site in La Frangancia. Old Loja-Zamora Road subchapter.

Continue for another 3.2 km or 55.7 km from Loja.  Here you will be going by the police road check point near Zamora.

Continue for 1.3 km, or 57.0 km from Loja.  Here at the crossing streets remain on the leveled main street and continue until you reach a four lane avenue.  Take this four lane avenue downhill until you reach a roundabout 1.1 km further ahead, or 58.1 km from Loja.  This roundabout is located in front of the Zamora’s bus terminal and will be our point of reference to visit the Bombuscaro entrance to Poducarpus National Park, La Fragancia Road or Old Loja-Zamora Road and Yankuam Lodge.


Birds to look for

Loja Zamora Road.

Wet Mountain Scrub (WMS), Second-growth (2G), Forest (F), Rivers (R).

Common: Red-billed Parrot (2G,F), White-collared Swift,   Chestnut-collared Swift, Andean Emerald (2G,F), Speckled Hummingbird (2G,F), Tyrian Metaltail (2G,F), Amethyst-throated Sunangel   (2G,F), Long-tailed Sylph (2G,F), Azara’s Spinetail (2G), Montane Woodcreeper (2G,F), Equatorial Rufous-vented   Tapaculo (2G,F), Golden-faced Tyrannulet (2G,F), White-crested Elaenia (2G), White-tailed Tyrannulet (2G,F), Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet   (2G,F), Streak-necked Flycatcher (2G,F), Flavescent Flycatcher (2G,F), Cinnamon Flycatcher (2G,F), Smoke-colored Pewee (2G,F), Golden-crowned Flycatcher (2G,F), Rufous-browed Peppershrike   (2G,F), Brown-capped Vireo (2G,F), Brown-bellied Swallow (2G,F), Blue-and-white Swallow (2G,F), Rufous Wren (2G,F), Gray-breasted Wood-Wren (2G,F), Slate-throated Whitestart (2G,F), Black-crested Warbler (2G), Glossy Flowerpiercer (2G,F), White-sided Flowerpiercer (2G), Golden Tanager (2G,F), Saffron-crowned Tanager (2G,F), Flame-faced Tanager (2G,F), Beryl-spangled Tanager (2G,F), Black-capped Tanager (2G), Blue-necked Tanager (2G), Blue-winged   Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager (2G), Northern Rufous-naped Brush-Finch (2G), Orange-bellied Euphonia (2G,F).

Uncommon: Torrent Duck (R), Sickle-winged Guan (F), White-capped Parrot (2G,F), Squirrel Cuckoo (2G,F), Tawny-bellied Hermit (2G,F), Green-fronted Lancebill (F), Fawn-breasted Brilliant (2G,F), Bronzy Inca (2G,F), Collared Inca (2G,F), Chestnut-breasted Coronet (2G,F), Flame-throated Sunangel (2G,F), Booted Racket-tail (2G,F), Wedge-billed Hummingbird (2G,F), Rufous-capped Thornbill (2G,F), Emerald Toucanet (2G,F), Golden-olive Woodpecker (2G,F), Smoky-brown Woodpecker (2G,F), Mouse-colored Thistletail (WMS), Ash-browed Spinetail (2G,F), Streaked Tuftedcheek (2G,F), Pearled Treerunner (2G,F), Spotted Barbtail (2G,F), Lineated Foliage-gleaner (2G,F), Tyrannine Woodcreeper (F), Olive-backed Woodcreeper (F), Uniform Antshrike (2G,F), White-backed Fire-eye (2G,F), Long-tailed Antbird (2G), White-bellied Antpitta (F), Rufous Antpitta (2G,F), Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (2G), Ashy-headed Tyrannulet (2G,F), Sierran Elaenia (2G,F), Marble-faced   Bristle-Tyrant (2G,F), Ornate Flycatcher (2G), Handsome Flycatcher (2G,F), Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant   (2G,F), Rufous-tailed Tyrant (2G), Pale-edged Flycatcher (2G,F), Barred Becard (2G,F), Golden-winged Manakin (F), Green-and-black Fruiteater   (2G,F), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (F), Turquoise Jay (2G,F), Glossy-black Thrush (F), White-capped Dipper (R), Mountain Wren (2G,F), Spectacled Whitestart (2G,F), Russet-crowned Warbler (F), Blue-backed Conebill (2G,F), Capped Conebill (2G,F), Bluish Flowerpiercer (2G,F), Masked Flowerpiercer (2G,F), Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer   (2G,F), Rufous-chested Tanager (2G), Fawn-breasted Tanager (2G,F), Yellow-throated Tanager (2G), Golden-naped Tanager (2G,F), Metallic-green Tanager (2G,F), Blue-capped Tanager (2G,F), Yellow-whiskered   Bush-Tanager (2G,F), Rufous-crested Tanager (F),White-capped Tanager (F), Black-eared Hemispingus (2G,F), Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch (2G,F), Pale-naped Brush-Finch (WMS), Olivaceous Siskin (2G).

Rare: Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail (F), Barred Parakeet (2G,F), Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (WMS), Rufous-breasted Antthrush   (F), Fulvous-breasted   Flatbill (2G,F), Orange-banded Flycatcher (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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