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Bird-watchers, ecotourists find paradise in Ecuador’s capital district

Quito, Apr 29 (EFE).- Home to more than 500 types of birds, nearly a third of the total for all of Ecuador, the Metropolitan District of Quito offers a wide variety of sites in the urban center and its rural outskirts where people can observe tiny hummingbirds and many other colorful avian species.

The 4,230-square-kilometer (1,630-square-mile) district’s Andean and dry forests, moorlands, valleys and other ecosystems ranging in elevation from 500 meters (1,640 feet) to 4,500 meters all offer opportunities for serious birders and casual bird-watchers alike to lay their eyes on species like the hard-to-find Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus).

Just an hour outside the city of Quito, the grounds of the Mirador Guaycapi restaurant is home throughout the year to 27 hummingbird species, according to its owner, Jorge Luna.

“Once you leave (the city) you find a large number of birds: hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, treecreepers. One that’s a big attention-grabber is the booted racket-tail, which has white leg puffs and two racket-like feathers on the end of its tail,” he told Efe.

Although many of the birds can be observed by making a short hike at any of hour of the day on the Nono-Mindo Eco Road or other areas on the city’s outskirts, viewing other species requires an early-morning mountain climb.

Immersing oneself in the sounds of nature while ascending tall slopes and observing the landscape revealed by the rising sun is gift enough for many tourists, but a little patience can yield even bigger surprises.

“Absolute silence. Please don’t move,” a guide says in the morning mist to a group of unsuspecting tourists who follow his command.

A short time later, they catch their first glimpse of a male Andean cock-of-the-rock, whose disk-like crest and brilliant orange plumage make it one of the most stunning birds of the Andean Choco region of Ecuador’s Pichincha province, whose capital and largest city is Quito.

The Metropolitan District of Quito accounts for 83 percent of the 286,805 hectares (1,107 square miles) of woodlands that make up the Andean Choco of Pichincha, which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2018 and is a natural habitat for a wide variety of birds.

The Andean condor, the black-breasted puffleg, the plate-billed mountain toucan, the toucan barbet and the crimson-mantled woodpecker are just some of the species that avitourism lovers can admire either in the city of Quito or in the Metropolitan District’s 33 rural parishes.

One premier bird-watching destination outside the capital, in Nono parish, is the El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, which features a variety of microclimates and an exquisitely preserved cloud forest.

“We have more than 300 bird species in Pahuma,” Javier Lima, one of the owners of the reserve, told Efe, adding that visitors to the site include tourists from different countries and experts carrying out bird tallies.

Although the number of foreign avitourists has dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Quito residents are now arriving at the reserve in greater numbers than before to hike amid lush forests, crystalline waterfalls, numerous species of orchids and the fluttering wings of hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans and the exotic and striking Andean cock-of-the-rock. EFE


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