Our Beautiful World

The Andes, Fauna and Nature  

Part 9. Ecuador

Birds on this page:

Golden-plumed Parakeet, Leptosittaca branickii King Vulture, Sarcoramphus papa
Andean Condor , Vultur gryphus Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes melambrotus
Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Rupicola peruvianus ecuatorialis
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture , Cathartes burrovianus
Torrent Duck, Merganetta armata
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus


A translation of our page 'Fascinating Ecuador' in norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon

Pages for Latin America

High up in the Andes mountains is Sangay National Park , and animals and birdlife
are of course not so rich as it is down in the Amazonas east of Sangay -
or on the wide grassplains down on the feet of the hills
Life is much harder up here, and many do not manage to live here. That is why they also keep away..

Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador; ) is a representative democratic republic in
South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west.
It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil.
The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres west of the mainland.


Ecuador’s fascinating nature shows several wide and narrow rivers, beautiful beaches along inland lakes,
mysterious caves and a unique flora and wildlife, not to forget The Galapagos Islands,
which also is a part of Ecuador, but lies way out in the Pacific Ocean.

To take care of this fantastic part of the creation, is a collective job. Only by knowing what we own, we will be able
to value this and take care. This short introduction in the first part of this page is our contribution,

Through Ecuador is the world's longes range of mountains, the 8.000 km long Andes. This mountainrange divide
two of the largest riverareas, and numerous long and shorter rivers begin their journey up there towards the ocean.
Only a few goes westward to the nearby Pacific Ocean, while most of them go eastward, down into the
Amazonas-basin for then after a very long journey, find their way out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Ecuador is probably the most bio-varied (flora and fauna) land in the world.
Its biological richnes show in numerous species. 10% of world's vascular plants is here found
in an area that covers only 0.02% of the earth's surface.

Imagine all those areas in just one little county: Galapagos-Islands, Pacific coast,,
Andes-mountains and the Amazonas-basin. This eco system also includes forests
covered by clouds, mountains with fantastic snowy volcanotops, glaciers or lakes,
the wet magrovesumps. Along the coast there are just as great variation, where warm and cold
currents at sea brings life to many different animals and plants.

Even if the size of Ecuador is the same as the state of Colorado (U.S.A.), Ecuador has
25.000 different vascular plants, more than in the whole of North America ( 17,000).
As an example lets look at the orchid-family which Dodson has catalogued to 2.725 species,
and that makes up 11% of world's total, and 30% of Latin America’s orchid-species.
The Andes alone give life to 1.050 specimes, and the Amazon-basin and along the coast
more than 800 species have been collected.

About 3.800 vertebrates, 1.550 bird species, 320 mammals, 350 reptiles,
375 amfibies, 800 riverfish og 450 oceanfish are registered in this country.


Ecuador has more bird species compared to the areal than any other country of Latin America,
18% of world's total species are represented here. Even as Brazil is 30 timer bigger than Ecuador
they only have the same number of bird species.


Unnecessary to say that Ecuador is a paradise for birdwatchers, ornitologs and other interested people

If you are also interested in the tiny little creatures, remember that Ecuador has more than a million insect species
of which 4.500 colourful butterflies, and of which 2.500 are nattsvermere


Text and pictures in above segment
courtesy: www.ecuadortours.com


Sangay National Park lies in one of the world's most endemic birdareas.

This Park in the central Andes is the largest area of unaltered wild land in the country’s eastern Cordilleras. It has
outstanding natural beauty, two snow-capped active volcanoes and a range of ecosystems from the tropical rainforests
of the Amazon basin to mountain glaciers. Its isolation has protected a great diversity of wildlife including indigenous
species such as the mountain tapir and Andean condor.

The Park comprises three geomorphic zones:
The volcanic High Andes, the eastern foothills and alluvial fans. The highlands, of pre-Cretaceous metamorphic
and plutonic rocks, rise from 2,000-5,000m and are dominated by three stratovolcanoes: Tungurahua (5,023m) and
Altar (5,319m) in the northwest and Sangay (5,230m) in the west centre of the park.

All three are still active: Sangay regularly ejects hot rocks and tephra and since 1934 has been one of the world’s most
continuously active volcanoes. Tungurahua violently erupted between 1916 and 1925, and has frequently erupted
since 2002, disastrously, in 2006, and again in 2010. Altar has an eroded and glaciated caldera to the west, and was
thought extinct until a single eruption in 2000.

The eastern foothills in the north-east and south-east are low irregular mountains between 1,000m and 2,000m in
height formed of outcrops of sedimentary rocks.

Large east-sloping alluvial fans dominate the east side of the Park between approximately 800m and 1,300m.
Younger segments of these fans are only slightly dissected, but older parts are cut into by canyons up to 200m deep

The fauna is not well-studied, although it is known to be species rich. Species distributions correspond with vegetation zones and there is distinct altitudinal zonation. At the highest altitudes the Brazilian guinea pig, Cavia aperea and
Ecuadorian small-eared shrew, Cryptotis montivaga, Andean fox, Pseudalopex culpaeus, mountain tapir,
Tapirus pinchaque, and puma, Puma concolor occur.
Elsewhere in lower forests, spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus , giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis,
jaguar, Panthera onca, ocelot, Leopardus pardalis, margay, L. wiedii, lowland tapir, Tapirus terrestris,
white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus clavium, brocket deer, Mazama rufina and northern pudu deer,
Pudu mephistophiles, are found.

The Park lies within one of the world’s Endemic Bird Areas (Stattersfield et al.,1998). Some 400-500 bird species may
be present, although comprehensive inventories have not yet been compiled. The Park contains two Endemic Bird Areas,
the Central Andean Páramo, home to ten bird species of restricted range, and the Eastern Andes of Ecuador and
northern Peru, home to 15 restricted-range species. Among these are listed the spot-winged parrotlet, Touit stictopterus
redfaced parrot, Hapalopsittaca pyrrhops , golden-plumed parakeet, Leptosittaca branickii , little woodstar,
Chaetocercus bombus , coppery-chested jacamar, Galbula pastazae and masked mountain tanager, Buthraupis wetmorei; also reported are grey-breasted mountaintoucan, Andigena hypoglauca, turquoise jay, Cyanolyca turcosa,
red-hooded tanager, Piranga rubriceps, the purple-throated sunangel, Heliangelus viola, giant humming bird,
Patagona gigas and Napo sabrewing hummingbird, Campylopterus villaviscensio.
Other notable other species include the near-threatened Andean condor, Vultur gryphus, seen particularly around the
mountain area of Altar, Cubillin and Quilimas, cock of the rock, Rupicola peruviana ecuatorialis, in substantial
populations in inaccessible upper forest areas of the eastern Andean slopes, torrent duck, Merganetta armata,
king vulture, Sarcoramphus papa and American swallow-tailed kite, Elanoides forficatus.

A very long and informative page in english is available here:

Now, let us explore the fauna - and start with the birds:

Golden-plumed Parakeet, Leptosittaca branickii

ARKive video - Golden-plumed parakeets at nest hole

Golden-plumed Parakeet,, Leptosittaca branickii, at nest hole
NHNZ Moving Images, Dunedin, NZ

Andean Condor , Vultur gryphus

The Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus, is a species of South American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae
and is the only member of the genus Vultur. Found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western
South America, it has the largest wingspan at 3.2 m of any land bird,
and the only other preys that can reach the same
weight as an andean Condor is the now nearly extinct California-condor, Gymnogyps californianus,
Eurasian Griffon,
Gyps fulvus and Cinereous Vulture,
Aegypius monachus.

ARKive video - Andean condor - overview

Andean condor, Vultur gryphus - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

More about the Andean Condor here..

Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Rupicola peruvianus ecuatorialis

Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Photo: Didier Godreau

Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Rupicola peruvianus, or the moundtainbird as it is also called, sis a mediumsized sparrow
which belongs to the cloudy forests in the Andes. It is also looked upon by many as the national bird of Peru.
It is found in a 260,000 km² big area which contains parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, og holder seg
and it is seen between 500 to 2.400 m asl.

The female lacks the colours of the male.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock has as many other colourful birds, a colored male and a less colored female.
It reaches 32 cm in length. After the female lay the eggs, she has to care for them all alone.

 ARKive video - Andean cock-of-the-rock - overview
Andean cock-of-the-rock, Rupicola peruvianus - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

Torrent Duck, Merganetta armata

Torrent Duck, Merganetta armata, belongs to the duck- geese and swanfamily Anatidae.
This specimen is the only on in the genus eneste Merganetta.

© www.arthurgrosset.com

The Torrent Duck, Merganetta armata, is 43–46 cm long, belongs to the Andes in South America, and breed in caves
or other protected places along small rivers. It is a good swimmer and diver, but flew only shorter distances.
It does not take much notice it you spot it in the wild.

Two youngsters on trip with 'mom'. Pingo River at Torres del Paine.
© www.arthurgrosset.com

If you wish to make a deeper study about the Torrent Duck, you may start here:

The subspecies taxonomy is quite confusing. Males of the southern nominate subspecies, the Chilean Torrent Duck,
have a grey back and blackish underparts with a chestnut belly. Males of the slightly smaller northern subspecies,
the Colombian Torrent Duck, M. a. colombiana, are paler underneath, with steaked grey-brown underparts.
Males of a third subspecies, the Peruvian Torrent Duck, M. a. leucogenis, are intermediate but very variable in plumage;
some have entirely black underparts (turneri morph). Only males of the Chilean Torrent Duck have a black 'teardrop'
mark beneath the eye. The Peruvian Torrent Duck is sometimes split into not less than 4 subspecies (leucogenis, turneri,
garleppi and berlepschi), but these are more likely simply color variations, as they are not limited to distinct areas.

Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas

                          Photo: B.K.Schmidt                                              Photo: Jeremy Barker
These two pictures comes from :

The Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas, is the largest member of the hummingbird family, weighing 18-24 g
and measuring approximately 21.5 cm in length. This is approximately the length same length as a European Starling
or a Northern Cardinal, though the Giant Hummingbird is considerably lighter due to its more slender build and fairly
long bill. It is the only member of the genus Patagona.

In Bolivia, the Giant Hummingbird is known in Quechua as "burro q'enti". The Spanish word "burro" refers to its dull, relatively unattractive plumage compared to other locally occurring hummingbirds (e.g. Red-tailed Comet).

The Giant Hummingbird is found in rather arid open woodland and scrub between 2,000 and 4,300 meters above sea
level in the Andes of South America, from far south-western Colombia to central Chile and Argentina.

The range of Patagona gigas is rather large, and its global Extent of Occurrence is estimated at 1,200,000 km2.
Its global population is believed to be not less than 10,000 adults.

King Vulture, Sarcoramphus papa

photo: http://www.chaffeezoo.org/zoo/animals/kngvultr.html

The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large bird found in Central and South America. It is a member of the
New World vulture family Cathartidae. This vulture lives predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from
southern Mexico to northern Argentina.

King Vulture's habitat

Large and predominantly white, the King Vulture has gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. The head and neck
are bald, with the skin color varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The King Vulture has a very
noticeable yellow fleshy caruncle on its beak. This vulture is a scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh
carcass. It also displaces smaller New World vulture species from a carcass. King Vultures have been known to
live for up to 30 years in captivity.

 ARKive video - King vulture - overview
King Vulture , Sarcoramphus papa - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes melambrotus

The Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes melambrotus, also known as the Forest Vulture, is a species of bird in
the New World Vulture family Cathartidae. It was considered to be the same species as the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture until they were split in 1964. It is found in South America in tropical moist lowland forests. It is a fairly large bird,
with a wingspan of 160–210 cm, a weight of 1.2 to 3.2 kilograms and a body length of 70–84 cm. The body plumage is
black, and the head and neck, which are featherless, range in color from deep yellow to pale orange. It lacks a syrinx,
and its vocalizations are therefore limited to grunts or low hisses.

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture , Cathartes burrovianus
Brasilian name: Urubu-de-cabeça-amarela

© www.arthurgrosset.com

The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes burrovianus, also known as the Savannah Vulture, is a species of bird
in the New World Vulture family Cathartidae. It was considered to be the same species as the Greater Yellow-headed
Vulture until they were split in 1964. It is found in Mexico, Central America, and South America in seasonally wet or
flooded lowland grassland, swamps, and heavily degraded former forest. It is a large bird, with a wingspan of 150-165 centimeters . The body plumage is black, and the head and neck, which are featherless, are pale orange with red or
blue areas. It lacks a syrinx, so therefore its vocalizations are limited to grunts or low hisses.

The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture feeds on carrion and locates carcasses by sight and by smell, an ability which is
rare in birds. It is dependent on larger vultures, such as the King Vulture, to open the hides of larger animal carcasses
as its bill is not strong enough to do this. Like other New World Vultures, the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture utilizes
thermals to stay aloft with minimal effort. It lays its eggs on flat surfaces, such as the floors of caves, or in the hollows
of stumps. It feeds its young by regurgitation.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
Brasilian: urubu-de-cabeça-vermelha
Chilean name: Jote de cabeza colorado

© www.arthurgrosset.com

The Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, is a bird found throughout most of the Americas. It is also known in some North
American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or
carrion crow. One of three species in the genus Cathartes, in the family Cathartidae, the Turkey Vulture is the most
widespread of the New World vultures, ranging from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America.
It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.

It, like all new world "vultures", is not a "true vulture" in the sense of being related to the Old World vultures of Europe,
Africa, and Asia. It looks nearly identical because of convergent evolution, where natural selection similarly shapes
unrelated animals adapting to the same conditions.

A large bird, it has a wingspan of 160–183 cm, a length of 62–81 cm, and weight of 0.8 to 2.3 kg. While birds in the
Northern limit of the species' range average around 2 kg, vulture from the neotropics are generally smaller, averaging
around 1.45 kg. It displays minimal sexual dimorphism; sexes are identical in plumage and in coloration, although the
female is slightly larger. The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be
silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings

More about the Turkey Vulture here.

ARKive video - Turkey vulture - overview
Turkey Vulture , Cathartes aura - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

The Turkey Vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during
the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups which sometimes even include Black Vultures.
It roosts on dead, leafless trees, and will also roost on man-made structures such as water or microwave towers.
Though it nests in caves, it does not enter them except during the breeding season. The Turkey Vulture lowers its
night-time body temperature by about 6 degrees Celsius to 34 °C, becoming slightly hypothermic.

Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus

© www.arthurgrosset.com

The Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus, also known as the American Black Vulture, is a bird in the New World vulture
family whose range extends from the southeastern United States to Central Chile and Uruguay in South America.
Although a common and widespread species, it has a somewhat more restricted distribution than its compatriot, the
Turkey Vulture, which breeds well into Canada and south to Tierra del Fuego. Despite the similar name and appearance,
this species is unrelated to the Eurasian Black Vulture. The latter species is an Old World vulture in the family
Accipitridae (which includes eagles, hawks, kites and harriers), whereas the American species is a New World vulture.
It is the only extant member of the genus Coragyps, which is in the family Cathartidae. It inhabits relatively open areas which provide scattered forests or shrublands. With a wingspan of 1.5 m the Black Vulture is a large bird though relatively
small for a vulture. It has black plumage, a featherless, grayish-black head and neck, and a short, hooked beak.

The Black Vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carrion, but will also eat eggs or kill newborn animals. In areas populated
by humans, it also feeds at garbage dumps. It finds its meals either by using its keen eyesight or by following other (New
World) vultures, which possess a keen sense of smell. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations
are grunts or low hisses. It lays its eggs in caves or hollow trees or on the bare ground, and generally raises two chicks
each year, which it feeds by regurgitation.

ARKive video - American black vulture - overview

Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus - Overview
attacked by crocodile, catches fish, eating turtle-eggs

BBC Natural History Unit

 Ecuador Birding Factoids, lots of birds and pictures !


over 250


over 500


over 225
Web www.vulkaner.no

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