Rainforest Photography in Ecuador

Black-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia victoriae)
Black-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia victoriae)

Birding Ecuador

Straddling the equator from which it takes its name, Ecuador encompasses an area of 285,561 sq. km. (109,415 sp. mi.) UNESCO designated the capital, Quito, as a World Heritage Site in 1978, along with the Galapagos Islands. Sanguay National Park was later designate as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and the city of Cuenca in 1999.

In spite of its compact size, slightly smaller than the country of Italy, it boasts of having more species of birds than the United States and Europe combined and represents over half of the known avian varieties on the continent of South America. With over 1600 species registered, they have 22 avian orders with 82 families represented in the country. Ecuador has 44 endemic species and 77 species that are globally threatened.

In 2005, Ecuador became the first country in the Southern Hemisphere to recognize Important Bird Areas (IBA) as sites of public interest. The first IBA was recognized in 1997, registering the “Mindo and Northwestern Pichincha Volcano” area. Since then 106 more locations have been identified throughout the country.

Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis cyanea)
Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis cyanea)

The Photographic Challenge

Photographing birds in Ecuador can be challenging due to the terrain and climate. Most of the avian species reside in either the rainforest, which averages 68-78 inches of rain per year, or cloud forest where fog can cover the canopy areas nearly 90% of the time. This results in a low light, unfriendly environment for photographers. Many of these locations are difficult to reach and sufficient planning is essential. Without proper preparation, equipment and protection, bird photography can be a daunting experience.

Before commencing on a journey into the birding areas of Ecuador, it is best to first decide which zone you wish to tackle. The country has four distinct regions; the Amazon basin (Oriente ), the sierra or Andes Mountains, the coast and the Galapagos Islands. Each one of these areas represent a variety of avian species and can present different travel challenges.

Once the region has been chosen, this should be further divided in sectors representing north, central and south. Again, each of these zones can present a great diversity of birds and birding opportunities. The Mindo area alone, located in the northwestern part of the country, can harbor as many as 500 species. There are several guidebooks in print that indicate where different birds can be located.

After the birding region has been determined it is then necessary to prepare the equipment. Although there are areas where you can get extremely close to the quarry, most of the birds are going to be at a greater distance. Therefore it is essential to use long lenses, preferably in the 400mm to 600mm range. Due to the low light situations presented in the rainforest (cloud forest) regions, fast lenses are crucial. Base apertures of f2.8 to f4.0 are recommended. High ISO settings may be necessary in order to attain a sufficiently fast shutter speed to stop motion so a camera that minimizes noise at these setting is paramount.


Bird photography in Ecuador can be a very rewarding exploit. The terrain and weather can make for a formidable experience, but with a little planning and preparation it can be extremely rewarding. Ecuador is a country with vast opportunities for the adventurous photographer who enjoys a challenge.  

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Comments 11 comments

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mickih 6 years ago

good job very professional

Steve 3.0 profile image

Steve 3.0 6 years ago from Cornwall UK

Nice hub. I like the color of the Masked Flowerpiercer, great photos.

thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 6 years ago from Woodstock, GA

This sounds like a great place to visit for us photographers. Birds are really fascinating and fun to photograph.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Steve. There are so many colorful birds here it is difficult to decide which one to write about first. I have plenty of material for new hugs.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Thewayeyeseeit, when I am not writing about the birds I am out photographing them. I have an unending supply.

Unleashed Image profile image

Unleashed Image 6 years ago from Buffalo, NY

Excellent work, love it!

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks UI. Appreciate the feedback

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TajSingh 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Such beautiful photos.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks TajSingh

almasi profile image

almasi 6 years ago

Thanks, Very Beautiful photos.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Almasi. Appreciate the comment.

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