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Yanacocha Preserve- Birding Paradise in the Clouds

Updated on September 16, 2015
Yanacocha Reserve
Yanacocha Reserve
Sapphire-vented Puffleg and Buff-winged Starfrontlet
Sapphire-vented Puffleg and Buff-winged Starfrontlet

Yanacocha Reserve is about an hour outside of Quito, Ecuador. (Lat: 0 06’ 42”, Lon: 78 35’ 05”, Alt: 3,500 m) If traveling on a budget it will be essential to spend a little extra cash to get there, as transportation from the main road is a must. A bus passes the lower entrance, but from that point it is necessary to hike 10 km to the Reserve.

From Quito go north on Ave. Mariscal Sucre until encountering a sign that indicates the Ecoroute to Nono and Tandayapa. The name of this street is Machala. It is 8.5 km from Mariscal Sucre until reaching the road to Yanacocha. About halfway the road runs out of pavement but the way is well marked. About 300 yards before approaching the road to Yanacocha a couple of stoplights will be encountered that seem to be out of place as they are in the middle of nowhere. The entrance road to Yanacocha is well marked.

It is 10 km from the road to Nono up to the reserve. However, take some time to bird this area, as there are many species that are active along the way. Once arriving at the ranger station it is required of all visitors to pay a fee of $10 for foreigners, $3 for locals and $2 for children. If arriving early and there is no one there it is possible to enter the reserve and pay on your return. There is only one-way in and out.

Turquoise Jay
Turquoise Jay

Most people come to Yanacocha in search of the Black-breasted Puffleg. This tiny little hummingbird can only be found in a restricted area around the Ruko Pichincha Volcano. They are near extinction and the Yanacocha reserve was specifically established to preserve their existence. They are most prevalent in April – August. However, there is such a diversity of birds in this area it is a great place to visit at any time.

From the ranger station there is a main trail that passes through natural forests and precipitous cliffs. The path is broad and uniform so traveling is comfortable in spite on the high altitude. The walk form the entrance to the tunnel spans 2 km, infused with spectacular views and abundant wildlife. Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers as well as Black, Glossy, and Masked Flower piercers are plentiful, permeating the trees with a parade of color and song.

Along the main path there are several side trails that lead down the mountain, such as the Masked Trogon Trail and the Black-breasted Puffleg Trail. When tackling these paths it must be kept in mind that these trails are at 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) above sea level and whatever goes down must come back up.

The weather can be fairly unpredictable as the clouds can move in quite rapidly. The temperatures can vary from 2 to 15 degrees C, (36 to 60 degrees F) so warm clothing is recommended. It is suggested to arrive early since the clouds tend to arrive around noon, obscuring your view of the mountains and the wildlife.

The Yanacocha reserve has constructed a rest area near the tunnel and installed numerous hummingbird feeders to attract the abundance of species present at this high altitude way station. Swordbilled hummingbirds, Buff-winged Starfrontlets and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs abound, interspersed with many other species. These little hummers can be quite aggressive and close encounters with a protective resident are common. This is a great place to rest and have a snack before returning along the winding trail to the ranger station, possibly encountering new birds along the way.


Yanacocha is a mandatory area to visit for the avid birder. There are over 250 avian species that have been recorded in the reserve and a typical day should reward any nature lover with a spectacle of song and beauty that will be cherished for many years.


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