Despite its epic species diversity, Ecuador possesses but a pittance of mainland endemics to its name. Sure, the Galapagos Islands own a veritable franchise in the business of speciation but the continental birds seem to recognize few borders. This is why Endemic Bird Areas (EBA), as described by BirdLife International, are so useful in understanding which birds are peculiar to certain habitats.

The EBA that encompasses much of western Colombia and Ecuador is called the Chocó region, 100,000 square kilometers of lowland tropical wet forests, pluvial (super-wet) forests, subtropical forests, temperate Andean humid forests, and páramo. If the whole ecosystem sounds a bit moist to you, then you’re paying attention; the Chocó is one of the wettest regions on dry land.

The Chocó’s profusion of precipitation encourages an equally incredible explosion of species richness and endemism. According to BirdLife, the Chocó EBA supports the largest number of restricted-range birds of any EBA in the Americas, with over 50 endemic species:

  • Berlepsch’s Tinamou (Crypturellus berlepschi) LC
  • Baudo Guan (Penelope ortoni) EN
  • Dark-backed Wood-quail (Odontophorus melanonotus) VU
  • Plumbeous Forest-falcon (Micrastur plumbeus) VU
  • Dusky Pigeon (Patagioenas goodsoni) LC
  • Rose-faced Parrot (Pyrilia pulchra) LC
  • Banded Ground-cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus) EN
  • Colombian Screech-owl (Megascops colombianus) NT
  • Choco Poorwill (Nyctiphrynus rosenbergi) NT
  • Purple-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia rosenbergi) LC
  • Empress Brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix) LC
  • Velvet-purple Coronet (Boissonneaua jardini) LC
  • Brown Inca (Coeligena wilsoni) LC
  • Gorgeted Sunangel (Heliangelus strophianus) LC
  • Turquoise-throated Puffleg (Eriocnemis godini) CR
  • Colourful Puffleg (Eriocnemis mirabilis) CR
  • Hoary Puffleg (Haplophaedia lugens) NT
  • Purple-bibbed Whitetip (Urosticte benjamini) LC
  • Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis) LC
  • White-eyed (Choco) Trogon (Trogon comptus) LC
  • Plate-billed Mountain-toucan (Andigena laminirostris) NT
  • Choco Toucan (Ramphastos brevis) LC
  • Orange-fronted Barbet (Capito squamatus) NT
  • Five-coloured Barbet (Capito quinticolor) VU
  • Toucan Barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus) NT
  • Choco Woodpecker (Veniliornis chocoensis) NT
  • Lita Woodpecker (Piculus litae) LC
  • Sooty-capped Puffbird (Bucco noanamae) NT
  • Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus) LC
  • Yellow-headed Manakin (Xenopipo flavicapilla) NT
  • Orange-breasted Fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda) LC
  • Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger) VU
  • Bicoloured Antvireo (Dysithamnus occidentalis) VU
  • Stub-tailed Antbird (Myrmeciza berlepschi) LC
  • Narino Tapaculo (Scytalopus vicinior) LC
  • Rufous-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma rufopileatum) NT
  • Yellow-breasted Antpitta (Grallaria flavotincta) LC
  • Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (Margarornis stellatus) NT
  • Uniform Treehunter (Thripadectes ignobilis) LC
  • Choco Vireo (Vireo masteri) EN
  • Beautiful Jay (Cyanolyca pulchra) NT
  • Black Solitaire (Entomodestes coracinus) LC
  • Red-bellied Grackle (Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster) EN
  • Tanager Finch (Oreothraupis arremonops) VU
  • Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) VU
  • Golden-chested Tanager (Bangsia rothschildi) LC
  • Moss-backed Tanager (Bangsia edwardsi) LC
  • Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) EN
  • Black-chinned Mountain-tanager (Anisognathus notabilis) LC
  • Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephalus) NT
  • Glistening-green Tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis) LC
  • Multicoloured Tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima) VU
  • Blue-whiskered Tanager (Tangara johannae) NT
  • Turquoise Dacnis (Dacnis hartlaubi) VU
  • Scarlet-breasted Dacnis (Dacnis berlepschi) VU
  • Scarlet-and-white Tanager (Chrysothlypis salmoni) LC
  • Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Diglossa gloriosissima) EN
  • Indigo Flowerpiercer (Diglossa indigotica) LC
  • Dusky Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus semifuscus) LC
  • Yellow-green Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus flavovirens) VU
  • Crested Ant-tanager (Habia cristata) LC
  • Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia flavirostris) LC

(LC = Least Concern; NT = Near Threatened; VU = Vulnerable; EN = Endangered; CR = Critically Endangered)

The region with the highest number of endemic bird species in the Americas and over 500 species of bird total is clearly worth a visit, don’t you think? While the Chocó extends as far as Ecuador’s largest city, Guyaquil, most Chocó endemics can be found in or north of El Oro province. In fact, an aggressive birder can pick up quite a few of them within a couple of hours of Quito at places like Silanche Reserve, Mangaloma Reserve, Tandapaya, and El Milpe, all found on the Pacific slope of the Andes.  At least, that’s what I plan to do… wish me luck!

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.