So there I was at Refugio Paz de Las Aves, teetering on the edge of sanity after a barrage of insane Ecuadorean avifauna. First came the famed feeder birds, a parade of preposterous birds including but certainly not limited to guans, toucanets, barbets, pihas, and mountain-tanagers. Next were the star attractions, the amazing antpittas of Paz de Las Aves. My head was fairly swimming as my mind tried to process the morning’s unfathomable sightings. The good news was that a bench was near by. The bad news, at least for my reeling senses, was that the bench was parked right in front of a world-class array of hummingbird feeders. Here we go again…

Just one day prior to this visit, I experienced the profound pleasure of watching hummingbirds at Yanacocha Reserve. Paz de Las Aves is situated at a lower altitude than Yanacocha, which meant that the hummingbirds there were entirely different but no less amazing.

Buff-tailed Coronets were common, confiding, and very cool

However, their resplendent kin, Velvet-purple Coronet really stole the show

Another big deal bird was the aptly-named Violet-tailed Sylph

This shot of a sylph immature male shows that the bird is gorgeous from top to tail

Speaking of sharp, the Empress Brilliant really is brilliant when the light hits it right

The Empress Brilliant dwarfs the beauteous Booted Racket-tail. The boots are evident here while the tail needs to wait for another day.

Not all the local hummers are exactly gaudy. Take this Speckled Hummingbird for instance.

Another subdued yet sexy species is the Brown Inca, with a gorget that flashes violet in the right light

These species were joined at the feeders by Andean Emeralds and Fawn-breasted Brilliants, which I’ll feature in a future post, as well as Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, which I never got good shots of. Nonetheless, by the time I pulled myself away for empanadas and coffee, my camera was practically smoking!

The legend of Refugio Paz de Las Aves and its amazing antpittas is far more than a birding curiosity. Rather, its success represents a true triumph of ecotourism. Had the Paz brothers not learned to spin disemboweled worms into birding gold, they would, by their own account, have cleared the cloud forest for subsistence agriculture. Instead, their ingenuity and entrepreneurship have resulted in their business success along with life antpittas for bird watchers the world over. I feel privileged to have visited this site and strongly suggest that anyone with an interest in the wonder of the natural world would feel the same.

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.