Welcome to our website ! Our vision is to inspire & promote international understanding through education and cultural exchange between South America - Ecuador and the rest of the world. To help people rediscover life with purpose, integrity and compassion, benefit from our experiences, and acquire knowledge for living in harmony in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. To share our "life changing adventure experiences" with family and friends worldwide. We have consolidated a wealth of the best resources on Ecuador, along with travel journals and photos. Our hope is that you will find this a valuable, user friendly resource network, which enriches your life, enables you to learn, challenges your thinking, and empowers you to discover and undertake your own new experiences and adventures.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Birds, Fish & Insects of Ecuador

Please join us for the second part of our tour to learn of the unique birds, fish, and insects residing in Ecuador.

Ecuador has been labelled by Ecologists as one of the world's "megadiversity hotspots". This tiny country is one of the most species rich countries on the planet. Ecuador is a tropical country and the tropics harbour greater diversity than other temperate countries. Ecuador's biodiversity results from the distinctly different habitats within its boundaries. The high cooler Andes support different flora & fauna species than do the dry forest plains, coastal regions, the isolated Galapagos Islands or the tropical Amazon basis.


South America has about 3,000 species of birds, of which more than half can be seen in our small country. Ecuador is a birdwatcher's paradise with around 1,600 different species which facilitate outstanding bird watching year round. In fact many tourists visit Ecuador specifically for bird watching. Behind our home is an extensive natural wooded mountainside. Each day at dawn we awake to the chorus, song and chirping of countless birds. Of these many species a few are noteworthy.

The Andean condor

is Ecuador's most emblematic bird; the Andean condor's wingspan is about 3m and is one of the world's largest flying birds. There are only a few hundred pairs left in the Andean highlands. Along the north west slopes of the Andes is an important corridor of vegetation that lies along the border to Columbia which is known as the Choco Forest, there bird watchers can find the

Long Wattled Umbrellabird.

The plate billed mountain toucans

can be found in the cloud forests, where the mountain slopes are kept wet by constant mists from the clouds.

Also in the Andean cloud forest region the bright red cock of the rock can be spotted.

The king vulture

can be found in the Amazon Lowland. Many Black Vultures

are seen near garbage dumps and eating the carcasses of roadkill.

The carunculated caracara

is another majestic highland bird which has bright orange facial skin, a yellowish bill and white on black wings and body and is a large member of the falcon family. This bird can often be seen in the Cotopaxi National Park.

There are about 120 species of hummingbirds which can be found throughout Ecuador. They range from a green tailed goldenthroat, spangled coquette, fawn breasted brilliant

and an amethyst throated sunangel.

We have many hummingbirds and butterflies as regular visitors to the flowers in our garden.

The Amazon Jungle is home to hundreds of birds that include parrots, macaws,


the harpy eagle

and the primitive hoatzin.

The Hoatzin supports a mohawk crest and prehistoric squawk. They are one of the supporting links between birds and reptiles. Their chicks are born with tallons on the end of their wings to assist them, in fending off predators, or enable them to return to the nest if they fall out. It is one of the few birds that actually eat leaves - the decomposing leaves left behind by these birds has provided them the nickname of " stinky donkeys."

The Galapagos Islands has about half of the 58 species that are resident to Ecuador that are endemic to the islands (which means that they are not found anywhere else in the world). On the islands the birds do not develop any fear of humans and you are able to walk among colonies of

blue footed bobby.

The Galapagos penguin

is the most northerly of the world's penguin species and is found on Islas Fernandina and Isabela. The flightless


which is one the of rarest birds in the world lives on Isla Fernandina and on the west coast of Isla Isabela. The largest bird in the Galapagos Islands is the

waved albatross

which has a wing span of 2.5m. This bird was considered endemic to Isla Espanola until a few breeding pairs were found on Isla de la Plata.

The frigate birds

are sometimes called Pirate birds, Man of War birds, or "vultures of the sea" . They are related to the pelican family. Frigates have wingspans as big as the albatross and spend most of their time gliding in circles in the sky. The male frigate has a large red sac under its throat and it inflates during breeding season to attract a mate. A single egg is laid each breeding season and the duration of parental care in frigate is the longest of any bird. One of the largest nesting sites for the frigate bird in the Pacific is located on the Chone River estuary just outside of Bahia on Isla Corazon, a naturally heart shaped mangrove island. The island is a National Wildlife Refuge and was expanded through the mangrove restoration efforts of the local fisherman. A tour to the island is a must see on your trip to Bahia.


Fish are abundant in the Amazon rivers and for the native people they provide an important food source. From large catfish to smaller fish like the oscar there is a very large selection of fish. Ecuador's Amazonian river tributaries are home to about 1,000 of the 2,500 known fish species in the world. These include the eel which has a 500 volt shock, the piranha which when in a school can devour a cow in minutes, the stingray which when stepped on can deliver a painful poison to whoever may step on it, to the little candiru fish that can swim up a urethra and lodge itself there. When entering the water you should always shuffle your feet to scare the stingrays, not swim with open wounds that would attract piranhas, and always wear a bathing suit to keep out any candirus.


are feared by many outside of Ecuador and given the sharpness of their teeth it is not hard to understand. The locals are not afraid to swim among them and are more concerned about stepping on stingrays. Piranhas concentrate on dead or hurt animals in their role as an aquatic vulture.


are found lying on the sandy bottom in shallow water. Stingrays are a member of the shark and ray family and feed mostly on fish, molluscs and crustaceans.

The Arapaima gigas

is a giant among the Amazon fish here in Ecuador; it can reach a length of 3m. The

Tambaqui or Pacu

is a fruit and seed eating fish and is considered to be one of the best-tasting freshwater fish in the world. The pacu is a large vegetarian member of the piranha family that can reach one meter in length and 45 kg in weight and is eagerly harpooned by Amazon natives. The tambaqui's favourite meal are seeds from a rubber tree and is this fish is the most valuable commercial fish of the Amazon region.

The electric eel

which can reach lengths of about 2m and discharge about 650 volts which is enough to stun the biggest of prey.

As the Galapagos Islands are washed by three different ocean currents: the warm El Nino, the cold Humboldt and the Cromwell currents which provides the islands with a diverse, rich and unusual underwater fauna. There is an estimated 306 different species of fish this includes: 12 species of shark (most common being the white tip reef shark, the whale shark, the


the grey reef shark, the Galapagos shark,

the tiger shark, the black tip reef shard and two species of hammerheads), 18 species of moray eel and five species of ray (stingrays, golden ray, manta ray,

spotted eagle ray

and the marbled ray).

Sharks can often be found resting on the bottom of the sea, as they do not have a swim bladder that would give them buoyancy. They also lack true bones; they are more made up by strong cartilaginous structures which provide the shark also with ever growing teeth which are strong enough to crush turtle shells.


Insects are everywhere, right Kirsten, although most people really only notice them when they bug them. Some estimate insects make up 80% of all animal species here. They are considered a pest to be destroyed at any cost and their value is not appreciated. The world as we now know it would not exist without insects. Insects play an important role in the ecosystem and without them "higher" animals would never be able to survive. Flowering plants including many of our food crops depend on insects for pollination. The most important pollinators are the bees, followed by beetles and flies. Other insects help in recycling nutrients by feeding off dead organic matter.There are about one million insect species in the world but a true number could only be estimated ranging from ten to hundredfold. In the tropics they are numerous with unfamiliar characteristics, large size, bright colors, cryptic shapes, and strange behavior. They await for the curious visitors to Ecuador.

Very interesting groups of social insects are the ants, bees, wasps and termites. Many termite nests

can be seen driving along the roads.

On any walk or hike here in Ecuador one will observe many different ants.

Leaf cutter ants

are interesting and can be seen marching in columns carrying a piece of leaf. This leaf is taken to the underground colony where is will rot into a mulch which will then produce a fungus that the ants feed from.

The world's most numerous insect are the beetles and also that holds also true here in Ecuador. They can be found in all kinds of ecosystems feeding on vegetation,

dung beetle,

carrion or also preying on other insects. True bugs are similar to beetles but have their own important characteristics and suck plant juices. Grasshoppers and crickets are often heard by their clicking sounds.

The praying mantises

are ferocious predators grabbing other insects in rapid movements. A rare group of insects are

the lacewings

and ant lions,

which have highly veined wings.


are noisy flying insects which swarm around trees.

Another insect family associated with the hot tropical regions are

the walking sticks

or stick insects. Although much more abundant in the lower tropical regions is the male stick insect, Orephoetes peruana, they also can be found in high altitudes of some 4000m. They are especially plentiful in the paramo regions around Cotopaxi, being found in rock crevices and hollow skulls of dead animals.

From our human perspective there are also many harmful insects, they can destroy crops by eating leaves or roots and by sucking sap. Lord only knows how many young succulent plants in our garden have been devoured literally overnight by some unwelcome herbivore. Throughout the world billions of dollars are spent each year on pesticides to control the insects. Flies are well known and range from the house fly to mosquitoes - both can be the carriers of diseases and many people each year get infected worldwide.

There are about 4,500 species of butterflies in Ecuador. One of the most spectacular butterflies in Ecuador is the


which has a wingspan of 15cm and metallic, shimmering shades of blue and green.

Mindo and Misahualli both have wonderful butterfly farms and worth the visit to see the stages of the butterflies as they morph from caterpillar to cocoon to beautiful butterflies.

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Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador