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Papallacta Pass - BirdForum Opus

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Photo by Steve Herrmann (Ecuadorrebel)
View of volcano Antisana from Papallacta Pass

South America, Ecuador


Lat. 0 19' 20", Lon: 78 12' 41"

Papallacta Pass is part of the main road that goes east from Pifo, up over the mountain, and down into Baeza. It is part of the old Inca Road. Birding can begin about halfway up the mountain. At the highest point, 4000m, the gravel road to the left will take you to the antennas. This is part of the Cayambe-Coca reserve. This whole area can be great birding territory. Traveling down the eastern slope you will come to the town of Papallacta which is noted for its hot-springs.

Weather, especially at the highest point, can be very unpredictable. This is part of the cloud forest and is covered in clouds about 90% of the time. Temperatures can get down below freezing and there is wind most of the time. Snow is not uncommon. Dress for the cold weather and carry rain gear. Once you get down around 3000m the weather is more comfortable.

Bathroom facilities are non-existent unless you get down around the town of Papallacta. There is also a restaurant on the western slope about 5 km before you get to the top of the mountain.

In spite of the weather the birding can be quite good, seeing about 15 to 20 species.


Notable Species

Threatened Species: Andean Condor, Giant Conebill


Andean Condor, Plain-breasted Hawk, Andean Coot, Fulica ardesiaca, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Sparkling Violetear, Purple-backed Thornbill, Mountain Avocetbill, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-browed Spinetail, Equatorial Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Spillmann's Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, Muscisaxicola alpinus, Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, Barred Becard, Rufous Wren, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Plushcap, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Masked Mountain-Tanager, Paramo Seedeater, Masked Flowerpiercer, Gray-browed Brush Finch


Birds you can see here include:

Curve-billed Tinamou, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, White-rumped Hawk, Variable Hawk, Carunculated Caracara, American Kestrel, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Andean Gull, Rock Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-collared Swift, Shining Sunbeam, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Giant Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, Viridian Metaltail, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Many-striped Canastero, Pearled Treerunner, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Sierran Elaenia, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Red-rumped Bush Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Red-crested Cotinga, Turquoise Jay, Brown-bellied Swallow, Grass Wren, White-capped Dipper, Great Thrush, Spectacled Redstart, Cinereous Conebill, Blue-backed Conebill, Giant Conebill, Blue-gray Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored Seedeater, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Black Flowerpiercer, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow

Other Wildlife

Wolf, fox, deer, armadillo

Site Information

History and Use

The Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve is 400,000 acres of nationally protected area.

Areas of Interest

To do

Access and Facilities

If traveling from Quito you would go east through Cumbaya, Tumbaco and Pifo, finally heading up into the mountain pass. The government has done a fairly good job of erecting signs indicating the way to this area. The drive will take about an hour. There are several busses that frequent this road and for the budget traveler you can get to the pass for less than five dollars, US.

When you get to the top of the mountain you will encounter a large Welcome sign (Bienvenidos). At this point you will see a small gravel road that goes off to the left. There is a fork in this road, the left fork going back down hill and the right fork heading up to the antennas and entrance to the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. About 300 meters from the main road on the right fork you will encounter a gate and a ranger station. If there should be someone at the station you might have to pay a small fee to enter the park.

Contact Details

To do

External Links

To do

Content and images originally posted by Steve Herrmann (Ecuadorrebel)