EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK
ABOUT THE BIRDING
El Cajas National Park encompasses high elevation habitats including some 200 lakes and lagoons, Polylepis trees, shrubs, and paramo. Lower elevation sites within the park encompasses some lower elevation cloud forest. Much of the park interior is only accessible by rough dirt roads or hiking trails. We mainly bird along the main highway around the top of the pass at some 13,000 ft elevation.
The main reason for birders to visit El Cajas is to see the specialty birds of higher elevation paramo. A definite possibility is Andean Condor, rare and hard to see everywhere but possible in the area. High elevation aquatic birds such as Andean Teal, Andean Ruddy-Duck, Andean Coot, and Andean Gull can be found around the lakes and lagoons. High elevation hummingbirds of special interest include Ecuadorian Hillstar, Mountain Velvetbreast, Violet-throated Metaltail, and Blue-mantled Thornbill. Various other interesting birds are commonly seen around the pass, including Tawny Antpitta, Red-crested Cotinga, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, Giant Conebill, and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch.
LOCATION OF SITE
El Cajas National Park is reached via Hwy 35 south from Quito or north from Cuenca and then west on Hwy 60. From Guayaquil it is reached via Hwy 25 and then Hwy 60 eastward. The park is about 30 minutes drive north from Cuenca. The road from El Cajas to Guayaquil goes steeply downhill through a deforested canyon, so it's best to drive from El Cajas to Guayaquil rather than the other direction. The distance to Cuenca is about 20 miles (35 km).