ABOUT THE BIRDING
The Loreto Road is famous for its birding opportunities. Many Ecuadorian birds are found in relatively narrow altitudinal zones on one or both sides of the Andes because of the dramatic changes in vegetation with altitude, and the Loreto Road transects most of these altitudinal zones. A full day of birding barely does it justice. Roadsides are excellent for birding along most of the road, so hiking is not necessary other than walking along the shoulder of the road. Traffic is usually fairly light so birding along the road is not a safety hazard. Our checklist data covers the area between about 2000 m. at the upper end to about 800 m. above the town of Loreto.
The upper Loreto Road traverses temperate forest and provides access to the Guacamayos Ridge trail. It then descends into the upper reaches of the subtropical zone. We generally consider the Upper Loreto Road to begin above Cosanga at an elevation of about 2000 m. and end at the junction with the Archidona Road at an elevation of about 1200 m. Notable target birds along the upper Loreto Road include Dark-breasted Spinetail, Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Lined Antshrike, Foothill Antwren, Olivaceous Greenlet, Yellow-whiskered Chlorospingus, and Bronze-green Euphonia.
The lower Loreto Road begins at the junction with the Archidona Road and goes through the village of Loreto at 700 m. elevation, continuing downslope to Coca. It begins in the subtropical zone and descends into the tropical lowlands. Notable birds in the subtropical zone include Lafresnaye's Piculet, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Olivaceous Siskin, Magpie Tanager, Orange-eared Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, and Yellow-browed Sparrow. We've also had the good fortune of seeing an Amazonian Umbrellabird fly across the lower Loreto Road, a very rare experience. The Sumaco Road leads off the lower Loreto Road towards the Sumaco Volcano National Park. A new lodge there provides accommodations for those wishing to spend more time in the area. The lodge offers birding from the veranda overlooking second-growth forest and thickets and is a good place to see more skulky birds such as Song Wren that aren't likely to be seen along the road itself.
The Archidona Road is a side road off the Loreto Road leading to the town of Archidona. It offers fine birding through a more agricultural area mixed with scattered subtropical trees and second growth. A good variety of subtropical birds can be seen along the Archidona Road including Gilded Barbet, Lettered Aracari, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Gray Elaenia, Violaceous Jay, Magpie Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Caqueta Seedeater, Black-and-white Seedeater, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Red-breasted Blackbird, and Orange-backed Troupial.
LOCATION OF SITE
The Loreto Road is the main highway down the eastern Andes from San Isidro to Coca (also called "Puerto Francisco de Orellana) on the Napo River. The upper Loreto Road is the section between San Isidro and the turnoff to Archidona. The lower Loreto Road is the continuation beyond that turnoff. The Sumaco Road is a side road from near the beginning of the lower Loreto Road leading north toward the Sumaco Volcano.