PAPALLACTA PASS RADIO TOWERS
|# Excl Vagrants*:||222|
|# Near Endemics*:||9|
|*Based on partial or incomplete data.|
|Habitat: Higher elevation scrub, paramo|
ABOUT THE BIRDING
Papallacta Pass is the main route across the Andes Mountains from Quito to the eastern slope leading toward Baeza and Tena. In the higher elevations the habitat is high elevation scrub, grassland, Polylepis Forest, and paramo above timberline.
On the western slope leading up to the pass, scrub vegetation along the main highway and various side roads off the main highway provide habitat for higher elevation hummingbirds such as Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, and Blue-mantled Thornbill. They also provide habitat for scrub species such as Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Cinereous Conebill, Giant Conebill, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager.
At the crest of the pass, a side road leads up to a peak where radio/TV towers are located. The scrub habitat gives way to tundra and paramo vegetation within Cayambe-Coca Protected Reserve. The top of this road is the best place to find Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe in Ecuador. It's also a place where Andean Condor is sometimes seen. More common are Bar-winged Cinclodes, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch.
Several lakes are found in the valleys around the pass. These sometimes provide distant views of high elevation aquatic specialties such as Silvery Grebe, Andean Teal, Andean Ruddy-Duck, Andean Coot, and Andean Gull.
On the eastern slope the road quickly reaches the village of Papallacta. The best birding near the village is the water plant road, which requires special permission to gain entry. The scrub habitat along the road is a good place to find Shining Sunbeam, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, and Black Flowerpiercer. On rare occasions Andean Condor can be seen soaring high overhead.
LOCATION OF SITE
Papallacta Pass is about 2½ hours east of Quito high in the Andes Mountains. It is part of the old Inca Road and lies at an elevation of around 13,500 ft. Guango Lodge is a new lodge in the town of Papallacta on the eastern side of the Andes across Papallacta Pass at an elevation of about 9000 ft.