Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest Cajanuma Podocarpus Park

Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus National Park

Podocarpus National Park is located in Sothern Ecuador in the Loja and Zamora Chinchipe provinces. It covers an area of  360,000 acres (146.280 hectares); including Cloud Forest, high-altitude grasslands, a series of small Andean lakes (Lagunas del Compadre), and the tropical forest, with an elevation range between 960 a los 3.800 m.a.s.l.

The park is located where overlapping centers of endemism in the northern Andes and Tumbes (Terborgh and Winter, 1983; Best and Clark, in lit)

Not only is Podocarpus important for protecting biological diversity, but it is also critical for the more than one million people who draw their water from four rivers with headwaters in the park.

Animals. Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park

The Podocarpus National Park area has one of the largest concentrations of bird species in Ecuador, with more than 650 registered species, although some experts believe that number could be as high as 800. Some of the most threatened birds in Ecuador have healthy populations in and around the park, such as the Jocotoco Antpitta, coppery-chested jacamar, bearded guan, Equatorial graytail and Peruvian antpitta.

More than 40 mammal species occur in the area, including the jaguar, wooly tapir, Andean bear, pudú (the smallest deer in the world), giant armadillo and Neotropical otter.

According to a Birdlife International study, the area is estimated to have more than 260 butterfly species and more than 1,200 moth species.

Plants. Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park

Podocarpus is a paradise for plants, with around 3,000 different species of vascular plants, many of which are endemic. The park was created in 1982 to shelter the largest remaining forest of three species of the tree genus Podocarpus. Commonly referred to as “Romerillo,” the Podocarpus is the only native conifer in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Worth noting an important fact, as is the statement by the UNESCO in 2017 as Biosphere Reserve Podocarpus – El Condor RBPC, in southern Ecuador, which has an area of ​​1.14 million hectares. The core areas RBPC is National Parks: Podocarpus and Yacuri and Reserve Mura Nunka Shuar, in the Cordillera del Condor, is considered one of the most important sites for the conservation of biodiversity in the world. Contains at least 4,000 species of vascular plants, more than 20% are endemic or limited to this area, including an abundance of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and hundreds of species of trees.

Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park




Is located in the mountain know of the same name, 17 km south of the city of Loja. The headwaters of the Catamayo and Zamora Rivers (the former which flows to the Pacific , and the latter, whose waters flow to the Atlantic)  are former in the Cajanuma area. Cajanuma is the principal entrance to the Podocarpus National Park and is characterized by the perennial presence of clouds and rain year round. Various studies reveal high biodiversity  with vines, ferns, orchids, different tree species. One species, the Cascarilla (Cinchona ssp) , is of global significance for saving millions of lives. During colonial times, it was used as a remedy for malaria. More than 200 species of birds inhabit in this area as well as rabbits, pacas, fox, deers, and the Spectacled Bear. Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park

The area is frecuented by ornithologist and researchers. There are self – guided and longer trails, cabins.

Cajanuma may be visited  from the city of Loja. 15 minutes by vehicle along the road, going towards the valley of Vilcabamba, where you will see the park entry control point

Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park


Bearded Guan, Masked Trogon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Russet-crowned Warbler, Azara’s Spinetail, Rufous-naped Brush Finch. We also see Tanagers such as Grass-green Tanager, Lacrimouse-mountain Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager. Depending of the flowering season of specific plants we will see Hummingbirds such as Rainbow Starfrontlet, Tyrian Metaltail, Little Sunangel (Flame – throated Sunangel) , Collared Inca, Sparkling Violetear, and depending of your luck, the time of year and if the passiflora plant (taxo) is in bloom you will ser the Sword-billed Humingbird.
A wide variety of other species such as the Barred Fruiteater, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle Smoky-bush Tyrant, White-banded Tyrannulet, Black Capped Tyrannulet can also be seen, and with luck we may see the Black and Chestnut Eagle. You can often hear the Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan and occasionally be lucky enough to see it. The Tawny-breasted Tinamou is among the more elusive species, which can often be heard.

Around the visitor center  there are some trails:  “Oso de Anteojos” and Bosque Nublado” .
A path  “Lagunas del Compadre” climbs steeply in parts and is normally muddy. It takes approximately an hour and half to arrive at the Páramo at an altitude of 3200 meters.
Along this trail  you can see Buff-winged Starfrontlet, listen to Chusquea Tapaculo and, depending on the time of year, you will hear the Ocellated Tapaculo and with a bit of luck see it. Further along the trail at slightly higher elevations, you will look for the Neblina Metaltail, Masked-mountain Tanager and Plush-capped Finch. Once on the Paramo, the high grasslands, you may see the Pale-footed Swallow and others such as the Many-striped Canastero.

Birding Tours Ecuador, Cloud Forest of Cajanuma, Podocarpus Park




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