Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador – A Much Needed Resource for Traveling Birders

“I wish that this guide had been published when I visited Ecuador in 2012,” I exclaimed when author, Lelis Navarrette showed us a copy of the Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, published by the Fundacion de conservation Jocotoco (2013).

Fieldguide Ecuador

Later on the trip I had the opportunity to review it in-depth. The forward was written by Dr. Robert Ridgely whose two-volume, The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide with Paul Greenfield has long been the only thorough field guide. I travel light, so when I purchased Ridgeley’s guide, I removed the colored plates, three-hole punched them and put them in a notebook – still bulkier than this new guide.

It is a tribute to this new guide that in his foreword Ridgely describes Lelis Navarrette as “one of the finest field birders anywhere in Latin America.”  That was certainly my experience traveling with him in Peru. Ridgely also acknowledges that a guide of this type has long been needed.

While we were staying at the Manu Wildlife Center, Lelis loaned me his copy of the Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador to review.

Not only is it in a convenient-for-travel size, it has all the information that a traveling birder needs – distinguishing points of identification, drawing with sufficient detail, range map, habitat and abundance.

I picked one family to review in-depth – Trogonidae – Quetzals and Trogons. Ecuador has 15 species. In the overall family description it tells us that they are medium to large forest birds; eat both fruit and arthropods captured in short flights, are ‘otherwise lethargic and inconspicuous.’ They are described as solitary or in pairs and found mid-height to upper canopy and rarely vocalize. It tells us that the “English names are often unhelpful” in identification.

The illustration of each species’ size is given in both centimeters and inches. The following is a sample page of illustrations that was provided by Amazon.

Fieldguide Ec hum

It also indicates whether a species is endangered or an endemic. Its inclusion of the birds of the Galapagos Islands means that only one field guide is necessary for travel to both locations.

The guide combines the artistic talents of Miles McMullen with Lelis Navarrette’s years of field experience to provide the birding traveler with an excellent field guide. In keeping with Navarrette’s commitment as a founding member of Fundacion de conservation Jocotoco, proceeds from this book will go to support the work of the foundation.

I would heartily recommend this book to any birder traveling to Ecuador.



11 thoughts on “Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador – A Much Needed Resource for Traveling Birders

  1. Fabulous! I love the description of Trogon behavior: Lethargic and inconspicuous…never heard that before but have always found them to be strangely so. Thought I had seen lots of Trogon species , but 15! No way! Thanks.

  2. Pingback: Review Roundup: August, 2013

  3. Not sure if I got a misprinted copy but it appears that many of the range maps are incorrect, either the colors used or maybe even incorrectly matched range maps with incorrect species. Either way it is very hard to know what information is correct or incorrect.

  4. John and all,
    First, I believe I only posted to two places. Not sure where ALL the posting on ALL the websites came from. Second, I have been in contact with Miles McMullan and he agrees that the way that information is explained is not very consistent and sometime quite confusing. Third, I very much enjoy the Fieldbook as opposed to the very large other field guides. Fourth, I have left several emails for Lelis with specific concerns and questions but have not heard from him. Fifth, I promote this book to my friends but it does not mean that everything is perfect. Sixth, the book I received is the same book everyone will get. It is a wonderful resource however–see below

    I should have posted the following examples that I asked Miles to respond to:
    Plate 1 TAWNY-BREASTED TINAMOU Uncommon but color green
    Plate 3 Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling ducks are referred to as common but the color on the map is orange.
    Plate 6 Nocturnal Curassow Uncommon but color green.
    Plate 8 Silvery Grebe Rare and declining but color green
    Plate 12 Anhinga Nowhere very common but eastern area is green
    Plate 14 Boat-billed Heron Uncommon but color green
    Plate 22 Text suggest rare to uncommon but western map area is green

    Mr. McMullen’s reply “The text generally refers to the bird’s status at national level; the maps to its status in the area colored. So, the tinamou, with a small range is uncommon nationally, yet can have quite dense populations in the few areas it occurs; on the other hand, whistling-ducks are common nationally, but nowhere gauranteed because they occur in large numbers that move around a lot. This is a case where a longer explanation in text might have helped.
    It did the Anhinga like that to show that you have a much greater chance of seeing it east of the Andes. I agree it is a little confusing.
    Silvery Grebe and Boat-billed Herons are both rare birds, yet, if you know where to go they are gauranteed. I can see that this is confusing too. In such a small format I have sometimes used the text and maps in conjunction to add nuance, but I have to agree it is just confusing in some cases. As relative abundance is always a confusing topic, it might have been better to use a single colour as other guidebooks do, although most of the inconsistencies are confined to the beginning of the book.
    Nocturnal Curassow is just a plain old mistake; it should be orange, it is a rare bird that occurs at low density and is hard to find.”

    I have also heard from one of the leaders of an Ecuador Birding trips with some similar concerns, however, we both agree that this book in as a very nice field guide. Just be aware and read carefully as the plates can sometimes be misleading.

    Thank you all for your responses.


  5. This guide is proving almost impossible to find. One Ecuador tour operator has offered to sell it for $30 plus shipping (domestic, relying on the assistance of clients returning to the USA). Is that consistent with the price offered through Amazon (when it was available)? Thanks.

    • was slightly less than that plus free shipping. Retail is $29.95. It is possible that due to sales they are possibly reprinting. There were some range errors and color of birds was a little off. Mr. McMullen was hoping to correct those errors on next printing. That is all I know at this time.

  6. Does anyone have any ideas where to obtain this book? I leave on a trip for the Galapagos and Ecuador in a month and a half and this is the only book I’ve heard is worth the money. The only problem is that Amazon is currently sold out (and has been since January) and won’t know when more will be in stock. Being a birder I’m not sure I could enjoy the trip even a fraction of what I would with a good bird book. Any ideas out there?

    • I know of two options that might work for you. You can buy the book in Quito, either at office of Fundacion Jocotoco (the publisher of the Fieldbook, I believe; Lizardo Garcia Street E9-104 between Andres Xaura Street and José Tamayo) or at the bookstore LibriMundi (Juan León Mera Street N23-83 & Wilson, Quito-Ecuador). The price is about $30 USD.

      Another option is to book some sort of tour with Neblina Forest (see, which offers copies to clients who book tours (I’m guessing that might include one-day guided birding tours; maybe (?) even those reserving rooms at their southeastern Quito B&B, Puembo Birding Garden).

      I opened a BirdForum thread related to the availability of this guide & the Spanish-language plates-only copy of Ridgely/Greenfield at (but thus far it has yielded nothing of substance).

      From everything I’ve read, this guide does not pretend to be as definitive in scope as the Ridgely/Greenfield Vol 2 (the English-language “field guide”). I have two copies of that guide & if I cannot find the Spanish-language plates-only volume I’ll probably separate one and rebind the plates as a volume apart from the text. I cannot imagine making a birding trip to Ecuador without acquiring Ridgely/Greenfield.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s