|Ecuadorian Hunter Turns in Rifle for Bird-Watching Binoculars|
|Written by Michelle Reeves, Four Green Steps|
|Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:32|
Written by Michelle Reeves, Four Green Steps
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Angel Paz is a 47-year-old ex-hunter who owns a forest reserve near Nanegalito, 56 miles north of Quito. He used to hunt birds to make a living, but in 2005, he traded in his gun for binoculars in an inspiring switch when he realized that tourists would spend significant amounts of money to come bird watching on his land.
Ecuador is home to one-sixth of the world’s bird species, and visitors get a taste of this diversity when they visit “Peace of the Birds” refuge. Visitors from the U.S, Canada, Britain, Japan and India are immediately surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds.
“I used to hunt. Now I safeguard the birds. I give them food and they allow me to feed my family,” explains Paz, who can imitate the calls of 100 different bird species.
Tourists get to see beautiful and rare species including the black-breasted puffleg (eriocnemis nigrivestis) and the endangered tawny antpitta (grallaria antpitta), which is Paz’s favorite bird, who he has named Shakira, after the Colombian pop star because of its distinctive tail wag.
He has anecdotes about many of the birds; one he is especially proud of is his dark-backed wood quail, an endangered bird native to Ecuador and Colombia. There is also a giant antpitta name Maria which Paz says was especially hard to attract to the reserve.
Ecuador is a bird paradise because of its many micro-climates, from the snow-capped Andes to humid rainforests. 1,600 bird species live here, compared to 914 in all of Canada and the United States.
Paz’s forest is a lush 62 acres 4,200 feet above sea level, where he feeds fruit and earthworms to more than 220 species.
"The birds are jewels in the forest and there are people who, instead of scanning images, prefer to make their own observations about these small treasures," said guide and birdwatcher Roberto Cedeno, who has spent 20 years observing birds. So if bird-watching is your favorite hobby, consider a trip to Ecuador as your next vacation!
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
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