Birdwatching or birding is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of birds is a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds.
Mindo in Ecuador is the hotspot for birdwatchers from around the world. Get to know the ultimate time, which tours you should not miss in the area, where to stay, and how to get there.
The best time for birdwatching in Mindo is during the rainy season. The very best months are December to April while the birds are more abundant (migratory birds) and active. Due to the high food supply birds start mating and nesting.
It already starts in October and lasts until mid-May or even June. Generally, it rains from the afternoon until the next morning, but it can happen that it rains all day long. The average annual rainfall is 2.500 mm.
The dry season is pretty short from June until the beginning of October. The driest months are June to August but expect precipitation even during the driest months.
Due to the proximity to the equator, the sunrise and sunset don’t change much. It’s always roughly around 6. Nights temps are around 15°C / 59°F and colder and day temps on average around 20°C / 68°F and can be up to 25. There is a high humidity throughout the year.
Mindo is a popular weekend escape for people from busy Quito. Avoid weekends and public holidays like Carnival and Easter. The rest of the time it's peaceful and quiet here.
The gannets start nesting in August and stay latest until April when the chicks are fledging. Muriwai is one of only three mainland gannet colonies. This bird sanctuary is easily accessible, and you get relatively close to the birds which make Muriwai unique. More than a thousand pairs of gannets nest at Muriwai each year.
Getting there is easy: It's just a forty minutes drive from Auckland to Muriwai. From the car park leads a short walking track to the main gannet colony and a viewing platform.
Hidden Gem Tour
From Auckland: The gannet colony was a must-do for us! When staying in Auckland, we suggest booking a hidden gem: The Vineyards, Honey, & Black Sand Beaches of Muriwai Tour from Auckland. These guys are amazing and so knowledgable! You visit Muriwai Beach with its gannets as well as a private wine and honey tasting tour. Plus, it's extremely comfortable, as you get picked up at your hotel in Auckland.
5 Highlights and Must-Know Tips
- The mating rituals are spectacular to observe and occur at the beginning of the nesting season
- The breeding population reaches a peak in November
- In summer, around December to February, you can watch how the chicks get fed
- In March/April, the juveniles leave the nest
- Late autumn and beginning of winter, from May until July, most of the gannets migrate to Australia
The popular Muriwai Beach is patrolled during summer. Swimming between the flags is allowed
The summer is the peak season. From December to March weekends are more crowded due to beach visitors and surfers. There is limited parking! Therefore, visit the colony either early in the morning or late afternoon if you visit on weekends. Mid-week and spring are less busy. It's also usually more crowded on sunny days. On the other hand, there are very few visitors during cold, rough days.
Warmest months are in the summer from December until March often with pleasant temperatures around 20 °C at daytime and 10-12°C in the night. The coldest months are in the winter from June to August, but it's not freezing. Most precipitation occurs in winter but it already starts in May with its peak in July. Driest months are during the summer from November to February/March. The best months for swimming at Muriwai Beach are January until March, but the sea temperature is still lower than 20 °C.
Tip: Be prepared for the windswept coastline and bring a warm jacket. If you are downwind, you experience the penetrating smell of gannet poo.
The puffin breeding season on the Isle of Lunga (one of the Treshnish Isles) starts in the middle of April. To make sure to have thousands of them on Lunga Island to spot, I recommend a visit not before May. They stay on this island until the beginning of August. For your trip planning, please check our monthly puffin overview with details for spring, summer, fall, and winter for the Isle of Lunga below. Also, check out our Isle of Lunga Puffins Video on YouTube. A helpful monthly weather overview can be found here: Treshnish Isle - Scotland - Monthly Weather
Puffin Sightings | Lunga Island
- September - March |Bad Time:
No puffins are on the island during these months, from autumn until early spring.
- April| Good Time:
It's possible but rare to see puffins in spring before mid-April. Although not the greatest time, you usually spot them from mid-April on. However, sometimes they even arrive later in April. Experts say: Early to mid-April, sometimes later.
- May - June - July | Best Time:
Late spring and early summer is the perfect time. You spot thousands of puffins on Lunga Island! To save money, make sure to book your nearby accommodation in advance (see below).
- August | Mediocre Time:
Be careful, as they stay on the island only until early August. Sometimes slightly longer. We wouldn't risk visiting later than in the early days of August if at all.
I went there at the end of June, and besides puffins, I saw chicks from the guillemot, razorbill, and shag. The puffin chicks are hidden in the burrows, and you may encounter them only when they leave the nest.
The Bald Eagle; the national emblem of the United States nests here again since 2009 from October to May. Honeymoon Island is also a great spot for ospreys and great horned owls. You may spot many birds of prey on the Osprey Trail, especially in the winter. If you'd like to know all the details read our summary of the highlights by season.
Highlights by Seasons
- Nesting season of the great horned owl and the osprey.
- December is the best time to spot the belted kingfisher.
- January is the nesting season of the roseate spoonbill.
- February the snowy plover starts nesting.
- Manatees can be seen close to the island in winter.
- Migratory birds come to the island; peak in April.
- Great blue heron nesting season in March.
- Stingrays move to the shore in April
- In May shorebirds start nesting.
- Frigate birds come to the island if storms are blowing on the Gulf of Mexico.
- Warblers, peregrine falcons, and other birds migrate to the island.
- Bald Eagle mating and nesting season roughly from October to May.
Turtle nesting season from May to October; loggerhead from April to August. The North Beach trail can be walked best at low tide. Tide Times Honeymoon Island
Daily from 8 a.m. to sundown. The exact time is shown at the entrance gate.
Worst Time to Visit
Late summer and autumn are the worst times due to the huge number of mosquitoes.
Don’t come here in a rush. Enjoy this gorgeous park while birding, hiking, sunbathing or swimming. Bring enough water and a picnic. There isn’t any food available in the Honeymoon Island State Park. We highly recommend staying nearby in the lovely Palm Court Motel. We’d booked a studio with a kitchenette. Don’t miss the Caladesi Island State Park.
The breeding season is from November to July. Nesting time is the 'only' time they spend on land which is roughly 290 days each year. The hike is eroded. Be careful when hiking along the trail. Carry enough water; it's often pretty sunny and hot without any shelter.
The drier season is from May until October. The north and east coast get more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. Even in winter, in the 'rainy' season from November to March you don't have to worry: Mostly showers are short and the sun returns quickly to the western part.
Low season in spring between mid-April and mid-June as well as in fall from September to November. Busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan end of April until the beginning of May. Busy and increasing rates in summer, during Christmas, New Year's Eve and on Independence Day.
To spot the oilbirds a guide is necessary to find the muddy trail to the Cumaca Cave. It depends on the water level if you can walk into the cave. The oilbirds are nocturnal, and at daytime, they rest in the cave.
Dry Season - Weather
Best months for Trinidad and the hike to the cave are January to May and September. Rain can always occur in Trinidad. The trail to the cave can be muddy even in the dry season but worth to do. During the rainy season, the water level of the Oropouche River can be too high for safe walking.