We had the most unexpected encounter with some Burrowing Owls at an archeology site just outside Quito, Ecuador. The name of the place is Cochasqui and the ruins have been on our bucket list for a while. Since it is close to one of our favorite birding destinations, Parque Jerusalem, we took the long lens just in case. And am I glad I did… the dry hillsides of the ancient pyramids of Cochasqui make a perfect nesting habitat for these diurnal owls.
The Burrowing Owls of Pichincha are a subspecies, Athene cunicularia pichinchae – similar in appearance and behavior to other burrowing owls found throughout the Americas but separated geographically from other populations. Burrowing owls all have longer legs than other owls. They are active during the day but also hunt at dusk and dawn. They have incredibly bright yellow eyes and lack ear tufts. White feathers over their eyes look like eyebrows and can often give them the appearance of expressing emotion. For me, that makes them a perfect subject for photographers!
Be warned, visitors are required to pay an entrance fee and be accompanied by a guide. While the others in our group enjoyed their encounter with a huge herd of llamas, we took time to photograph the owls instead.
Cochasqui, the Town
This is the small town of Cochasqui which is about a 15-minute walk from the archeology park.
Cochasquí Archeology Park
This is the parking and entrance to the Cochasquí Archeology Park. The owls can be found nesting in the park.
Information For Your Trip
Make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes. On weekdays, it’s recommended to pack your own food. On weekends and holidays, there is sometimes a food vendor selling comida típica.
- Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Cochasqui Archaeological Park, Ecuador.
- Direction by Public Transportation It might be possible to be dropped off on the main road just past the toll booth and hike up the mountain to Cochasqui. Alternatively, take the bus from Quito to Tabacundo and hire a local taxi for the rest of the trip.