The Cock-of-the-Rock and the Angel of Peace

There was one experience that I was really looking forward to in the Mindo Valley.

It was a visit to the legendary Angel Paz and his property called Refugio Paz de las Aves. Over the past ten years Angel has developed a relationship with a few species of hard to see antpittas. He is afterall known as the “antpitta whisperer”.

The Angel of Peace, feeding three dark-backed wood-quail.

Before we could see Angel coax antpittas out of the forest, we first visited the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek on his property. At just after 6 AM, we headed down the narrow path that ended in a blind. As we walked down the hill we could hear the otherworldly calls of the displaying males. The trees just down hill were filled with the iconic Andean specialty as they called and danced in there riotous plumage for the drabber but unseen female. The show lasted for almost an hour before the males dispersed to head off to start their day.

Male Cock-of-the-Rocks displaying at the Refugio Paz de las Ave lek.

The first bird that Angel conjured up was a cloud-forest pygmy-owl. We then headed to another part of his property and three dark-backed wood-quail where waiting by the side of the road for us. We then moved on and with the help of his brother Rodrigo, our search for the antipittas was to begin in earnest.

We walked a short way down a path and Rodrigo headed off trail and downslope. He whistled into the forest and called, “Andreita. Andrea. Venga, venga, venga!” Rodrigo repeated this and within five minutes “Andeita”, a chestnut-crowned antpitta appeared at the base of a log. Lured by worms, the antipitta made it’s way up the log and was now ten feet downslope from our position.

After getting great views we headed a little further down the trail and Rodrigo summoned “Williamina” a yellow-breasted antpitta from the forest. This shy, retiring bird stayed in view for a short time, taking the worms and then disappearing into the forest.

At the end of our unforgettable visit to Refugio Paz de las Aves, we had ticked almost 70 species of birds including two species of antpittas, the iconic Andean cock-of-the-rock, a common potoo with a chick, and the cloud-forest pygmy-owl.