The curiquingue - or carunculated caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus). Photo: Arlo Hemphill, I am Wilderness


The curiquingue – or carunculated caracara Phalcoboenus carunculatus – live only in the high altitude paramo grasslands of Ecuador and southern Colombia.

The beautiful curiquingue is well represented in local folklore and celebrated through song and dance. Check out this festive presentation of the Andean folkloric song ‘curiquingue’:

I photographed this one high on the Guagua Pichincha volcano, with the city of Quito as a backdrop. In the Andes, wilderness often thrives as a consequence of altitude, with vast wild places such as these volcanic heights co-occurring in direct line of sight with sprawling urban landscapes.

View of Cotopaxi volcano from the slopes of Guagua Pichincha. Photo: Arlo Hemphill, I am Wilderness

On this outing, I was traveling with the Nogales family of Cumbaya as part of an I am Wilderness expedition documenting the wilderness areas of the Tropical Andes and Amazonia.  We took a day trip up Quito’s TelefériQo, a gondola lift that transports visitors from Quito city to the high upper slopes of the Pichincha volcano.  On a short hike along the slope rim, we spotted a pair of curiquingue circling and free-falling at tremendous heights off the mountain and above the city.  The pair eventually came to rest within a few meters of us, offering the opportunity to snap this shot.

To see more images of Ecuador’s wild places, check out the I am Wilderness Stories page.