If you want to see some of the most iconic birds on the planet, you need to plan a trip to one of the top birding destinations. Here are six of the best birding hotspots and locations for keen birdwatchers to find amazing avian species.
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Photo credit: Costa Rica Birding, Resplendent Quetzal
Costa Rica is rightly revered as a birder’s paradise, with a huge diversity of birdlife (and other wildlife) jammed into a relatively small and therefore manageable country. Many of the reserves are sublime and none more so than the cloud forests of Monteverde. This fantastic place straddles the Continental Divide and is packed with a wealth of life, not least the 400 or so species of bird you can see here. From hummingbirds and hawks to tinamous and toucans, and so many more! Highest on most visitor’s list is the spectacular Resplendent Quetzal and this is one of the best places on the globe to see what is one of the world’s most spectacular birds!
Tour operator who can introduce you to Costa Rica:
Eastern Hokkaido, Japan
A bird photographer’s dream, the crisp, sunny winter in eastern Hokkaido, the large northern island of Japan, is renowned for the best views of some of the world’s greatest bird spectacles. There are dancing Red-crowned Cranes, fishing Steller’s Sea Eagles and feeding Blakiston’s Fish Owls, the world’s largest owl. Throw in mighty herds of Whooper Swans, the back-up of seaducks, including Harlequins, and large numbers of White-tailed Eagles and Black-eared Kites, plus the ease and comfort of travel around this area, and you have an unmissable experience waiting for you.
Danube Delta, Romania
Photo credit: Bunica Maria, Pelicans
Summertime cruising the extensive waterways of the Danube Delta, intermingled with a little land exploration, makes for one of Europe’s ultimate birding hotspots. Herons of all shapes and sizes (from Little Bitterns, through Squacco Herons to Purple Herons, plus Glossy Ibises) are there in abundance. There are floating colonies of nesting Whiskered Tern alongside Red-necked Grebes, overlooked by Rollers, White-tailed Eagles and the odd Pallas’s Gull. There are White and Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Duck and Penduline Tits. And the woodlands abound with singing Icterine Warblers and nightingales, plus various woodpeckers, including Grey-headed and Black. And to top off this amazing birding experience, there are more Cuckoos than you can possibly imagine!
Tour operator who covers the Danube Delta:
Photo credit: Inglorious Bustards, Pied Kingfisher
More than 500 bird species have occurred in this tiny West African country wrapped around the banks of river of the same name. The population is friendly, the birding excellent, and the birds are everywhere, from hotels gardens to the forest to the coast. The birds on offer are mouthwatering, with such delights as Black Heron, Abyssinian and Blue-bellied Rollers, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Hamerkop, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Greater Painted Snipe, turacos, thick-knees, Verreaux’s Eagle and Egyptian Plover on most visitors’ wanted lists. And that is just scratching the surface of this wonderful country.
The Gambia Birdwatchers Association
Based at Kotu Creek, near Brufut, The Gambia Birdwatchers Association was established in 2007. It provides a headquarters for the area’s bird guides, trains the next generation of ornithologists, and carries out excellent project-based conservation work, including utilising local volunteers in the restoration of mangrove swamp habitat. In The Gambia, many important forests are community-owned, and GBA are instrumental in setting up community reserves, training bird guides in the villages and enabling them to benefit from the preservation of forest habitat through well-thought-out ecotourism.
Tour operator who can help you enjoy The Gambia:
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North Queensland, Australia
Photo credit: Peter Waanders, Bellbird Tours, Gouldian Finch
Australia is, of course, a huge centre of endemic birds, and Queensland has more than 20 species that are only found in that state. Most of these are encountered in the north, with such beauties as Golden Bowerbird, Chowchilla (part of the soundtrack of birds: readily heard, tough to see) and Victoria’s Riflebird (a bird of paradise) to be counted among their number. There is a great range of habitats including rainforests, dry country, swamps, lakes, beaches, mountains and parkland and all are jammed with wonderful birds (and bundles of marsupials and the odd platypus). Everyone wants to see the wonderfully named Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and Southern Cassowary and, if you find the right place, you should not come away empty-handed.
Tour operators who knows the best birding hotspots in Australia’s Queensland:
Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas, USA
Photo credit: Roadrunner
Texas is, of course, a huge state and hard to cover as a whole on a birding trip. Luckily, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, in the far south (the river itself forms the natural border with Mexico) is not so unwieldy for the birdwatcher, being beautifully laid out, manageable, brilliantly signposted and abundantly rich in bird life. There are plentiful preserves but even outside these there are magical birds galore, from Aplomado Falcons to Cactus Wrens, Pyrrhuloxias and Greater Roadrunners (all of which are readily seen). And the preserves themselves are bursting with birds and butterflies and rich in biodiversity. Being so far south, there are birds here that are hard to see elsewhere in the US, such as Altamira Oriole and Muscovy Duck.
Are you interested in discovering more birding tours worldwide? Check out our complete list of local wildlife specialists here.