Birds are the earth’s quintessential travelers, free to fly off at a moment’s notice, whether it is just to the next door garden or halfway across the world. They cross hemispheres to escape the cold weather and gather in stupendous flocks on small islands. Bird watching on holiday or avitourism, as it has become known in the travel industry, allows you to slow down and experience the epic spectacles of nature in some of the most spectacular hotspots for birding. Whether you’re a seasoned bird watcher or just starting out, here are some of the world’s best destinations for bird watching, from melancholy woodpeckers to stately king penguins. There are approximately ten thousand species of birds that share the planet with us.
Yellowstone National Park, United States of America
This is one of the most iconic places to watch the Bald Eagle, the symbol of the United States. These majestic creatures can be seen powering through the skies, looking for prey. They like to be close to bodies of water like lakes and rivers where they can find fish. Adults have dark brown bodies and white heads and tails and they are not actually bald as their name would suggest.
Over half the world’s Atlantic Puffin population live in Iceland. During the months from April to September, they migrate from the sea to the shore to form breeding colonies, turning Iceland into a prime spot for watching these beautiful, orange-beaked birds.
Bahamas – Inagua Islands
80,000 specimens call these Bahamian islands home, including 140 species of migratory and native birds. Flocks of pink flamingoes and the endangered Bahama Parrot can be seen here.
Guatemala has more than 700 exotic bird species from the pheasant cuckoo to the little blue heron to the azure crowned hummingbird. Surrounded by volcanoes the highlands at Lake Atitlan make a scenic sighting spot for birders and the region surrounding the lake is a protected national park. Casa Palopo makes an ideal home-base roost or you can take a guided bird watching tour, including boat trips from a private dock. Trek into the indigenous Mayan reserves and towns like Los Tarrales which is a well-known stronghold for the endangered Pink-headed Warbler and the Azure-rumped Tanager.
Peru – Colca Canyon
The endangered Andean Condor in the Peruvian Andes has a wingspan of up to 3 meters in length and is one of the largest birds in the world that can take flight. It has an elusive character and prefers mountainous or coastal areas where it uses the wind thermals to help it fly. Birders flock from all over the world to Colca Canyon where the condors nest in the rocky areas of the massive chasm. You are guaranteed to catch sight of them soaring through the valley around Cruz del Condor, one of the hotspots for birdwatching.
Birding in Costa Rica is a colorful affair with an explosion of rainbow shades from exotic birds like toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, and quetzals. The Wilson Botanical Gardens is one of the best spots for twitching in Costa Rica with more than 300 recorded bird species. In the Curi-Cancha Reserve, you can catch a glimpse of trogons and motmots while walking along the 7 kilometers of pathways.
The western part of Pichincha Province in this lush country is rightly renowned for its exotic bird species. The Tanday Bird Lodge caters to the needs of amateur ornithologists and one of the greatest experiences is cruising through the Galapagos Islands for up-close and personal encounters with more than 750,000 seabirds. Here you can see the curious blue-footed Booby and the giant Albatross. You can even snorkel with the penguins on an Ecoventura Tour excursion.
Few places in the world can rival the astonishing numbers of penguin colonies that inhabit the far southern hemisphere, especially around St. Andrews Bay, of South Georgia where you can see hundreds of thousands of King penguins milling around. Walking among them or simply sitting down in the middle of a colony of penguins is a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
South Africa – Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park in South Africa is not only the hotspot for Africa’s Big 5 but one of the most popular and top wildlife destinations in the world. Around 200 migrant bird species arrive in the Park between the months of October to March at the start of the rainy season when plants start to flourish. Birdwatchers come here to discover the Big Six – 6 of the most desirable sightings in the park – including the Lappet-faced Vulture, the Kori Bustard, the Martial Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl, the Southern Ground Hornbill, and the Saddle-billed Stork. Besides the nocturnal fishing owl, the amazing birds are all easy to find. Take the spectacular tour of the Olifants River and the Luvuvhu River to experience some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the park.
The United Kingdom – Norfolk
Norfolk is one of the best places for birdwatching in the U.K. North Norfolk is particularly known, not only as being home to Alan Partridge’s radio station but also as one of the best birdwatching regions in Britain. The range of habitats including dunes and marshlands attract numerous species throughout the year, including the rare Marsh Harrier. Among the many top reserves in Britain, the Titchwell Marsh is one of the best places to watch migratory birds arrive from the Arctic, spot warblers and bitterns, and see the black-tailed godwits pick their way through the many lagoons. Another hotspot is Cley Marshes which is owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and where you can see bearded tits, seabirds, and waders year-round.
Birds exist all over the world, but some destinations are well-known for their unique birdwatching opportunities. The above top destinations are just some of the places you may want to add to your birdwatching to-do-list for the future. Bird watching is a unique hobby that allows us to learn more about the fascinating features and habits of our feathered friends while helping us to slow down the fast pace of life and connect to the wonderful elements of nature that surround us.