Kate on Conservation

Top 10 destinations for birders

Naturetrek best destinations for birders

For the first time in my life, I’ve discovered the wonders of birding. Yes, for a nature-lover, I took my time (only really understanding its value when I visited the Audubon Society in Sarasota, Florida a couple of years ago), but now; I well and truly have the bug! So this week, I’m delighted to share my latest guest blog post from Wander with Jo about the best places for birders looking for the perfect wildlife holidays!

Best places to visit for birders

Birds are a part of every continent on the planet and watching them is a wonderful way not only to appreciate their contribution to the natural world, but also fosters a collective effort to protect them. So whether you intend to be social and go birdwatching in groups, or just want to do it alone, get out of your house, grab a pair of binoculars and head to these ten prime birding spots around the globe.

binoculars on safari - 10 things for wildlife adventurers

Tarifa, Spain

Just to the west of the island of Gibraltar lies Tarifa, which is considered to be the super migratory route of birds flying between their breeding grounds in Europe and their wintering abode in the plains of Africa. While a majority of the bird species migrate under the cover of darkness, here in Tarifa they do it by day as well. At any opportune moment the sky is full of soaring white storks, griffon vultures, eagles, kites and honey buzzards. Truly a bonanza for bird lovers.

Rift Valley, Kenya

The Rift Valley in Kenya is home to three shallow bodies of water namely, Lake Elementaita, Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru. All of them are of special significance as they serve as one of the largest foraging grounds for lesser flamingos. For a major part of the year, an estimated four million of these resplendent birds move between these lakes to feed in the brackish waters. Seeing them tip toe across the water in unison or when they launch themselves in the air in their hundreds of thousands is a spectacle to behold.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Favoured more by animal lovers, Kruger National Park has the coveted honour of being a prime birding destination for those seeking much more beyond the Big Five. The 20,000 square kilometres game reserve is home to six special species of birds which attract bird watchers from far and near. These are namely the saddle billed stork, Kori bustard, Martial eagle, lappet faced vulture, Pel’s fishing owl and the Southern ground hornbill which complete the birder’s target. The list however doesn’t end here, as the park holds more than 200 other kinds of birds which migrate here between October and March.

A saddle billed stork looks for fish

Colca Canyon, Peru

Situated just north of Arequipa, the deep chasm of Colca Canyon is one of the last surviving bastions of the massive Andean condor. With a wingspan of around three metres, the Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world. This species is highly endangered and spotting them requires a lot of time and patience as the condor opts to stay high up in the mountains to make maximum use of the wind currents which allow them to soar effortlessly. Luckily visitors here can still have a good view of them around the rocky areas near Cruz del Condor.

St. Andrew’s Bay, South Georgia

If you are looking for penguins, there are few places in the world which can rival the numbers that can be seen in South Georgia. Penguin colonies are common in many countries but watching half a million King penguins milling around each other can be a humbling experience. This iconic sight can be seen around St. Andrew’s Bay and spending time in the middle of the colonies of these splendid birds is an unforgettable once in a lifetime dream come true. While King penguins are the main draw here, visitors can also spot seagulls and other penguin species like, macaroni, chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.

Everglades National Park, Florida, USA

Threatened by development and shrinking rapidly in size over the years, the Everglades National Park in Florida is even till today an excellent site for birdwatchers. There are over a hundred unique and vulnerable species of birds residing here, some of which are extremely rare. Birds to look out for include, the white crowned pigeon, snail kites and the smooth billed anis. The months between January and April offer great opportunities to see these specimens up close.

Limpkin at the sarasota audubon society celery fields
Florida’s famous limpkins are easy to spot

Westman Islands, Iceland

Every year, between the months of April and September, more than half of the world population of Atlantic puffins come from the sea to the shore in order to breed. These orange billed beauties, nest on the rocks and cliffs in their thousands in Iceland during the summer season. Birders have an excellent chance to see them in large numbers on the Westman Islands and the Westfjords. Opting for a boat trip out of the many islands of Iceland also offer a great chance to see large gatherings of Atlantic puffins.

Papua New Guinea

The less visited Papua New Guinea holds special significance for birding enthusiasts. It is the only country in the world holding several endemic varieties of the Bird of Paradise, a colorful and strange looking bird. One of the most sought after is the Raggiana, which also happens to be the national bird of the country. During the summer months, these birds are known to display their magnificent plumage by way of an impressive dance in order to court their mates.This unique birding spectacle attracts a large number of twitchers to Papua New Guinea and is said to be a life changing experience.

Curi-Cancha Reserve, Costa Rica

Home to over 1500 different species of birds, Costa Rica is a virtual mecca for birdwatchers. While Curi-Cancha has over seven kilometres of walkways from where you can spot trogons, motmots,toucans and hummingbirds, there are dozens of other nature reserves which hold some exotic species. Wilson Botanical Gardens is another area where more than 300 species have been known to be recorded.

Costa Rica is well-known for brilliant hummingbird sightings. Image Credit: Chris Snowdon.

North Norfolk, UK

Thanks to a wide range of diverse habitat, North Norfolk in UK has developed into a premier birding hot spot, not only in Britain, but in the world as well. The vast marshlands and dunes hold some rare species like the marsh harrier, apart from an array of others. One of the best places in Norfolk include Titchwell Marsh, where one can witness migratory birds like, bitterns, warblers and black tailed godwits arriving from their grounds of the Arctic. Another good site is Cley Marsh, where waders and sea birds can be spotted round the year.

A world of birds

The world of birds presents a truly colourful picture. Penguins, puffins, condors and birds of paradise attract hordes of birdwatchers, from veterans to novices, wishing to indulge in this fascinating hobby. With more than 10,000 species spread all over, the sheer diversity of bird life is simply stunning.

The destinations highlighted above are not only some of the best, but actively contribute to bird conservation through habitat preservation and economic development of the communities involved at these birdwatching spots. Once the locals realize the economic value of the birds, their safety is more or less assured.

About the Author

Jyotsna Ramani is an avid naturalist , writer and globetrotter. She loves putting pen to paper and jots down her adventures on WanderWithJo.com 

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10 thoughts on “Top 10 destinations for birders

  1. The Pipeline Road in Panama is pretty special, too! Jungle just 30 mins from the city. Welcome to the world of bird nerding, Kate 🤓

    1. I’ve just been Googling pictures of Pipeline Road, Panama — looks wonderful! I’ve opened up a whole new world it seems :). I’m also reading a wonderful book called ‘Bird Therapy’, which is helping me to realise the benefits of birding to mental health — perfect timing as I’m adjusting to being a mother of two little ones!

      1. I love all wildlife, so I don’t really think of myself as a birder. But birding is a great way of connecting kids with wildlife. My son and I have just watched the full cycle of a robin nesting through to the chicks fledging. We are watching Waxwings nest building in the park next door and the Canada geese goslings are always fun. Birds are so visible and accessible for kids and great for our mental health! 😊

      1. Panama would be amazing to visit! Costa Rica is high on my list too. My parents visited last year and had the most wonderful wildlife sightings.

  2. Must visit Tarifa as not far from us in Spain. We do to the Doñana Wetlands which is quite amazing and needs lots of support as under threat from water loss. 20 years ago we visited the Colca canyon so good to know the condors are still flying there.

    1. That’s a great tip, thank you! I’ve never heard of the Doñana Wetlands before, but I’m googling them now: apparently, they’re a crucial refuge for Europe’s Africa-bound migratory birds, but now only receive a fifth of the water they need — in part due to illegal farming! I had no idea that illegal farming was having this kind of impact. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

      1. Yes, it has been brought to EU attention. Difficult as lots of longstanding rice fields nearby but do not think this such a threat as so much more strawberry and blueberry growing. Probably with permission. Hard to get to the bottom but Spanish naturalists need as much support as we can give. I must do a post as have got some good photos. It is a crucial Wetland and this area, I am up in the mountains in Huelva district, have had little rain this year.

      2. Please send me the link when you’ve done a post about it — I’ll share as widely as I can.

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