Did you know that there are around 10,000 species of birds in the world? Birdwatching is a hobby that has come into and fallen out of fashion over the years. Yet birds are truly beautiful creatures that deserve our observation, attention, and compassion.
Birds exist in pretty much every city and country, but some travel destinations are known for their unique species and excellent birdwatching opportunities. Not only does observing birds teach us about their fascinating habits and features, but the activity also helps us slow down the pace of life and appreciate the nature that surrounds us. Here are 12 of the best birdwatching destinations around the world to add to your travel to-do list.
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Manu National Park, Peru
Pristine forests and a diverse range of habitats make Manu National Park a perfect place for birdwatching. You’ll find more than 1,000 species of birds here, and many of them can be seen along the road that extends from the high-elevation habitats to the base of the Amazon Rainforest. Much of this park is not accessible, which is both a blessing and a curse for birdwatchers. Since the region is largely untouched by human hands, the birds here thrive. However, it is very difficult to access regions of the park where their populations are the greatest.
The Caroni Swamp, Trinidad
There are quite a few excellent birdwatching spots in the Caribbean, but one we’ll mention here is the Caroni Swamp in Trinidad. The best way to experience the birdlife here is to take a boat trip down the canal and mangroves until it opens up into a lake. The scarlet ibis is the national bird of Trinidad, and these birds are often seen in the region. They look black in the sky, but you’ll see their vibrant colors as they get closer. The birds often feed a few miles away on the coast of Venezuela and are coming back home. Other birds here are kingfishers and flycatchers.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park is an ideal place to visit for animal lovers, and there are six birds here that are favored by bird watchers. The park is a game reserve that spans around 20,000 square kilometers. If you can spot the saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, martial eagle, southern ground hornbill, and Pel’s fishing owl, then you’ve completed the set and earned a coveted birdwatching honor. It’s pretty easy to see the large vultures flying overhead here, but some of the others are much more challenging and take considerable patience. The Luvuvhu River is a popular birdwatching spot, and there are local tour groups that take visitors on safaris to get the best views. Safaris also introduce tourists to the elephants, lions, rhinos, and other mammals that call the region home.
Cape May, New Jersey, USA
The town of Cape May is a popular vacation spot on the east coast of the U.S., and also just so happens to be a prime spot for birdwatchers. This is because many birds migrate through this area when they fly south for warmer winter weather. The best time to visit Cape May as a birdwatcher is in fall. Keep an eye out for a wide variety of songbirds, hawks, seabirds, and shorebirds when you visit.
Everglades National Park, Florida, USA
The Everglades have been threatened by development over the years but are still an excellent place for birders. This region became a national park in 1947, largely to protect its unique and vulnerable bird population. There are hundreds of species of birds that still call the Everglades home today. Some of the ones to keep an eye out for are the white-crowned pigeons, snail kites, and smooth-billed anis. Great blue herons are also common here. Plan your visit between the months of January and April for the best birding opportunities and get out to see them in the early morning at sunrise.
Grand Isle, Louisiana, USA
Much of Louisiana is swampland, and this creates a welcome habitat for many birds. Grand Isle is a birding hotspot because this is a migration route. Sadly, only 10 percent of forest habitats that once existed in this region still exist today. That’s why enthusiasts host a migratory bird celebration each April to raise awareness and have fun with tours, crafts, games, and prizes.
Pichincha Province, Ecuador
Ecuador is an amazing place for birdwatchers because there is so much diversity in the wildlife here. You’ll find more than 1,500 species of birds in Ecuador, including the iconic toucan. The best places to see toucans here is from boats because they live at the tops of trees and are difficult to see from the ground. You’ll also find parrots near the Amazon River. Pichincha Province is a great place to be if you want to observe birds in Ecuador. This is a pretty accessible reserve that has lodging nearby and lots of hummingbirds to see. Many visitors stay in Tena and go rafting on the river when they visit Ecuador for a birdwatching trip.
Mount Desert Island, Maine, USA
Famous for lighthouses and a rugged coastline, Mount Desert Island is a wonderful place for birdwatchers to visit in Maine. Mount Desert Island is part of the Acadia National Park and home to hundreds of bird species. Take a bike ride through the park to look for warblers, look along the coast for eiders, and along cliffs for peregrine falcons. The town of Bar Harbor is a fun home base to stay at when you explore this area. Spring and summer are the best times to visit if you want to see the songbirds, but seabirds and waterfowl are best viewed in winter.
Varirata National Park, Papua New Guinea
The isolated region of Papua New Guinea is known for being an ideal habitat for all types of creatures, including birds. There are dozens of species of birds of paradise here that have bright colors and impressive plumes. What’s interesting to see with these birds is their courtship displays, which often involve opening up the feathers like fans and dancing around. Although you can view birds from many parts of the country, one of the best places to be for birdwatchers is Varirata National Park. Nearby attractions to check out are the Laloki River Gorge, Hombrum Bluff Lookout, and the National Orchid Gardens. Some places in Papua New Guinea are still inaccessible, but there are some eco-lodges that you can stay at to be near the birds of paradise.
Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA
Point Reyes National Seashore spans around 70,000 acres and has a diverse bird population. Hundreds of species of birds live here, and the best time to see them is during the spring and fall migration periods. This natural area is just north of San Francisco so birds flock here for safety and protection. Some of the birds that you may see include the horned puffin, Connecticut Warbler, black-throated blue warbler, and the king eider. This is a great place to take the whole family to learn about birds because there are education programs hosted at the Palomarin Field Station at the southern end of the seashore.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA
Many places in New Mexico make you feel like you’re in the “middle of nowhere,” and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge aptly fits that description. It’s in central New Mexico in the desert and a well-known birding spot all throughout the year. Look for sandhill cranes and snow geese, and go for hikes in the Chupadera Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. To connect with other birdwatchers, check out the Festival of Cranes in November. Or to escape the crowds, visit any other time of the year at sunrise or sunset.
Rift Valley, Kenya
Another place in Africa that’s famous for birdwatching is the Rift Valley in Kenya. This is a place known for its wild flamingo population, and seeing them on the lake is a sight that should be on every birdwatcher’s bucket list. We’re talking about Lake Nakuru here, and the Lake Nakuru National Park is a great place to begin your birdwatching journey. The population of flamingos seems to be dropping by the year, so book your trip to Kenya as soon as possible for the best wildlife opportunities.