There’s nothing better than getting in tune with nature by observing animals in their habitat. One of the ways one can do this is through bird watching. While it's not a necessarily active or adventurous thing to do while traveling, birding can be quite thrilling for any wildlife lover, especially when you see something unexpected.
There are different ways to observe birds in their natural habitat. For starters, you can watch them through the naked eye. You can also use a telescope or binoculars combined with your hearing to better identify what you’re observing. Some birds can only be heard and not seen, so knowing their call will help an observer tremendously at this hobby.
Amateurs are typically referred to as bird watchers, while more seasoned people are referred to as birders. Read on to learn more about birding tours.
Some of the most beautiful places in the world are an ideal place for bird watching. The most ideal spots are in the center of the migratory path of the birds. Going at a certain time of the year will ensure you see the most species of bird.
South Africa is an ideal destination for bird-watching trips, but also for those birders who love all kinds of wildlife. There is ample opportunity to see the 'Big Five' animals (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros), but also the 'Big Six' of birds, including the Hulking Southern-Ground Hornbills, Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Kori Bustard and Martial Eagle. The ideal time for visiting South Africa is October through March (summer) each year.
The United States
You don’t need to be in the middle of the grasslands or jungle to see birds. The United States is home to a plethora of bird species, many of whom migrate during the ideal bird-watching months of September through November. For example, Cape May, Massachusetts is perfect for bird-watching because the community has built infrastructures to support birds during their seasonal migration through the region.
In Australia, most bird watching sites are located near grasslands, wetlands, volcanic craters, and one of the oldest rainforests in the world. This variety makes it one of the best destinations to go bird watching. Daintree National Park is also nearby, which is another location phenomenal for bird watching; there, birders can expect to see the Orange-footed Scrubfowl and the Southern Cassowary. The ideal time to go on a bird watching tour in Australia is the summer months of October through April.
Planning Your Trip
Bird watching is an ideal activity for travelers, as it requires little equipment, little preparation, and a whole lot of patience. Once you've figured out the location and when you're going to go, grab your binoculars and guide book and get started!
What to Look For In a Tour
Bird watching tours will provide you with a knowledgeable guide who is well informed about the birds in the surrounding areas, their calls, and how to look for them. They will provide you with extensive knowledge of the birds and useful tips to make the most of your experience. When looking for a tour, be sure to consider if your guide is a local provider, or how many seasons they have been working in the region. This can be a good indication of their familiarity with species and the bird's unique behavior as they live and migrate through the destination.
Additionally, consider reading previous travelers reviews of tour operators you are considering. Though you can never be guaranteed to see the same birds or wildlife as part travelers have, you can get an indication for the chances of seeing a rare bird (has it been spotted even once by other travelers, or quite frequently?) or unique behavior.
Average Bird Watching Tour Length & Cost
Bird watching tours are somewhat varied: a small subset of tour operators provide birding specific tours, where you can spend anywhere from two to ten days focused solely on watching birds in their natural environment. Other tour operators might provide birding opportunities mixed in with other wildlife watching, such as a safari.
Similarly, bird watching tours range in price, from as low as roughly $1,500 to as high as $3,000 for 10+-day safaris which include bird watching activities.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
One of the primary things bird watchers bring on a trip is a journal. This is ideal for keeping track of the types of birds you see and the sounds you hear; you can use it later to try and identify unknown species you've seen. Similarly, binoculars are a great way to observe birds that are difficult to see with the naked eye. Before you buy binoculars, test them out to make sure they’re comfortable on your face and eyes. Also, make sure they have good and clear magnification so you’re able to see as clearly and as far as possible.
Guide books on specific birds and bird species will make it a lot easier for you to identify birds when you see them. You’ll even be able to impress all of your friends! And, not only will looking at pictures of birds help you to identify them, but so will listening to birdcalls. These can easily be found online.
Depending on where you go, you can download a bird watching guide specific to that park which will show you routes you can take that will guarantee you see the most birds. Make sure you bring your camera, too!
- Visas - Your visa requirements will depend on two things: your nationality and your destination. Most tour providers can provide assistance in ensuring you have the right visa to take a tour, so check with them before or immediately after booking a tour.
- Currency - In most cases, it is helpful to travel with a small amount of cash in the local currency. Again, your tour operator can provide you suggestions depending on the destination and cultural norms of your bird watching tour.
Qualifications & Training
One great thing about bird watching is that it doesn't necessarily require training or qualifications to do – anywhere in the world! All you need is an interest, patience, and a respect for the wildlife you're trying to observe.
With bird watching, as with other wildlife tours, you’re observing a species in their natural habitat. Don’t get too close to them or disturb them, and make sure to be respectful of the surrounding nature. Some birds may be more vicious than others, so make sure you keep your distance and observe them as if you’re not actually there.
Make sure to stay quiet so you do not disrupt the birds in their habitat and so you can hear them. Some birds have very quiet calls; so staying quiet will ensure your ability to identify them.
Lastly, don’t litter and keep trash in a bag to throw away later on.
An often overlooked safety tip for bird watching: stay hydrated and be sure to use sunscreen or a hat to protect your skin. You will be outside in the heat (or cold!) all day long, so make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. Wear comfortable walking shoes to make the activity as pleasurable as possible.