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Top Birding Destinations on Earth (1 Viewer)

lammergeier05

Daniele Mitchell
Fellow North American here: areas that I have visited that fit your criteria: Colombia (central Andes between Bogotá and Medellin), Ecuador (both slopes from Quito + Sacha), NW Argentina and Iguazu/Íbera, Thailand, India (Kerala and Andamans), Australia (eastern seaboard and west into the outback from Cairns), Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Yucatan and Nayarit/Jalisco), Spain, Costa Rica; also visited NZ, Taiwan, Cuba and Puerto Rico....this collectively has brought me to ~3500

Where I would round out: Malaysia (my 2020 cancelled destination), Brazil (esp Atlantic Forest), Peru, Argentina (southern half), South Africa, East Africa (Uganda/Kenya?), Ghana, India (Himalayas), Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Fellow North American here: areas that I have visited that fit your criteria: Colombia (central Andes between Bogotá and Medellin), Ecuador (both slopes from Quito + Sacha), NW Argentina and Iguazu/Íbera, Thailand, India (Kerala and Andamans), Australia (eastern seaboard and west into the outback from Cairns), Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Yucatan and Nayarit/Jalisco), Spain, Costa Rica; also visited NZ, Taiwan, Cuba and Puerto Rico....this collectively has brought me to ~3500

Where I would round out: Malaysia (my 2020 cancelled destination), Brazil (esp Atlantic Forest), Peru, Argentina (southern half), South Africa, East Africa (Uganda/Kenya?), Ghana, India (Himalayas), Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia
I've asked around other North American birders and they gave a similar opinion to you, especially recommending Southeast Arizona as the one other place to see in the US, with Spain, Ecuador, Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, India and Australia to be the main places to look out for, and to pad out Africa with Ghana, Ethiopia and/or Uganda.

Still, great to know what countries have that extra appeal to a birder from North America as opposed to other regions.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Thx for all the tips for me specifically on Page 3 of the thread, just picking up on them...........Oman, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Morocco are places I have not been to and all could be possibilities when this damn covid issue is addressed.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I am still a bit confused about Colombia. Some people claim how safe it is, most governments put the longest travel advisories from the whole continent for it. Maps can be found with "dangerous" areas, sometimes slightly contradictory. If it were a country that could be freely explored, it would be fantastic, but as it is, Colombia looks more like a minesweeper game of dangers. It's probably fine for people who like to plan an itinerary and stay in lodges with tour companies, but how safe is it actually for real independent travel?


Edit: on an unrelated note - is Calilegua actually a known birding destination? I was there in August 2012 and it was empty and felt like we just discovered the most hidden gem of the country. Was it just out of season, or do I have to put "known destination" into a proper Argentinean frame of reference? :)
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Also interesseting sounds Yunnan in China because 770 different kind of birds and high number of endemics ( almost 40 ).

China has the specific drawback that a foreigner on a holiday can't drive a car there (you must have a local license). I have never been in China, but a friend of mine lived there for a year and he told me that travel off the beaten path independently is pretty difficult unless you speak at least basic Chinese, because outside of main tourist destination, English is not widely spoken and everything has a confusing system to it. Accessing the nature was also quite hard (even for him, a guy who grew up, the same as myself, just hiking wherever there was a path and wild camping around Europe) - he usually met either concrete paths with stairs and giftshops or impenetrable thickets. So that's something to consider.
 

Larry Sweetland

Formerly 'Larry Wheatland'
Edit: on an unrelated note - is Calilegua actually a known birding destination? I was there in August 2012 and it was empty and felt like we just discovered the most hidden gem of the country. Was it just out of season, or do I have to put "known destination" into a proper Argentinean frame of reference? :)
It was certainly known about 20 years ago when I went there. I got there on the bus, and camped for a few nights, and met a car load of Brit birders, and another birding couple who lived in Saudi Arabia. Awesome birding site.
 

fbeeldens

Well-known member
I am still a bit confused about Colombia. Some people claim how safe it is, most governments put the longest travel advisories from the whole continent for it. Maps can be found with "dangerous" areas, sometimes slightly contradictory. If it were a country that could be freely explored, it would be fantastic, but as it is, Colombia looks more like a minesweeper game of dangers. It's probably fine for people who like to plan an itinerary and stay in lodges with tour companies, but how safe is it actually for real independent travel?


Edit: on an unrelated note - is Calilegua actually a known birding destination? I was there in August 2012 and it was empty and felt like we just discovered the most hidden gem of the country. Was it just out of season, or do I have to put "known destination" into a proper Argentinean frame of reference? :)
I've been 4 times now, but with the logistics handled by locals. Judging by the ever rising number of backpackers encountered everywhere and the areas that have become travel-able and bird-able over the last 8 years I think it's doable as long as you're aware (and stay away from) the few areas which are still dicey (part of the center/north east near Venezuela for example) and take care in big cities (much like everywhere in south america, or anywhere really). I certainly felt safer in Colombia than in Brazil.

As for Calilegua. Was there 4 years ago and we had a great time there, but we were the only three birders there for our entire stay.
 

Dave B Smith

Well-known member
I'd agree with others about adding Japan in winter (on my list to visit) and Colombia (was there birding last year).
And while several have mentioned China, I'd suggest Bhutan in winter. Definitely need an organized trip. This has been our most memorable trip ever. Birds are great, people are friendly, and the scenery and culture are incredible. Yes, it is a bit pricey. Other suggestion is Antarctica. Really pricey but spectacular.
For Asia we're hoping to get to Malaysia and Borneo in the future (post Covid).
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
I'd agree with others about adding Japan in winter (on my list to visit) and Colombia (was there birding last year).
And while several have mentioned China, I'd suggest Bhutan in winter. Definitely need an organized trip. This has been our most memorable trip ever. Birds are great, people are friendly, and the scenery and culture are incredible. Yes, it is a bit pricey. Other suggestion is Antarctica. Really pricey but spectacular.
For Asia we're hoping to get to Malaysia and Borneo in the future (post Covid).
Bhutan has recently been made more and more popular by birding agencies like a good alternative to Himalayan birding and I definitely would love to check it out someday, especially if combined with the iconic birding and wildlife viewing in the lowlands of India at Kaziranga National Park. But like you mentioned, the steep price makes it a bit worrisome especially when you compare to say India where a 2-3 week trip in Bhutan is the same as 2 or maybe 3 budget trips around India spanning multiple weeks.
 

lammergeier05

Daniele Mitchell
I am still a bit confused about Colombia. Some people claim how safe it is, most governments put the longest travel advisories from the whole continent for it. Maps can be found with "dangerous" areas, sometimes slightly contradictory. If it were a country that could be freely explored, it would be fantastic, but as it is, Colombia looks more like a minesweeper game of dangers. It's probably fine for people who like to plan an itinerary and stay in lodges with tour companies, but how safe is it actually for real independent travel?


Edit: on an unrelated note - is Calilegua actually a known birding destination? I was there in August 2012 and it was empty and felt like we just discovered the most hidden gem of the country. Was it just out of season, or do I have to put "known destination" into a proper Argentinean frame of reference? :)
I visited Colombia purely independently for three weeks in Dec 2019. I only stayed a third of the time in ecolodges - spending several nights in small town hotels. In fact many of the endemic hotspots don’t have any infrastructure marketed to foreign tourists at all. During this time I only met a few truly independent birders but there were quite a few local tour guides leading couples or individual birders - hopefully this infrastructure will continue to exist and build post Covid.

I hardly speak any Spanish and generally have condensed time schedules so I always rent a car but I know several people via trip reports and email communication who navigated the country by bus and only stayed in towns not lodges. Very affordable and feasible to get to even remote villages by colectivo.

My characterization is the country is that it is significantly more safe than its reputation, but of course there are dangerous sectors, particularly certain neighborhoods of major city and entire States which have lower security (particularly in the south and near the Venezuelan border).

If you stick to the known birding sites in the Medellin-Bogotá region and around Santa Marta these have an established track record of adequate safety. Of course things can change, particularly now with the pandemic and it is best to remain vigilant and take precautions such as not travelling at night and watching where you park.

I also visited Argentina in 2016 and would highly recommend the NW corridor between Jujuy and Tucumán including Calilegua for an outstanding complement to the NW Andes in terms of species. Having already visited Ecuador (and seeing 630 species, I saw 500 species/350 lifers on this trip.
Very easily done independently and plenty of charismatic species such as Burrowing Parakeet and Rheas. If you’re flying through Buenos Aires you can combine it with Iguazu (which offers a taste of the Atlantic rainforest) and Ibera (one of world’s great wetlands).
 

DMW

Well-known member
Bhutan has recently been made more and more popular by birding agencies like a good alternative to Himalayan birding and I definitely would love to check it out someday, especially if combined with the iconic birding and wildlife viewing in the lowlands of India at Kaziranga National Park. But like you mentioned, the steep price makes it a bit worrisome especially when you compare to say India where a 2-3 week trip in Bhutan is the same as 2 or maybe 3 budget trips around India spanning multiple weeks.
Bhutan had a brief period of semi-popularity before Arunachal Pradesh opened up to tourists, when it was virtually the only easily accessible option for a number of iconic eastern Himalayan species, but Eagle Nest, Mayodia and Mishmi Hills have pretty much eaten Bhutan's lunch from a purely birding perspective. This is a shame, as it's an absolutely enthralling country, with spectacular scenery, fascinating culture, and wonderfully intact forests. It's not outrageously expensive compared to an organised birding tour to NE India - the minimum daily cost ($200 / $250) is probably about what you would pay for a commercial tour in NE India. Obviously far, far more than a DIY budget India or Nepal trip, though.

Manas is a nice alternative to Kaziranga, and gets far less attention than it deserves. It doesn't have the same mammal populations, due to poaching during the Maoist insurgency, but you will probably have the place to yourself, the grassland and forest birding is absolutely spectacular, and there aren't the entry restrictions of Kaziranga. And you can sneak into Bhutan for free!
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Bhutan had a brief period of semi-popularity before Arunachal Pradesh opened up to tourists, when it was virtually the only easily accessible option for a number of iconic eastern Himalayan species, but Eagle Nest, Mayodia and Mishmi Hills have pretty much eaten Bhutan's lunch from a purely birding perspective. This is a shame, as it's an absolutely enthralling country, with spectacular scenery, fascinating culture, and wonderfully intact forests. It's not outrageously expensive compared to an organised birding tour to NE India - the minimum daily cost ($200 / $250) is probably about what you would pay for a commercial tour in NE India. Obviously far, far more than a DIY budget India or Nepal trip, though.

Manas is a nice alternative to Kaziranga, and gets far less attention than it deserves. It doesn't have the same mammal populations, due to poaching during the Maoist insurgency, but you will probably have the place to yourself, the grassland and forest birding is absolutely spectacular, and there aren't the entry restrictions of Kaziranga. And you can sneak into Bhutan for free!
This sounds pretty basic, but birding wise Bhutan appealed to me for the Himalayan specialties sure, but also for chances of seeing hornbills and cranes which are among my favorite bird groups (although I haven't been blessed yet to see the former in the wild, I have seen toucans but they don't compare in my eyes)
 

DMW

Well-known member
This sounds pretty basic, but birding wise Bhutan appealed to me for the Himalayan specialties sure, but also for chances of seeing hornbills and cranes which are among my favorite bird groups (although I haven't been blessed yet to see the former in the wild, I have seen toucans but they don't compare in my eyes)
Unless you specifically want to see Rufous-necked Hornbill and Black-necked Crane, both of which can be seen elsewhere, there are much easier and cheaper places to see both families! The Kinabatangan River in Sabah, for example, is a really good place for hornbills (4 or 5 species in a day isn't difficult). Japan in winter is probably the ultimate crane trip, although rivalled by Poyang Lake in SE China.
 

John Boy

Member
I think if you are only going for two weeks, you need to consider that it's much easier to see a good proportion of the birds in some countries than it is in others. Some countries/areas may have a huge mouthwatering list of birds, but unless you are intending to go with a professional guide, or are a very experienced world birder that's done an a lot of site research, you may miss a lot of the birds you hope to see. This is especially true in areas that mostly involve forest birding, where many of the species occur at low densities. You mentioned eg Borneo's hundreds of species, but just you try finding them in two weeks! In other places, eg South Africa and Australia, the majority of the birds just throw themselves at you. Wherever you go for two weeks is great, but it is worth considering that.
You have helped made my minds up, I have always wanted to go to Costa Rica, as long I have been a keen birder since 1987. I am planning to go within two years, depending during this pandemic. So I am going bite the bullet and decided to on with a group on a guided tour trip. 😃👍🏻
 
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lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
You have helped made my minds up, I have always wanted to go to Costa Rica, as long I have been a keen birder since 1987. I am planning to go within two years, depending during this pandemic. So I am going bite the bullet and decided to on with a group on a guided tour trip. 😃👍🏻
Hi John,

Have you decided if you want to use a local or an international tour agency? If you're looking local, I think a guide like Patrick O'Donnell would be great since they might offer you the same price cost as an international company but unlike in those large groups, they would focus on you (and whoever you choose to travel with). If you choose to do it with an international company, I'd recommend Rockjumper Birding, haven't had the pleasure of birding with them yet, but I've met people who have and they guarantee to be the best worldwide company for birding if you want options to pick from. Whether it is a budget trip with a local guide in more budget friendly accommodations or a top quality trip with one of their own guides, even their Costa Rica page gives you enough trip options to see the best of the country all the way to the megas of the region that not all are easy to find normally.
 

John Boy

Member
Hi John,

Have you decided if you want to use a local or an international tour agency? If you're looking local, I think a guide like Patrick O'Donnell would be great since they might offer you the same price cost as an international company but unlike in those large groups, they would focus on you (and whoever you choose to travel with). If you choose to do it with an international company, I'd recommend Rockjumper Birding, haven't had the pleasure of birding with them yet, but I've met people who have and they guarantee to be the best worldwide company for birding if you want options to pick from. Whether it is a budget trip with a local guide in more budget friendly accommodations or a top quality trip with one of their own guides, even their Costa Rica page gives you enough trip options to see the best of the country all the way to the megas of the region that not all are easy to find normally.
Hiya, Thanks for your message, I have decided to go with my local tour agency, Naturetrek. 😉👍🏻
 

woodrip

Member
China has the specific drawback that a foreigner on a holiday can't drive a car there (you must have a local license). I have never been in China, but a friend of mine lived there for a year and he told me that travel off the beaten path independently is pretty difficult unless you speak at least basic Chinese, because outside of main tourist destination, English is not widely spoken and everything has a confusing system to it. Accessing the nature was also quite hard (even for him, a guy who grew up, the same as myself, just hiking wherever there was a path and wild camping around Europe) - he usually met either concrete paths with stairs and giftshops or impenetrable thickets. So that's something to consider.

Hi, Jan, I just wanted to correct the assumption that travelling throughout China in search of birds presents a problem for non Chinese speaking westerners. I have travelled the length and breadth of China and to places as remote as the Qinghai mountains for Sillem's mountain finch all independently and without a word of Chinese. Whilst hitchhiking e.g up Balangshan is so easy, hiring a taxi for £40 the whole day,can often speed things up. The High speed trains and cheap flights mean moving any distance is possible and economical. Accommodation food and transport are really cheap, I would recommend anyone to give it a try.
 

woodrip

Member
China has the specific drawback that a foreigner on a holiday can't drive a car there (you must have a local license). I have never been in China, but a friend of mine lived there for a year and he told me that travel off the beaten path independently is pretty difficult unless you speak at least basic Chinese, because outside of main tourist destination, English is not widely spoken and everything has a confusing system to it. Accessing the nature was also quite hard (even for him, a guy who grew up, the same as myself, just hiking wherever there was a path and wild camping around Europe) - he usually met either concrete paths with stairs and giftshops or impenetrable thickets. So that's something to consider.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Hi, Jan, I just wanted to correct the assumption that travelling throughout China in search of birds presents a problem for non Chinese speaking westerners. I have travelled the length and breadth of China and to places as remote as the Qinghai mountains for Sillem's mountain finch all independently and without a word of Chinese. Whilst hitchhiking e.g up Balangshan is so easy, hiring a taxi for £40 the whole day,can often speed things up. The High speed trains and cheap flights mean moving any distance is possible and economical. Accommodation food and transport are really cheap, I would recommend anyone to give it a try.
China is a beautiful country for sure, but Western bias towards the country (even before Covid) and the lack of proper field guides (at least ones in English) and well known birding paths that don't require a lot of local knowledge and time is probably why it's not higher on the list.

Best comparison I can give is that China is as big and as biodiverse as the US, Brazil or even India, but unlike those countries that have established infrastructures and cheap options (whether with local guides or with a bit of planning on your own), China has mostly just kept to itself and it hasn't really shown off to the international market. I'm not saying that there aren't birding groups and societies in China that have trail systems and go to hotspots all around the country like the Jocotoco Foundation does in Ecuador or how the Colombian government does for Colombia, but I do think that the Western birder is missing out on that knowledge because of a language barrier combined with the fact that the only tours of the country go for itinerary of over 2 weeks and costs thousands of dollars.

Best countries I could compare it to might be Guyana or Bolivia, these countries are late to the ecotourism market and is nearly impossible to visit them without local knowledge, as a result, people avoid them unless a big name tour company is hosting a crazy expensive trip or someone decides to bite the bullet and test their luck by contacting a local guide since going on your own, simply isn't an option unless you have everything fully planned like a normal tour itinerary.
 

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