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Tropical Birding During Rainy or Dry Season Best? (1 Viewer)

BruceBerman

Well-known member
I can't seem to get a straight answer to this question, even from guides. In the tropics there's often a cooler rainy season and hotter dry season, plus two short transitional periods where the rains begin or end. My impression is that in the rainy season birds are more vocal but birding days can be (literally) a wash-out. But then, in tropical forests bird song could be the difference between a great day and a poor day. On the other hand, dry seasons can be birded early to mid-morning and late afternoon.

Which is the best time to bird, in your experience?

How about the transitional periods, are they best? If so, is it better as the rains begin or as they end? Thank you!
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I think the answer is somewhat site dependent (i.e. country, region specific). In some places rainy season means unrelenting heavy rain. In others it can mean a few hours of heavy rain, often in the afternoon at a more or less predictable hour. Can advise better if you specify...
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
I think the answer is somewhat site dependent (i.e. country, region specific). In some places rainy season means unrelenting heavy rain. In others it can mean a few hours of heavy rain, often in the afternoon at a more or less predictable hour. Can advise better if you specify...
Darn, I was hoping there was some sort of rule of thumb but your answer makes sense. I certainly wouldn't want to bird in India during the monsoons. We never made our trip to Ecuador due to Covid and then my wife recently had a foot operation. We are now looking at the western and central Andes region of Colombia for a short, 2 week trip where we'll find a guide and bird by car. Her foot still hasn't healed and she can't walk for more than an hour. The closest large city would be Cali. After we figure out when to travel there we will look for a guide.
 
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dixonlau

Well-known member
Malaysia
In my personal opinion based on my own experience, here in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, if after rain fall overnight, next morning usually you can expect some birds to come out to dry their feather but doesn't means more birds will show up. Instead, more birds will show up and expose themselve in open especially during fruiting seasons and mating/breeding seasons.

When the day gets hotter, smaller size birds will go under the trees, not in open. This gives you opportunity to see them if you are inside the forest. However, larger birds like eagle, raptor, they usually will take a flight in the sky during hot days. So you can expect to see such birds in-flight during those time of the day.

Cooler morning indeed does give you more opportunity to see more birds out in open.

I don't usually bird in afternoon, so can't comment on that.
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
In my personal opinion based on my own experience, here in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, if after rain fall overnight, next morning usually you can expect some birds to come out to dry their feather but doesn't means more birds will show up. Instead, more birds will show up and expose themselve in open especially during fruiting seasons and mating/breeding seasons.

When the day gets hotter, smaller size birds will go under the trees, not in open. This gives you opportunity to see them if you are inside the forest. However, larger birds like eagle, raptor, they usually will take a flight in the sky during hot days. So you can expect to see such birds in-flight during those time of the day.

Cooler morning indeed does give you more opportunity to see more birds out in open.

I don't usually bird in afternoon, so can't comment on that.
Thank you for your comment. We are hoping to visit Indonesia in 2023 and Borneo & Malaysia in 2024 or 2025.
 

dixonlau

Well-known member
Malaysia
Thank you for your comment. We are hoping to visit Indonesia in 2023 and Borneo & Malaysia in 2024 or 2025.
Remember to checkout migration season period too. You might encounter some unusual northern winter migrants during these periods, that would be bonus ;)

Not sure of Indonesia but here in Malaysia incl Sarawak and Sabah international order opened already. Brunei as of today still yet open its border.
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
Remember to checkout migration season period too. You might encounter some unusual northern winter migrants during these periods, that would be bonus ;)

Not sure of Indonesia but here in Malaysia incl Sarawak and Sabah international order opened already. Brunei as of today still yet open its border.
Thanks again! I appreciate the information.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
Darn, I was hoping there was some sort of rule of thumb but your answer makes sense. I certainly wouldn't want to bird in India during the monsoons. We never made our trip to Ecuador due to Covid and then my wife recently had a foot operation. We are now looking at the western and central Andes region of Colombia for a short, 2 week trip where we'll find a guide and bird by car. Her foot still hasn't healed and she can't walk for more than an hour. The closest large city would be Cali. After we figure out when to travel there we will look for a guide.
In much of Colombia the best time is around late Oct-early Dec, just before the wet. Check carefully as I've no experience of the North-West. Certainly don't go in (say) July as we did once. The birds are less visible and less attractive then...

As an example, though, note that the West Ecuadorean coastal forests have a reversed seasonality: the wet is in about July.
 

albatross02

Well-known member
I can't seem to get a straight answer to this question, even from guides. In the tropics there's often a cooler rainy season and hotter dry season, plus two short transitional periods where the rains begin or end. My impression is that in the rainy season birds are more vocal but birding days can be (literally) a wash-out. But then, in tropical forests bird song could be the difference between a great day and a poor day. On the other hand, dry seasons can be birded early to mid-morning and late afternoon.

Which is the best time to bird, in your experience?

How about the transitional periods, are they best? If so, is it better as the rains begin or as they end? Thank you!

Rain saison, check before messages of Dengue fever.

In migration time also tropics can be excellent.
E.g. wader migration in March in Laem Pak Bia/ Pak Thale in Thailand.
There also other migrants from Sibiria or Far East in Thailand.
E.g. Spoon billed Sandpiper.
 

albatross02

Well-known member
Remember to checkout migration season period too. You might encounter some unusual northern winter migrants during these periods, that would be bonus ;)

Not sure of Indonesia but here in Malaysia incl Sarawak and Sabah international order opened already. Brunei as of today still yet open its border.
Often bird sit after rain on electric cables.
 

dixonlau

Well-known member
Malaysia
Often bird sit after rain on electric cables.
Not really. It depend type of bird species and location too. Maybe location I often visits still have plenty of trees nearby. Only smaller size birds often will perch on cables to dry their feather. Larger birds like Crested Serpent Eagle do perch on cables but not to dry feather, it is on lookout for prey on the ground.

The most common bird (medium size) I often encountered that came out drying its feather is coucal. They can be seen not moving at roadside ground, low bushes, high up a tree.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
I've not visited Cali area but my understanding is that part of the western Andes close to the Pacific is very wet most of the year, so if you're visiting in what are supposed to be dry seasons it is still likely to rain.
Two things local birders said to me in Colombia may be relevant:
(1) Forest birding is better after it rains, activity levels are higher - I was commenting on the great weather one morning in the W. Andes above Jardin, and my guide told me not to get too excited when it was dry and sunny, as activity would be lower (it rained anyway later that day...);
(2) Avoid April - weather is (quote) 'horrible', i.e. very wet.

It's also true that planning for seasonal climate is never going to work 100%, and local weather is never that predictable, even before you factor in any climate change-related instability. The only place I had dry sunny weather all day in Colombia was in lowland Magdalena valley rainforest...

In terms of temperate seasons, I was really happy to visit towards the end of the Nearctic winter, but I guess coming from the States you're going to be less excited by the prospect of Blackburnian warblers and rose-breasted grosbeaks...in the Andes other factors might be more important to you, such as flowering periods of paramo plants for hummers. Obviously as @albatross02 said this is very different if you visit Asian tropics, when migratory Palearctic waders would be a major attraction.
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
I've not visited Cali area but my understanding is that part of the western Andes close to the Pacific is very wet most of the year, so if you're visiting in what are supposed to be dry seasons it is still likely to rain.
Two things local birders said to me in Colombia may be relevant:
(1) Forest birding is better after it rains, activity levels are higher - I was commenting on the great weather one morning in the W. Andes above Jardin, and my guide told me not to get too excited when it was dry and sunny, as activity would be lower (it rained anyway later that day...);
(2) Avoid April - weather is (quote) 'horrible', i.e. very wet.

It's also true that planning for seasonal climate is never going to work 100%, and local weather is never that predictable, even before you factor in any climate change-related instability. The only place I had dry sunny weather all day in Colombia was in lowland Magdalena valley rainforest...

In terms of temperate seasons, I was really happy to visit towards the end of the Nearctic winter, but I guess coming from the States you're going to be less excited by the prospect of Blackburnian warblers and rose-breasted grosbeaks...in the Andes other factors might be more important to you, such as flowering periods of paramo plants for hummers. Obviously as @albatross02 said this is very different if you visit Asian tropics, when migratory Palearctic waders would be a major attraction.
Good info, thanks! You are correct about the neotropical birds. When I'm traveling in the tropics of the western hemisphere I find them a distraction from the species I am targeting.
 

Mike Crawley

Emeritus President at Burnage Rugby Club
Supporter
England
I know nothing about this subject and I may be way off the mark here but…
If bird tour company X offers a trip to country Y, surely they plan to be there at the optimum time to see the best number of species available.

I imagine it might not be that straightforward and perhaps that’s why you can’t get a definitive answer from the relevant guides.
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
I know nothing about this subject and I may be way off the mark here but… If bird tour company X offers a trip to country Y, surely they plan to be there at the optimum time to see the best number of species available. I imagine it might not be that straightforward and perhaps that’s why you can’t get a definitive answer from the relevant guides.
It doesn't seem to be that cut and dry, Mike. In country Y you can find tour companies A, B and C arranging tours at different times of the year. They may avoid the absolute wettest or hottest months, but that could still leave 6 or 7 months when birding would be "acceptable" and the groups come in then. The companies don't all pile in at the same time though, and there could be other factors that contribute to their decisions, like the times of the year that people traditionally travel or when certain popular species can most easily be found. I retired after Covid hit so this is my big chance to travel to many top birding countries, most of which are in the tropics. The notion that the "best time to bird in country Y is when you can" doesn't apply to me. I'd rather plan my trips around the the best times to be those nations.

Because I don't intend to return to most of the countries I bird in (too many birds, not enough time :-D ) I'd like to maximize my experience by seeing as many species as I possibly can. I was hoping to get some good ideas, data to feed into my decision making process, as to general rules of thumb regarding when birds are easiest found taking the weather into consideration.
 
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BruceBerman

Well-known member
I've not visited Cali area but my understanding is that part of the western Andes close to the Pacific is very wet most of the year, so if you're visiting in what are supposed to be dry seasons it is still likely to rain.
Two things local birders said to me in Colombia may be relevant:
(1) Forest birding is better after it rains, activity levels are higher - I was commenting on the great weather one morning in the W. Andes above Jardin, and my guide told me not to get too excited when it was dry and sunny, as activity would be lower (it rained anyway later that day...);
(2) Avoid April - weather is (quote) 'horrible', i.e. very wet.

It's also true that planning for seasonal climate is never going to work 100%, and local weather is never that predictable, even before you factor in any climate change-related instability. The only place I had dry sunny weather all day in Colombia was in lowland Magdalena valley rainforest...

In terms of temperate seasons, I was really happy to visit towards the end of the Nearctic winter, but I guess coming from the States you're going to be less excited by the prospect of Blackburnian warblers and rose-breasted grosbeaks...in the Andes other factors might be more important to you, such as flowering periods of paramo plants for hummers. Obviously as @albatross02 said this is very different if you visit Asian tropics, when migratory Palearctic waders would be a major attraction.
Thanks Kb. You've provided some good info!
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
It doesn't seem to be that cut and dry, Mike. In country Y you can find tour companies A, B and C arranging tours at different times of the year. They may avoid the absolute wettest or hottest months, but that could still leave 6 or 7 months when birding would be "acceptable" and the groups come in then. The companies don't all pile in at the same time though, and there could be other factors that contribute to their decisions, like the times of the year that people traditionally travel or when certain popular species can most easily be found. I retired after Covid hit so this is my big chance to travel to many top birding countries, most of which are in the tropics. The notion that the "best time to bird in country Y is when you can" doesn't apply to me. I'd rather plan my trips around the the best times to be those nations.

Because I don't intend to return to most of the countries I bird in (too many birds, not enough time :-D ) I'd like to maximize my experience by seeing as many species as I possibly can. I was hoping to get some good ideas, data to feed into my decision making process, as to general rules of thumb regarding when birds are easiest found taking the weather into consideration.
Some tropical countries are large enough that you cannot expect to see everything in one go.

One thing about timing is also related to what your interests are. For example Galapagos, many specialties are there year round, but you will not find as many breeding seabirds at some times as on others. Are those seabirds important for you? that might determine when you want to visit.
Niels
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
Some tropical countries are large enough that you cannot expect to see everything in one go.

One thing about timing is also related to what your interests are. For example Galapagos, many specialties are there year round, but you will not find as many breeding seabirds at some times as on others. Are those seabirds important for you? that might determine when you want to visit.
Niels
How right you are! I figure there will always be plenty of birds that I miss when birding in a new country. There are nations I'll visit more than once: India, Australia and Colombia immediately come to mind. There are so many species to try to see, while I'm still in this world, that I generally don't target particular birds, although there are always a number of birds I hope to see wherever I travel. It's also great to bird during the mating season when birds look their best, but that's not always possible but I know what breeding plumage will have to offer. I don't yet understand what I should look for in terms of weather where there's a rainy season, a dry season and, supposedly, two transitional seasons in between.
 
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AveryBartels

Well-known member
I would strongly suggest avoiding the wet seasons in the Colombian Andes. Regardless of bird activity, landslides are numerous and frequently block roads for days, or even weeks at a time and you run a risk of losing birding time and/or not being able to visit some of the planned sites. I've spent around 2 years cumulative time in Colombia over ~10 trips and have had numerous setbacks due to landslides even in December (usually beginning of dry season). So, I would recommend any time from mid-Dec through March. Going a bit earlier in that period can help ensure that birds aren't taped out at the most-birded locations.

Alternately, if northern summer months works best for you, you could consider Huila department, such as the El Encanto Lodge/ San Agustin area, and Amazonian loawlands (San Jose del Guaviare, Leticia etc.) which apparently have their most pronounced dry season during July/August.
 

BruceBerman

Well-known member
I would strongly suggest avoiding the wet seasons in the Colombian Andes. Regardless of bird activity, landslides are numerous and frequently block roads for days, or even weeks at a time and you run a risk of losing birding time and/or not being able to visit some of the planned sites. I've spent around 2 years cumulative time in Colombia over ~10 trips and have had numerous setbacks due to landslides even in December (usually beginning of dry season). So, I would recommend any time from mid-Dec through March. Going a bit earlier in that period can help ensure that birds aren't taped out at the most-birded locations.

Alternately, if northern summer months works best for you, you could consider Huila department, such as the El Encanto Lodge/ San Agustin area, and Amazonian loawlands (San Jose del Guaviare, Leticia etc.) which apparently have their most pronounced dry season during July/August.
Thanks for this info, Avery! I'll look into these areas. We'll need a good road system in the area we bird as my wife can't walk more than an hour due to foot surgery.
 

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