Birds come in all shapes, sizes and colours and are a joy to behold for many a nature enthusiast. In fact, the moment one steps out of the house, chances are that there is a bird, of some kind or the other, flying overhead, singing in a distant tree or simply hopping about on the ground looking for grub. For the avid birdwatcher there could be nothing more fascinating than observing these colourful creatures flying freely in their natural habitat.
The character of these winged wonders is so graceful, that watching them instantly instils a sense of peace and calmness in the mind of the individual. Observing birds and their unique behaviour provides a valuable tool to view the complexities of nature from an entirely different angle. To enrich your knowledge, try visiting any of these ten top avian hotspots around the world that have taken the twitchers by storm, for your next birding vacation.
From bowerbirds to Birds of Paradise, Papua New Guinea together with Western New Guinea are home to an astonishing 750+ different species of birds. This great variety, coupled with the large numbers available, make New Guinea one of the leading bird watching sites on the planet.
Each year during the month of January, one of the greatest bird migration takes place in Cape May, New Jersey. It may sound like an odd place to go look for birds, but those who have made it have been rewarded with snowy owls, peregrine falcons, winter gulls and thousands of waterfowl. During autumn one can spot the osprey, bald eagles and shorebirds in large numbers.
Boasting of nearly 650 bird species, Mexico is another sought after destination by birding enthusiasts. Places like Veracruz, Yucatan, Chiapas and Oaxaca have been known to throw many a surprise. Some of the notable varieties found in this country include loons, hummingbirds, parakeets and ancient tinamous and an assortment of bird species to be found in the nearby mountains.
With some splendid endemic species like the copper headed emerald, black cheeked ant Tanager, the grey tailed gem and the mangrove hummingbirds, Costa Rica is considered a leading birding destination. The unique geological formation which led to the making of the country has made it an ideal place for a wide range of birds spread across the length and breadth of the country. The protected national parks of Costa Rica hold a tenth of all the bird species to be found all over the world.
If you are not a birder before you have been to Ecuador, you soon will become one once you are there. Home to a staggering 1600 species, the two prime birding hotspots of Sangay National Park and the Galapagos Islands are among the top three places to watch some brilliant varieties of birds. At any given time, more than 750,000 seabirds have been seen at one time on these islands. The endemic rarities include the giant albatross, blue-footed Booby, Galapagos Petrel, flightless cormorant and the dark backed wood quail. The diverse terrain of swamps, mudflats and rainforest are ideal havens for a large number of native species.
With an estimated 420 species, including around 70 endemic ones, Colombia holds its own as a premier region to observe birds. Some of the most sought after varieties are the chestnut winged chachalaca, cauca Guan, blue knobbed curassow, gorgeted wood quail and the stunning indigo winged parrot. The best places to find these brilliant specimens are the Llanos, Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria and the Middle Magdalena Valley.
For the die-hard birder, the Panama canal area is a must-visit destination to see some of the 970 different species found here. It is here that millions of raptors can be seen during their annual mass migration. The country may be small in size, but holds more varieties than the USA and Canada combined. The rare ones found here are the brown-backed dove, stripe cheeked woodpecker and the escudo hummingbird. Keep a sharp lookout for the harpy eagle and the quetzal, which can be best found near the iconic Los Quetzales eco-resort. The Canopy Tower resort is the place from where birds can be seen at eye level at Soberania National Park.
Birders worldwide flock to Peru in an effort to see as many of the 1800 recorded numbers of birds as they can. Add to it the 135 endemic ones, and you can tick off lifers after lifers in no time at all. Like most parts of South and Central America, Peru is a country of great biodiversity. The country holds the world record of more species that can be found in a single place equalling to 650 numbers. These can be seen in the Tambopata jungle which surrounds the Explorers Inn. The biological station of Cocha Cashu, in Many, has a record count of 361 different species in one single day.
Surrounded by volcanoes and home to the scenic Lake Atitlan, Guatemala holds some gorgeous endemics like the little blue heron and the pheasant cuckoo to name a few. The ideal place to make base to see as many of the 700 species found here possible is undoubtedly Casa Palopo, from where most of the guided tours and boat trips take place. Treks leading to the hidden Mayan ruins in the jungle can throw up beauties like the endangered azure rumped Tanager as well as the Pink Headed warbler.
Also referred to as ‘Nature Island’, the country of Dominica is said to be the natural choice of birdwatchers from far and wide. The landscape comprises mainly of ancient forests, crisscrossed by a series of waterfalls and hundreds of rivers along a length of 160 km. Visiting birders hold a special place in their heart for the national bird of Dominica the rare and endangered Sisserou Parrot, said to be the oldest variety surviving parrots found in the Amazon.