Bird watching vacations are offered by many tour companies. But you don't want a second-rate tour, so below we've listed some of the more reputable companies that specialize in bird watching tours.
All of the companies below offer tours worldwide including, but not limited to, North America, Mexico and the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
What if I'm just a beginner birdwatcher? No problem. Most bird watching vacations offer a range in participant skill, from complete novice to the highly-skilled tour veteran. When I worked as an ornithology instructor for Audubon, I loved to have an enthusiastic beginner in my group over an expert who was bored unless he/she saw a new species to add to his/her list.
Wings Birding Tours
Wings has been around since 1980 and their tours "...are planned as ones that we ourselves would like to go on, so they are very strongly oriented toward birds."
Group size for the tours ranges from four to 16 people plus the leader(s).
They also own the British bird tour organization, Sunbird, where all United Kingdom tours are operated.
They have a wonderful page of information about Choosing A Bird Tour, where they address common questions and concerns about choosing and going on a birding tour.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours
They definitely have the experience - have been in business over 25 years, and will take care of you:
"When you call the VENT office you are dealing with a staff which has over 80 years of combined experience with travel and tour operation. You can feel confident that your questions and requests will be handled by the best in the business."
VENT has an impressive list of tour leaders as well as a wide variety of tours (140 tours to over 100 destinations), including bird watching cruises.
Birdquest Bird Watching
Bird Quest's philosophy, "Birdquest tours are exciting, friendly, small-group birding holidays designed and guided by a team of leaders and office staff whose professionalism, experience and knowledge are unsurpassed..."
You can look at their trip reports online and they claim to have shown their participants more species of birds than any other bird tour company in the world.
Birdfinders has been around for 15 years, "...offering worldwide birding tours for birders by birders."
They have a price comparison chart of their tour cost vs. other tour companies, emphasizing value without loss of quality.
Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders.
Costa Rica Birding Tours
Specializing in Costa Rica Birding, 10 years experience, group tours and customized trips available.
Journeys, Monterey (831) 637-8527
Been running tours out of Monterey Fishing Wharf since 1976, also trips out of Santa Cruz, Sausalito, Bodega Bay, and Fort Bragg.
Washington (360) 733-8255
Since 1966, tours to Grays Canyon, a submarine canyon which lies 35 nautical miles due west from the mouth of Grays Harbor, on the edge of the North American continental shelf. Lots of cool birds to see, including Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed, Short-tailed, and Buller's Shearwaters.
Maine Puffin Tours,
New Harbor, Maine 1 (800) 2-PUFFINS
Not just puffins. Along the way see Arctic and Common Terns, Black Guillemots, Common Eiders, and many other seabirds.
Planning your own bird watching vacation certainly has its advantages over a pre-planned tour. First, you can save a lot of money and second, you are in control of what you do and when you do it. Sure, it's going to take more time and effort, but you will be rewarded in the end.
Entries give clear directions to major sites along with notes on the birds you're likely to find there, the best seasons and time of day to see them, frequent sidebars on subjects of particular interest, and much more.
It might seem obvious, but make a list of bird watching equipment and supplies you wish to take on your trip: binoculars, scopes, bird field guides, camera, birding apps, field journal, bird checklists, etc..
Some birders also like to take along a Handheld GPS. This can help with finding birding locations (nowadays, birding books often give gps coordinates for directions) and your way around unfamiliar areas, in general. You can also mark your favorite birding coordinates to remember for your next visit and share them with fellow birders. Birders often share favorite spots online and you can enter them into your GPS as waypoints.
To help with your plans, here are a couple of well-reviewed bird watching vacation books:
I found this website where you can contact fellow birders all around the world. You contact a local birdingpal where you will be vacationing or touring and see if they can meet up with you one day to take you to all the best bird watching spots in their location.
The BirdsEye App includes a map of 25,000 birding hotspots, over 1 million bird observations each month reviewed by local birding experts so wherever you take your birding vacation, you have the best bird watching locations at your fingertips, including recent daily observations. There are a lot of other features as well. View all birding apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android.
Go to your destination's travel bureau site which usually has information about outdoor activities, including birding. For example, I went to Utah's state travel website and found an entire section devoted to bird watching. They give descriptions to popular birding hotspots in the state and what birds you are likely to see there.
After deciding where you want to go, make a detailed daily itinerary just like a birding tour company would do. This way you can see what you'll need every day as far as directions and maps, what bird books and/or checklists you need and you can research local favorites for birding spots, restaurants, lodging, etc..
We wish you safe travels and birding bliss on your next bird watching vacation. Be sure to come back and tell us all about it!Photo of Scarlet Ibis by David Berkowitz used under this CC license.
We'll be adding more bird watching tours as we find them. Hope you have a great bird watching trip, be sure to tell us all about it!
Bird Watching Binoculars, Squirrel-Proof Feeder & Hummingbird Feeder
Read Our Reviews:
Nikon Monarch 5
Best mid-priced bird watching binoculars. Waterproof, shockproof, multi-coated ED-Glass.
No batteries, adjustable, easy to clean...and no squirrels!
"Best New Product" Award.
Bird Bath Heater
Keeps your bird baths ice-free down to -20 F. Low-operating costs ~$1/mo
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