7 of the World's Best Birdwatching Destinations
Find out about some of the world's best places to see birds, from South American cloud forests to sub-Antarctic islands.
1. Hummingbird Heaven
Bellavista cloud forest, Ecuador
Just 90 minutes’ drive from chaotic Quito, the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is a peaceful green oasis in the Andean foothills where the only sounds you’re likely to hear are the buzz of hummingbird wings (from jewelled beauties like this buff-tailed coronet) and the ratchet cry of rare plate-billed mountain toucans. Some 400 species of birds inhabit the cloud forest, while an ecolodge provides an excellent base from which to explore a network of trails.
2. Noddy Land
Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
A sliver of coral sand 89km off the Queensland coast, this forested gem is home to thousands of black noddies, wedge-tailed shearwaters (Oct-Apr) and reef herons. Check into the luxury Heron Island Resort for a few days of birding paradise.
3. Flamingo Free-for-all
Great Rift Valley, Kenya & Tanzania
Even a lone flamingo is a head-turner. Just imagine over a million of them strutting their stuff, flushing pink the soda lakes of Bogoria, Nakuru, Magadi and Natron. The hubbub is extraordinary, the smell unforgettable. Breeding occurs on Natron Oct-Dec.
4. Wetland Wonders
Everglades, Florida, USA
Roseate spoonbill, purple gallinule, osprey, black skimmer, short-tailed hawk and great white egret are just a few birdwatching highlights in this water-wonderland. The nearby Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a good spot for wood storks.
5. Macaws En masse
Manu & Tambopata, Peruvian Amazon
Stake out a clay lick (early morning is best) and you may be treated to a multicoloured melée of macaws as hundreds flock to the riverbank for their daily nibble of mineral salts. Scarlet, blue-and-yellow and red-and-green species are often seen.
6. Penguin Spectacular
Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands
Head south for huge colonies of emperor penguins on the Ross Ice Shelf (trekking back to sea Dec-Jan)and equally impressive gatherings of kings on South Georgia, Adélies on the Antarctic Peninsula and gentoos in the Falkland Islands.
7. Seabird cities
St Kilda, Orkney and Shetland Islands, Scotland
Nothing raises the spirits (or binoculars) more than a seacliff crammed with nesting guillemots, kittiwakes and gannets, with puffins adding to the avian extravaganza with their airborne sorties from clifftop nesting burrows. Catch the action Apr-Jun.