The number of great birding locations both in the U.S. and abroad can be overwhelming. From time to time we will be adding new destinations based on the experience of our staff and reports from others.
In most cases, the locations and companies listed here will be a specific lodge, park etc. Visit the Tour Companies page to find a list of tour companies offering services in a specific location or on a national or international basis.
The Texas Rio Grande Valley is always a great place to visit. In the past couple of weeks hundreds of birders had headed to the Valley (far south Texas) to see the Bare-throated Tiger Heron and Amazon Kingfisher, both first U.S. records. Other early February reports included Hook-billed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Rose-throated Becard, Brown Jay and Crimson-collared Grosbeak!
The Texas Valley is home to the World Birding Center, which actually consists of multiple locations. In addition to the rarities, birders can feast their eyes on such species as Green Jays and Altamira Orioles.
Stay warm by heading to sunny southern California. A good way to see lots of birds with local experts is to attend the San Diego Birding Festival. The event runs from March 4 to 7. Over 250 different species were recorded at least year’s event. The birding, weather and scenery are all great this time of year. Bill Thompson, editor of Birdwatcher’s Digest, will be the keynote speaker.
Its time to head back to the Texas Coast for spring migration. The upper Texas coast is recovering nicely from the devastation of Hurricane Ike and the birding is sure to be great. Arrive between April 8 and 11 to participate in the Galveston FeatherFest. Field trips to such famous locations as west Galveston Island, Bolivar Flats and High Island will yield some great birds.
If you are flying into Houston and renting a car, check out the Texas City Dike on the way to Galveston.
OK, its time to head north and enjoy nesting species. A new birding festival this year is the modestly named “The Biggest Week in American Birding.’ Located in northwest Ohio, the event will feature field trips to Kelleys Island, Ohio and the world famous Point Pelee National Park, Ontario Canada. Evening highlights will include presentations by Kenn Kaufman.
This really BIG event runs from Thursday, May 6, 2010 through Sunday, May 16, 2010. If you make the trip, you’re sure to see loads of warblers as well as other migrant and nesting species.
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What is America’s Byways® ?
America’s Byways® is the umbrella term we use for the collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. America’s Byways include the National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads.
Ready to roll? Here our some of our favorite locations… on a month-by-month basis.
The Byways web site and map has information on each Byway that typically includes:
- A short overview of the Scenic or All-american Road.
- Local information
- Photographs of the area
The Byways guide travelers through scenic and often historic and cultural interest as well as unmatched scenery, and some great birding locations.
America’s Byways® program was established in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
America’s Byways® is a national program that recognizes and promotes America’s most scenic and culturally significant roadways. The program was established in 1991 by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to provide a framework for preserving and protecting America’s most treasured roads.
The America’s Byways® program identifies and designates roads that offer outstanding opportunities for scenic, cultural, recreational, and historic experiences. The program currently recognizes 184 distinct routes in 48 states, each with its unique characteristics and attractions. These routes range from historic highways and scenic coastal drives to breathtaking mountain passes and remote desert landscapes.
The America’s Byways® program is more than just a list of scenic roads; it’s a network of communities, organizations, and individuals working together to preserve and promote the natural and cultural heritage of America. Through the program, visitors can explore the country’s diverse landscapes, learn about its history and culture, and support local economies and communities.
In addition to promoting America’s Byways® through its website and social media channels, the program also offers grants and technical assistance to communities and organizations working to preserve and promote designated routes. These efforts help ensure that America’s most scenic and culturally significant roadways remain accessible and enjoyable for generations to come.
Corpus Christi, TX – the Birdiest City in America
Over the years there have been numerous birding competitions to determine the Birdiest City in America, and the Birdiest County in America. Winners are based on the number of species reported within a 48 period.
Corpus Christi is a perennial winner of the Birdiest City prize, sometimes reporting over 240 species in a single 48 period – inside the city limits!
Located on the Texas coast, the city provides a mix of coastal and inland habitats, is on the migration path of many species and is located in a zone that mixes both eastern and western species. Corpus is about 220 miles south of Houston.
When to Go
Good birding can be had any time of the year. Summer months can be slow but some of the coastal species are present year around.
Spring migration is good to great from April to early May, with some migrants arriving in March. Nesting for some species starts early in Corpus and further south.
Late Summer and fall
Perhaps the biggest draw in the late summer and fall are migrating raptors. The Corpus Christi hawk watch is held at Hazel Bazemore County Park, from August 14 until November 15. An estimated 90-95% of all Broad-winged Hawks migrate through the area. Single kettles of 10,000 birds or more are common and counts of over 100,000 raptors a day are not unusual. In 1997, an estimated 750,000 Broad-winged Hawks roosted in the area. (Count the wings and divide by two).
Winter brings lots of waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. More and more hummingbirds seem to be wintering along the Texas coast. With the relatively mild coastal environment, Corpus is a great location for winter birding.
There is an outstanding mix of birds in the area. Spring migration can be great for warblers, tanagers, orioles and other colorful species. In the fall, thousands of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds move into the area as they prepare for their journey across the Gulf of Mexico. The Rockport/Fulton Hummingbird Festival is held in mid-September, about an hour up the coast from Corpus. Winter visitors include a range of shorebirds, from the Least Sandpiper to the Long-billed Curlew.
Several tropical species, such as the Green Jay and Great Kiskadee are close to the northern limit of their range and can be found in the area.
White-tailed Hawk – Photo © Greg Lavaty
Where to go
If you are new to the area then a great place to start gathering information on birding locations is to get a copy of the map – The Great Texas Birding Trail – Central Texas Coast. The colorful map provides directions and information on birding locations around the Corpus Christie area and along Padre Island up to Port Aransas.
The maps can be purchased on-line for ~$5.00. If you are driving into the state on one of the major highways, the maps are usually available for free at the state visitor centers.
Blucher Park, in the heart of the city, is a good place to start, The Great Texas Birding Trail map will show you many others. And don’t forget Hazel Bazemore County Park.
One of our favorite birding loops starts by taking Highway 358 across the bay and onto Padre Island. Birding can be good on either side of the highway before and after you cross over to the island. Almost immediately after reaching the island turn left into Packery Channel Park. The birding in the park and the surrounding neighborhood can be excellent during spring migration.
Once on the island, head north on Hwy 361. Birding opportunities are found on both sides of the road. You’ll be headed to the Port Aransas ferry. Before reaching the ferry you’ll find good birding on the left.
Look for Cut-Off Road before reaching the ferry and follow the signs to both the Leona Belle Turnbull Birding Center and Paradise Pond. Paradise Pond can be great for migrating warblers. The Birding Center has a long boardwalk – look for waterfowl (Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal), grebes (Least included), heron and egrets, cormorants, shorebirds (such as Black-necked Stilt) and Roseate Spoonbills. An excellent birding location in the winter months. Land birds can often be observed in the area leading up to the boardwalk.
Cross over the ferry and had back to Corpus or up the coast to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge- the winter home of the Whooping Crane. (about a 90 minute drive from Corpus)
When back in Corpus, you can head inland to Lake Corpus Christi, where you will have an opportunity to find several western species. In the spring, watch for Cave Swallows nesting under the bridges as you head toward the lake.
Where to stay
There are many hotels in the area with a range of prices. If you want to work in a family vacation, the Omni Hotel (two different towers) is located across from the beach and near the downtown area. Blucher Park, mentioned above, is not far away. Dining is available across the street on the water. The view is nice but the service and food quality was poor during my last couple of visits.
Birding can be fair on the beach across from the Omni. Dine at a restaurant atop one of the Omni Towers (where the food is good) and you might get to watch a Peregrine Falcon chasing Rock Pigeons.
Nearby, the USS Lexington, a retired aircraft carrier is available for public tours. The Texas State Aquarium is not too far away and is another popular family destination.
Panama Birding Destinations – Canopy Tower
If you have not birdied Panama yet, you’ll want to put it on your bucket list. And if Panama is your first experience in tropical birding prepare to be amazed.
At just under half the size of the state of Oklahoma, Panama is home to am amazing diversity of bird, insect, animal and plant life. Approximately 40% of the country is considered to be “jungle” habitat. Almost 1000 species of birds have been recorded in the country. A list of recorded species can be found on Wikipedia.
Despite the relatively small size of the country and the abundance of birds, birding can be a challenge if you do not know when and where to go. Many species are often found high in the canopy while others skulk secretly in the dark undergrowth. If you do visit the area we recommend that you have a quality pair of binoculars that is waterproof and with excellent light-gathering ability.
One of the very best ways to see the birds of Panama in a variety of habitats is to make contact with the Canopy Family of birding locations. First made famous by the Canopy Tower, the Canopy group now offers several locations with different levels of accommodations and different habitats.
Male Blue Dacnis. Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
The Canopy Family has two award-winning birding lodges. The Canopy Tower, not far from Panama City in Soberanía National Park, and the Canopy Lodge, in the hills of El Valle de Antón. Both offer world-class, unique birding and natural history experiences. Local friendly, and knowledgeable bilingual guides are available at both locations.
The Canopy Tower features rooms and an observation deck mere feet from the canopy of the rainforest, virtually at eye-level with such avian treats as toucans, tanagers, honeycreepers and hawks. Birders are also treated to amazing looks at two- and three-toed sloths and Geoffroy’s Tamarins and Mantled Howlers, two monkey species otherwise nearly impossible to see without a view from the tower. From the Canopy Tower you can visit the legendary Pipeline Road, arguably the best birding location in Mesoamerica.
The Canopy Lodge features a veranda that overlooks the garden feeders and rooms nestled among gardens by a creek. From the lodge birders can venture out to Cerro Gaital, La Mesa, Las Minas or other sites famous for Caribbean-slope specialties.
The newest location is Canopy Camp which features safari-style tents. Located in the heart of Darién, Panama’s most biologically-diverse region, birders can find macaws, curassows, harpy eagles and perhaps even a jaguar.
Birders can also select the beautifully restored Canal Zone-era house that is now a Canopy Bed & Breakfast. It is walking within walking distance of the world famous Pipeline Road and just 10 minutes from the Canopy Tower itself.
Visit the Canopy Web site for detailed information.
Ecuador Birding Destinations
Ecuador is high on the bucket list of many birders. The birding is great and the scenery can take your breath away. It is THE place to see hummingbirds.
San Jorge ~ The Magic Birding Circuit
Km 4, Antiqua Via Cotocollao a Nono
877 565 2596 toll free USA & Canada
Magic Birding Circuit of Ecuador- San Jorge Eco-Lodges & Botanical Reserves owns 4 private birding reserves and 3 beautiful lodges at the reserves. Our tours offer over 1,000 possible species and 60 varieties of Hummingbirds. Visit San Jorge Botanical Reserve (High Barren Plains/Highland Rain Forest – Quito Foothills), San Jorge de Tandayapa Hummingbird Sanctuary (Cloud Forest), San Jorge de Milpe Orchid & Bird Reserve, (Subtropical Rainforest), San Jorge de Cosanga-Yanayacu Bird/Wildlife Reserve (Eastern Slope), adjoining Antizana NP. NEW!! San Jorge de Tandayapa Eco-Lodge has recently opened in January 2009! Visit San Jorge de Milpe Eco-Lodge with pristine birding trails, cascading waterfalls.
Salazar Gomez E14-82
Andean Birding is a birdwatching and ecotour company that provides top bird guides, customized itineraries and dependable logistics for your visit to the Andes, Amazon and Galapagos in Ecuador and Peru. In addition, we conduct bird conservation and ornithological research.
Andean Birding is based in Quito, Ecuador; a spectacular country with a birdlist of 1680 and has the highest concentration of bird species in the world. Our popular tours include 11 day Amazon to Andes, 14 day East and West Slope, Antisana day tour. We are committed to providing you with the best birding experience possible; and, we deliver the birds!
San Diego, California
Sunny, southern California is a great place to go birding and to mix in a little family time to boot.
When to go
Like many southern locations – fall, winter and spring can all be good times to visit. The San Diego Bird Festival is typically held in early March, a good indication of a prime time to visit the area.
Where to go
The San Diego Audubon Society has an excellent web site that provides information on good birding locations in the area, the best birding times and driving directions. What more could you ask for?
Many “most wanted” birds can be found in the area. In fact, about 500 species have been recorded in San Diego County.
The San Diego Natural History Museum maintains a list of the species recorded in the county with an indication of the seasonal presence.
Here are just a very few of the possible species.
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker
- Pacific Golden Plover
- Red-breasted Sapsucker
- Hutton’s, Least, Bell’s Vireo
- Western Grebe
- California Gnatcatcher
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Black-headed Grosbeak
- Tricolored Blackbird
San Diego Birding Festival
If you are new to birding in the San Diego area a great way to get acquainted is to attend the San Diego Birding Festival. The event is usually held in early March and is one of the programs of the San Diego Audubon Society.
The festival usually has a pelagic trip or two, which can turn up some very nice birds. Festival bird totals usually run into the 240-250 total species reported!
San Diego Audubon maintains an excellent web site, a must visit resource if planning your first birding trip to the area.
Best place for drinks – The Lodge at Torrey Pines
After a hard day of birding it is sometimes fun to clean up and relax. One of my favorite locations in the entire country is the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Located on the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, views of the course and distant ocean are special.
The lodge is gracefully designed into the surrounding landscape. Several small seating areas are provided for cozy conversations and to enjoy the view. The lodge is also a great place to stay but this 5-star lodge is not inexpensive. The Torrey Pines course is public but advanced tee times are a necessity.
Birding around the lodge is good and it is a short distance to Torrey Pines State Park. It can be cool in the evenings so check the local weather and be prepared with a sweater.
There are many hotels in the San Diego area. Mission Bay is the location of the San Diego Birding Festival and San Diego Sea World.Use Airbnb for example.
Right across the stereo from the Holiday Inn is the Heritage Inn. Not fancy by any means but at less than half the cost of the Holiday Inn it is not a bad choice for a hard-core birding trip. I would not recommend it for families.
The Dana on Mission Bay is the host hotel for the San Diego Bird Festival. Some nice grounds and within a long walk from the Festival headquarters. I found it to be overpriced for the quality of the rooms and service.
Pelagic Cormorant © Tom Grey