King Penguins on South Georgia by Nigel Wheatley. A small-ship cruise to Antarctica via South Georgia and the Falklands is possibly the ultimate wildlife experience on Earth, although there are many contenders!
The destinations listed and linked below are the ones we believe are the best in the world for birds and other wildlife. They have been chosen very carefully and for a multitude of reasons, but mainly based on personal experience of some of them and on dreams of visiting the rest, dreams resulting from what we have heard, read or seen.
It is our intention to update this list regularly as we add destinations and it was last updated in January 2020. We're getting there but destinations missing as of then are Haiti, some of the Lesser Antilles, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Denmark, Belgium, Liechenstein, Luxembourg, Kosovo, Malta, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Iraq, Qatar, North Korea and Brunei.
If you would like to contribute something about any of these or know of any other destinations you think should be on the list below please Email us.
The Whiskered Treeswift occurs from southern Myanmar through peninsular Thailand and Malaya to the Philippines, Borneo and Sumatra where this one was captured on camera by Lars Petersson.
Mongabay went as far as comparing data on amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals and vascular plants to compile a list of the most biodiverse countries. The biggest countries came out on top but on a per square mile basis the small country biodiversity champions were, in ascending order, Brunei, The Gambia, Belize, Jamaica, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea and Panama.
The destinations are listed alphabetically with very brief summaries for those linked to more detailed pages, reached by clicking on the destination name, in dark blue. Destinations not linked to more detailed pages, in light blue, are described in a bit more detail here, in italics.
The first and arguably most important destination to consider is a Local Patch, somewhere preferably a short walk from home where it is possible to see a wide range of birds and other wildlife any time of the year.
Hardly anyone has been travelling, let alone birding, in Afghanistan for decades. Bad news for birders because, apart from a number of Central Asian and west Himalayan specialities, including Tibetan Sandgrouse, Sind and White-winged Woodpeckers, Turkestan and White-cheeked Tits, Kashmir and White-cheeked Nuthatches, Dead Sea Sparrow and Black-and-yellow Grosbeak, there is also an endemic snowfinch. The British Foreign Office basically advised against all travel to Afghanistan in January 2020 and yet at least one tour company was planning a trip Band-e-Amir National Park in the Hindu Kush in 2021, once one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The endemic Afghan or Theresa’s Snowfinch occurs there, and Large-billed (or Long-billed) Reed Warbler which may also breed in the area. The snowfinch was identified in 1937 and described by a British army colonel called Richard Meinertzhagen, a controversial character who was once considered to be one of Britain’s greatest ornithologists, finding many new species around the world, but has since been exposed as a fraud, writing fake diaries and reports, and stealing bird skins from other people’s collections. One by one, all his scientific discoveries have been discredited, except one, the bird he named ‘Teresa’s Sparrow’, after the zoologist Theresa Rachel Clay who was his cousin. Not much is known about the rest of the current birdlife but this rugged land of desert, steppe and mountains that rise to 7484 m (24,554 ft) at Mount Zebak in the Pamirs, has many different ecological zones which support the likes of Snow Leopards and Marco Polo Sheep. The summers are normally very hot, the winters usually very cold.
A beautiful, intricately-marked, displaying Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Barrow by Dubi Shapiro.
Millions of seabirds and fur seals on the Pribilof Islands; one of the greatest concentrations of birds and mammals in the world, as well as spectacular localised birds such as Spectacled and Steller's Eiders, Red-legged Kittiwake, Aleutian Tern, and nesting shorebirds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew and Rock Sandpiper, and Grizzly Bears, Killer Whales, Musk Ox, Moose and Sea Otters, with a chance of Polar Bear at Barrow where, in autumn/fall, it is also possible to see many Ross's Gulls.
Alaska - Southeast
A chance to see Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding, as well as Grizzly Bears fishing, and Black Bears, amongst the mountains, glaciers, fjords and temperate rainforests of
wild northwest America.
This small country alongside the Adriatic is a land of coastal dunes, salinas, marshes, beech woods, pine woods and fir forests on the inland mountains where in Valbone Valley National Park there is a chance of seeing such birds as Rock Partridge, Black and White-backed Woodpeckers, and Eurasian Nutcracker. Divjaka-Karavasta National Park near Berat supports about 5% of the world's breeding Dalmatian Pelicans as well as Pygmy Cormorant, Greater Flamingo and passage migrant waterbirds such as Marsh Sandpiper and Caspian Tern, with Collared Flycatcher present too. More waterbirds can be found along the coast including the likes of Collared Pratincole and Slender-billed Gull. The first half of April is best for birds, early June for butterflies and flowers.
In May 2019 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to areas within 30 km of the borders with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, and 30 km of the border with Tunisia in the provinces of Illizi and Ouargla and in the Chaambi mountains area, and against all but essential travel to within 30 km of the remainder of the border with Tunisia. Much of the interior of the second largest country in Africa - about 2000 km by 2000 km - is Sahara Desert but there are mountains in the north, including the Kabylie of the Babors (Babor Mountains) where the endemic Algerian Nuthatch occurs and in the late 2010s it has been possible to visit the forests there. No binoculars or telescopes are allowed in the country but the local guides may have a pair of binoculars visitors can use surreptitiously, and cameras and long lenses are allowed! The easiest place to see the nuthatch is in Bouafroun (Djimla) Forest, 120 km and two to three hours by road from the city of Constantine, accessible directly by air from France, where there is an impressive canyon with Peregrine (brookei), Alpine Swift, Western Jackdaw (cirtensis), Blue Rock Thrush and Spanish Sparrow. Other forest birds include Maghreb (Tawny) Owl (mauritanica), Levaillant's Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker (numidus), Atlas Pied Flycatcher, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, African Blue Tit (ultramarinus), Coal Tit (ledouci), Short-toed Treecreeper (mauritanica) and Eurasian Jay (cervicalis). Along the nearby Mediterranean coast it is possible to see Ferruginous Duck, Western Swamphen, African/Eurasian Reed Warbler (ambiguus) and Barbary Macaque. Tristram’s Warbler and Atlas (Red) Crossbill occur near El Achir. Western Palearctic listers head down south too, for Red-billed Firefinch which can be seen in the garden of the Hotel Bois Petrifie in the town of Tamanrasset, and African Silverbill which occurs nearby. The best time of the year to visit is May to September.
See Indonesia - Moluccas, below.
American Samoa (for Western Samoa see Samoa, below)
American Samoa supports the powelli race of Fiji Shrikebill which some taxonomists believe to be a full species. It occurs on the islands of Ta'u and Ofu-Olosega. Other landbirds present include Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Many-coloured Fruit Dove, Wattled Honeyeater, Cardinal Myzomela, and Polynesian and Samoan Starlings. Many seabirds nest on Rose Atoll NWR including Red-tailed Tropicbird, boobies, frigatebirds, noddies, and Sooty and White Terns.
This tiny tax haven principality less than 200 sq miles/500 sq km in extent popular with hikers and over ten million skiers per annum lies in the scenic eastern Pyrenees at an average elevation of over 6500 feet (1996 m), rising to nearly 10,000 feet (2942 m) at Coma Pedrosa. The rugged terrain supports a superb flora, many mountain butterflies including Apollos and a typical Pyrenean avifauna with Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Crag Martin, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch and Rock Bunting, while high up there is also a chance of Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Wallcreeper and Snowfinch.
Angola has a massive bird list of about 1000 species, of which 13 are endemic; Grey-striped and Swierstra's Francolins, Red-crested Turaco, Red-backed Mousebird, Gabela Akalat, Pulitzer's Longbill, Hartert's (Green-backed) Camaroptera, Angola Slaty Flycatcher, White-fronted Wattle-eye, Braun’s and Gabela Bushshrikes, Gabela Helmetshrike and Angolan (Yellow-bellied) Waxbill, as well as, possibly, Montane (Ludwig's) Double-collared Sunbird and Golden-backed Bishop. There are many near-endemics too, including Finsch's Francolin, Damara Tern, Anchieta's Barbet, White-headed Robin-Chat, Angola and Margaret's Batises, Bocage's Akalat, Damara Rockjumper (Rockrunner), Bocage's Sunbird, White-tailed Shrike, Angola Cave Chat, Bocage's, Gorgeous (Perrin's) and Monteiro’s Bushshrikes, and Cinderella Waxbill, while widespread spectacular species include Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, Palm-nut Vulture, Great Blue Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Black, Blue-breasted and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Blue-throated and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Yellowbill (Blue Malkoha) and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye. Don't expect to see any grazing mammals or their predators though - they are all shot for food in this very poor country. There are a few monkeys and they include the tiny Angolan (Southern) Talapoin. The best time to look for birds is September, usually before the rainy season kicks in.
A striking Gabela Helmetshrike in the Caxito Forest, Angola by Dubi Shapiro.
Antarctica - Emperor Penguins
Sail and fly in (at great expense) to spend a few days at an Emperor Penguin colony.
Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands
Whales, dolphins, elephant seals, fur seals, penguins, albatrosses and innumerable other seabirds in the most amazing settings on Earth make this A Top Ten Destination. Possibly the greatest concentration of life in the world on South Georgia includes vast colonies of King Penguins and nesting albatrosses such as Wandering and Light-mantled, while to the south lies the extreme beauty of Antarctica completed by Antarctic and Snow Petrels.
Albatrosses in the Southern Ocean between The Falklands and South Georgia include the handsome Black-browed. Image by Jon Hornbuckle.
Argentina - Northern
Condors, flamingos, localised specialities such as Black-legged Seriema and Rufous-throated Dipper, and a brilliant hummingbird called a Red-tailed Comet, in the spectacular high Andes.
Argentina - Southern
Killer Whales 'beaching' in pursuit of seal pups, Southern Right Whales, Southern Elephant Seals, up to a million Magellanic Penguins at their largest rookery in the world, Andean Condors, Magellanic Plovers, Tawny-throated Dotterels, Magellanic Woodpeckers and the very rare and localised Hooded Grebe.
Arkansas - USA
See USA - Arkansas, below.
Landlocked Armenia is dominated by the lofty Lesser Caucasus mountains which rise to 4090 m (13,420 ft) at Mount Aragats although there is also some semi-desert and a large area of fish ponds at lower elevations. Situated at the junction of Europe, the Middle East and Asia there is a superb selection of birds to be seen in a very small area just a quarter the size of England, including Pygmy Cormorant, Marbled and White-headed Ducks (Armash fish ponds), Lammergeier, Levant Sparrowhawk, Caspian Snowcock (Gndasar Mountain), Caucasian Grouse (Tsaghkunyats Mountains), White-tailed Lapwing (Armash fish ponds), Armenian Gull, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Bimaculated and (Caucasian) Horned/Shore Larks, White-throated Robin, Finsch's and Red-tailed Wheatears, Blackstart, (Western) Rock and Eastern Rock Nuthatches, Green, Menetries's, Moustached and Upcher's (a late arriving summer visitor) Warblers, Rose-coloured Starling, Radde's Accentor, Crimson-winged Finch and Grey-necked Bunting. During the autumn, especially early September, large numbers of Demoiselle Cranes pass through Lake Sevan. Mammals include the Bezoar Ibex which occurs in the Yeranos Mountains. More than 230 species of butterfly include Caucasian specialities and there is a chance of seeing 80 species during the last week of June including Kurdish Copper and Persian Fritillary. The best time for birds is late May to the middle of June.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters nest in Armenia. Image by Michael McKee.
For people who love seabirds and can arrange a holiday lasting 30 days (to Ascension), 36 days (to Cape Verde), 44 days (to Madeira) or even longer, all the way to mainland Europe, this could be the actual 'Trip of a Lifetime' for in addition to the Top Ten Destination that involves Antarctica and South Georgia summarised above the ship sails on, north through the Atlantic to Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and so on, making it possible to see 40, even 50, species of seabird, as well as island endemics such as Ascension Island Frigatebird, St Helena Plover and Gough Moorhen, and numerous whales and dolphins.
Australia - Eastern (Queensland)
Platypus, Koala, the Great Barrier Reef and numerous spectacular birds, from Southern Cassowary to Blue-winged Kookaburra, including many Australian endemics such as Albert's and Superb Lyrebirds, Paradise and Victoria's Riflebirds, Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, and Superb Fairywren.
Australia - Northern
Saltwater Crocodiles in Kakadu and endemic Northern Australian birds including Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Purple-crowned Fairywren, White-throated Grasswren and Gouldian Finch, amongst more widespread spectacles such as Pied Heron and Blue-winged Kookaburra.
Australia - Northwestern
Tens of thousands of wintering shorebirds at Broome including Oriental Plover, Little Whimbrel, Great Knot and Asian Dowitcher, and localised endemics like Black Grasswren in the remote Kimberley.
Australia - Outback
Red Kangaroo and endemic Australian birds including Emu, Malleefowl, Letter-winged Kite, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Inland Dotterel, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Chestnut-breasted Whiteface and several grasswrens, in some superb desert locations where at night there seems to be more stars than sky.
Australia - Southeastern (Victoria-Tasmania)
Platypus, Koala, Tasmanian Devil, kangaroos, wombats and endemic Australian birds such as Plains-wanderer, Superb Lyrebird, Satin Bowerbird, and Superb and White-winged Fairywrens.
A male Superb Fairywren, one of several brilliant fairywrens in Australia, by Francesco Veronesi.
Australia - Western
Dugong, Whale Shark, Manta Ray, Numbat, Honey Possum, 16 or so Western Australian endemic birds including Long-billed and Short-billed Black Cockatoos, Western Whipbird, Western Bristlebird, Noisy Scrub-bird, and Blue-breasted and Red-winged Fairywrens, and more widespread Australian endemics such as Malleefowl, Splendid and White-winged Fairywrens, and Western Bowerbird.
Pygmy Cormorant, Great Bustard, Imperial Eagle, possible Saker, all ten European woodpeckers, Nutcracker and fine alpine scenery in a tiny, land-locked country.
This small country supports a long list of specialities including Caucasian Grouse, Caspian and Caucasian Snowcocks, Black Francolin, See-see Partridge, Shikra, Black-winged Pratincole, (Caucasian) Great Spotted Woodpecker, Güldenstädt's Redstart, Finsch’s and Persian Wheatears, Green, Ménétries' and Upcher’s Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Caspian Tit, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Radde's Accentor, Pale Rockfinch, (Caucasian) Twite, Great Rosefinch, Asian Crimson-winged Finch and Grey-necked Bunting, while other birds present include Chukar, Pygmy Cormorant, Lammergeier, White-tailed Lapwing, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-throated Robin, Rosy Starling, Red-fronted Serin, and Mongolian and Trumpeter Finches. These birds are best looked for from mid-May to mid-June and the best areas are Hyrcan National Park (Caspian Tit), the High Caucasus (Caucasian Grouse and Great Rosefinch (Mount Shahdagh)), and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchiva (Caspian Snowcock, See-see Partridge, Persian Wheatear, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Radde’s Accentor and Pale Rockfinch). During the winter birds include Greater and Lesser White-fronted Geese, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Little Bustard (thousands in and around Aggol National Park), Grey-headed Swamphen and Great Black-headed Gull. Many species pass through on migration as well and there is a bottleneck on the the narrow coastal plain below the rock of Besh Barmag less than 100km north of the capital Baku where over a million birds have been recorded during the autumn/fall including waterbirds, raptors, rollers and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Mammals are less prominent but aerial maps of Azerbaijan even in the mid-2010s showed the presence of great tracts of near-pristine forest where Brown Bears, Wolves and even Leopards still lived.
Sperm and other whales, Striped and other dolphins, seabirds such as Bulwer's Petrel, Barolo (Little) and Cory's Shearwaters, and 'Grant's' and 'Monteiro's' (Band-rumped/Madeiran) Storm Petrels, and the rare endemic Azores Bullfinch, on and around nine isolated volcanic islands in the Atlantic, also famous amongst European birders for the astonishing variety of lost North American birds which have landed there, in September-October.
See Lesser Sundas, below.
See Moluccas, below.
Up to six endemic birds; a hummingbird, a swallow, a yellowthroat and, possibly, a warbler, an oriole and a very rare nuthatch, as well as wintering Kirtland's Warbler, and one of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins, sharks and sting rays.
The small, green farms on this otherwise arid archipelago in the central Arabian (Persian) Gulf attract a wide variety of passage migrant birds, including Egyptian Nightjar (regular in late October-early November) and Grey Hypocolius (also regular in late October-early November, sometimes all winter), while rocky hills support (Eastern/Iranian persica) Mourning Wheatear and around the coast are Socotra Cormorants (half the world’s population nests on Bahraini islets, notably the Hawar Islands which hard to access and also support the world’s biggest colony of Western Reef Egrets). Large numbers of shorebirds pass through between July and October, and passing landbirds, most numerous in March and April, have included White-throated Robin and Menetries’s Warbler. Other animals include Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphins, Green Turtles and the largest herd of Dugongs in the world, formed when mainly mothers and calves gather between Bahrain and the Hawar Islands between August and early April, especially in late autumn.
See Mallorca and Menorca, below
See Indonesia - Bali, below
See Sulawesi's satellites, below.
This small, heavily populated country is perhaps best known in the world of wildlife for Spoon-billed Sandpipers and the Sundarbans. Up to perhaps 30% of the few Spoon-billed Sandpipers left on this planet spend the northern winter (November to March) in Bangladesh, along with tens of thousands of other wintering shorebirds including Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Knot and Asian Dowitcher. The first specimen of the sandpiper was collected in Bangladesh in the mid-19th Century and the country still retains the record for the highest single count anywhere in the world; 202 at Moulevir Char in 1989. Since then a count of more than 100 has never been recorded and numbers have fallen to a minimum of 48 on the Meghna Estuary in the mid 2010s. Hatiya Island near Cox's Bazar, famed for what may be the longest continuous beach in the world, is a major wintering site for Indian Skimmers. The Sundarbans is thought to be the largest mangrove forest left in the world and the place where there are perhaps more Tigers than anywhere else. Also possible on boat trips through the creeks are Ganges River Dolphin, the rare Masked Finfoot, Great Thick-knee, and Black-capped, Brown-winged and Ruddy Kingfishers. In the northeast of the country, near Srimangal, there is a wetland reserve called Hail Haor where Falcated Duck, Pallas’s Fish Eagle (at Baikka Beel), Pied Harrier, Greater Painted Snipe, and Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas occur, and several forest parks and reserves including Adampur (Orange-headed Thrush), Kalachara (Chestnut-headed Bee-eater), Lawachara/Lowacharra (Malayan Night Heron, Rosy Minivet, Black-breasted Thrush and Grey-bellied Tesia, as well as Hoolock Gibbon and Phayre’s Langur), and Satchari (Black Baza, Red-headed Trogon and Common Green Magpie).
Beidaihe and Happy Island - China
See China - Beidaihe, below.
Take a trip back in time to what much of northern Europe used to look like; great expanses of meadows, marshes and forests, home to Great Snipe (possibly displaying at leks), Marsh and Terek Sandpipers, Great Grey Owl, Aquatic Warbler and Azure Tit.
Whale Shark, possibly West Indian Manatee, coral reef fish and spectacular birds including Orange-breasted Falcon, Keel-billed Toucan and Yucatan Jay, with Great Curassows and Ocellated Turkeys at Tikal just across the border in Guatemala.
This 21 square mile (54 square km) somewhat depauperate archipelago in the North Atlantic about 570 miles (920 km) east of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina is most famous in the birding world for the endemic breeding Bermuda Petrel, or Cahow as it is called on Bermuda. When Columbus sailed past Bermuda in 1492 an estimated half a million pairs of Bermuda Petrels were probably present. It did not take long after the arrival of people, especially the English in the early 1600s, with their pigs, cats, dogs and rats, to push the petrel to what was thought to be extinction. Then a petrel was picked up alive in 1906. Three others followed, in 1935, 1941 and 1945, before an expedition to search for birds was organized in 1951 and seven nesting pairs were found. Since then, thanks mainly to the efforts of David B. Wingate who was present during the expedition, the numbers have risen to 70 pairs in 2003 and 130 by 2019, by which time it was possible for visitors to see some petrels, on boat trips run by the Bermuda Audubon Society in November, the best time to see the petrels, especially during the new moon (birds usually leave during December before returning to lay their eggs). When these trips are cancelled in bad weather it is possible to see the birds with a telescope from Cooper’s Island/Point, especially after 4 p.m. as they begin to approach land. Bermuda Petrels are normally present through to April and another good time to look for them is in late February-early March when White-tailed Tropicbirds are also present (usually until August). The 20 or so resident bird species include Eastern Bluebird, Grey Catbird and the bermudianus form of White-eyed Vireo. Many more species have been recorded, mainly because Bermuda is a refuge for lost migrant North American passerines, particularly from mid-September to mid-October when no less than 38 species of warbler were recorded one autumn (1998). Over a hundred species including 20 or so warblers may remain throughout the winter. The top all-round birding site is Spittal Pond, good, according to the season, for White-tailed Tropicbirds and warblers although Ferry Point Park is another well-known site for migrants.
Where vast tracts of pristine forest, Golden Langurs and so many brilliant Himalayan birds are part of the Gross National Happiness, birds such as Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, White-bellied Heron, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Ibisbill, Ward’s Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, Himalayan Cutia and Fire-tailed Myzornis.
Bioko, Equatorial Guinea
Bioko (called Fernando Po during Portuguese colonization) is a rugged mountainous volcanic island rising to 3000 m (nearly 10,000 ft) at Pico Basile in the Gulf of Guinea 32 km off the west coast of Cameroon. It is about 70 km long and about 30 km across with many plantations having replaced a lot of the native rainforest. Nearly 200 bird species have been recorded including two endemics: Bioko (Fernando Po) Speirops and Bioko (Fernando Po) Batis; and at least 28 endemic subspecies including those of Mountain Saw-wing, Red-headed (Grey-necked) Picathartes and Ursula’s Sunbird, while other birds present include White-tailed Tropicbird, Cameroon Olive Pigeon, Bar-tailed Trogon, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue-moustached Bee-eater, Grey-headed Broadbill, Black-necked Wattle-eye, Short-tailed Akalat, Green Longtail, White-tailed Warbler, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Cameroon Sunbird and Shelley's Oliveback. The island is the best place in the world to see (Bioko) Drills while other mammals include White-bellied (Tree) Pangolin, African Linsang and several monkeys; (Bioko) Black Colobus, (Pennant’s) Red Colobus, Crowned, (Bioko) Putty-nosed and (Bioko) Red-eared Monkeys, and the rarer Preuss’s Monkey which occurs at higher altitudes, usually only accessible during January and February, the driest months and best time to visit.
A fine portrait of a Shelley's Oliveback taken on Pico Basile on the island of Bioko by Dubi Shapiro.
One of the best images ever of one of the most spectacular hummingbirds, a Red-tailed Comet by Dubi Shapiro, taken at a place called Siberia in Bolivia.
Several spectacular macaws including the endemic Blue-throated, other endemics including Black-hooded Sunbeam, and about 100 near-endemics and specialities such as Black-legged Seriema, Red-tailed Comet and Hooded Mountain Toucan, in the birdiest landlocked country on Earth.
Borneo - Malaysia
A Top Ten Destination thanks to Orang-utan, Proboscis Monkey, Bornean Gibbon and many top birds, not least about 50 endemics, including Whitehead's Trogon, Whitehead's Broadbill, Whitehead's Spiderhunter, Bornean Banded, Black-and-crimson, Blue-banded and Blue-headed Pittas, Bornean Bristlehead and Fruit-hunter, as well as many trogons, kingfishers, bee-eaters, broadbills, hornbills and babblers, all in some of the oldest, tallest and richest rainforest on Earth.
Much of this country is made up of arid, karst, limestone mountains although there is a large wetland reserve in the south called Hutovo Blato which is contiguous with wetlands associated with the Neretva Delta. The best time to visit is during spring migration especially late April to late May when on a visit which includes the mountains and the Neretva area the following birds may be seen; Ferruginous Duck, Rock Partridge, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Pygmy Cormorant, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagles, Levant Sparrowhawk, Red-footed Falcon, White-winged Tern, Lesser Grey Shrike, Eurasian Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Eastern Orphean and Olive-tree Warblers, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Collared Flycatcher, and Black-headed and Rock Buntings.
Many mammals including a good chance of African Wild Dogs, and lots of birds especially in the Okavango Delta, including Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane and Pel's Fishing Owl, in a country where over a fifth of the terrain lies within unfenced 'protected' areas.
Brazil - Amazon
The largest river on the planet, flowing through the richest rainforest in the world which supports the greatest diversity of life on Earth, with many birds including parrots, macaws, hummingbirds, jacamars, toucans, antbirds and cotingas, notably Crimson Fruitcrow, Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock and Guianan Red Cotinga, and mammals such as sloths, tamarins, marmosets and monkeys.
Brazil - Carajas
Carajas National Forest in southeastern Para state, northeast Brazil, is one of the richest areas for birds in Amazonia. It is possible to see and/or hear 250 species in a few days and they may include Peruvian Recurvebill, Black-chested Tyrant and Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher, as well as Bare-faced Curassow, White-crested Guan, Red-throated Piping Guan, Chestnut-headed Chachalaca, Grey-bellied Goshawk, Harpy Eagle, Cryptic Forest-Falcon, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Rufous-sided and Russet-crowned Crakes, Marbled Wood-Quail, Blue-and-yellow, Hyacinth, Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, Jandaya and Pearly Parakeets, Red-fan and Vulturine Parrots, Pavonine Cuckoo, Hoatzin, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Dot-eared Coquette, Blue-cheeked (Yellow-billed) Jacamar, Rufous-necked Puffbird, Red-necked Aracari, Banded and Wing-banded Antbirds, Long-winged Antwren (paraensis), Black-bellied and Chestnut-belted (endemic pallida) Gnateaters, Fiery-capped and Opal-crowned Manakins, Guianan Red Cotinga, Purple-breasted, Spangled and White-tailed Cotingas, the wallacei race of White Bellbird, Sharpbill, Slaty-headed Tody Flycatcher, Blackish Pewee, White-naped Jay, Rose-breasted Chat, Para (Guianan) Gnatcatcher, Spotted Tanager, Red-billed Pied Tanager and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. In the same region, around the town of Caxias in Maranhao state are restricted-range birds such as Buff-browed Chachalaca, Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Moustached Woodcreeper and Hooded Gnateater, along with Crescent-chested Puffbird, Curl-crested Jay, and Blue and Coal-crested Finches, with a chance of Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. The best time to visit is August-September.
Near Belem, also in Para state, it is possible to see the endemic Hooded Gnateater, as well as Buff-browed Chachalaca and (Olive-backed) Foliage-gleaner while Golden Parakeet is being reintroduced to a city park and other birds in and near the city include White-browed Hawk, Vulturine Parrot, Plain-winged Woodcreeper, the nominate subspecies of Willis’s Antbird, Grey and Plain-winged Antwrens, Cinereous Antshrike, Purple-breasted and White-winged Cotingas, and Crimson-hooded and Opal-crowned Manakins. The endemic Scaled Spinetail occurs on Mexiana Island at the mouth of the Amazon and the endemic Little Woodrail can be seen at Salgado Paraense near Salinopolis, along with Pinnated Bittern, Scarlet Ibis, Rufous Crab Hawk, Black Rail, Sunbittern, Mangrove Cuckoo and Plain-bellied Emerald.
Brazil - Central (Minas Gerais)
Some tour companies tie a trip to the Pantanal with the Campo and Cerrado Region of Minas Gerais state in Central Brazil where the main sites are: Serra da Canastra National Park, where it is possible to see Brazilian Merganser, one of the rarest birds in the world, as well as Giant Anteater, Black-ear-tufted Marmoset, Red-legged Seriema, Aplomado Falcon, Golden-capped Parakeet, Toco Toucan, Campo Miner, Grey-backed Tachuri, Cock-tailed, Sharp-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Collared Crescentchest, Helmeted Manakin, White-rimmed and White-striped Warblers, Blue Finch and Yellow-rumped Marshbird; Serra do Cipo National Park, where the main attractions are Hyacinth Visorbearer, possibly Horned Sungem, Cipo Canastero and Cipo (Long-tailed) Cinclodes, along with Cinereous Warbling Finch and Pale-throated Pampa Finch; Serra do Caraca National Park, where there is a chance of Maned Wolf on the monastery steps and Black-ear-tufted Marmoset, as well as Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Serra Antwren, Rufous Gnateater, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Swallow-tailed Cotinga and Pin-tailed Manakin; and Caratinga National Park, where Buffy-headed Marmoset, and Brown Howler and Woolly Spider Monkeys occur, and there is a chance of Three-toed Sloth and Giant Helicopter Damselfly. The best time to visit is the dry season, July to October.
From Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state it is not far east to the state of Espirito Santo where the adjacent Rio Doce Private Forest Reserve and Sooretama Biological Reserve protect one of the largest remnants of Atlantic coastal lowland rainforest and support Red-billed Curassow, White-necked Hawk, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Black-headed Berryeater and White-winged Cotinga. Not far from there is the town of Santa Theresa where the hummingbird feeders at the home of the late Dr Augusto Ruschi attract a whirl of hummers, including Frilled Coquette. Santa Theresa city park is a good place to see Masked Titi Monkey, Geoffroy’s Marmosets and Common Opossums (on the bird tables at night) and Santa Lucia Reserve near Santa Theresa supports Cinnamon-vented Piha, Bare-throated Bellbird, Sharpbill and many tanagers.
In 2018 a new reserve was created in the rocky uplands of eastern Minas Gerais to help protect the recently rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground-Dove.
Brazil is the best place to see Toco Toucan. Image by Chris Townend.
Brazil - Alta Floresta
This luxurious Cristalino Lodge is about an hour by road and half an hour by river from Alta Floresta which is accessible by air in one and a half hours from Cuiaba, the gateway to the Pantanal, hence the two destinations are often combined by tour operators. Cristalino is situated in southern Amazonian rainforest, the richest place for birds on Earth, hence nearly 600 bird species have been recorded. Many are thin on the ground and/or shy and skulking though so a stay of at least a week is recommended to stand a chance of seeing some of the numerous specialities such as Razor-billed Curassow, Red-throated Piping-Guan, Zigzag Heron, Harpy Eagle, White-browed Hawk, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Crimson-bellied and Santarem (Painted) Parakeets, Kawallʼs Parrot, Pavonine Quetzal, Tapajos Hermit, Black-bellied Thorntail, Brown-banded, Rufous-necked and (Eastern) Striolated Puffbirds, Blue-necked Jacamar, Black-girdled Barbet, Curl-crested and Red-necked Aracaris, Gould's Toucanet, Glossy Antshrike, Bare-eyed Antbird, Alta Floresta (Spotted) Antpitta, Zimmerʼs Tody-Tyrant, Flame-crowned and Snow-capped Manakins, Slaty-capped Shrike Vireo, Tooth-billed Wren and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, as well as more widespread species such as Agami Heron, Sunbittern, Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Pompadour, Purple-throated and Spangled Cotingas, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Amazonian Umbrellabird, White-browed Purpletuft, Band-tailed Manakin, Musician Wren and Paradise Tanager. There are two 50 metre high canopy towers, lots of trails and boat trips along the blackwater rivers are available to seek out the birds and mammals, which include Red-handed Howler and several other monkeys. The best time to visit is October-November at the start of the rainy season when more birds are in song and there are more antswarms. Similar species occur at Rio Azul Jungle Lodge, three hours by road from Alta Floresta, including Tapajos Hermit and the forest here is a good place to see the rare Bald Parrot.
Brazil - Northeast
In the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceara and Pernambuco it is possible to see over 450 species on a regular trip including over 100 of Brazil’s 218 endemics, many of which are rare and highly localised in remnant patches of three main habitats: the arid, thorny scrub and woodland of the Caatinga, savanna-like Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest. In the Fortaleza-Recife region the stunning Arapire Manakin which has a tiny range occurs in the Crato area along with White-browed Antpitta, with Scarlet-throated Tanager between there and Quixada. The very localized endemic Grey-breasted (Maroon-faced) Parakeet can be seen at the Hotel de Remanso on the Quixada-Serra de Baturite Road and in the serra along with Ceare Gnateater and a few extra possible ‘ceara’splits. South from Recife, between there and Salvador, the very rare White-collared Kite is possible at Murici along with Alagoas Antwren, Scalloped Antbird, Black-cheeked Gnateater and Seven-coloured Tanager. Inland, the place for Lear's Macaw is Canudos. South of Salvador the greatest concentration of endemics in Brazil occurs in the Boa Nova area in Bahia with species present including Giant Snipe, Pygmy Nightjar, Frilled Coquette, Black-bellied Thorntail, Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Pale-browed Treehunter, Narrow-billed Antwren, Rio de Janeiro, Scaled, Slender and White-bibbed Antbirds, Fork-tailed and Hangnest Tody Tyrants, Pink-legged Graveitero, Pin-tailed Manakin and Dubois Seedeater. South of Boa Nova Buff-throated Purpletuft and Cinnamon-vented Piha occur at Serra Bonita and the two outstanding cotingas, Banded and White-winged, are both at Veracel. Inland, Helmeted Manakin occurs at Caetite. The mammals of this huge region include White-tufted-ear and Wied's Black-tufted-ear Marmosets, and Coimbra-Filho's Titi Monkey. The best time for birding is January at the start of the rainy season when more birds are vocal.
Brazil - Roraima
The Amazonian lowlands, Tepuis cloud forests, palm swamps, savannas and marshes of Brazil's northernmost state support many range-restricted species such as Crestless Curassow, Sun Parakeet, Hoary-throated Spinetail, and Rio Branco and Yapacana Antbirds, in the Guianan Shield, Imeri (west of the Rio Branco) and Pantepui areas of endemism. From Boa Vista (accessible by air from Manaus) head north to the Serra do Tepequem (a southern extension of the Tepui) and on to Viruá National Park, 30 mins by road from Caracarai City, for the aforementioned species, as well as Slate-coloured Hawk, Sunbittern, Blue-and yellow and Red-and-green Macaws, Black-headed and Caica Parrots, Golden-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Tufted Coquette, Green-tailed and Paradise Jacamars, Spotted Puffbird, Channel-billed Toucan, Guianan Toucanet, Black-necked and Green Aracaris, Black-headed, Ferruginous-backed, Rufous-throated and White-bellied Antbirds, Guianan, Yellow and Yellow-crowned Tyrannulets, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Black, White-crowned and Yellow-crowned Manakins, Cayenne Jay, Black-billed Thrush (arthuri), Burnished-buff Tanager, White-naped Seedeater and Plumbeous Euphonia (mostly Apr-Aug). The dry season extends from September to March.
Brazil - Southeast
More endemic birds than any other corner of South America and although a lot of the 220 or so Atlantic Forest Endemics are localized, rare and little-known it is possible to see many of them including cotingas such as Black-headed and Hooded Berryeaters, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Black-and-gold, Grey-winged and Swallow-tailed Cotingas, Bare-throated Bellbird, Buff-throated Purpletuft and Brazilian Laniisoma, as well as some very large antshrikes and several stunning tanagers not least Brassy-breasted, Cherry-throated and Red-necked.
Black-cheeked Gnateater at the 'REGUA' Reserve in Southeast Brazil by Dubi Shapiro.
Brazil - Southern (Pantanal-Iguassu)
One of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in South America, in one of the world's most extensive wetlands, the Pantanal, the best place in the world to see Jaguars, with other mammals including Giant Anteater, Giant Otter and Brazilian Tapir, and numerous birds such as Southern Screamer, Sunbittern, Hyacinth Macaw and Toco Toucan.
Wallcreepers inland and a spectacular migration flyway for pelicans, shorebirds and so on along the coast, with Red-breasted Geese in winter.
See Myanmar, below.
See Moluccas, below.
In December 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to certain parts of Burundi including the main road running west from Kayanza through Kibira Forest NP, and Ruvubu NP, and against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, due mainly to political instability since President Nkrunziza was inaugurated for a controversial third term in August 2015. Should the situation improve the place to head for forest birds is Kibira, contiguous with Nyungwe Forest in neighbouring Rwanda, which supports 21 of the 35 or so Albertine Rift endemics including Mountain Sooty Boubou, Ruwenzori Batis, Red-throated Alethe, Red-collared Mountain Babbler, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Black-faced (Mountain Masked) and Ruwenzori (Collared) Apalises, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, Blue-headed, Purple-breasted, Regal and Ruwenzori Double-collared (Stuhlmann’s) Sunbirds, Strange Weaver, and Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, as well as Black-billed and Great Blue Turacos, Narina Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Angola Swallow, Equatorial Akalat, Banded Prinia, Black-tailed Oriole, Slender-billed Starling and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. Other good birding sites in this tiny, densely-populated country include the Rusizi Delta/NP near the capital Bujumbura (lots of waterbirds including African Skimmer); Lake Rwihinda (Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek); Kigwena-Rumonge Forest NP (Owl-faced Monkey), The Congo-Nile Ridge Park, Nyakazu, Mwishanga Forest NP and Ruvubu NP (named after the Hippos there this stretch of the Ruvubu River is good for waterbirds, Red-faced Barbet, Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek). The main wet seasons usually last from February to May and September to November, and the driest times of the year are normally from June to August and December to January.
California (Southern) - USA
See USA - California (Southern), below.
Several spectacular birds very difficult or impossible to see elsewhere including Giant and White-shouldered Ibises, Greater Adjutant, Bengal Florican, White-rumped Falcon and Black-headed Woodpecker, the biggest breeding colonies of waterbirds in Southeast Asia with Spot-billed Pelicans and Painted Storks, and some wonderful mammals such as Yellow-cheeked Gibbon and Black-shanked Douc Langur.
The richest birdlife in West Africa with many specialities including Red-headed Picathartes, Bannerman’s Turaco, Green-breasted and Mount Kupe Bushshrikes, Grey-headed Broadbill and Banded Wattle-eye, as well as more widespread spectacular African species such as Black Crowned Crane, Scissor-tailed Kite, Egyptian Plover and Grey Pratincole, and a chance of Quail Plover and Brown-chested Lapwing.
Canada - Alberta
Black and possibly Grizzly Bears, American Bison, Moose, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat, as well as birds such as Bald Eagle, Harlequin Duck, Varied Thrush, Mountain Bluebird and Clark’s Nutcracker, in prairie potholes and grasslands, and the scenic forested, snowy mountains of the Rockies.
Canada - Arctic, and Greenland
Polar Bear, Walrus, Beluga, Bowhead Whale, Musk Ox, seabird cities with Little Auks and Brunnich's Guillemots, and other spectacular birds like Gyr Falcon, Snowy Owl and Ivory Gull, all in wonderful settings, make this A Top Ten Destination.
Canada - Baffin Island
The best place in the world for Narwhal, plus a chance of Polar Bear, Walrus, Beluga and Bowhead Whale, as well as passing birds such as Ivory and Sabine’s Gulls.
Canada - Eastern (Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick-Nova Scotia)
Fin, Northern Right and a chance of Humpback Whales, summering seabirds, and passing shorebirds and warblers.
Canada - Manitoba
The greatest concentration of Polar Bears in the world, at Churchill during October. In the first half of June Churchill is a good place to see passing shorebirds and from late June to mid-August it is possible to see (and even swim with) Belugas there.
Canada - Newfoundland
The largest northern summer numbers of Humpback Whales in the world and spectacular seabird colonies including over half a million Atlantic Puffins on Great Island alone, the largest colony in North America.
Canada - Northwest Territories
The most famous place for wildlife in Canada’s Northwest Territories province is Wood Buffalo National Park where the spectacular Whooping Crane, one of the rarest birds in the world, nests and in 2017 there were a record number of nests; 98, which beat the previous record of 82 in 2014. The most recent total for all birds in Wood Buffalo is 329, an encouraging difference to the 21 birds left on Earth in 1941. The cranes usually return from their wintering grounds in Texas in mid-April and leave during September-October. The 45,000 sq km park also supports breeding American White Pelicans and American Avocets, up to a million wildfowl during the autumn/fall migration period, and mammals such as bison, bears, wolves, wolverines, lynx, moose and caribou but all, even the thousands of bison, can be extremely elusive in what is an area larger than Switzerland. To the north in the Yellowknife region boreal habitats in the Great Slave Lake area support Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Alder and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Grey Jay, Blackpoll, Orange-crowned, Tennessee and Wilson’s Warblers, Western Tanager and Rusty Blackbird. The best time of year to look for such birds is late June-early July.
Canada - Nunavut
It is possible to fly to the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the high Arctic of Canada from where visitors can travel by vehicle on a few roads and tracks to (i) the base of Mount Pelly where shorebirds including American Golden and Semipalmated Plovers, Baird’s, Semipalmated and Stilt Sandpipers, and Red-necked Phalarope nest alongside Long-tailed Skua, Arctic Tern, Horned Lark, and Lapland and Snow Buntings. Also possible is Yellow-billed Loon (White-billed Diver) and Muskox, and, if there are lots of lemmings, Snowy Owl and Pomarine Skua; (ii) Dease and Simpson Straits overlooking the Northwest Passage, a good place for Ringed Seals, and where the tundra supports breeding Bewick’s (Tundra) Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, Common and King Eiders, Long-tailed Duck and shorebirds which may include Buff-breasted, Pectoral and White-rumped Sandpipers; and (iii) the interior where nesting birds include Grey (Red) Phalarope and Sabine’s Gull. The best time is late June-early July.
Canada - Point Pelee (Ontario)
A migration bottleneck in spring for up to 30 species of New World warblers, as well as vireos, orioles and tanagers, and a good place to catch up with American Woodcock.
A superb Magnolia Warbler by David Beadle, one of many warblers possible on a good day at Point Pelee.
Canada - Quebec
A good chance of Beluga, Blue, Fin, Humpback and Minke Whales by boat, zodiac and kayak where the Saguenay Fjord meets the St Lawrence out of the town of Tadoussac from mid-June to September, especially mid-September for Blue Whale. Also Laurentides Wildlife Reserve for Black Bear (from hides and vehicles), Matane Wildlife Reserve for Moose and the Gaspe Peninsula/Gaspesie National Park for (Woodland) Caribou and a colony of nearly 50,000 pairs of Northern Gannets, possibly the largest on Earth, on Bonaventure Island. Other birds possible include Bald Eagle, Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, up to 20 species of warbler, and Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, with Bicknell's Thrush at the top of Mount Saint Anne near Perce. During late September-early October, when the autumnal colours are usually at their peak, up to 50,000 migrating (Greater) Snow Geese and other waterfowl gather at the Cape Tourmente National Wildlife Area.
Canada - Saskatchewan
In the first half of October small groups of Whooping Cranes and thousands of Sandhill Cranes, as well as tens of thousands of Canada and Snow Geese with fewer Greater White-fronted and Ross’s Geese, and lots of ducks, migrate south across southern Saskatchewan stopping to rest and refuel in pothole country east of Saskatoon, while in the boreal forest in Prince Albert National Park there is a chance of seeing Spruce Grouse, Northern Saw-whet Owl, (American) Three-toed, Black-backed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Grey Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, sparrows which could include Harris’s and, occasionally, Evening and/or Pine Grosbeaks, as well as Elk and Moose. Late May and June is the best time to enjoy the breeding birds of the vast prairie grasslands and wetlands of southern Saskatchewan including American White Pelican, Ferruginous Hawk, Yellow Rail (unlikely to be seen), Upland Sandpiper, Sprague’s Pipit, Baird’s Sparrow, Chestnut-collared and McCown’s Longspurs, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.
Canada - Western (British Columbia)
Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon, viewable from raised platforms, the greatest concentration of Killer Whales in the world, viewable from shore, boat and kayak, Black Bears and even 'Spirit Bears' make this A Top Ten Destination.
Canada - Yukon
The Yukon is where Canada’s highest mountains are, as well as the largest non-polar icefields on Earth. There are not so many birds but the boreal forest and tundra alongside the 350-mile-long gravel road known as the Dempster Highway between Dawson City and Inuvik at 68°N 120 miles inside the Arctic Circle support Gyr Falcon, Long-tailed Skua, (Northern) Hawk Owl, Northern Wheatear, Smith’s Longspur and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch, as well as Black and Grizzly Bears, and Moose. The best time to be there is late May-early June.
From mid-September to late October up to 50 Grizzly Bears arrive at Bear Cave Mountain to feast on salmon where thermal springs warm the river so it flows all year round. Due to its remote location close to the Arctic Circle access is very difficult and restricted and it may be necessary to book the adventure camp, accessible by helicopter from Dawson City, up to three years in advance.
The Canary Islands which lie about 100 km off the southern coast of Morocco are the tops of a volcanic mountain range lying beneath the Atlantic Ocean and although Pico de Teide rises to 12,198 ft (3718 m) on the island of Tenerife and often has snow on it vast areas of that island and those to the east (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) are barren, solidified lava, moon-like landscapes whereas on the wetter western islands El Hierro, Gomera and La Palma there are remnant laurel forests. The islands support at least six endemic bird species: Bolle's (Tenerife and other western islands) and Laurel (Tenerife, Gomera and La Palma) Pigeons, Canary Islands Chat (Fuerteventura), Canary Islands Chiffchaff, and Gran Canaria (rare, maybe less than 200 birds) and Tenerife Blue Chaffinches; near-endemic Plain Swift, Berthelot's Pipit, African Blue Tit and Island Canary; and many endemic subspecies of more widely distributed birds, including Houbara Bustard (fuertaventurae on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) and Goldcrest (teneriffae on Tenerife and Gomera). Tenerife supports the greatest diversity of endemic and near-endemic birds. Also present on Fuerteventura though are Egyptian Vulture (majorensis), Cream-coloured Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Trumpeter Finch, with the bustard, courser, lark and finch also on Lanzarote. On ferry crossings - such as between Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and Tenerife and Gomera - it is possible to see Cory's and Barolo (Audubon's/Little/Macronesian) Shearwaters, Bulwer's Petrel and even White-faced Storm-Petrel (especially in July when seabird numbers and diversity usually peaks), as well as Short-finned Pilot Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin and Loggerhead Turtle.
The Canary Islands is still a good place to see the Houbara Bustard. The image of this one was taken on Fuerteventura by Lars Petersson.
Cape May, New Jersey - USA
See USA - Cape May, below.
Cape Verde Islands
This windy volcanic archipelago of mainly desert and mountains about 350 miles (570 km) west of Senegal, West Africa, is in the Macaronesia ecoregion along with the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira, and therefore in the Western Palearctic. It supports just 36 breeding bird species but of the nine seabirds four are endemic breeding species; Cape Verde (Fea’s) Petrel, Boyd’s (Audubon's/Little) and Cape Verde (Cory's) Shearwaters, and Cape Verde (Band-rumped/Madeiran) Storm Petrel, while almost all of the landbirds are endemic species or subspecies, the five endemics being the very rare Cape Verde (Common) Buzzard, Cape Verde Swift, Raso Lark, Cape Verde (Cane) Warbler and Iago Sparrow, and the endemic subspecies including Purple (Bourne's) Heron, Common (Alexander's and Neglected) Kestrel and Barn (Cape Verde) Owl. Other birds present include Bulwer's Petrel, White-faced Storm Petrel (which can be seen during an overnight stay on Ilheu dos Passeros, off Boa Vista), Red-billed Tropicbird, Western Reef Egret, Brown Booby, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cream-coloured Courser, Grey-headed Kingfisher (which occurs nowhere else in the Western Palearctic), Bar-tailed and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Brown-necked Raven and Spectacled Warbler. The best islands to visit are: Santiago, the most bird rich island, mainly for Bourne's Heron, Cape Verde Buzzard (in the mountainous centre of the island overlooking Sierra Malagueta), Grey-headed Kingfisher and Cape Verde Warbler, although Praia cliffs is a good place for Red-billed Tropicbirds; Sao Nicolau, mainly for Neglected Kestrel, boat trips to Raso Island for Raso Lark (which has to be looked for from a boat because only researchers are allowed to land on the island which has colonies of Red-billed Tropicbirds and Brown Boobies and sometimes attracts roosting Red-footed Boobies), the crossing which is good for Bulwer's and Cape Verde Petrels, Cape Verde Storm Petrel, and Boyd's and Cape Verde Shearwaters, as well as Atlantic and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins, and Short-finned Pilot Whale, and Ponta do Barril, one of the best places for seawatching in the archipelago, good for the aforementioned seabirds along with Red-billed Tropicbird and Brown Booby, with a chance of White-faced Storm Petrel; and Boa Vista, where the Ilheu de Curral Velho, just offshore, supports a breeding colony of Brown Boobies (and once the last breeding pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds in the Western Palearctic), and Ponta da Varadinha (with a 4WD) where it is possible to see Red-billed Tropicbirds. The best time to visit is during the driest time of the year, December to June, especially March-April, when Humpback Whales can also be seen on whale-watching trips.
A great image of a Brown Booby captured in the Cape Verde Islands by Steve Rogers.
See Micronesia, below.
There are no endemic bird species on these three islands south of Cuba although they do support Vitelline Warbler which otherwise occurs only on the Swan Islands off Honduras. There are many endemic subspecies though including two of Cuban Parrot (caymanensis on Grand Cayman and hesterna on Cayman Brac) and Vitelline Warbler (vitellina on Grand Cayman and crawfordi on Little Cayman). Other specialities include West Indian Whistling Duck, Antillean Nighthawk, West Indian Woodpecker (Grand Cayman), Loggerhead Kingbird, Caribbean Elaenia, La Sagra's Flycatcher, (Western) Red-legged Thrush, Thick-billed Vireo, Yucatan Vireo (Grand Cayman), Bananaquit (sharpei), Western Spindalis (Grand Cayman), Cuban Bullfinch (Grand Cayman) and Greater Antillean Grackle, while more widespread spectacular species include White-tailed Tropicbird, Red-footed Booby (one of the largest breeding colonies on Earth (about 3500 pairs) is on Little Cayman), Magnificent Frigatebird (which also has a breeding colony on Little Cayman), and passage migrant and wintering warblers such as Black-throated Blue. Most resident breeding species nest from late May to July. The endemic fauna includes the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana while rich coral reefs, calm seas and warm, clear water make snorkelling and scuba-diving delightful, the most notable larger species being Blacktip and Whitetip Reef Sharks, Southern Stingray, Spotted Eagle Ray, Green Turtle and Atlantic Tarpon.
Central African Republic
Lowland Gorilla, African (Forest) Elephant, African (Forest) Buffalo, Red River Hog, monkeys and spectacular birds such as Red-headed Picathartes ... but in January 2020 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office continued to advise against all travel to virtually the whole of the country so please check with the relevant consulate/embassy/foreign office and travel company/companies before travelling, and/or check out the facebook page and/or website of Sangha Lodge, the best place to visit.
After decades of civil war the deserts, arid plains and mountains of Chad are becoming increasingly accessible to foreign visitors in search of somewhere new, remote, beautiful and exciting but in March 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to areas within 30 km of all borders except for the capital N’Djamena and Lake Chad and the parts of Kanem and Lac regions to the west of the towns of Mao and Bol, as well as other regions and against all but essential travel to all remaining parts of the country including the capital, N’Djamena and the town of Faya Largeau, adding that terrorists are very likely to try to carry out indiscriminate attacks and that there is a threat of retaliatory attacks following the French intervention in Mali and due to Chad’s involvement in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram. However, the bird tour company Birdquest enjoyed a successful visit in 2017 in search of Nubian Bustard, Niam-niam Parrot, Black-breasted Barbet, Rusty Bush Lark, African Dunn's Lark, Heuglin's Wheatear and Kordofan (Rufous) Sparrow, and they also saw Scissor-tailed Kite, Arabian Bustard, Black Crowned Crane, Egyptian Plover, Bronze-winged Courser, Abyssinian Roller, Cyprus Wheatear, Blackstart, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Black Scrub Robin, River Prinia, Pygmy Sunbird, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Desert and Sudan Golden Sparrows, and Sahel Paradise Whydah, some of which are northern Sahel specialities. Zakouma National Park in the southeast where Black Crowned Crane and Black-breasted Barbet occur is arguably the last great wilderness in Western Africa, home to over 500 African Elephants and many different subspecies of mammal to those of East and South Africa such as 'Kordofan' Giraffe, plus more localised full species such as Red-fronted Gazelle and Tiang. Night drives are allowed and a good way to see the likes of Crested Porcupine, Leopard, Serval and Honey Badger. Also present are Cheetah (rare), Lion, Buffalo, Spotted Hyaena (scarce), Roan, Lelwel’s Hartebeest, Loder’s (Buffon’s) Kob and Patas Monkey while reptiles include Black-necked Spitting Cobra, Nile Monitor Lizard and West African Crocodile. This park is normally subject to heavy rains between June and October but at the end of the very dry season impressive numbers of birds and mammals gather around any remaining waters. In the northeast Scimitar-horned Oryx is being reintroduced to the huge Ouadi Rime and Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve where Nubian Bustard and African Dunn's Lark occur. Visiting areas where Kordofan Lark and the near-endemic Chad (Jameson’s) Firefinch (rare in adjacent north Cameroon) have been recorded requires special permission. There are hotels and lodges but to see the best birds in the best places it is necessary to camp with the help of local tour companies equipped with 4x4s during the dry season, especially December to February.
Chatham Islands, New Zealand
This remote archipelago about 800 km east of the main islands of New Zealand supports several endemic birds; an albatross, two very rare petrels (Chatham Island and Magenta), two shags, an oystercatcher, a snipe, a parakeet, a pigeon, a gerygone and a robin, and it is possible to see some of these by volunteering to help out with ongoing management and research projects on small islands such as Mangere, a strict nature reserve where Chatham Snipe, the endemic Forbes and Red-crowned Parakeets, hybrids between the two, and Black Robin occur, as well as Shore Plover, the endemic race of Tomtit and Tui. Another way to see some of the birds of the Chatham Islands is to go on a cruise from New Zealand to the Subantarctic Islands of Australia and New Zealand during which it is possible to get close enough to Rangatira (also known as South East Island, where landings are not permitted) to see Pitt Shag, Chatham Oystercatcher and Shore Plover, as well as Tomtit and Tui, from Zodiacs. On the main Chatham Island it is possible to see Chatham Shag, Chatham Pigeon and Chatham Gerygone, as well as Little Penguin.
The best country in the world to see Puma, a chance of Blue Whale, and a fine country in which to look for several endemic birds and other, more widespread spectacular species such as Magellanic Penguin, Andean Condor, three species of flamingo, Diademed Sandpiper Plover, Magellanic Plover, Inca Tern and Magellanic Woodpecker, from the rich offshore waters to the high Andes.
China - Beidaihe and Happy Island
One of the best places to experience bird migration on the planet, just 280 km east of Beijing. The passage migrants, many in summer plumage during spring, include many species which are rarities in Europe and Alaska, notably cuckoos, pipits, thrushes, flycatchers, warblers and buntings, some of which turn up in astonishing numbers when there has been a fall (for example, 250 Siberian Blue Robins in one day on Happy Island!). Regular other species include Chinese Egret, Schrenck’s Bittern, Pied Harrier, Amur Falcon, Baillon’s Crake, shorebirds such as Asian Dowitcher and Grey-tailed Tattler, Relict and Saunders’s Gulls, White-throated Needletail, Black-capped Kingfisher, Black-naped Oriole, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Chinese Nuthatch, Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous-tailed and Siberian Blue Robins, Forest Wagtail and Chinese Grosbeak. A lot of good habitat is being destroyed around the expanding seaside resort of Beidaihe, which is not as good as it used to be, but Happy Island, about 4 km by 2km and accessible via a 20-minute ferry ride, is still an exciting place to bird, and arguably the best to find many of the most exciting migrants. The first half of May is the peak time for species diversity during spring but spring passage begins in March when four species of crane pass over. The peak time in autumn is late September-early October although the cranes pass over south from mid-October to early November.
The superb Siberian Blue Robin by Lars Petersson (in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam, in February).
China - Central
The rare Crested Ibis and Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, as well as a slim chance of Giant Panda, Temminck's Tragopan, Golden Pheasant, Indian Blue Robin and Blackthroat.
China - Eastern (Poyang Hu)
The 'Birds of Heaven', that is cranes, lots of wintering cranes, including Siberian, White-naped and Hooded, at Poyang Hu, one of the world’s greatest wetlands where tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of waterbirds spend the northern winter, notably Swan Geese and Oriental Storks.
China - Hong Kong
Arguably the best shorebird show on Earth, involving about 10,000 birds of over 30 species, passing through during spring in full summer plumage, including Asian Dowitcher, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Knot and possibly Spoon-billed Sandpiper, alongside the likes of Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gull, and possibly Chinese Egret.
China - Sichuan
Very little chance of seeing Giant Panda in the wild but one of the few places where there is a chance of Red Panda, and a long list of fabulous birds, such as Golden and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants, Temminck’s Tragopan, Chinese Monal, Hume’s Groundpecker, Sichuan Jay, Grandala, Firethroat, Crested and White-browed Tit Warblers, Golden-breasted Fulvetta and Gould's Sunbird, all in some stunning mountainous terrain.
A beautiful White-browed or Severtzov's or Stoliczka's Tit Warbler at Kanda Shan, a mountain pass in Qinghai province adjacent to Sichuan in China by Dubi Shapiro.
China - Yunnan
The richest province for birds in China with nearly 40 of the Chinese endemics and many species restricted to Yunnan, northern Myanmar and northeastern India, including Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Ward's Trogon, Purple Cochoa, lots of laughingthrushes, Himalayan Cutia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, and Giant and Yunnan Nuthatches, as well as the very rare Black-crested and Hoolock Gibbons, and Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey.
Millions of migrating Red Crabs, giant Coconut Crabs, coral reef fish, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Abbott’s Boobies and Christmas Island Frigatebirds, which nest nowhere else, ‘golden’ White-tailed Tropicbirds and at least four endemic landbirds; a goshawk, a hawk owl, a pigeon and a white-eye.
More bird species than any other country, over 1900 of them including over 90 endemics, such as Blue-billed Curassow, and Buffy and Green-bearded Helmetcrests, over 60 Choco endemics including Black-and-gold, Gold-ringed and Multicoloured Tanagers, plus Scarlet Ibis, Oilbird, quetzals, nearly 150 hummingbirds, and lots of antpittas, cotingas and tanagers, hence by including the Amazonia region in the east it is possible to record an incredible 1000 species in a month!
Comoros and Mayotte
There are over 20 and perhaps will end up being over 30 endemic bird species on the volcanic Comoro Islands between Mozambique and Madagascar and just about all of them can be seen by visiting the islands of Anjouan (3 single-island endemics), Grande Comore (8), Moheli (4) and Mayotte (5), actually a department of France rather than politically part of the Comoros, including a blue pigeon, four scops owls, three drongos, one to three thrushes, Humblot’s Flycatcher which is in a unique genus and occurs only on Grande Comore, Comoros Blue Vanga, three white-eyes, four sunbirds and a fody (on Mayotte only). In order to see Karthala (or Grande Comore) Scops Owl and Karthala White-eye it is necessary to camp out near the top of Mount Karthala on Grand Comore which has the largest crater of any of the world’s active volcanoes. Also on this island are Malagasy Harrier, an endemic subspecies of Malagasy (Malachite) Kingfisher and forms of Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Cuckoo-Roller, Malagasy Spinetail and Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher. Around the coasts of the two main islands of Mayotte it is possible to see White-tailed Tropicbird, Sooty and Bridled Terns, and Brown Noddy, and off the coast of Moheli the endemic temptator form of Persian (or Arabian) Shearwater, Lesser Frigatebird and Masked Booby. The dry season usually lasts from May to November and the end of this period is the best time for birds.
A great image of the rather fancy Comoros Blue Pigeon taken on Mount Karthala on the island of Grande Comore by Dubi Shapiro.
Congo, Democratic Republic of (formerly Zaire)
See Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), below.
(Republic of the) Congo
In the remote northwest of this country it is possible to see Western Lowland Gorillas in Odzala-Kokoua National Park where there are two habituated families near Ngaga Camp, accessible by air from Brazzaville the capital. Around other camps such as M’boko, visitors can see Forest Elephants and Forest Buffalos. Eleven diurnal primates live in the park and other mammals include Allen's Swamp Monkey (Lango Camp), Red River Hog, Hammer Bat, Africa’s largest fruit bat, Angwantibo and Potto. Nearly 450 species of bird have been recorded, 330 breeding, including Congo Serpent Eagle, Red-chested Owlet, Black-collared Lovebird, White-bellied Kingfisher, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Broadbill, Angola and Bioko Batises, Eastern Wattled Cuckoo Shrike, Black-throated Apalis, Black-collared Bulbul, many greenbuls including Falkenstein’s, and Yellow-capped Weaver. Congo is a low-lying country on the equator between Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo where over 50% of the land surface is still covered by rainforest and another national park in the far north, Nouabale-Ndoki, which is contiguous with Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic, supports the likes of Sandy Scops Owl, Brown Nightjar, Zenker’s Honeyguide and Preuss’s Weaver. Unfortunately in November 2019 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to within 50 km of the border with the Central African Republic in Likouala region. In the far south birds characteristic of the flooded forests in the Kouilou region include White-crested Tiger Heron, Maned Owl and Vermiculated Fishing-owl while other species present in the Lower Kouilou Basin bordered by the Atlantic coast include Damara Tern, Black-headed Bee-eater, African River Martin (September-November) and Loango Weaver. The river martin and Rosy Bee-eater breed in Conkouati National Park in the extreme southwest and the Lefini Faunal Reserve on the Teke Plateau in the southeast next to Gabon supports Finsch’s Francolin, Congo Moor Chat and Black-chinned Weaver with Brazza’s Martin in neighbouring localities. There are two rainy seasons, usually from March to May, and from September to November, when Forest Elephants visit bais more often, and two drier seasons, normally from December to February, and from June to September, when ripe fruits, especially in February and August, attract Gorillas, making them more mobile but once located easier to see as they leave the thick ground vegetation and take to the trees.
It is only necessary to visit three of the 15 widely scattered Cook Islands to see the six endemic bird species: the island of Atiu for the endemic Atiu Swiftlet (which can be seen at the nest in Anatakitaki Cave, one of several spectacular caves on the islands) and Lilac-crowned Fruit Dove (which also occurs on Rarotonga but is much scarcer there), as well as Kuhl's Lorikeet, which otherwise occurs only on remote Rimatara in the Austral Islands, and has been reintroduced to this island, Chattering Kingfisher, the range of which extends beyond the Cook Islands to the Society Islands, and the more widespread Pacific Imperial Pigeon; the island of Rarotonga for the endemic Rarotonga Monarch in Takitumu Conservation Area (a bird which has also been introduced to Atiu) and Rarotonga Starling; and the island of Mangaia for the endemic Mangaia (Mewing) Kingfisher and Cook Islands Reed Warbler. In addition, Blue (Violet) Lorikeet has been introduced to Aitutaki where there is also a chance of seeing Bristle-thighed Curlew, mainly from November to March. Seabirds present throughout the Cook Islands include Herald Petrel (most likely on and around Rarotonga), Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Red-footed Booby, Black and Brown Noddies, and White Terns. It is usually dry and cool from June to October, the best time to visit, with most rain falling during the cyclone season between December and May.
This scenic, sparsely populated, French island nearer the northwest coast of Italy than France supports the endemic Corsican Nuthatch, the near-endemic Marmora's Warbler and Corsican Finch (both of which occur only on Corsica and Sardinia), and the restricted-range Moltoni's (Subalpine) Warbler and Italian Sparrow. In addition there are several endemic subspecies, including the corsa race of Treecreeper. More widespread species include Lammergeier (rare and most likely at Haut Asco), Red Kite, Golden Eagle (scarce), Hoopoe, Alpine Chough, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Firecrest and Spotless Starling, with summer visitors such as European Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike (the badius subspecies which breeds on Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearic Islands). Around the coast and on some etangs it is possible to see a few Audouin's Gulls and offshore, Scopoli's (Cory's) and Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters. The few mammals include Mouflon (most likely at Haut Asco) but there is a rich flora which includes many orchids and those usually in flower during early May (the best time to look for birds) include Sword-leaved Helleborine, Violet Limodore, Yellow Ophrys, Heart-flowered Serapias, and Barton’s, Man, Milky, Pink Butterfly and Tongue Orchids.
A singing male Marmora's Warbler by Michael McKee, endemic to the western Mediterranean.
Over 900 bird species in 50,000 sq km including one of the best selections of the world's most spectacular birds, not least Agami Heron, Sunbittern, Scarlet Macaw, Resplendent Quetzal, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Three-wattled Bellbird, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Lovely Cotinga, Red-capped Manakin and Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, together with sloths, howler and spider monkeys, nesting turtles, Red-eyed Tree Frogs, giant dragonflies and numerous butterflies. Costa Rica's got the lot!
The limestone islands, cliffs, gorges and craggy mountains of Croatia support Scopoli’s (Cory’s) and Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters, Rock Partridge (Pag Island near Paklenica and Biokova Nature Park are good sites), Pygmy Cormorant (Lake Vrana is the Croatian stronghold), Eurasian Griffon Vulture (colony/rehabilitation centre on the island on Cres), Golden, Lesser Spotted, Short-toed and White-tailed Eagles, Eleonora’s Falcon (Vis Island), European Bee-eater, Collared Flycatcher, Alpine Chough, Sombre Tit, (Western) Rock Nuthatch, Olive-tree and (Eastern) Orphean Warblers, Lesser Grey Shrike, Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor (near Veti Jure in Biokova NP), Black-headed Wagtail, and Black-headed and Rock Buntings. The rich flora, including lots of orchids, is a fine sight in April and May. The best time for birds is May-June and early June is usually the peak time for butterflies, 190 species of which have been recorded including a wide variety of ‘blues’ and rarities such as Balkan Copper.
A big island, home to one of the world’s smallest bats, possibly the dinkiest frog and the smallest bird; the Bee Hummingbird, one of over 20 endemics which also include Blue-headed Quail Dove, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody and Fernandina's Flicker, all joined by wintering warblers such as Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Prairie.
There are a lot of rather spectacular endemic birds on the island of Cuba, not least the Blue-headed Quail Dove. This fine image was captured at Bermejas near Zapata by Dubi Shapiro.
It is possible to see all ten European woodpeckers in the Czech Republic. The best three areas for birds are: (i) the Sumava Mountains on the border with Germany, which, together with neighbouring Bavaria, support the most extensive forest remaining in Central Europe, home to some great but scarce and very elusive birds such as Black and Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Pygmy and Ural Owls, and Black, (Eurasian) Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers, most of which are best looked for on Mount Boubin where Ring Ouzel (alpestris) and Eurasian Nutcracker also occur; (ii) the five hundred fish ponds in the Trebon area which support White-tailed Eagle, as well as a few White Storks, Red-crested Pochard, Red Kite, Bluethroat, Collared Flycatcher, Reedling and Penduline Tit; and (iii) South Moravia where there is a possibility of seeing Barred Warbler, as well as Saker Falcon and Eastern Imperial Eagle (both most likely in the Hohenau area just across the border in Austria). The best time to look for birds is the middle of May when most of the summer migrants have usually arrived and some owls and woodpeckers are still nesting.
Situated to the south of Turkey and north of the Nile delta in the eastern Mediterranean the coastal rocky promontories and wetlands on the rugged island of Cyprus are a great place to see migrating birds especially during the northern spring (mainly late March to mid April) when species passing through include Pallid Harrier, Little Crake, Slender-billed Gull, Red-throated Pipit, Black-headed Wagtail, Isabelline Wheatear and Ruppell’s Warbler, with 'regular' vagrants such as Caspian Plover. Good sites include Cape Greco near Larnaca in the far southeast which has hosted rarities such as Grey Hypocolius and Cinereous Bunting; the vast salt lake at Akrotiri (for flocks of Greater Flamingos) and the dry plain known as the Akrotiri Gravel Pits, one of the best areas for migrant passerines, which in turn attract Pallid Harriers; and Paphos (Pafos) Headland in the far southwest, a classic migration site also famous for its Roman ruins. There are three widespread endemic breeding species; a scops-owl, a wheatear and a warbler, and four endemic subspecies; Coal Tit (cypriotes), 'Dorothy's' Short-toed Treecreeper (dorotheae), Jay (glaszneri) and Crossbill (guillemardi), all of which occur in the Troodos Mountains. Other breeding species include Chukar, Black Francolin, Griffon Vulture, Eleonora's Falcon, Spur-winged Plover, Audouin’s Gull, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Masked Shrike, Spectacled Warbler and Cretzschmar’s Bunting. During the autumn, usually from late August to early September, Demoiselle Cranes stopover at Akrotiri Salt Lake where thousands of Greater Flamingos spend the northern winter and other wintering species include Ruddy Shelduck and Finsch's Wheatear (Oct-Mar). There are also 50 species and forms of orchid in the northern Turkish half of the island, of which about 30 flower together in March-April, including Anatolian, Cyprus Bee, Early Mammose and Eastern Tongue.
Cyprus Warbler by Lars Petersson.
Dakota, North - USA
See USA - North Dakota, below
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas, below.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
This huge country supports a tremendous variety of wildlife but it is a very difficult place in which to see much of it. One exception is Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve deep in the heart of the Congo where it is possible to see the mythical Congo Peafowl, one of the shyest and most difficult birds to see on planet Earth. In contrast our closest next of kin the rare Bonobo which also occurs here is easy to see thanks to researchers habituating several groups. Getting there is not easy. Once permits (‘ordres de mission’) have been obtained from different ministries it will probably be necessary to charter a plane for the 700 km flight to Basankusu in the province of Equateur then a dugout for a 170 km river trip then it is a 12 km trek to a clearing where there is no accommodation so all camping gear, food etc. will need to be factored into what is in effect an expedition, or you could just contact the tour company Birdquest who visited in 2015 and 2017. They also saw Congo Serpent Eagle, Forbes’s Plover (Basankusu), Yellow-throated Cuckoo, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Sladen’s Barbet, Blue Cuckoo Shrike, Bates’s Paradise Flycatcher, Congo Martin (Mbandaka), Congo (Mbandaka) and Violet-tailed Sunbirds, Cassin’s Malimbe, Bob-tailed Weaver (at Basankusu and Mbandaka), Woodhouse’s Antpecker and Grant’s Bluebill, as well as Black Mangabey, Angolan Pied Colobus, Wolf’s Monkey and Red River Hog. September is the time to go even though the wet season in the north of the country usually lasts from April to October.
Seeing an Okapi in the wild is another matter altogether although there is an Okapi Fauna Reserve run by The Okapi Conservation Project based at Epulu in the northeast. The reserve encompasses 13,700 square kilometers of the Ituri Forest which also supports the largest populations of Chimpanzees and Forest Elephants in the country as well as 13 primates including Owl-faced monkey, Bongo, and birds such as Spot-breasted Ibis, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue throated Roller, Yellow-footed Flycatcher and Blue-billed Malimbe.
In October 2019 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continued to advise against all travel to many provinces of the country especially in the east, including Ituri, stating that the, 'presence of armed groups, military operations against them, intercommunal violence and an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries all contribute to a deterioration in the political, security and humanitarian situation.' The office also added that, in the east, 'On 17 July 2019, the World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) following an outbreak of the Ebola virus.'
Despite its small size, just 20,000 square km or so, and often intense heat, Djibouti, a former French colony with a continued French military presence, has a bird list of over 360 species, thanks mainly to its location at the mouth of the African Rift Valley, the narrowest point along the Red Sea (the Bab el Mandeb straits) and close to the Arabian Peninsula, just 28 km away. It therefore has a fascinating mix of African and Middle Eastern species and is on a major migration flyway to boot. The 370 km long coastline has areas of mangrove bordered by large mudflats while inland mountains rise to about 2000 m above semi-desert, acacia bush land, savannas and patches of Juniper forest where the birds include the endemic Djibouti Francolin and restricted-range specialities such as White-eyed Gull, White-cheeked Tern, Somali Bulbul, Gambaga Flycatcher, Somali Starling, Arabian Golden and Somali Sparrows, an odd sunbird tentatively named Toha Sunbird and a yellow-breasted and yellow-tailed form of Green-winged Pytilia that may prove to be a distinct species. Other birds present at various times of the year include Persian Shearwater, Greater Flamingo, Abdim’s Stork, Goliath Heron, Pink-backed Pelican, Verreaux’s Eagle, Crab Plover, Sooty Gull, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Nubian Woodpecker, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Grey-headed Batis, Ethiopian Boubou, Blackstart, Black Scrub Robin, Sombre Rock Chat, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Graceful Prinia, Arabian, Basra Reed, Brown Woodland, Menetries’s, Red-fronted and Upcher’s Warblers, Nile Valley Sunbird and Ruppell’s Weaver. There are quite a lot of mammals too, including Hamadryas Baboon, Speke's Pectinator, Dorcas and Soemmerring's Gazelles, Salt's Dik-dik and Klipspringer. The best time for birds is arguably December to February when birds which breed far to the north spend the northern winter in the country.
This small, steep Caribbean island supports two endemic parrots, and near-endemic Blue-headed Hummingbird, Purple-throated Carib and Brown Trembler but is perhaps more famous for being one of the best places in the world to see Sperm Whales, along with other whales, and dolphins.
Three bird families endemic to the island of Hispaniola, which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti, live here; the monotypic Palmchat, the two Chat Tanagers and three of the four Hispaniolan 'Tanagers'; Black-crowned Tanager, and Green-tailed and White-winged Warblers, while the 30 or so Hispaniolan endemics also include a parrot, a trogon, two todies and Golden Swallow. Many visitors head for the nearby Silverbank though, one of the few places in the world where it is possible to swim with Humpback Whales.
Birds do not come much cuter than todies which are endemic to the Caribbean. This is a Broad-billed Tody on the Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic by Dubi Shapiro.
See Timor/Timor-Leste, below.
Ecuador - Northern
More birds per square mile than any other country in the world including many parrots, macaws, hummingbirds, trogons and quetzals, jacamars, toucans, antbirds, cotingas, manakins, tanagers and spectacular localized birds such as Zigzag Heron, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Oilbird, Long-wattled Umbrellabird and Black-necked Red Cotinga, hence it is possible to see over 850 species in three to four weeks (the world 24-hour record was set in Ecuador at 385 by dusk, and 425 after a flight and a night ringing), as well as some mammals, maybe even Pygmy Marmoset and Spectacled Bear.
Ecuador - Southern
Endemic birds such as El Oro Parakeet, over 40 Tumbesian endemics shared with northwest Peru including White-tailed Jay, and other specialities, notably Crescent-faced and Jocotoco Antpittas, Black-crested Tit Tyrant and Orange-throated Tanager.
The truly extraordinary Long-wattled Umbrellabird at the Jocotoco Foundation's Buenaventura Reserve in Southern Ecuador by Lars Petersson.
The main tourist attractions in Egypt are the Great Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, the Egyptian Museum which hosts Tutankhamun’s treasures, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, and the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, but visitors interested in birds may wish to turn their eyes elsewhere, especially those interested in birds which are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic, birds such as White-eyed Gull (which is difficult to see anywhere else in the world!), Goliath and Striated Herons, Yellow-billed Stork, Brown Booby, Pink-backed Pelican, Sooty Falcon, Greater Painted Snipe, Senegal Thick-knee, Crab, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers, Sooty Gull, Saunders's Tern (at a colony near Ras Sedr on the Sinai Peninsula), African Skimmer, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, African Collared and Namaqua Doves, Senegal Coucal, Hume's Owl, Hooded Wheatear, African Pied Wagtail, Nile Valley and Palestine Sunbirds, Sinai Rosefinch, Red Avadavat and Streaked Weaver. There is even an outside chance of seeing the elusive Yellow Bitterns which were discovered breeding in mangroves along Egypt's southern Red Sea coast at Lahami south of Marsa Alam in 2012-2013 and were still present in 2017. One hour south is the site for Lappet-faced Vulture, at El Shalateen on the border with Sudan. The spring (especially mid-April to early May) and autumn (September-October) migration periods are the best times to visit, with the possibility of large numbers of storks, raptors, shorebirds and passerines, especially at the migration bottlenecks of Suez, Hurghada and Zaranik. The Red Sea is rich in marine life and there are many places where scuba-diving and snorkelling can be spectacular experiences.
Egypt is the best place in the world to see White-eyed Gull. Image by Michael McKee.
The smallest country in Central America has the highest human population density hence there ain’t a lot of forest left. However, all the birds of the dry tropical forest belt that ranges along the Pacific coast from southern Mexico to northern Costa Rica and many species endemic to the highlands between southern Mexico and northern Nicaragua are present including the range-restricted Rufous Sabrewing. The best birding sites include El Imposible National Park (Long-tailed Manakin), Los Volcanes National Park (White-faced Quail Dove, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Rufous-browed Wren, Bushy-crested Jay and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer), Montecristo National Park (Highland Guan, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Rufous-collared Thrush and Rufous-browed Wren) and the Perquín area (Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge and Bushy-crested Jay).
El Triunfo - Mexico
See Mexico - El Triunfo, below
This very small country in West Africa has a mainland area known as Rio Muni and five inhabited islands in the Gulf of Guinea including Bioko (see above), where the capital Malabo is situated, 34 km west of Cameroon, and Annobon which is 565 km southwest of Bioko and 340 km west of Gabon. In between these two islands are Sao Tome and Principe, a separate country (see below). One of the top birding areas on the mainland is around Djibloho where Sjostedt’s Owlet, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Fiery-breasted Bushshrike and Rufous-bellied Helmetshrike occur. In the middle of the mainland lies Monte Alen National Park which supports Zenker’s Honeyguide, Verreaux’s Batis, Tessmann’s Flycatcher, Black-capped and Uganda Woodland Warblers, and Grey-necked Picathartes which also occurs in Nsork Highlands National Park in the southeast corner of the country. Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Forest Elephants also live on the mainland but the human population tripled after 1980 and the economic boom following the discovery of oil in the region financed the development of roads and urban areas leading to the usual habitat loss and so on.
At least half of Ethiopia’s 30 or so ‘Abyssinian 'endemics' also occur in this small country; Wattled Ibis, Rouget’s Rail, White-collared Pigeon, Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole, Thick-billed Raven, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Ruppell's (Black) Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Ethiopian (Winding) Cisticola, White-backed Black Tit, White-billed Starling and White-throated (Abyssinian Yellow-rumped) Seedeater. Near-endemics, restricted to the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and easternmost Sudan), include Erckel's Francolin, Blanford's Lark, White-headed and White-rumped Babblers, Abyssinian Black (Mourning) Wheatear, Somali Starling, Swainson's Sparrow, Ruppell's Weaver, African Citril and Brown-rumped Seedeater, while Collared Kingfisher occurs in mangroves along parts of the 1000 km long Red Sea coastline (the only place in Africa where this otherwise widespread Asian species occurs) and other notable species include Red-breasted (Botta's) Wheatear (which only occurs elsewhere in Ethiopia and Arabia), Menetries’s Warbler (a passage migrant and winter visitor), Pale Rock Finch (a winter visitor) and Cinereous Bunting (an uncommon passage migrant). More widespread birds range from Crab Plover, White-eyed Gull and White-cheeked Tern through Steppe and Tawny Eagles, several sandgrouse, Abyssinian Roller and Black Scrub Robin to Greater Hoopoe Lark. Mammals include Abyssinian Wild Ass (on coastal plains), Caracal, Spotted Hyena, Greater Kudu, Dorca’s and Soemmering's Gazelles, and Hamadryas/Sacred Baboon, while offshore there are Dugongs in the Gulf of Zuba and southern Dahlak Islands (along with three species of turtle), Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and a wide variety of coral reef fish. The best times to visit are during the migration periods (February to April and September to November) although some species are more likely to be seen during the June to October highland rainy season.
Arguably the widest variety of birds in Europe, during migration and the breeding season when over 170 species are present including Lesser Spotted Eagle, Black Stork and Great Snipe. During the northern autumn/fall millions of waterbirds and passerines, especially finches, pass through, and during the depths of winter there may be hundreds of Steller's Eiders present.
30 or so endemic birds including Rouget's Rail, Spot-breasted Plover, Prince Ruspoli's Turaco and the unique Stresemann's Bushcrow, other spectacular localized birds such as Vulturine Guineafowl, Arabian Bustard and Golden-breasted Starling, and amazing localized mammals including Gelada and Sacred Baboons, Ethiopian Wolf, Beisa Oryx and Gerenuk, although most classic African plains mammals are not likely to be seen.
A striking Vulturine Guineafowl by Francesco Veronesi, a bird that occurs only in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and northeast Tanzania.
Extremadura - Spain
The best place in western Europe for bustards and raptors, including Spanish and Bonelli’s Eagles, and Black-shouldered Kite, as well as some of Europe’s other most spectacular and localized birds such as White and Black Storks, White-rumped Swift, Roller and Iberian Azure-winged Magpie, all in one of the wildest and therefore birdiest places left in Europe.
King and other penguins, Black-browed Albatross colonies, Southern Elephant Seals, two endemic birds; Falkland Steamerduck and Cobb’s Wren, and a few birds difficult to see elsewhere including Striated Caracara and Black-throated Finch.
Quintessential tropical islands with fantasy fish on the coral reefs and outrageous endemic birds such as Golden, Orange and Velvet Doves, Crimson, Masked and Red Shining Parrots, Blue-crested Flycatcher and the unique Silktail, as well as spectacular seabirds including Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Red-footed Booby and Sooty Tern.
The astonishing Golden Dove is endemic to Fiji where this image was taken by Dubi Shapiro.
Finland and Arctic Norway
The greatest diversity of owls in Europe, an Arctic experience completed by King and Steller’s Eiders, and nesting shorebirds, and a good chance of seeing Brown Bears from hides at night where there is also a chance of Wolverine.
France - Southern
A wonderful combination of wetland and mountain birds in the Camargue and Pyrenees, birds such as Greater Flamingo, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor, and Citril and Snow Finches, in some superb scenery.
Forest still covers about 90% of this sparsely populated overseas department of France which means the birding is fantastic. However, the ecotourist infrastructure is relatively basic and many sites are accessible only by boat or plane. The long list of spectacular and special birds includes Agami Heron (the world’s largest nesting colony with about 1500 pairs is at Reserve Naturelle des Marais de Kaw about 70 km from the capital Cayenne), Scarlet Ibis, Hoatzin, Cayenne Tern (Ile de Grand Connetable), Red-fan Parrot, Crimson Topaz, jacamars, trogons, toucans, Guianan and Spotted Puffbirds, Painted Tody Flycatcher, White-plumed Antbird, Capuchinbird, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Guianan Red Cotinga, Pompadour, Purple-breasted and Spangled Cotingas, Dusky Purpletuft, Crimson-hooded Manakin, Musician Wren, Blue-backed Tanager and Red-and-black Grosbeak, with additional species in the primary forest (with trails) surrounding the small, isolated village of Saul in the heart of the country, arguably the top site in the country with over 450 species recorded, accessible only by air, including Black Curassow, Zigzag Heron, Orange-breasted Falcon, Black-and-white Hawk Eagle, Crested and Harpy Eagles, Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, all five Amazonian potoos, Fiery-tailed Awlbill, Tufted Coquette, Red-billed Woodcreeper, McConnell’s Spinetail, White-throated Pewee, Dusky and White-browed Antbirds, Band-tailed and Black-throated Antshrikes, Ash-winged, Rufous-rumped, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, White Bellbird, Crimson Fruitcrow, Cayenne Jay, Wing-banded Wren, Guianan Gnatcatcher, and possibly Sooty Barbthroat which is known only from French Guiana and the Brazilian state of Amapa) and the single endemic, Cayenne Nightjar, known only from the type specimen collected at Saut Tamanoir in 1917 but two records of a nightjar from Saul in 1999 may relate to this species. At the mouth of the Fleuve Maroni, Awala Yalimapo, in the extreme northwest, Les Hattes beach is a nesting ground for Leatherback Turtles which lay their eggs their between April and July. Mammals include Red-handed (Golden-pawed) Tamarin and Guianan Squirrel Monkey. This is a wet country where the driest months are usually August to October.
Lots of seabirds including Polynesian Storm Petrel, Tahiti Petrel and White Tern, wintering Bristle-thighed Curlews, and endemic birds such as Tuamotu Sandpiper, Henderson Crake, Polynesian Ground Dove, and Atoll, Grey-green and Henderson Fruit Doves.
Lowland Gorilla, a chance of Chimpanzee and Mandrill, Red River Hog and lots of spectacular localized birds including Long-tailed Hawk, Grey Pratincole, Pel's and Vermiculated Fishing Owls, Black-headed and Rosy Bee-eaters, African River Martin and Red-headed Picathartes, in a lovely, friendly, sparsely populated and still largely forested country.
Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, sealions, turtles, coral reef fish, tame nesting seabirds such as Waved Albatross, Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-footed, Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds, and Swallow-tailed Gull, and over 20 endemic birds including Galapagos Penguin, Flightless Cormorant, and several mockingbirds and finches.
Easy birding in a small country with spectacular localized birds such as Egyptian Plover, White-backed Night Heron, and Abyssinian and Blue-bellied Rollers amongst more widespread African icons including African Fish Eagle, Black and Goliath Herons, and Red-throated and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters.
This stunning image of an Abyssinian Roller was taken in Gambia by Nick Cobb.
Caucasian Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock, Guldenstadt's Redstart and 'Caucasian' Great Rosefinch, in the mountains with Lammergeier, Wallcreeper and Red-fronted Serin, and Batumi, one of the best places in the world for visible raptor migration, involving over a million birds per autumn/fall, mainly Honey and ‘Steppe’ Buzzards but also including Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Steppe Eagles, and Levant Sparrowhawk.
Perhaps the most famous birding site in Germany is the offshore island of Hel(i)goland in the North Sea, not just for its large seabird colonies which include a gannetry but also for attracting an astonishing variety of migrating birds including many rarities, so many that the island list exceeds 430, more than Fair Isle in Shetland, UK (where the list reached 392 in June 2019 with Franklin's Gull) but less than the Isles of Scilly, UK (447 at the end of March 2018). On the mainland some of the few hundred Great Bustards left in Germany in 2019 (there were believed to be about 4000 present before the Second World War) may be seen in the northeast region known as Brandenburg with the best area being around the village of Garlitz. Birds present on and around Gulper See, also near Berlin, during October-November, include Greater White-fronted, Greylag and Tundra Bean Geese but the main attraction of the area in autumn is the Common Cranes which usually occur in thousands, especially around Linum fishponds where it is possible to watch them go to roost. Another area famous for Cranes is Landkreis Diepholz near Bremen in northwest Germany where up to 80,000 birds have been known to stopover between Scandinavia and Spain during the autumn. At the other end of the country, down south, the scenic Bavarian Alps, especially in Berchtesgaden Alpine National Park, support a wide range of flowers (usually best during the first half of June), butterflies and birds such as Golden Eagle, Black Woodpecker, Alpine Chough, Crag Martin and Alpine Accentor.
The easiest place in the world to see the extraordinary Yellow-headed Picathartes, as well as many other West African Upper Guinea Forest endemics and specialities including Egyptian Plover, Black, Blue-moustached and Rosy Bee-eaters, Abyssinian and Blue-bellied Rollers, and Rufous-sided Broadbill, with several monkeys.
The stunning Blue-breasted Kingfisher occurs across west Africa to Uganda. This image was captured in Mole National Park in Ghana by Dubi Shapiro.
Goa - India
See India - Goa, below
Large numbers of Greater Flamingos, Pygmy Cormorants, and Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, in a country also enlivened by Spur-winged Plovers, Masked Shrikes, Ruppell’s Warblers and Cretzschmar’s Buntings. Also see Lesvos, below.
Although Guatemala is little more than one-twentieth the size of Mexico it has a birdlist of about 700, almost two-thirds of the Mexico total. In the south of this country with some of the most active volcanoes in the region Central American specialities include Crested and Highland Guans, Spotted Wood Quail, Resplendent Quetzal, hummingbirds such as Rufous and Violet Sabrewings, Blue-throated and Tody Motmots, Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, Bushy-crested and Unicoloured Jays, Pink-headed Warbler and the rare Azure-rumped (Cabanis's) Tanager, mostly in patches of remnant forest in and around shade-coffee plantations, and on the highest, steepest slopes of the dramatic volcanic landscape, at places such as Finca Los Andes. The best spot in the world for the stunning Goldman’s Warbler, a potential endemic currently considered a subspecies of Myrtle/Yellow-rumped Warbler which occurs only in high-elevation juniper and pine forests in Guatemala is Todos Santos Cuchumatan near Huehuetenango where there is also a chance of Ocellated Quail, Olive Warbler and the Guatemalan subspecies of Yellow-eyed Junco (a possible split from the northern Yellow-eyed Juncos). On the high slopes of Volcan San Pedro around the beautiful crater lake Lago de Atitlan (where the endemic grebe became extinct in the early 1980s) it is also possible to see the localised, rare and spectacular Horned Guan, above 2500 m on the notoriously steep El Sendero de Lagrimas (The Trail of Tears), as well as Amethyst-throated, Sparkling-tailed and Wine-throated Hummingbirds, Blue-throated Motmot and Hooded Grosbeak. Up north is the Classic Mayan site of Tikal where the birdlife includes several Yucatan endemics such as Ocellated Turkey, Ocellated Poorwill and Grey-throated Chat, with numerous other spectacular birds, not least King Vulture and Keel-billed Toucan, as well as Black (Yucatan) Howler Monkey, Central American (Geoffrey's) Spider Monkey and confiding White-nosed Coatis. The peak time to look for birds is January to April.
Pink-headed Warbler at Sibinal in Guatemala by Dubi Shapiro. This beauty occurs only in Guatemala and the adjacent highlands of eastern Chiapas in southern Mexico.
Many spectacular localized South American birds including Sun Parakeet, Capuchinbird, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Guianan Red Cotinga, Crimson Fruitcrow, Pompadour and Purple-breasted Cotingas, and Red Siskin, among more widespread beauties such as Scarlet Ibis, Sunbittern, macaws, jacamars and toucans, as well as Kaieteur Falls and a chance of Giant Anteater, Giant Otter and several species of monkey in a sparsely populated, friendly and still largely forested country.
See French Guiana, above.
Some spectacular endemic landbirds, not least honeycreepers, seabirds such as Laysan Albatross, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Grey-backed and White Terns, and Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater, the rare Bristle-thighed Curlew, Spinner Dolphins, Manta Rays, Green Turtles, coral reef fish, Humpback Whales and the chance to see rivers of molten lava pouring out of one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary - Pennsylvania
See USA - Pennsylvania, below.
Tens of thousands of geese, with a good chance of Lesser White-fronted, as well as swans and Smews in winter, and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds during late summer.
Most of the North Central American Highlands endemics including Wine-throated Hummingbird, Blue-throated Motmot and Bushy-crested Jay along with six more motmots notably Keel-billed, Tody and Turquoise-browed, Keel-billed Toucan and Lovely Cotinga, as well as coral reef fish and one of the best places in the world to swim with Whale Sharks.
Imperial and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Red-footed and Saker Falcons, Great Bustards, and Aquatic Warblers during the summer, and tens of thousands of Common Cranes in November.
A great shot of a female Red-footed Falcon by Michael McKee.
Birds recorded on and around this small Balearic island in the Mediterranean include Balearic Shearwater (also possible on the short ferry ride between Ibiza and the rather barren island of Formentera to the south), 'Scopoli's' Cory's Shearwater, Booted Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Audouin’s Gull, Greater Short-toed and Thekla Larks, Balearic Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Eurasian Crag Martin, Firecrest, 'Balearic' Red Crossbill and a wide range of passage migrants during spring and autumn.
Harlequin Duck and Barrow's Goldeneye, both of which nest nowhere else in Europe, shorebirds such as Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, spectacular seabird cliffs with Brunnich's Guillemots, Gyr Falcon and a chance of Blue, Humpback and Killer Whales, in some of the wildest scenery in the world.
Idaho - USA
See USA - Idaho, below.
India - Goa
Goa is India’s smallest state, just 130 km (80 miles) from north to south and 80 km (50 miles) wide. Situated on the tropical west coast, the white, palm-fringed beaches are a major tourist attraction, but the state is also a great place for birds, from the coast where the lakes, marshes, mudflats and mangroves support a wide range of waterbirds to the foothill forests of the Western Ghats at the eastern end of the state where it is possible to see over 30 of Southern India's endemic and near-endemic species. Water and open-country birds along the coast include Oriental Darter, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Greater and Indian Spotted Eagles, Indian Peafowl, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Greater Painted Snipe, Great Black-headed Gull, Plum-headed Parakeet, Black-capped and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Little Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Wire-tailed Swallow, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Orange-headed Thrush and Long-tailed Shrike. To see the specialities however it is necessary to spend at least a few days in the Western Ghats, at places such as the famous Backwoods Camp for example, where it is possible to see Southern Indian endemics such as Grey Junglefowl, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar (Crimson-fronted) and White-cheeked Barbets, Flame-throated (Black-crested) Bulbul, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Malabar Whistling Thrush, near-endemics shared with Sri Lanka, including Blue-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Orange (Scarlet) Minivet and Indian (White-browed) Scimitar Babbler, and other spectacular species such as Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Pitta (also possible elsewhere), Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Forest Wagtail, Golden-fronted Leafbird (also possible elsewhere), Indian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shama, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. The best time to look for birds is during the northern winter and in two weeks it is possible to see well over 250 species.
Brahminy Kite. One of the many spectacular birds easily seen at Goa. Image by Michael McKee.
India - Northern
Tiger, as well as spectacular birds such as Black-necked and Painted Storks, Indian Peafowl, Sarus Crane, Indian Skimmer, and Brown and Tawny Fish Owls, especially at Bharatpur, one of the best birding sites in the world, and other animals including Asian Elephant and Gharial.
India - Northeastern
Spectacular localized birds such as Himalayan Monal, Ward's Trogon, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Grandala, Himalayan Cutia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Bugun Liocichla and Beautiful Nuthatch, alongside Indian Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Ganges River Dolphin and even Tiger.
The beautiful Grandala, one of a flock which these birds usually occur in, by Jon Hornbuckle.
India - Northwestern
The best place in the world to look for Snow Leopards, in the high mountains of Ladakh.
India - Southern
Many endemic birds including Black-and-orange Flycatcher and White-bellied Treepie, nearly 20 bird species shared only with Sri Lanka, such as Malabar Trogon, more widespread wonders like Indian Pitta and Indian Blue Robin, and monkeys including Lion-tailed Macaque.
The tiny (16 cm (6 inches)) and extraordinary Heart-spotted Woodpecker at Thattekad in Southern India, by Francesco Veronesi.
India - Western
'Asiatic' Lion, Wild Ass, Blackbuck, a good chance of Leopard and Striped Hyaena, thousands of Demoiselle Cranes, the largest harrier roost in the world, flamingos, Crab Plover, Cream-coloured and Indian Coursers, and localized birds such as Hypocolius, White-bellied Minivet and Green Avadavat.
Bali Myna in Bali Barat National Park by Dubi Shapiro.
Indonesia - Bali
The numerous top birding destinations of Indonesia include the island of Bali, just across the narrow Bali Strait to the east of Java, where the very rare and very beautiful white Bali Myna or Starling is being reintroduced (not very successfully) to Bali Barat National Park, where remnant open lowland deciduous forest and coastal habitats also support Black-winged Myna, Great-billed Heron, Javan Plover and Banded Pitta.
Indonesia - Java
Over 20 endemic birds including a trogon, a tesia and a cochoa, as well as Green Peafowl, Green Junglefowl, Christmas Frigatebird, Javan Kingfisher, 'Javan' Banded Pitta, Blue Nuthatch and Java Sparrow, and Javan Gibbon, and Ebony and Grizzled Leaf Monkeys.
A 'Javan' Banded Pitta by Mark Harper.
Indonesia - Komodo
Komodo Dragons, rich coral reefs with Green Turtles and birds such as Yellow-crested Cockatoo and Flame-breasted Sunbird.
Indonesia - Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tenggara)
East of Bali, the islands of Komodo (where the world's largest lizard lives), Flores, Sumba and Timor (for East Timor see Timor/Timor-Leste, below) in Wallacea support more than 80 endemic bird species, including Sumba Buttonquail (Sumba), Citron-crested (Sumba) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos, Wallace's Hanging Parrot (Flores), pigeons, fruit doves, owls, Sumba Hornbill (Sumba), Cinnamon-banded and Glittering (White-rumped) (Flores, Sumbawa and Lombok) Kingfishers, Elegant Pitta, Chestnut-backed, Chestnut-capped and Orange-banded (Timor and Wetar) Thrushes, flycatchers including the very handsome Black-banded (Timor), Bare-throated Whistler (Flores and Sumbawa), Buff-banded Bushbird (Thicket Warbler/Timor), Russet-capped Tesia (Flores and Sumbawa), dark-eyes, white-eyes, flowerpeckers, Apricot-breasted (Sumba) and Flame-breasted Sunbirds, Tricoloured Parrotfinch and Timor Sparrow (Timor). More widespread spectacular species include Lesser Frigatebird, Green Junglefowl, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Javan and Malaysian Plovers, Black-naped Tern, Rainbow Bee-eater, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Pygmy Cupwing (Wren Babbler) (subspecies on Flores and Timor). The best time to look for birds is mid-August to October.
At the far eastern end of the Lesser Sundas not far from Australia are the Tanimbar Islands where the 14 endemic birds include a scrubfowl (most likely on a small satellite island), a cockatoo, Blue-streaked Lory, Wallace’s Fruit Dove, Pied Bronze Cuckoo, a boobook, a monarch, a triller, Charming Fantail, a flyrobin, Fawn-breasted and Slaty-backed Thrushes, a bush warbler, a starling, a friarbird and an oriole. Australasian (Lesser) Masked Owl also occurs. The main island Yamdena is accessible by air from Ambon. Moving west through the Banda Sea the island of Babar has an endemic race of Southern Boobook, Cinnamon-tailed Fantail and Banda Myzomela, the island of Damar has its own flycatcher, as well Black-banded Fruit Dove, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Banda Sea Monarch, Banda Sea Gerygone and White-tufted Honeyeater, and the tiny island of Leti supports an endemic subspecies of Southern Boobook, Banda Sea Fantail and Grey (Kisar) Friarbird. The much larger island of Wetar has six endemics; a ground dove, a scops owl, two honeyeaters, a figbird and an oriole, as well as several species shared with Timor to the south; Iris, Marigold and Olive-headed Lorikeets, Jonquil Parrot, Black Cuckoo Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Timor Nightjar, Timor Stubtail, Timor Warbling Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Whistler and Orange-sided Thrush. To the west Alor has Timor Grasshopper Warbler and an undescribed myzomela, and Pantar supports Alor (Southern) Boobook and Alor (Wallacean) Cuckoo Shrike, as well as Broad-billed Monarch, Flame-breasted Sunbird and Black-fronted Flowerpecker. The waters these islands lie in and those of the Flores Sea support Brown and Red-footed Boobies, Bridled and Sooty Terns, and Brown Noddy, as well as cetaceans such as Blue, Bryde’s and Sperm Whales, and Bottlenose, Risso’s and Spinner Dolphins, and the snorkelling is great.
Black-banded Flycatcher, by Lars Petersson, a striking bird which occurs only on the island of Timor.
Indonesia - Moluccas (Maluku)
There are more than 80 endemic bird species in the Moluccas, of which about 40% occur on the island of Halmahera and 60% on Ambon, Seram, Buru and the Kai Islands. North of Halmahera is the island of Morotai which has three potential endemic birds; a drongo, a white-eye and a friarbird, as well as endemic subspecies of Chattering Lory, Ivory-breasted Pitta, Paradise-crow and Dusky Myzomela, and other birds on the island include Violet-necked Lory, Moluccan Hanging Parrot, Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Drab Whistler, Halmahera Golden Bulbul and Halmahera Flowerpecker. South of Halmahera lies the island of Obi, accessible by ferry from Ternate, where the total of two endemic birds is likely to rise to at least seven if the taxonomic trend to split everything on islands continues, with Carunculated Fruit Dove and Obi Golden Bulbul being joined by ‘distinctive’ forms of a whistler, a drongo, a fantail, a white-eye and a paradise-crow. However, Obi’s star avian attraction for many is Obi Woodcock which is known only from Obi and a single specimen collected on the adjacent island of Bacan. North Moluccan endemics present on Obi include Chattering and Scaled (Violet-necked) Lories, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, 'Bacan Myzomela' and North Moluccan Leaf Warbler, and other species on the island include Beach, Blue-and-white, Moluccan Dwarf and Common Paradise Kingfishers, Blyth’s Hornbill and Moluccan (Red-bellied) Pitta. Bacan supports two potential endemics; a drongo and a white-eye. To the south of Obi the forested island of Buru, accessible by ferry from Ambon, supports more than 20 endemic bird species including a racquet-tail parrot, a green pigeon, a dwarf kingfisher, a monarch, a cuckoo shrike, two fantails, a warbling flycatcher, a golden bulbul, a friarbird and an oriole. The rare ones are in the mountains as usual and include a mountain pigeon, a thrush, a grasshopper warbler, a leaf warbler, a honeyeater and a myzomela, as well as Australasian (Lesser) Masked Owl, a boobook which is probably endemic and three of the least known species in the whole of Indonesia; Black-lored Parrot, Buru Lorikeet and Madanga Pipit (formerly Rufous-throated Dark-eye). In addition, the island supports a form of Red-bellied Pitta sometimes split as Buru Pitta. To the east of Buru is the long island of Seram, accessible by ferry from Ambon. The island's well-forested mountainous spine within the Manusela National Park supports the vast majority of the 15 endemic birds including the rare Salmon-crested Cockatoo, the rare Purple-naped Lory, Seram Imperial Pigeon, Streak-breasted Fantail, Grey-hooded White-eye (Heleia), Rufescent Dark-eye (Heleia), Seram Honeyeater, Seram Oriole, Seram Friarbird and Seram Golden Bulbul, as well as potential new species such as Seram (Red-bellied) Pitta, Seram Grasshopper Warbler and Seram Leaf Warbler while other species present on the island include Lazuli Kingfisher, Blyth’s Hornbill and Long-crested Myna. The satellite island of Boana has a very rare endemic monarch as well as an endemic race of Common Paradise Kingfisher and Seram Fantail, and there are other islands off Seram with Forsten’s Scrubfowl and the possible nomadic Olive Honeyeater. The small mountainous island of Ambon next to Seram is the regional hub for the southern Moluccas. It supports one near-endemic, a white-eye, as well as Red Lory, Seram Fantail, Seram Golden Bulbul and Seram Flowerpecker, with one of the best protected breeding sites for Moluccan Scrubfowl on the adjacent island of Haruku. At the southeastern corner of the Moluccas west of the Aru Islands near New Guinea are the Kai Islands where most of the six endemic birds occur in remnant forest patches on the island of Kai Kecil including a coucal, a boobook, a monarch and a white-eye. Also present on this island is Papuan Pitta. Another white-eye as well as a leaf warbler live on the island of Kai Besar. The peak time to look for the birds of the Moluccas is August.
Indonesia - Sulawesi and Halmahera
Some of the world’s most spectacular localized birds including Maleo, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Knobbed Hornbill, Ivory-breasted Pitta and Wallace’s Standardwing, just some of the many endemics (about 70 on Sulawesi and 24 on Halmahera), several striking mammals, not least macaques and tarsiers, and some of the richest coral reefs on Earth.
The amazing Ivory-breasted Pitta at Foli on the island of Halmahera by David Beadle.
Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites
The largely deforested island of Sangihe lies between Sulawesi and the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Accessible via ferry from Manado, it supports an endemic hanging parrot, a scops owl and a sunbird which are widespread but it is necessary to climb Gunung Sahendaruman to stand a chance of seeing the very rare endemic Cerulean Paradise Flycatcher (actually more closely related to monarchs), as well as the endemic shrike thrush, the critically endangered Sangihe Golden Bulbul and the virtually unknown endemic white-eye. Distinctive races of Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher and Hooded Pitta also occur on this island along with Ruddy Kingfisher and the tiny mammal Sangihe Tarsier. To the east is the island of Talaud, accessible by air from Manado, where there are four endemics; Red-and-blue Lory and Talaud Kingfisher are relatively easy to see but the endemic bush-hen and rail are extremely shy and elusive. Other species present on this island are Rufous-tailed Bush-hen, Blue-backed, Blue-naped and Great-billed Parrots, Grey Imperial Pigeon, the inspeculata race of Red-bellied Pitta and Rufous Paradise Flycatcher.
At Bunta on the north coast of Sulawesi’s ‘middle arm’ it is possible to charter a boat out to the island of Batudaka, the largest of the Togian (Togean) Islands, where it is possible to see the endemic boobook and white-eye, as well as a potential new taxon of Cyornis flycatcher, Great-billed Kingfisher, Knobbed Hornbill and Ashy Woodpecker.
The island of Peleng in the Banggai Islands south of Sulawesi’s ‘middle arm’ is accessible by boat from Luwuk, reached by air from Makassar (Ujung Pandang) at the south end of Sulawesi. Birds present on this island include Banggai Crow, as well as Sula Scrubfowl, Sula Hanging Parrot, a ‘black pigeon’, Banggai (Maroon-chinned) Fruit Dove, a scops owl, Sula Pitta, Slaty Cuckoo Shrike, Red-and-black Thrush, an undescribed leaf warbler and Helmeted Myna, and other interesting species include a subspecies of Black-billed Kingfisher, Ruddy Kingfisher, Ivory-backed Woodswallow, Henna-tailed Jungle Flycatcher and the tiny mammal Peleng Tarsier. On Peleng it is possible to charter a boat to get to the well-forested island of Taliabu in the Sula Islands, the westernmost of the Moluccas. This island shares many endemics with the Banggai Islands but also supports Meyer’s Goshawk, Sula Fruit Dove, the virtually unknown Taliabu Masked Owl, the sulaensis form of Moluccan Scops Owl, Sula Cicadabird, an undescribed form of Island Thrush, ‘Taliabu Bush Warbler’ (high mountains), ‘Taliabu Leaf Warbler’ (high mountains) and Bare-eyed Myna. The peak time to visit the islands above is mid-November to mid-December.
Indonesia - Sumatra
About 25 mainland endemics including a trogon, two pittas, a leafbird and a cochoa, along with White-winged Duck, Fire-tufted Barbet, the irena race of Banded Pitta, Blue Nuthatch and Temminck's Sunbird, and mammals including Siamang, White-handed Gibbon and a chance of Orang-utan off the beaten birding track.
Indonesia - West Papua
Fantastic birds-of-paradise including Magnificent, Red, Wilson's, Western Parotia and Black Sicklebill, all displaying, mostly at close range, many other spectacular New Guinea birds such as Palm Cockatoo, Western Crowned Pigeon and Blyth's Hornbill, and the richest tropical seas on Earth.
Iran is a largely hot, dry and barren country but the Zagros Mountains rise to 12,000 ft (3600 m) and the highest peaks are permanently snow covered. The many great birds include the endemic Pleske's Ground Jay which can be seen in the Dasht-e-Kavir Desert in the northeast. There are also a few regional endemics and specialities such as Socotra Cormorant (south), Sind Pied Woodpecker (southeast), Grey Hypocolius (southwest), Mesopotamian (Hooded) Crow (southwest), Afghan (Common) (south) and Iraq (southwest) Babblers, Caspian (Sombre) Tit (north), Black-headed Penduline Tit (north) and Basra Reed Warbler (southwest), plus White-headed Duck, Indian Pond Heron, Caspian Snowcock, See-see Partridge, Crab Plover, White-tailed Plover, Great Thick-knee, Cream-coloured Courser, Indian Roller, several larks and wheatears, White-throated Robin, Eversmann's Redstart, Bay-backed Shrike, Asian Desert, Menetries's and Streaked Scrub Warblers, Radde's Accentor, Purple Sunbird, Dead Sea Sparrow and Crimson-winged Finch, as well as a chance of Asian (Macqueen's) Houbara Bustard. The best time to look for birds is April-May. Mammals include Asian Wild Ass (northeast), Mouflon, Ibex (Wild Goat), Golden Jackal, Goitered Gazelle, Chinkara (Indian Gazelle), Indo-Pacific Humpback (Plumbeous) Dolphin (from boat trips to and from Hormoz Island in the Persian Gulf) and Black Finless Porpoise. About fifty (Asiatic) Cheetahs are thought to survive in the deserts, mainly around Dasht-e Kavir in the northeast, but like (Persian) Leopard, Caracal, Striped Hyaena, Wolf and Sand Cat they are rarely seen by visitors. The 'flower fields' near Chelgerd with their vast swathes of wild Crown Imperials are famous amongst botanists as are the country's colourful Dionysias and irises, amongst a fine flora best viewed during the middle two weeks of April.
(Republic of) Ireland
Most British and many other European birders have heard of places such as Tacumshin, Ballycotton, Galley Head, Cape Clear and Bridges of Ross, all of which are in Southern Ireland. Tacumshin is a great wetland for shorebirds, including those from North America, and once there was an incredible record flock of 26 Buff-breasted Sandpipers there, on the 27th September 2011, the same day as two Semipalmated Sandpipers, a White-rumped Sandpiper and an American Golden Plover! Ballycotton is another famous place to look for shorebirds which have included a Long-toed Stint in 1996 and a Red-necked Stint in 2002. Galley Head is one of several prominent headlands along the southern and western coasts of Ireland from which there is a reasonable chance of birds like Fea’s-type Petrels in the right weather conditions, usually deep lows during the summer and early autumn, as well as rare landbirds from North America. Many such rarities have landed on the island of Cape Clear, such as a Blue-winged Warbler in 2000 and Ruby-crowned Kinglet in 2013. Around on the west coast is another great place to seawatch from, Loop Head, especially Bridges of Ross where Fea’s-type Petrels, Leach’s and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, and Sabine’s Gulls are all seen on a regular basis and rare American landbirds have included, mostly at Kilbaha, a Canada Warbler in 2006 and a Philadelphia Vireo in 2008. Farther north at the mouth of Galway Bay are the three Aran Islands including Inishmore (Eastern Kingbird 2012). Another hotspot for North American vagrants as is an island farther north called Inishbofin (Eastern Kingbird 2013). On the nearby mainland are the vertical 650 ft (198 m) high Cliffs of Moher where Atlantic Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills raise their young. These cliffs lie next to The Burren, a huge limestone pavement beloved by botanists in search of rare and beautiful flowers such as Bloody Cranesbill, Burnet Rose and Columbine. On the northwest coast of Ireland there is yet another superb seawatching site called Kilcummin Head where after a northwesterly blow one September day in 1998 some fortunate seawatchers saw over 60 Sabine’s Gulls, 1000 Leach’s Storm Petrels and 3600 Sooty Shearwaters. To the north, the other side of Donegal Bay, is the fishing harbour of Killybegs, famous for possible American Herring, Kumlien’s and Thayer’s Gulls amongst the regular high numbers of Iceland and Glaucous. Other birds present in Ireland include Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan), White-throated Dipper and Hooded Crow while notable absentee breeding species, present just across the water on mainland Britain, include Tawny Owl, woodpeckers, Marsh Tit and Nuthatch. The best time to seawatch is from mid-July to October, and the time to look for nearctic shorebirds and passerines is from mid-August to October with the shorebird season usually peaking in mid-September and the very best time for vagrant American passerines being the second week of October.
Ireland - Northern
See Northern Ireland, below.
A migration bottleneck for millions of birds, especially storks, raptors, shorebirds, pipits and warblers, and many localized Western Palearctic rarities such as Macqueen’s (Houbara) Bustard, Great Black-headed Gull, Blackstart, Tristram’s Starling and Dead Sea Sparrow, with a chance of others including Hume’s Owl and Arabian Warbler.
The smart Masked Shrike is a regular spring migrant in Israel. Image by Michael McKee.
Italy - Abruzzo National Park
'Marsican' Brown Bears, a chance of birds such as Rock Partridge and White-backed Woodpecker, and a superb selection of alpine flowers including many orchids.
Italy - Gargano Peninsula
Situated on the southeast coast this is arguably ‘The Orchid Capital of Europe’, home to around 70 species and subspecies and where in April it is possible to see about 40 in a week including Bertoloni's Bee, Pink Butterfly, Roman, Small-patterned, Sparse-flowered and many localised varieties of Late Spider Orchid.
Italy - Sicily
See Sicily, below.
This small tropical island supports a staggering 30 or so endemic bird species (including the endemic nana subspecies of the widespread Olive-throated Parakeet, and Jamaican Oriole which occurs only on Jamaica and the remote island of San Andres), many of which are widespread. There are three hummingbirds, including two stunning streamertails, two parrots, a tody, an owl and Arrow-headed Warbler, as well as Ring-tailed Pigeon, Crested Quail Dove (most likely like several endemics along Ecclesdown Road in the John Crow Mountains), a lizard cuckoo (most likely at Hardwar Gap in the Blue Mountains), Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, a woodpecker, an elaenia, a pewee, two other flycatchers, a becard, two thrushes, a crow, two vireos, a tanager, a euphonia, a grassquit, Orangequit and a blackbird (most likely at Hardwar Gap). Twelve more widespread Caribbean endemics present include West Indian Whistling Duck, Vervain Hummingbird and Rufous-throated Solitaire, and other, more widespread, spectacular species include White-tailed Tropicbird (at Hector's River), Magnificent Frigatebird, Northern Potoo (the endemic jamaicensis race) and wintering warblers from North America, including Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Prairie. There are some spectacular butterflies too, not least the rarely reported endemic Giant Swallowtail (Papilio homerus) which with a wingspan of up to 15 cm is the largest swallowtail butterfly in the Americas. The best time to look for birds is February to early May, later for butterflies.
A wonderful image of a Black-billed Streamertail at Port Antonio in Jamaica by Dubi Shapiro.
‘Snow Monkey’ (Japanese Macaque), hundreds of Steller’s Eagles, Red-crowned Cranes ‘dancing’ in the snow, thousands of Hooded and White-naped Cranes, Baikal Teal and Blakiston's Fish Owl in the depth of the snowy winters, and, on the small southern islands during the summers, resident endemics and breeding visitors such as Okinawa Rail, Amami Woodcock, Ruddy Kingfisher, Fairy Pitta, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and Lidth's Jay.
Like Israel to the west Jordan lies on a migration bottleneck which sees the passage of an estimated 500 million birds of about 300 species, especially raptors, storks and passerines, and supports some localised landbirds and Western Palearctic rarities such as Sand Partridge, White-eyed Gull, Namaqua Dove, Hume’s Tawny Owl (most likely at the famous ancient city of Petra), Blackstart, Desert, Hooded, Mourning, Red-rumped and White-crowned Black Wheatears, Arabian Babbler, Bar-tailed, Greater Hoopoe and Temminck’s Horned Larks, Masked Shrike, Arabian and Streaked Scrub Warblers, White-spectacled Bulbul, Tristram’s Starling, Palestine Sunbird, Desert Finch, Dead Sea Sparrow, Tristram’s (Syrian) Serin, Sinai Rosefinch and Striolated Bunting, with a chance of Brown Booby, Pharaoh Eagle Owl and Cyprus Pied Wheatear, as well as more widespread birds including Spur-winged Plover, Little Crake, Smyrna (White-throated) Kingfisher, Little Green Bee-eater, Pale Crag Martin, Graceful Prinia, Moustached Warbler, and Brown-necked and Fan-tailed Ravens. Mammals include Nubian Ibex. Spring bird migration usually lasts from March to May and peaks from mid-March to early April which also happens to usually be the best time for most flowers including the national flower the Black Iris. Actually there are five black Irises, as well as Blue, Purple and White ones, and other spectacular flowers include blue and lilac-pink Lupins.
See Indonesia - Moluccas, above.
Himalayan Snowcock, Macqueen’s Bustard, Demoiselle Crane, Sociable Lapwing, Ibisbill, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Black and White-winged Larks, Azure Tit, White-browed Tit Warbler and White-tailed Rubythroat, with mammals such as Great Gerbil.
The best overall wildlife experience in the world and therefore A Top Ten Destination, thanks to the presence of so many of Africa's and the world's most spectacular mammals, birds and coral reef fish, the birds including vast flocks of flamingos, Ostrich, African Fish Eagle, Secretary Bird, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard and localized specialities such as Vulturine Guineafowl, Crab Plover, Sokoke Scops Owl, Somali Bee-eater, Golden-winged Sunbird, Golden-breasted Starling and Golden Pipit, so many easy-to-see birds it is possible to see over a hundred species in a day at several locations, well over 500 in just two weeks and over 800 in a month, along with over 60 species of mammal, all in some wonderful settings.
An aptly-named Superb Starling in Kenya by Steve Garvie.
Korea - South
See South Korea, below.
This tiny land of sand lies on a migrant flyway where the passage of birds usually peaks from mid-March to early May (especially early April) and in November and can be good enough at least as far as passerines are concerned during the spring to rival more famous destinations for observing migrating birds such as Eilat in Israel. In addition, Kuwait is situated at the south-eastern extremity of the Western Palearctic and, depending on the season, the best place in the region for Western Palearctic listers to look for the likes of Socotra Cormorant (spring), Red-wattled Lapwing, Indian Roller (winter), Basra Reed Warbler (spring), Afghan Babbler and Grey Hypocolius (winter, when there are regular roost sites or pre/post-roost gatherings). Introduced species, also beloved of listers, include Red-vented Bulbul, Ruppell’s Weaver and some species of myna. During the spring it is also possible to see Levant Sparrowhawk, Shikra, White-cheeked Tern, Egyptian Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Dunn’s Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Menetries’s and Upcher’s Warblers, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Pale Rock Sparrow and Cinereous Bunting. During the winter there are usually good numbers of waterbirds in Sulaibikhat Bay including Greater Flamingo, Crab Plover, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers, and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, while in the desert some ‘oases’ such as Jahra Pools Reserve support Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Grey-headed Swamphen, White-tailed Lapwing, Great Black-headed (Pallas’s) Gull, Pied and Smyrna (White-throated) Kingfishers, Oriental Skylark, Red-tailed (Persian) Wheatear, White-eared Bulbul, and Clamorous Reed and Moustached Warblers. Unfortunately it is necessary to obtain permission well in advance to visit some of the best sites, something best organised by a local, and a lot of people shoot birds, particularly during spring and autumn. June to August is not a good time to visit, the summer being uncomfortably hot.
The unique Grey Hypocolius in Kuwait in December by Spider.
This landlocked country to the south of Kazakhstan dominated by the Tien Shan mountain range rising to 7439 m (24,406 ft) supports Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier, Ibisbill, Hill Pigeon, White-winged Woodpecker, White-tailed Rubythroat, Blue-capped, Eversmann’s and Güldenstädt's Redstarts, Blue Whistling Thrush, White-browed Tit Warbler, Sulphur-bellied and Sykes’s Warblers, Rufous-naped, Songar and Yellow-breasted (Azure) Tits, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Wallcreeper, Alpine, Altai and Black-throated Accentors, Rosy Starling, White-winged Grosbeak, Red-mantled Rosefinch, Mongolian Finch, Brandt’s and Plain Mountain Finches, and Grey-necked, Red-headed and White-capped Buntings. The best time for birds is the northern summer and the best birding sites include Ala-Archa National Park, the May-Saz Valley area and Arslanbob.
In this impoverished country, the only landlocked one in South East Asia, many birds, especially large ones, and other animals, are hunted and, as a consequence, very shy. However, it is possible to see the endemic Bare-faced (Khammouane) Bulbul near the village of Ban Na Hin in the karst limestone hills of the Annamite mountain range in central Laos, as well as the near-endemics Red-collared Woodpecker and Sooty Babbler, plus Orange-breasted and Red-headed Trogons, Black-capped and Ruddy Kingfishers, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, White-bellied Erpornis, Green-eared Barbet, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Great Iora, Sultan Tit and Black-browed Fulvetta, and there is a chance of Silver Pheasant, Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl, Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue-naped and Eared Pittas, Green Cochoa, White-tailed Flycatcher and Rufous-throated Fulvetta, and an outside chance of the endemic Lao Langur and even Limestone Leaf Warbler. There is virtually no chance however of seeing Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Asian Golden Cat and White-cheeked Gibbon which have also been recorded in this region, known as the Nakai–Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area. Along the Mekong upstream from the capital Vientiane is a good area for Jerdon’s Bushchat, as well as River Lapwing. For waterbirds head south to the Xe Pian area where Green Peafowl, White-winged Duck, Giant Ibis, Masked Finfoot and Sarus Crane have been recorded, although more likely species include Cinnamon Bittern, Chinese Pond Heron, Pied Harrier, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, and Black-capped Kingfisher. At Don Khon, Irrawaddy Dolphin, Small Pratincole, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and Mekong Wagtail are possible.
Ancient forests and marshes in this small sparsely populated country means lots of birds such as Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Black Stork, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Corn Crake, Common Crane, lekking Ruffs, all three marsh terns, Roller and eight woodpeckers, and mammals including Beaver and Elk. The best area is arguably Kemeri National Park although the forested dunes of Cape Kolka in the Baltic are the best location in spring to see passerine migrants such as Bluethroats and Golden Orioles, with divers and ducks offshore. Peak birding time is around mid-May when it is also possible to see Ural Owl in adjacent and easily accessible Lithuania.
The tiny, landlocked, mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is a good place to look for the highland Drakensberg avian specialities of southern Africa. The most accessible site in the region for these birds is Sani Pass which although technically in South Africa is a major route into Lesotho and a good place for Drakensberg Rockjumper, Gurney's Sugarbird and Drakensberg Siskin, as well as Grey-winged Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle Owl, Lammergeier, Cape Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat, Barratt's Warbler, Bush Blackcap and Mountain Pipit, some of which can also be seen at Liqobong on the Mechachaneng Ridge where there is a Cape Vulture colony and other cliff-nesting birds such as Jackal Buzzard (the most numerous raptors at high altitudes, probably due to the abundance of prey in the form of endemic Sloggett's Ice Rats), and at Mafika-Lisiu Pass in the Maluti Mountains, below which lies Bokong NR where there is an ossuary, an area of large slabs of flat rock used by Lammergeiers to drop and break large bones on. Below Bokong look out for Malachite Sunbirds nectaring on red-hot pokers (Kniphofia). In the east of the country Yellow-breasted Pipit occurs in Sehlabathebe NP which is contiguous with South Africa’s Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas, above.
The Greek island of Lesvos is situated in the Aegean Sea to the east of mainland Greece, although it is actually next to the west coast of Turkey. It is a very popular destination with birders during the northern spring when large numbers of a wide variety of birds migrate through the island, including herons, Pallid Harriers, Eleonora's and Red-footed Falcons, Little Crakes, shorebirds including Collared Pratincoles, Whiskered and White-winged Terns, Rollers, Red-throated Pipits, Collared Flycatchers, warblers and shrikes. The numbers of passage migrant birds usually peak in the second half of April which coincides with the usual arrival period of breeding summer visitors such as Short-toed Eagle, European Bee-eater, Isabelline Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Rufous Bush Chat), Masked Shrike, Olive-tree, Eastern Orphean and Ruppell's Warblers, and Black-headed, Cinereous and Cretzschmar's Buntings. These join resident species such as Ruddy Shelduck, Greater Flamingo, White and Black Storks, Long-legged Buzzard, Sombre Tit, and Kruper's and Rock Nuthatches to make a fine selection of birds which may also include rarer migrants such as Levant Sparrowhawk, Baillon's Crake, Spur-winged Plover and Great Snipe, while around the coast there is a chance of Audouin's Gull (a rare resident) and offshore a better chance of Scopoli's (Cory's) and Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters.
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas, above.
After many years of civil wars, military coups, ‘blood diamonds’ - supporting the insurgency in neighbouring Sierra Leone with weapons and training in exchange for diamonds - this small West African country was at peace again in the mid-2010s. Along the 600 km Atlantic coastline are mangroves, sandbars and lagoons. Inland the coastal plains rise to rolling plateaux and low mountains and as recently as the early 2000s rich forest still covered some 40% of the land, enough to support all 15 Upper Guinea Endemic Bird Area species and 184 species of the Guinea Congo forest biome, birds which occur at places such as Mount Nimba where large scale ongoing iron ore mining continues to reduce the height of the mountain (from 5748 ft (1752 m)), and remove and degrade much of the remaining forest. Another top birding site is Sapo National Park, Liberia's first and only fully protected area at the heart of the largest remaining block of Upper Guinean Forest in west Africa, providing habitat for species that need to range over large areas such as ‘Forest’ Elephants. The 15 Upper Guinea specialities are White-breasted Guineafowl, Rufous Fishing Owl, Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Western Wattled Cuckoo Shrike, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Nimba Flycatcher, Black-headed Rufous Warbler, Sierra Leone Prinia, Sharpe’s Apalis, White-necked Picathartes, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Copper-tailed Starling, Gola Malimbe and Liberian Greenbul although recent research suggests this latter species is merely a colour aberration. With so much forest intact Liberia also supports the last remaining viable populations of Pygmy Hippopotamus and ‘West African’ Chimpanzee. Wet summers usually last from April to November making birding difficult and dust-laden harmattan winds which often blow across the country from the Sahara between December and March don't help much either.
It is possible to see nearly 200 species on a short trip during the second half of May to the picturesque meadows, bogs, woods, river valleys and lake systems of Lithuania if led by local guides, including, in Nemunas Delta Regional Park, Great Spotted Eagle, Great Snipe and Aquatic Warbler, in Curronian Spit National Park, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, and in the east, Black Stork, Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Pygmy, Tengmalm’s and Ural Owls, White-backed Woodpecker and Eurasian Nutcracker. Lithuania is easily accessible from Latvia – there are no border restrictions – and would make a great combination with that country. The peak time to observe autumn migration along the Baltic Flyway is the first week of October. Millions of birds, especially geese, ducks, divers, raptors and shorebirds, pass through the Baltic states at this time of the year with Lithuania at the narrowest point hence Vente Cape has the largest bird banding/ringing station in the world. Up to 800,000 birds have been known to fly over the cape each day while at Curronian Spit National Park, another migration hot-spot, mainly for raptors and passerines, up to 1.5 million migrants have been counted passing on peak days!
Louisiana - USA
See USA - Louisiana, below.
(Republic of North) Macedonia (in 2018 Macedonia and Greece agreed that this country should rename itself Republic of
North Macedonia and this came into effect in February 2019)
This small, landlocked, mountainous country next to Bulgaria and Greece is a good place to see Rock Partridge as well as a wide range of raptors including Egyptian and Griffon Vultures (both at Vitachevo vulture feeding station), Eastern Imperial and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Levant Sparrowhawk and Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Eurasian Nutcracker, Rock Bunting and species confined to southeast Europe during the breeding season such as Olive-tree Warbler and Black-headed Bunting. The best places for waterbirds such as Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants are the two huge lakes, Megali Prespa and Ohrid, in the southwest corner of the country. Pelister National Park to the northeast, along with the Galicica Plateau and the Vardar Valley which runs across Macedonia are the top places for butterflies in a country where over 200 species have been recorded including Apollo, Clouded Apollo, coppers, and lots of blues and fritillaries. The peak time for most butterflies is usually the second half of June which is also a good time to look for most birds.
Over 100 endemic birds, some belonging to at least six endemic bird families; the mesites, ground rollers, cuckoo rollers, asities, vangas and malagasy warblers, along with a crested ibis, a fish eagle, two flufftails, a jacana, a plover, a sandgrouse, a lovebird, two parrots, nine couas, two kingfishers and a paradise flycatcher, as well as over 100 species of lemur including the beautiful sifakas, the loud Indri and the confiding Ring-tailed Lemur, all in some of the strangest habitats on the planet.
Blue Vanga by Dubi Shapiro, one of many unique and stunning birds on the island of Madagascar.
Bulwer's, Fea's and Zino's Petrels, Madeiran and White-faced Storm Petrels, dolphins, and endemic landbirds Trocaz Pigeon and Madeiran Firecrest.
Maine - USA
See USA - Maine, below.
Spectacular localized birds such as Lesser Jacana, African Skimmer, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Boehm’s Bee-eater, Racket-tailed Roller, Blue Swallow, White-winged Apalis, Green-headed Oriole and Babbling Starling, many Miombo woodland specialists including Souza's Shrike, and a fine range of mammals, not least African Elephant, Hippopotamus, Sable and Roan.
Malaysia - Malay Peninsula
A long list of fabulous South-East Asian birds including Great Argus, trogons, kingfishers, bee-eaters, barbets, broadbills, hornbills, pittas, leafbirds, Rail Babbler and Blue Nuthatch, primates such as Siamang and White-handed Gibbon, and a chance of Malayan Tapir in possibly the oldest lowland rainforest on Earth, at Taman Negara.
A great diversity of whales and dolphins with very large numbers of some dolphins, as well as over a thousand fish species including Whales Sharks and Manta Rays which can be seen while snorkeling, along with Green and Hawksbill Turtles.
The largest Balearic Island has a wide range of habitats ranging from one of the largest freshwater marshes in the Mediterranean to mountains that rise to over 1000 m. Speciality birds include Balearic and Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwaters, Eleonora’s Falcon, Audouin’s Gull, ‘Balearic’ Woodchat Shrike (badius), Balearic (Marmora’s) (at its highest density on Isla de Cabrera), Moltoni’s (Subalpine) (also on Isla de Cabrera) and Moustached Warblers, ‘Balearic’ Spotted Flycatcher (balearica), Spotless Starling and 'Balearic' Crossbill, while more widespread species include Purple and Squacco Herons, Cinereous and Griffon Vultures, Bonelli’s and Booted Eagles, Eurasian Scops Owl, Pallid Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Western Bonelli’s, Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers, and Firecrest. Amongst over 30 endemic plants are a relic from the ice age, Hypericum balearicum, and orchids like Bug and Loose-flowered. The main birding site is S’Albufera de Mallorca National Park with a bird list of over 270 species including Marbled Teal, Red-crested Pochard (reintroduced), Little Bittern, Western (Purple) Swamphen (reintroduced), Red-knobbed Coot (reintroduced) and Great Reed, Moustached and Savi’s Warblers. Spring migration usually peaks in mid-April, autumn passage in mid-October.
Eleonora's Falcon at Sa Dragonera, Mallorca, by Lars Petersson.
See Micronesia, below.
This large country to the north of Senegal is about two thirds Sahara one third Sahel but the most important site for birds is the Banc d’Arguin National Park which protects 40% of the 750 km long Mauritanian Atlantic coastline between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and has been known to support more than two million migrant shorebirds, the largest concentration of such birds in Africa. However, most visiting birders are after adding several species that have restricted ranges in the Western Palearctic (WP) to their WP lists. Using the epic nine-volume Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa the definition of the WP means that these species must be seen north of 21°N and, bizarrely, in the air above the islands and maritime areas of the Banc d’Arguin. Along the coast the WP specialities are Long-tailed (Reed) and White-breasted (Great) Cormorants, Grey-headed Gull and Royal Tern, while other species include Brown Booby and Western Reef Egret. Inland the WP goodies are African Collared and Namaqua Doves, African Grey Woodpecker, Dunn’s Lark, Cricket, ‘Saharan’ Olivaceous and Western Orphean Warblers, and Sudan Golden Sparrow while other possibilities include Blue-naped Mousebird and other birds present are Lanner Falcon, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Bar-tailed, Desert and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Black-crowned Finch Lark, Rock Martin, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Fulvous Babbler, African Desert Warbler, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Desert Sparrow and House Bunting, and mammals include Fennec Fox. Two of the best wadis are north of the settlement of Ouadane, a green oasis in the otherwise barren landscape to the east of the town of Atar where it is possible to arrange the required 4WD with driver.
Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues
Since Mauritius was discovered by modern man in the late 1500s all but 3% of the natural vegetation has been destroyed and several species have become extinct, notably the Dodo which was wiped out by the 1660s. Most of the surviving endemic birds are endangered too, especially the kestrel, the pigeon and the parakeet, while the other five endemics are all declining; a rare cuckoo shrike, a rare bulbul, a rare white-eye, a relatively 'common' white-eye and a rare fody. Other birds present on the island include Mascarene Swiftlet, Mascarene Martin, the rare Mascarene (Mauritius) Paradise Flycatcher (which also occurs on Reunion) and several introduced species. One of the best places to see the endemic landbirds is Black River Gorges National Park although Bras d'Eau National Park is better for the paradise flycatcher. Seawatching is arguably best from La Roche qui Pleure on the south coast where the possibilities include Barau's, Herald/Trinidade/Round Island and Mascarene Petrels. From the north coast it is possible to telescope Gunner's Quoin Island although it is better to hire a boat to visit the island and the surrounding waters in order to see both tropicbirds and Masked Booby. Other possible seabirds around the island include Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Brown and Lesser Noddies, and Sooty Tern. Offshore, Round Island, which can be viewed by boat, supports nesting Herald/Trinidade/Round Island Petrels, the largest colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds in the Indian Ocean (2000-2500 pairs), lesser numbers of White-tailed Tropicbirds and large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, as well as an endemic boa and skink.
The heavily degraded island of Rodrigues supports two endemic landbirds; a warbler and a fody, both of which are rare in some high vegetated gulleys, as well as Rodrigues (Golden) Flying Fox.
The forested volcanic mountains of Reunion are where Barau’s and Mascarene (Reunion Black) Petrels nest, and they also support six endemic landbirds; a harrier, a cuckoo shrike, a bulbul, a stonechat and two white-eyes, all of which can be seen in remnant natural forest along the trail from La Roche Ecrite, about half an hour by road from St Denis. Other landbirds present there include Mascarene (Reunion) Paradise Flycatcher, while seawatching near dusk from the the St. Etienne rivermouth area may reveal Barau's and Mascarene Petrels, and Audubon's (Tropical) Shearwaters, massing before flying inland to their nesting sites high among the volcanic peaks. The best time to visit these islands is October-November.
Mauritius Fody by Dubi Shapiro.
See See Comoros and Mayotte, above
The greenest Balearic Island is noted for its wild flower displays, especially orchids, in late April, and Europe’s only sedentary population of Egyptian Vultures with other birds present during the spring at least including Balearic and Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwaters, Purple and Squacco Herons, Ferruginous Duck, Red Kite, Booted Eagle, Audouin’s Gull, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, ‘Balearic’ Woodchat Shrike (badius), Thekla Lark, Tawny Pipit, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, ‘Balearic’ Spotted Flycatcher (balearica) and Spotless Starling. There is also a chance of Moustached Warbler at sites such as the Tirant Marshes near Platages/Playa de Fornells.
Mexico - Baja California
Whales and dolphins galore, including Blue Whale and confiding Grey Whales, and a few birds such as Red-billed Tropicbird, and Blue-footed and Masked Boobies.
Baja's not all about whales. The birds include Red-billed Tropicbirds. Image by Dave Barnes.
Mexico - Central (Michoacan)
A Top Ten Destination thanks to millions of Monarch butterflies at their winter roosts, many more beautiful butterflies, some superb Mexican and Central American endemic birds such as San Blas Jay, Aztec Thrush, Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, Orange-breasted Bunting and many colourful warblers, and Humpback Whales and Red-billed Tropicbirds along the Pacific coast.
The one-and-only Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, in Guatemala, by Dubi Shapiro.
Mexico - El Triunfo
The cloud forest in this reserve in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas is one of the few accessible sites in Chiapas and neighbouring Guatemala where Horned Guan occurs, and this is also a good place to see other range-restricted highland specialities such as Highland Guan, White-breasted Hawk, Fulvous Owl, Resplendent Quetzal (the subspecies with the longest tail), Blue-throated Motmot, Green-throated Mountaingem, Emerald-chinned and Wine-throated Hummingbirds, Black-throated Jay, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia and Hooded Grosbeak. At lower altitudes the major speciality is Azure-rumped (Cabanis's) Tanager (most likely at Canada Honda), while others include Rufous Sabrewing, Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, Tody Motmot, Giant Wren (Tapachula area) and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. Other birds include Turquoise-browed Motmot (Paval area), Black-crested Coquette, Grey Silky and Long-tailed Manakin, and mammals present include Central American (Geoffrey's) Spider Monkey, Collared Peccary and Southern Ringtail (Cacomistle). Visitors must have permission from the Instituto de Historia Natural in Tuxtla Gutiérrez which can also help with the logistics in reaching the basic bunkhouse, which involves an uphill hike of about 11 km (6.5 miles), camping lower down, food and so on. The best time to visit is March when Horned Guans are usually calling.
The extraordinary Horned Guan at El Triunfo, Mexico by Jon Hornbuckle. It is only possible to see this bird at remote El Triunfo in southern Mexico or in adjacent Guatemala.
Mexico - Oaxaca
There are probably more bird species in Oaxaca than any other Mexican state; nearly 700, and almost 100 of these are regional endemics. The area around the city of Oaxaca is also one of the richest regions in Mexico for endemic birds and many of these occur: on Cerro San Felipe (La Cumbre), notable for Dwarf Jay and lots of warblers including Red; along Route 175 North (the striking Slaty Vireo and, nearer the town of Valle Nacional, Tody Motmot); and at Monte Alban, home of the skulking Ocellated Thrasher. Other great birds around the city include Grey Silky and Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, with a chance of Aztec Thrush. Further afield, the Sierra Madre del Sur near Puerto Angel on the Pacific coast supports more endemics and Red-breasted Chat (most likely in Parque Nacional Huatulca), and on pelagic boat trips out of places such as Huatulca and Puerto Angel it is possible, on good days, to see Townsend’s Shearwater, as well as Audubon's (Galapagos) and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Black and Least Storm Petrels, and Nazca (Masked) Booby. At the far eastern end of the state, live two fantastic endemic birds; Orange-breasted and Rosita’s Buntings, which can be seen side-by-side in the Tapanatepec Foothills along with such birds as Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot and White-throated Magpie Jay. The endemic Giant Wren (a real giant!) occurs not far away, near the small town of Puerto Arista in the state of Chiapas, and beyond there in Chiapas lies the Biosphere Reserve Selva el Ocote (Nava's Wren), El Sumidero Canyon (Belted Flycatcher and a chance of Slender Sheartail) and the warbler-filled woods of San Cristobal de las Casas (Golden-cheeked and Pink-headed Warblers, and a chance of Blue-throated Motmot and Black-throated Jay). The best time to look for birds is January to April.
Blue, blue, electric blue, that's the colour of a Rosita's or Rose-bellied Bunting. The superb image of this one was captured in the Tapanatepec Foothills of Oaxaca, Mexico, by Nigel Voaden, the same place the very colourful Orange-breasted Bunting occurs, both species being endemic to Mexico.
Mexico - Southern (Yucatan-Chiapas)
Yucatan bird specialities such as Ocellated Turkey, Mexican Sheartail and Yucatan Jay, more widespread spectacular birds such as Keel-billed Toucan and Turquoise-browed Motmot and one of the best places in the world to swim with Whale Sharks.
Mexico - Veracruz
The best place to watch migrating raptors in the world, with 4-6 million birds passing over each autumn/fall in what is known as the ‘Río de Rapaces’ or ‘River of Raptors' and with the 30 or so species of raptor there are sometimes over a million butterflies and dragonflies per day.
Mexico - Western (including the Durango Highway, San Blas, and Colima and Jalisco)
The spectacular endemic Tufted Jay can be seen in the Sierra Madre Occidental, accessible along the Durango Highway, along which also occur the rare Sinaloa Martin, Red-headed Tanager and Mexico's famous flocks of warblers which here contain Crescent-chested, Olive, Red and Red-faced. Lower down, specialities include Military Macaw, Purplish-backed Jay and wintering Black-capped Vireos. At the coast, on the Gulf of California, rocky islets viewable (with telescopes) from Mazatlan support breeding Red-billed Tropicbirds and Blue-footed Boobies. Further south along the Pacific coast lies the small holiday resort of San Blas where it is possible to see 250 species in a week, less than a thousand miles south of the U.S. border, including about 30 endemics (such as Citreoline Trogon and San Blas Jay), as well as Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Collared Forest Falcon, Northern Potoo, Military Macaw, Russet-crowned Motmot, Fan-tailed Warbler and Rosy Thrush Tanager. Humpback Whales spend the northern winter in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta, where on organised whale-watching trips it is also possible to see Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins. Not much further south is the small state of Colima which together with parts of neighbouring Jalisco supports about 40 endemics including San Blas Jay, Aztec Thrush, Red Warbler and Orange-breasted Bunting, as well as Grey Silky, Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, many warblers including Colima and Golden-browed, and Red-breasted Chat. The smoking Volcan de Fuego is one of the best sites, although the vast flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds winter on the Ciudad Guzman Marshes. At the coast, boat trips can be arranged out of Manzanillo to a big rock called Piedra Blanca where Red-billed Tropicbirds breed. The best time to bird Western Mexico is January-February.
The striking Tufted Jay at Reserva Chara Pinta by Nigel Voaden.
Michigan - USA
See USA - Michigan, below
Fifty endemic birds including fruit doves, ground doves, kingfishers, monarchs and white-eyes, along with seabirds such as Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Red-footed Booby and White Tern, and one of the best places in the world to snorkel or scuba-dive with Manta Rays.
Minnesota - USA
See USA - Minnesota, below
Missouri - USA
See USA - Missouri, below
(Republic of) Moldova
A small country near the Danube Delta between Romania and Ukraine with woods, forests, farmland, orchards, vineyards, river valleys and some fine wetlands. A place where many species in steep decline elsewhere in Europe are still present in reasonable numbers, for example Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, European Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Roller, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting. There are also plenty of raptors including Red-footed Falcon and waterbirds such as Pygmy Cormorant, Great White Pelican, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and Whiskered Tern. On the steppes in the far south Saker Falcon is possible, along with Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and Levant Sparrowhawk. It is possible to see about 140 species in a week. Few people visit but one tour company does, Oriole Birding, in late June.
Bird specialities such as Altai Snowcock, Demoiselle and White-naped Cranes, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Oriental Plover, Relict Gull, Pallas’s Sandgrouse and Henderson's Ground Jay, and mammals including Siberian Ibex, Great Gerbil and an outside chance of Snow Leopard, in vast grass steppes, the Gobi Desert and the Altai Mountains.
Montana - USA
See See USA - Montana, below
Boka Kotorska Bay, southern Europe’s longest and deepest fjord, is on the Adriatic coast of this small country but elsewhere along the coast there are beaches, sand dunes, saltpans and the delta of the River Bojana, important migration stopovers for shorebirds such as Marsh Sandpiper. Inland, Levant Sparrowhawks nest in woodlands while open country with olive groves and rocky outcrops is good for Rock Partridge, European Bee-eater, European Roller, (Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear, (Eastern) Olivaceous and (Eastern) Orphean Warblers, Western Rock Nuthatch, Lesser Grey Shrike and Black-headed Bunting. Between the mountains lies Lake Skadar, the largest freshwater lake in Europe, westernmost nesting site of Dalmatian Pelicans and home to thousands of Pygmy Cormorants as well as Whiskered Terns. The coniferous forests and open slopes of the relatively unspoilt rugged mountains, in Durmitor National Park for example, support Golden Eagle, Black and (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpeckers, Eurasian (Spotted) Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Sombre Tit, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting. Birding is best April-May but the later the better for a chance of Olive-tree Warbler.
Morocco - Southern
All of North Africa's endemic birds except for Algerian Nuthatch, including Moussier’s Redstart and Desert Sparrow, as well as Bald Ibis, Cream-coloured Courser, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, a dozen larks and several wheatears.
Bald Ibis in Tamri National Park, Morocco, by Dubi Shapiro.
See Indonesia - Moluccas, above.
Crab Plover, Pennant-winged Nightjar, African Pitta, Green-headed Oriole and Miombo woodland specialities, mostly reintroduced mammals including Lion, and the chance to swim with Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and numerous colourful other fish on some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.
Myanmar (Burma) has eight endemic bird species not including Gurney's Pitta which is almost extinct in Thailand; Burmese Collared Dove, Burmese Bushlark, Naung Mung Wren Babbler, White-throated Babbler, Hooded Treepie, Jerdon's (White-bellied) Minivet, Davison's (Pale-eyed/Stripe-throated) Bulbul and White-browed Nuthatch, ten including Burmese (Black-browed) Bushtit and Ayeyawady/Irrawaddy (Streak-eared) Bulbul. The lark, minivet, babbler and treepie occur on the plains along the banks of the Irrawaddy River (‘the road to Mandalay’) near Bagan (along with the rare White-rumped Falcon), and the tit and nuthatch not far away in Natmataung (Mount Victoria) National Park near Kanpetlet in the Chin Hills, steep mountains which form a southern extension of the Himalayas, where other birds very difficult to see elsewhere include Buff-breasted (Black-throated) and Spot-breasted Parrotbills, Mount Victoria (Chinese) Babax, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Chin Hills (Long-tailed) Wren Babbler, Assam, Blue-winged, Brown-capped and Striped Laughingthrushes, Crimson-faced Liocichla, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Rusty-fronted and Streak-throated Barwings, Grey Sibia, White-bellied Redstart, Grey-sided Thrush, Black-bibbed Tit, Crested Finchbill and Brown Bush Warbler, and more widespread goodies occur, such as Hodgson's Frogmouth, Black-eared, Black-headed and Green Shrike Babblers, Himalayan Cutia, Red-tailed Minla, and Fire-tailed and Gould's Sunbirds. In the east the virtually endemic Burmese Yuhina can be seen near Kalaw in the hills of Shan State along with Black-tailed Crake, Pin-tailed Green-pigeon, Slender-billed Oriole, Sapphire Flycatcher, Black-breasted Thrush, Martens’s Warbler, Dark-backed Sibia and Collared Myna while Jerdon's Bushchat and Chinese (Rufous-rumped) Grassbird (Babbler) occur by the huge, 45 square mile, shallow Inle Lake. Down south it is possible to see Spoon-billed Sandpipers on their wintering grounds; most of the remaining population (perhaps less than 200) probably winters on the Myanmar coast. Another very rare bird, Gurney's Pitta, occurs in Tenasserim in the far south, along with (Malayan) Banded, Blue-winged and Garnet Pittas, and Plain-pouched Hornbill. The best time to search for pittas is mid-March to mid-April when they are normally at their most vocal but seeing them will involve a organising a mini camping expedition from the coastal town on Myiek. Back in Yangon there is a roost of half a million or so Asian Wrinkle-lipped Bats at the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda. The best time for most birds 'up north' is November to March.
Slaty Egret, Blue and Wattled Cranes, White-tailed Shrike, Damara Rockrunner and many of Africa's classic mammals including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Elephant, Giraffe, Gemsbok and Black Rhinoceros, in some stunning desert scenery.
A White-tailed Shrike or Ground Batis by Dubi Shapiro. This unique species occurs only in Namibia and Angola where this image was captured at Renato Grade.
A small country packed with birds, more than any other region of comparable size in Asia, including Himalayan Monal, Satyr Tragopan, Ibisbill, Pied Thrush, Grandala, Himalayan Cutia and Fire-tailed Myzornis, as well as Indian Rhinoceros, Gharial and a chance of Tiger, in some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.
Nepal - Hange Tham
Beautiful Himalayan oak-rhododendron forests where Red Panda is probable not possible!
Tens of thousands of geese, with a good chance of Lesser White-fronted, as well as swans and Smews in winter, and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds during late summer.
Some of the strangest birds in the world including Kagu, a tool-using crow and Cloven-feathered Dove, three of the 20 or so endemics, as well as Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Red-footed Booby and Tahiti Petrel.
The strange Cloven-feathered Dove occurs only on the island of New Caledonia where this fine image was taken by Lars Petersson.
Six endemic bird families and 40-50 bird species including five kiwis, Fiordland Crested and Yellow-eyed Penguins, New Zealand Storm Petrel, Black Stilt, New Zealand Dotterel, Shore Plover, Pipipi, Tui, Takahe, Kea, Kokako, Kaka, Weka and Wrybill, and yet the islands are just as famous for Sperm Whales and seabirds such as Wandering, Royal and several other albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and White-faced Storm Petrel.
In August 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all but essential travel to Nicaragua because of prolonged political unrest. This has badly affected the economy and tourism which is a great shame because although the largest country in Central America has long been overshadowed by its southern neighbour Costa Rica as far as birding goes it still has swathes of good forest, especially in the Caribbean lowlands where the Indio Maiz Reserve and Rio Indio Lodge are situated. Elsewhere there are Pacific slope forests, highland forests and the huge Lake Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua) which together support the near-endemic Green-breasted Mountain-gem (El Jaguar private reserve), Nicaraguan Seedfinch and Nicaraguan Grackle, as well as Great Curassow, Agami Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Green Ibis, Great Green and Scarlet Macaws, Resplendent Quetzal, trogons, Black-crested Coquette, Snowcap (Refugio Bartola), Turquoise-browed Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Ocellated Antbird, Three-wattled Bellbird, Long-tailed and Red-capped Manakins and Golden-cheeked Warbler, while mammals include Mantled Howler and Geoffrey’s Spider Monkeys, and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth. Some of the best birding sites are Montibelli private reserve near Managua, Refugio Bartola on the Rio San Juan and El Jaguar private reserve. The rainy season normally runs from May to November when hurricanes are also possible. Hurricane Otto made landfall in November 2016 and affected the forests around Refugio Bartola and in the Indio Maiz Reserve.
North Carolina - USA
See USA - North Carolina, below.
North Dakota - USA
See USA - North Dakota, below.
Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony is on Rathlin Island off the north coast where there is a Seabird Centre, accessible by boat from Ballycastle. Breeding birds from late April to July include Manx Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin. On the mainland nearby is the famous Giant's Causeway where there are about 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns up to 1.8 m (6 ft) high on the coast of County Antrim and where birds include Purple Sandpiper and Red-billed Chough. There is a Bird Observatory on Copeland Island, accessible, with prior permission, by boat from Donaghadee, where rare North American birds recorded include a Red Fox Sparrow in 1961. The largest sea lough in the British Isles, Strangford Lough, is of international importance to wildfowl (25,000) and waders (50,000) during the winter, including Pale-bellied Brent Geese, the numbers of which usually peak at about 12,000 in October. Breeding species include Arctic Tern. Inland is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh, which with Lough Beg and associated wetlands is another important wetland in winter when the enormous rafts of birds include the largest concentrations of diving ducks in Britain and Ireland. Bird numbers may reach up to 100,000, including six per cent of the world's Whooper Swans and internationally significant numbers of Bewick's Swans. In the nearby Sperrin Mountains there are Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan).
Northwest Territories - Canada
See Canada - Northwest Territories, above.
Norway (Arctic) and Finland
The greatest diversity of owls in Europe, an Arctic experience completed by King and Steller’s Eiders, and nesting shorebirds, and a good chance of seeing Brown Bears from hides at night where there is also a chance of Wolverine.
Nunavut - Canada
See Canada - Nunavut, above.
Oaxaca - Mexico
See Mexico - Oaxaca, above.
See Indonesia - Moluccas, above.
Ohio - USA
See USA - Ohio, below.
Jouanin's Petrel, Steppe Eagle, Crab Plover, Sooty Falcon, Hume's Wheatear and a chance of Hypocolius in some splendid desert scenery.
Oregon - USA
See USA - Oregon, below.
Pakistan would surely be a popular birding destination without so many mainly political and religious troubles - the British Foreign Office advised against all travel to places such as Peshawar and even the Karakoram Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit in January 2020 - and what a country to go birding in, especially the north where the Pamirs, Hindu Kush, Himalayas and Karakoram Ranges meet and numerous spectacular mountains rise to 8611 m (28,251 ft)at K2, the second highest mountain on Earth, just 237 m (778 ft) lower than Everest. The barren scree slopes, high meadows, coniferous and mixed forests, and rushing rivers support an exciting range of Western Himalayan Endemic (or breeding-endemic) specialities such as Brooks’s and Tytler’s Leaf Warblers, White-throated Tit, Kashmir Nuthatch, Spectacled Finch and Orange Bullfinch, as well as Indian Blue Robin, Blue-capped, Blue-fronted and White-bellied Redstarts, Streaked Laughingthrush, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous-breasted Accentor, rosefinches and White-capped Bunting. A good place to look for these birds is the scenic Kaghan Valley which runs north from the town of Balakot, north of Abbottabad. North of there, along the Karakoram Highway to Gilgit roadside birds include Hume’s and Variable (Eastern Pied) Wheatears, Tickell’s Thrush and the migratory bactrianus race of House Sparrow. Near Gilgit lies the Naltar Valley which supports breeding Long-billed Bush Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Larger-spotted Nutcracker and Blyth’s Rosefinch, as well as White-browed Tit Warbler. Back south the virtually endemic White-cheeked Tit can be seen in the Margalla Hills near Islamabad. One of the country’s star birds, Western Tragopan, has its stronghold in the remote Palas Valley northwest of Abbottabad, and it also occurs in the Neelum Valley of Azad Kashmir next to northwest India, along with Cheer and Koklass Pheasants, Kashmir Flycatcher, Kashmir and White-cheeked Nuthatches, Black headed Jay and Orange Bullfinch. Through the mountainous north from Tibet flows the mighty Indus and it continues south through the whole of the country to near Karachi on the south coast, providing water for the Punjab’s agricultural plains, and lakes of great importance to waterbirds including Greater Flamingos and Pallas’s Fish Eagles. In the deserts of the southwest there seven species of sandgrouse; Black-bellied, Chestnut-bellied, Crowned, Liechtenstein's, Painted, Pin-tailed and Spotted. Wetlands near Karachi support breeding Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and wintering Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, and at Hab Dam and Valley about 30 km north of the city it is possible to see Hypocolius. The best time to visit the north is between May and September, early June for the majority of breeding species. It is hot all year round in the centre and south, especially in June and July.
Nearly a thousand bird species including Black-crowned Antpitta/soma and Sapayoa, Darien specialities in the east such as Harpy Eagle and Dusky-backed Jacamar, and many shared with Costa Rica in the west including Resplendent Quetzal, as well as Manta Ray and turtle cleaning stations offshore.
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tenggara), above.
Papua New Guinea
A Top Ten Birding Destination thanks to fantastic birds-of-paradise, including Blue, King-of-Saxony, Raggiana and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, as well as many other extraordinary creatures such as New Guinea Eagle, Palm Cockatoo, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Rufous-bellied and Shovel-billed Kookaburras, Crested Satinbird, Flame Bowerbird, Painted Quail Thrush, Blue, Chestnut-backed and Spotted Jewel Babblers, Torrent Lark and Crested Berrypecker, with some of the richest coral reefs in the world.
New Guinea is home to so much more than birds-of-paradise. The widespread Rufous-bellied Kookaburra for example is one of numerous spectacular endemics. Both males and females have massive white bills but males have blue tails and females rufous. This male was captured by Nigel Voaden.
The vast plains of arid chaco (which make up more than 60% of the land area yet support less than 2% of the human population), cerrado and flooded grasslands together with pantanal wetlands and remnant Atlantic Forest of Paraguay support many rare and restricted-range species notably the 18 or so virtually endemic to the chaco and they include Chaco Nothura, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Bare-faced Curassow, Spot-winged Falconet, Ocellated, Red-and-white (San Rafael, a very birdy area where about 430 bird species have been recorded) and Red-faced Crakes, Black-legged and Red-legged Seriemas, Giant Snipe, Chaco, Rusty-barred and Tawny-browed Owls, Scissor-tailed, Sickle-winged, Silky-tailed and White-winged Nightjars, Nacunda Nighthawk, Violet-crested Plovercrest, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, Toco Toucan, lots of woodpeckers including Black-bodied and Helmeted, lots of woodcreepers including Great Rufous, Crested Gallito, Lark-like Brushrunner, Cock-tailed, Sharp-tailed, Strange-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Straneck's Tyrannulet, Greater Wagtail Tyrant, Bearded Tachuri, Crested and Dinelli's Doraditos, Russet-winged Spadebill, Rufous Gnateater, Chaco (Olive-crowned) and Collared Crescentchests, Sharpbill, Bare-throated Bellbird, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Band-tailed Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, Curl-crested Jay, seedeaters, and Saffron-cowled and Scarlet-headed Blackbirds. This is a hard country to see mammals in - thick bush, few tracks - but persistence may pay off with Brazilian Tapir, Chaco Peccary, Plains Viscacha, Chaco Mara, Black Howler, Black-tailed Marmoset, Great Hairy Armadillo and even Jaguar, Puma, Maned Wolf, Giant Anteater, Giant Otter, Margay and Geoffroy's Cat. The best time to visit Paraguay is mid-September to the end of October.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
Peru - Central
Spectacular birds in spectacular mountain scenery, with a chance of 50 highland endemics and many other high elevation specialities including the flightless Junin Grebe (on National Park zodiac boat trips), Andean Ibis, Junin (Black) Rail, Diademed Sandpiper Plover (Marcapomacocha), Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean and Puna Snipes, Grey-breasted and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes, ground doves, Oilbird (thousands in cave near Tingo Maria), hummingbirds such as Bronze-tailed Comet (Santa Eulalia Valley), Black-breasted Hillstar, Fire-throated Metaltail and Olivaceous Thornbill, Golden-headed Quetzal, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, White-bellied Cinclodes (Marcapomacocha and Ticlio Bog/Pass), Striated Earthcreeper, canasteros, Eye-ringed Thistletail, antpittas, tapaculos, chat tyrants, ground tyrants, tit tyrants, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant (Lake Junin), Bay-vented (Bosque Unchog) and White-cheeked (Andamarca Valley via Santa Eulalia Valley) Cotingas, Band-tailed, Barred, Green-and-black (Huanaco) and Masked Fruiteaters (all four along Paty Trail), White-eared Solitaire, White-collared Jay, brush finches, mountain tanagers including the endemic Golden-backed Mountain Tanager (Bosque Unchog), Golden-collared, Grass-green, Huallaga and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers, Rufous-browed Hemispingus (Bosque Unchog), Pardusco (Bosque Unchog), Giant Conebill, Tit-Like Dacnis, sierra finches, Plain-tailed and Rufous-breasted Warbling Finches, and Great and Rufous-backed Inca Finches. Not so many mammals though, probably Northern Viscacha and possibly Andean Fox, Andean Huemul and Vicuna. The best time to look for birds is June-July.
A great photograph of a displaying White-bellied Cinclodes at Marcapomacocha by Dubi Shapiro. This photograph won the Critically Endangered Birds category in the 2013 international photo competition run by The World’s Rarest Birds project which aims to support BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.
Peru - Southern (including Manu)
The richest region for birds on Earth with a tenth of the world's species, about a thousand, including flocks of macaws and parrots at clay licks, hummingbirds, toucans, antbirds, cotingas and multicoloured tanagers, as well as Giant Otters and monkeys.
Peru - Northeastern (Iquitos)
A very rich area of Amazonia for birds including Nocturnal and Wattled Curassows, Collared and Rufous-necked Puffbirds, Black Bushbird, White-plumed and many other antbirds, Black-necked Red Cotinga, and Orange-crested and Wire-tailed Manakins, as well as Uakari, Pygmy Marmoset, tamarins and Pink River Dolphins.
Peru - Northern
Many superb hummingbirds including Marvellous Spatuletail, arguably the most amazing hummingbird on Earth, the rare and strange Long-whiskered Owlet, White-winged Guan, Scarlet-banded Barbet, inca finches and Tumbes specialities such as White-tailed Jay, from awesome arid canyons to east Andean slope cloud forests with swirling flocks of multicoloured tanagers and other birds.
Marvellous Spatuletail by Ian Merrill, arguably the world's most spectacular hummingbird, found only in a few places in Northern Peru.
A birdlist of about 600 species, well over a third of which (230+) are endemic, including Philippine (Monkey-eating) Eagle, Palawan Peacock Pheasant, Bukidnon Woodcock, Scale-feathered Malkoha, a trogon, some kingfishers, a bee-eater, hornbills, broadbills, pittas, rhabdornises, leafbirds and sunbirds, as well as Philippine Tarsier and the chance to swim with Dugongs, Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and numerous coral reef fish.
Ancient lowland forest with woodpeckers and bison, and the largest inland wetland left in Europe where White-winged Terns and Aquatic Warblers nest.
Endemic birds including the unique Tuamotu Sandpiper, as well as fruit doves and ground doves, passing and wintering Bristle-thighed Curlews, and seabirds such as White Terns, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Polynesian Storm Petrels, and Henderson, Murphy’s and Tahiti Petrels.
Greater Flamingos and Purple Swamphens in the Algarve, and Azure-winged Magpies, Black Vultures, bustards and Black-shouldered Kites in the Alentejo.
This small island supports an endemic monotypic bird family (Puerto Rican Tanager) and 16 other endemic birds; a lizard cuckoo, a screech owl, a nightjar (difficult to see), two hummingbirds, a tody, a woodpecker, a tyrant flycatcher, a vireo, Adelaide's and Elfin-woods Warblers, a spindalis, a bullfinch, a blackbird (only likely to be seen at La Parguera), an oriole and a parrot although this is very rare and unlikely to be seen even where most of the wild and released birds are, in the Caribbean National Forest (El Yunque) in the Sierra de Luquillo, particularly at Rio Abajo. Caribbean endemics include two more hummingbirds and Red-legged Thrush while other spectacular species present include White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird and wintering warblers from North America such as Prairie. It is possible to see all of the endemics except the parrot in a few days hence many birders combine a trip to this island with the Dominican Republic. Other natural wonders include the karst country of the northwest where there are many similar sized and shaped 100 ft (30 m) high hillocks or mogotes; the Rio Camuy Caves, also in the northwest, one of the largest cave systems on the planet covering 268 acres (110 ha); and Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques which at night all year round glows blue-green thanks to the presence of millions of microscopic phosphorescent dinoflagellates, best experienced while swimming on a cloudy moonless night. The best time to look for birds is March-April.
Elfin-woods Warbler at El Yunque by Dubi Shapiro.
Quebec - Canada
See Canada - Quebec, above.
Republic of the Congo
See See (Republic of the) Congo, above
Republic of North Macedonia
See Macedonia, above.
See Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, above
See Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, above
Waterbirds galore in the Danube Delta and along the rest of the Black Sea coast, during summer and on migration, including pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants, with Wallcreepers and Brown Bears in the Carpathian Mountains.
Russia - Arctic
The richest tundra in the world where hundreds of thousands of swans, geese, ducks, shorebirds, seabirds and other waterbirds nest including Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Siberian Crane, Ross’s and Sabine’s Gulls, Emperor Goose, and Spectacled and Steller’s Eiders, as well as Gyr Falcon, and Hawk and Snowy Owls.
Russia - Kamchatka, and the Kuril and Commander Islands
Some of the world's most spectacular seabird colonies, with Horned and Tufted Puffins, and Crested, Parakeet and Whiskered Auklets, other spectacular birds such as Laysan Albatross and Steller's Eagle, numerous fur seals and sealions, forming one of the greatest concentrations of marine mammals on Earth, Brown Bears and the chance of Blue, Killer and Sperm Whales.
Read Gorillas in the Mist, the wonderful book by Dian Fossey who carried out most of her research here, try to get some sleep, meet the rangers in the morning, join a small group of fellow trekkers and head up the switchback trails through the lush, damp, sometimes misty, forest. One to five hours later you may meet some Mountain Gorillas and the first to emerge from the undergrowth is often the magnificent silverback, and seeing him for the first time and watching him and his family for the allotted hour, just a few paces away, may well turn out to be your best wildlife experience ever.
A magnificent silverback Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda by Max Chiswick. Sometimes even fanatical birders have to admit the 'bird-of-the-day' is a mammal.
This island in the Lesser Antilles is just 43 km (27 miles) long and 23 km (14 miles) wide. Its forested slopes support the richest avifauna in the Lesser Antilles including four endemic bird species; a parrot, a warbler, a black finch and an oriole, with three more possibles; the island forms of Rufous Nightjar, House Wren and Lesser Antillean Pewee. Another endemic, Semper’s Warbler, has not been seen since 1967 and is now thought to be extinct. There are also several Lesser Antillean endemics; Lesser Antillean Swift, Purple-throated Carib, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted and White-breasted Thrashers, Grey Trembler, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch and Lesser Antillean Saltator, and five more widespread Caribbean endemics; Bridled Quail Dove, Green-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Rufous-throated Solitaire and Antillean Euphonia. Other spectacular species include Red-billed Tropicbird (most likely at Cape Moule à Chique at the southern tip of the island), Magnificent Frigatebird and Mangrove Cuckoo. The Des Cartiers Trail in Quilesse Forest Reserve, about two hours south of Anse Chastanet, is arguably the best forest trail on the island. On boat trips off Soufriere, Fraser's, Spinner and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins are possible and also offshore there are many coral reef fishes, and Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The best time to look for birds is February-April.
Samoa consists of two large islands (Upolu and Savai’i) and eight islets and supports at least nine endemic bird species; Tooth-billed Pigeon (which is very rare and unlikely to be seen), a fruit-dove, Flat-billed Kingfisher, a honeyeater known as Mao, a whistler, a triller, a fantail, a flycatcher and a white-eye, with one more, Samoan Starling, confined to (Western) Samoa and American Samoa (see above). All but the white-eye occur on Upolu where White Terns, White-tailed Tropicbirds and Brown Noddies grace the skies and other landbirds include Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Many-coloured Fruit Dove, Cardinal Myzomela, Wattled Honeyeater, Pacific Robin, Polynesian Starling and Red-headed Parrotfinch. Several endemics can be seen at the botanical gardens and in Mount Vaea Scenic Reserve where Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, is buried. To see the rare white-eye it is necessary to hike high up Mount Silisili from the village of A'opo on the island of Savai'i. All of the other endemics occur here too. Seawatching may produce Grey-backed (Spectacled) Tern, as well as Red-footed Booby, Great Frigatebird and Black-naped Tern. The best time to look for the endemics is July to September.
The pretty Many-coloured Fruit Dove can be seen on Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Image by Simon Colenutt.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
Sao Tome and Principe
The two small islands of Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, often included in, or offered as an extension to, tours to Gabon, support up to 30 endemic bird species and it is possible to see all of them during a short visit although some are very rare. The hardest to see on Sao Tome are (Dwarf) Olive Ibis, Bocage's Longbill (Sao Tome Short-tail) and, especially, Sao Tome Fiscal and Sao Tome Grosbeak. All four are most likely to be seen on a camping trip with local guides to the best remaining forest on Monte Carmo/Carvo in the remote south of the island. The other 13 endemics on Sao Tome are an olive pigeon (most likely high up on the trail to Lagoa Amelia), a green pigeon, a scops owl, Sao Tome (Malachite) Kingfisher, an oriole, a paradise flycatcher, a prinia, a speirops, a thrush, two sunbirds and two weavers. Some taxonomists believe the island forms of Lemon Dove, Chestnut-winged Starling and Sao Tome White-eye (which otherwise occurs only as another race on Principe) are also endemic bringing the total to 20. Other birds present on the island include Sao Tome Spinetail and Principe Seedeater (both of which otherwise occur only on Principe) as well as Island Bronze-naped Pigeon. As well as the island race of Sao Tome White-eye Principe supports as many as eight more endemics seven of which can be seen around the luxurious Bom Bom Island Resort which caters mainly for scuba diving and Marlin fishing; Principe (White-bellied) Kingfisher, Dohrn’s Thrush Babbler, a glossy starling, Principe (Velvet-mantled) Drongo, a sunbird, a speirops and a golden weaver. The tricky ones to see are the thrush and white-eye and it is necessary to travel by boat to the south of the island to look for these. Other species present on Principe include the dryas race of Blue-breasted Kingfisher and African Grey Parrot, both of which are still relatively 'common', as well as a possible new species of scops-owl. Boat trips can be arranged to look for seabirds on offshore islets and volcanic plugs, including White-tailed Tropicbird and Brown Noddy. The best time to visit the islands for birds is July-August. The best time for Green and Leatherback Turtles nesting on the beaches is December to March.
The coastal lagoons, forests, limestone hills and mountains of this island in the Mediterranean support Barbary Partridge, Audouin’s Gull (Laguna di Nora in the south hosts the largest breeding colony in Italy), Marmora’s (in low scrub usually above 800 metres) and Moltoni’s (Subalpine) Warblers, Spotless Starling and Corsican (Citril) Finch (on Monte Albo), as well as Red-crested Pochard, Scopoli’s (Cory’s) and Yelkouan Shearwaters, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Slender-billed Gull, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Firecrest, Mediterranean (Spotted) Flycatcher (tyrrhenica), Woodchat Shrike (badius) and Common Rock Sparrow (on Monte Sa Pittada). Other wildlife includes the unique endemic cave salamanders with different species in separate mountain ranges, about 35 species of dragonfly including the endemic Island Bluetail, Copper Demoiselle, and Violet Dropwing, and 25 orchids. The best time for orchids is early April, for dragonflies early June and for birds late April - early May when migrants pass through.
A superb image of flying Greater Flamingoes by Spider.
Saskatchewan - Canada
See Canada - Saskatchewan, above.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on a migratory flyway and serves as an important resting and refueling stopover for birds moving between Europe, Asia and Africa. In the east spring migration occurs between mid-February and mid-May usually peaking in April and autumn migration occurs between mid-August and early November but is less heavy than the spring migration. In the southwest ten of the eleven Arabian endemic bird species are present; Arabian (Red-legged) and Philby's Partridges, Arabian Woodpecker, Arabian Wheatear, Yemen Thrush, Yemen Warbler, Arabian Waxbill, Arabian and Yemen Serins, and Yemen Linnet, all of which may be seen in the Abha area of the Asif mountains, connected by air to both Jeddah and Riyadh. The one remaining species restricted to southwest Arabia, Arabian Accentor, occurs only in Yemen. Also present in this region are Arabian Scops Owl and Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak, as well as (Arabian) Green Bee-eater, the endemic asirensis race of Eurasian Magpie and many Afrotropical species such as Hamerkop, Spotted Thick-knee, Sooty Gull, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Grey-headed Kingfisher, White-throated Bee-eater, Abyssinian Roller and African Paradise Flycatcher. Also present along the Red Sea coast of the southwest are Crab Plover, and Saunders’s and White-cheeked Terns, while Black Bush Robin, Blackstart, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Arabian Warbler, Arabian Golden Sparrow, and Nile Valley and Palestine Sunbirds occur inland.
Scotland - Highlands to Mull
Golden and White-tailed Eagles on the same island of Mull, one of the best places in Britain to see Otters as well, and where it is possible to see White-tailed Eagles at very close range on boat trips, while the nearby highlands of mainland Scotland support Osprey, Capercaillie, Black and Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Dotterel and Crested Tit.
Scotland - Outer Hebrides
Corn Crake, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Hen Harrier, nesting shorebirds and a chance of Otter.
Scotland - Shetland
Some of the world's most spectacular seabird cliffs, the best place in Britain for nesting Red-necked Phalaropes, other nesting shorebirds, Great Skuas, Otters and a chance of Killer Whales.
The exquisite Red-necked Phalarope by Lars Petersson.
Scotland - Wester Ross and Handa
The wild northwest region of the Scottish Highlands in the Scourie-Clachtoll-Lochinver-Gairloch area supports Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Merlin, Otter and Red Deer, and offshore are the seabird cities of Handa, an island with 123 metre high cliffs accessible by boat from Tarbet with Atlantic Puffins, Guillemots (over 50,000 birds during the last count in 2016), Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Arctic Terns and incredibly nearly 300 pairs of Great Skuas. June is the best time to go but prepare to meet millions of midges.
Sahel specialities and other localised spectacular birds such as Quail Plover, Egyptian Plover, Arabian and Savile’s Bustards, Black Crowned Crane and Golden Nightjar, huge roosts of Lesser Kestrels and Scissor-tailed Kites, a great wetland with a colony of Great White Pelicans, and a few large animals including Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus and a chance of West African Manatee.
A 'scary dinosaur' Purple Glossy Starling by Francesco Veronesi, a bird of the sub-Saharan African savanna belt, from Senegal and The Gambia east to Uganda and far west Kenya.
See Indonesia - Moluccas, above.
This small country about the size of Portugal is mainly flat north of the capital Belgrade where large rivers including the Danube flow slowly across the Pannonian Plain while to the south there are hills and mountains. The best wetlands include Slano Kopovo NR (20,000 Common Cranes on passage, mostly March and November, and roosting geese during the winter); Rusanda Nature Park in Melenci (shorebirds and Red-footed Falcon); Beljarica floodplain of the Danube in Belgrade (nesting Black Stork and White-tailed Eagle); and fish farms along the River Tamis (breeding and migrant waterbirds, and possible wintering Greater Spotted Eagle). In gorges in the west of the country there are about 140 pairs of Eurasian Griffon Vultures (Tresnjica Gorge NR is the nearest colony to Belgrade and can be visited within a day). In the east Djerdap (Iron Gates) NP along the Danube supports Black and White-backed Woodpeckers, Crag Martin, Sombre Tit, and Ortolan and Rock Buntings. However, perhaps the most famous site for birds in Serbia is the town of Kikinda where in some winters over 700 Long-eared Owls roost! The best times to visit Serbia are April to May and November to January. In spring/early summer it is also possible to see Ferruginous Duck, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Collared Flycatcher, Savi’s Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Rosy Starling (every few years) and Black-headed Bunting. During the winter tens of thousands of geese overwinter, twice as many when the Danube area is frozen solid, mostly Greylag and Greater White-fronted Geese (half of them at the Labudovo okno Ramsar site at the Danube) with the odd Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese. Other winter highlights include Pygmy Cormorant which can be seen year-round but in some winters the Belgrade population reaches up to 7000, 10% of the regional population.
Twelve endemic landbirds including some of the rarest in the world, such as the paradise flycatcher, magpie robin and fody, seabird colonies with frigatebirds, tropicbirds, and Sooty and White Terns, and stunning coral reefs.
Seychelles Blue Pigeon, one of several endemic landbirds on the Seychelles, by Brian Field.
This sunny, scenic, rugged island with smouldering Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano which rises to 3350 m (10,991 ft), plateaus, plains, orchards and coastal marshes is perhaps most famous amongst birders for the spring passage of migrant raptors across the Strait of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy. Birds move through from mid-March to May, as many as 40,000 or more of them, mostly European Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Black Kites but also Pallid Harriers and Red-footed Falcons (mostly late April-early May) and rarities which have included Amur Falcon and Steppe Eagle. The island also supports the resident endemic whitaker race of Rock Partridge and a distinctive form of Long-tailed Tit, both of which may be separate species from their mainland relatives. These birds occur in the interior Madonie Mountains along with Lanner Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting. During the second half of April it is possible to see a wide variety of passage migrant passerines especially on east coast headlands where migrant hot-spots include Capo Murro di Porco where the garrigue-covered cape provides refuge for birds such as Collared Flycatchers. Seawatching from such places and along the south coast may reveal Scopoli’s and Yelkouan Shearwaters, and Audouin’s Gull whereas coastal lagoons support a wide variety of waterbirds including Greater Flamingos, Ferruginous Ducks and passing shorebirds. Common birds include Spotless Starling while Richard’s Pipits are often present during the northern winter. Endemic plants include several orchids, such as Archimedes’ Ophrys, Brancifort’s and Small-flowered Tongue Orchids, and the rare Pale Ophrys, all best looked for in May.
Most of the Upper Guinea Forest endemics including White-breasted Guineafowl, Yellow-headed Picathartes and Gola Malimbe, and other spectacular birds such as Egyptian Plover, Blue-moustached Bee-eater, Fiery-breasted Bushshrike and Emerald Starling, as well as several monkeys, a chance of Chimpanzee and an outside chance of Pygmy Hippopotamus.
The superb Egyptian Plover by Dubi Shapiro.
Singapore is an island city and country, the second most densely populated (behind Monaco) on the planet and yet it is possible to see some very good birds in this metropolis. Changi International Airport is a massive transit point for people travelling between Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australasia and any birders with more than a couple of hours to spare may wish to consider visiting Pasir Ris Park and the Botanic Gardens. Pasir Ris is a small park with a mangrove boardwalk and bird-viewing tower where it is possible to see, in season, Mangrove Pitta, Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Laced Woodpecker, Asian Glossy Starling and Copper-throated Sunbird. The botanic gardens are usually very busy with people but it is still possible to see birds such as Red-legged Crake, Stork-billed Kingfisher and Lineated Barbet, as well as Yellow Bittern, Pink-necked Green Pigeon and Crimson Sunbird. Not far from the botanic gardens is Bukit Batok Nature Park where Straw-headed Bulbul occurs. In order to leave the airport during transit passengers will need (i) to request a landing card on-board and present it to immigration on arrival, and (ii) some Singaporean dollars to pay for taxis, trains and so on. Many birders stay longer, to visit Panti Forest Reserve, 90 minutes or so north in peninsular Malaysia, lowland dipterocarp rainforest which supports Rail-babbler, as well as Blyth’s Frogmouth, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, malkohas, Whiskered Tree Swift, Rufous-collared Kingfisher, trogons, hornbills, woodpeckers, Korean (Yellow-rumped) Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, babblers, broadbills, bulbuls, White-handed Gibbon, and Banded and Dusky Leaf Monkeys.
This land-locked country of scenic meadows, mountains, forests, canyons, gorges, rivers and waterfalls at the heart of Europe supports Black Grouse, Black and White Storks, Golden, Eastern Imperial, Lesser Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Saker Falcon, Corn Crake, marsh terns, all nine European woodpeckers and Wryneck, Barred and River Warblers, Eurasian (Spotted) Nutcracker and Citrine Wagtail. There is also a chance of seeing Eurasian Eagle, Eurasian Pygmy, Tengmalm’s and Ural Owls (all especially during the first half of May), as well as Hazel Grouse, Lesser Grey Shrike, Collared Flycatcher and Wallcreeper.
Slovenia is a small, relatively unspoiled country lying where the Alps meet the Mediterranean with an array of natural wonders including the 21 km (13 miles) of passages, galleries and halls in the karst limestone Postojna Cave where in a small pool live pink Olms (Proteus anguinus), cave salamanders endemic to the Dalmatian coast. Breeding birds include White Stork, Golden Eagle, Corn Crake, Ural Owl, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Eurasian (Spotted) Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch and Rock Bunting, and there is a chance of seeing Rock Partridge, Ptarmigan, Black and Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, (Eurasian) Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers, Wallcreeper and Common Rosefinch. The alpine mountain slopes and steep-sided valleys thick with pine forests also support a rich flora of over 2900 species, many of which are restricted to the Julian Alps and include Edelweiss, Illyrian Gladiolus and Transylvanian Orchid. June is the best time to look for birds, flowers and some of the 181 butterflies recorded in the country such as Common Glider and Spotted Fritillary. In the southern Dinaric Alps region it is possible to visit specially designed photography hides to view and photograph Brown Bears, most likely in May.
This island in the Arabian Sea off the Horn of Africa supports some superb dragon tree forests in spectacular scenery where 43 bird species are known to breed, nine of which are endemic; a buzzard, scops owl, cisticola, warbler, sparrow, starling, sunbird, bunting (Dixcem Plateau only) and golden-winged grosbeak. Other special birds which occur on and around the island include Jouanin’s Petrel, Persian Shearwater, Socotra Cormorant, Cream-coloured Courser, Sooty Gull, Saunders’s Tern, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Nubian Nightjar, Forbes-Watson’s Swift, Abyssinian (White-breasted) White-eye, Somali Starling and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, but in March 2018 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to Yemen, including all islands which include Socotra.
There are more restricted-range bird species, that is species with ranges of less than 50,000 square kilometres, in the Solomon Islands than anywhere else on Earth. The number of endemics varies according to taxonomist but there are probably at least 80 and potentially lots more due to the presence of many subspecies, as well as at least 20 species which otherwise occur only on other islands in Melanesia. To stand a chance of seeing all the endemics visitors will need to take many internal flights and be prepared to sail several times in order to visit Guadalcanal (where the capital Honiara is situated and there are 2+ island endemics including Guadacanal Moustached Kingfisher, the first male of which was controversially 'collected' in 2015), Rennell (5+ island endemics including a shrikebill), Makira (12+), Malaita (3+), Santa Isabel (several endemics shared with Bougainville, including Fearful Owl, Solomons Frogmouth and Black-faced Pitta (all recently recorded near the village of Tirotonga, the single known site for the pitta), Kolombangara (2+ including the flightless Roviana Rail), Gizo (1+), Ranongga (1+), Vella Lavella (1+) and, in the Santa Cruz Islands at the southeastern end of the long archipelago, Nendo (1+) and Vanikolo (1+). Then there is Bougainville (4+ including the rarely reported Bougainville Moustached Kingfisher) at the northern end to consider, although this is politically part of Papua New Guinea. The endemics also include Sanford's Sea Eagle, Ducorp's Cockatoo, Ultramarine Kingfisher and several honeyeaters, myzomelas, fantails, monarchs, white-eyes and starlings, while there is also a good chance of seeing Heinroth's Shearwater, a rare near-endemic. As well as birds, the Arnavon Islands to the northwest of Santa Isabel support one of the most important rookeries in the west Pacific for Hawksbill Turtle and coral reefs surrounding many smaller islands are rich in marine life. The best time to look for birds is July to September.
The mythical Fearful Owl on the island of Santa Isabel by Lars Petersson.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Somalia, including Somaliland except for the cities of Hargeisa and Berbera to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel [mainly because] terrorists continue to plan attacks against westerners in Somalia and Somaliland and yet some tour companies insist Somaliland in northwest Somalia, a former British colony which has since 1991 been separated from the rest of Somalia as (internationally unrecognized) ‘The Republic of Somaliland’ is a largely peaceful pro-western Muslim country, a largely uninhabited wilderness of beaches, volcanic deserts and juniper forests, relatively safe to travel in and therefore making it possible to see many birds with restricted ranges even in the Horn of Africa, including Little Brown Bustard, Collared Lark, Somali Wheatear, Philippa’s (Short-billed) Crombec, Somali Thrush and Somali (Chestnut-winged) Starling, as well as Arabian and Heuglin’s Bustards, Somali Courser, White-cheeked Tern, Somali Bee-eater, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Blanford’s, Short-tailed and Somali Short-toed and Larks, Red-naped Bushshrike, Somali Fiscal, Sombre Rock Chat, Abyssinian Wheatear, Dodson’s Bulbul, Arabian Warbler, Somali Crombec, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Nile Valley Sunbird, Golden-breasted, Magpie, Shelley’s and White-crowned Starlings, Somali Sparrow, Ruppell’s Weaver, Northern Grosbeak-Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater, while mammals include Beira Antelope, Gerenuk, Dorcas, Soemmering’s and Speke’s Gazelles, Speke’s Pectinator, Caracal, Desert Warthog and Somali Elephant Shrew.
Somalia as a whole has a bird list of 660 or so species of which about 300 are resident and about 10 are endemic although like the rest of the wildlife, especially those which live in the woods and forests, many are likely to be suffering heavy losses since one environmental group warned, in 2002, that Somalia would be a country without trees if they were cut down at the then rate. The endemic birds are Archer’s (Augur) Buzzard, Somali Pigeon, Archer’s (Liben) (Heteromirafra archeri), Ash’s (Collared) (Mirafra ashi), Obbia (Spizocorys obbiensis) and Somali (Mirafra somalica) Larks, Lesser Hoopoe Lark, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak and Warsangli Linnet, while the many near-endemics include Little Brown Bustard, Chestnut-naped Francolin, African White-winged Dove, Fischer’s Turaco, Forbes-Watson Swift, Mombasa Woodpecker, Blanford’s, Collared, Gillett’s and Rufous Short-toed Larks, Malindi Pipit, Pangani Longclaw, Somali Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat, Somali Long-billed and Somali Short-billed Crombecs, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Violet-breasted Sunbird, Long-tailed Fiscal, Red-naped Bushshrike, Somali Chestnut-winged Starling, Arabian Golden and Swainson’s Sparrows, Juba Weaver, Fire-fronted Bishop, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow Weaver, Northern Grosbeak Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater.
South Africa - Eastern
Southern Africa endemic birds such as Orange-breasted (Drakensberg) Rockjumper and Gurney's Sugarbird, many mammals including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, White and Black Rhinoceroses, Meerkat and a chance of African Wild Dog, and Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and the Sardine Run offshore.
South Africa - Western
Great White Shark, at close range from a boat or from a cage, Southern Right Whale, many land mammals including a good chance of Aardvark, Aardwolf, Gemsbok and Meerkat, endemic Southern Africa birds such as Jackass Penguin, Black Harrier, Cape Rockjumper and Cape Sugarbird, and seabirds including albatrosses, but classic African mammals such as Lion, Leopard and Cheetah are a long way off the beaten track.
Japanese Waxwing is a winter visitor to South Korea where this image was taken by Simon Colenutt.
This small country - slightly smaller than England - is almost as exciting for birds during the cold winters as Japan to the east what with such rare and range-restricted species as Swan Goose, Falcated and Mandarin Ducks, Baikal Teal (not always present but sometimes in huge flocks), Scaly-sided Merganser, Oriental Stork, Steller's Sea Eagle, Hooded, Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes, Solitary Snipe, Relict and Saunders's Gulls, Spectacled Guillemot, Ancient and Long-billed Murrelets, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Waxwing, Red-throated Thrush, Varied Tit and lots of buntings including Pallas's Reed. The best area for cranes is usually Cheorwon where the vast majority forage in the Civilian Control Zone, an area used for farming only and accessible only with local guides or on local organized tours since it is next to the completely undeveloped Demilitarized Zone on the border with North Korea. During the summer, after late May-early June, it is possible to see Fairy Pitta in South Korea.
Spain - Extremadura
The best place in western Europe for bustards and raptors, including Spanish and Bonelli’s Eagles, Black, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, and Black-shouldered Kite, as well as White and Black Storks, Roller and Azure-winged Magpie, in some splendid scenery.
Montagu's Harrier by Michael McKee, one of the many raptors in Spain and a feature of Extremadura.
Spain - Northern
Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Citril Finch and Snowfinch in the beautiful Pyrenees.
Spain - Northwestern
A chance of Brown Bear, Wild Cat and Wolf, as well as birds such as Great Bustard, Wallcreeper and Snowfinch.
Spain - Southern
Waterbirds galore in the Coto Donana, the spectacular autumn/fall migration of storks and raptors from Iberia to Africa, and a good chance of Iberian Lynx.
Polar Bear, Walrus and birds such as Ivory Gull in spectacular settings.
Over 30 endemic birds and many shared with Southern India including a frogmouth, a trogon and a blue magpie, fabulous wintering birds such as Indian Pitta, Pied Thrush, Indian Blue Robin and Kashmir Flycatcher, Leopards, lorises, monkeys and a good chance of 'Pygmy' Blue Whale, all on an island just 434 km (270 miles) by 225 km (140 miles).
Subantarctic Islands (of New Zealand and Australia)
Millions of marine birds and mammals including King and Royal Penguins, Wandering, Royal, Light-mantled and Buller's Albatrosses, and elephant and fur seals.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
The easiest place to see (Grey-winged) Trumpeters in the world, some great cotingas including the largest known lek of Guianan Cock-of-the-rocks, lots of Guiana Shield endemics such as Blue-backed Tanager, monkeys and sloths in a small, sparsely-populated country with a lot of its vast forests remaining.
This landlocked, little kingdom between Mozambique and South Africa is one of the best places to look for the rare Blue Swallow, a few pairs of which occur between late September and March in Malalotja NR on the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment, and there and elsewhere in the western highlands it is also possible to see Southern Bald Ibis (at colonies June to October), Striped Flufftail, Denham’s Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing, Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes, lots of cisticolas and Gurney’s Sugarbird, as well as Black Wildebeest, Blesbok and Oribi. In the north and east at places like Hlane NP and its surrounding reserves it is possible to see Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Rudd’s Apalis, Black-bellied Starling, Purple-banded Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. Mlawula NR on the northeastern border with Mozambique supports White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, Bronze-winged Courser, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Black Coucal, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Grey Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot. A good place for mammals is Mbuluzi Game Reserve, part of the wider Lubombo Conservancy, where there are Nile Crocodiles, Hippos, Giraffes, Zebras and Nyalas, and the birds include White-crowned Lapwing, Purple-crested Turaco and Giant Kingfisher. December to February is probably the best time to visit, certainly for Blue Swallow, although it is also the time when resident species and inter-African migrants such as cuckoos, weavers and widowbirds are usually in full breeding plumage.
Sweden is a sparsely populated country so a lot of good habitat remains intact and over 50% of the country is still forested. Conifers dominate the north but to the south and east there are mixed forests with beech, birch and oak. In south-central Sweden during the cold, snowy winters (especially early February) and in early spring (mid-April) it is possible to see Great Grey, Northern Hawk, Eurasian Pygmy, Tengmalm's and Ural Owls (all only likely with local guides), Black, Grey-headed and Three-toed (where dying spruce trees harbour Spruce Bark Beetles) Woodpeckers, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay and Eurasian Nutcracker (both at feeding stations), as well as large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks and Smews along the Baltic coast, Eurasian/Western Capercaillie, displaying (in spring) Black Grouse, white-headed caudatus Long-tailed Tits, white-breasted and bellied europaea Nuthatches, and Parrot Crossbill, with the additional possibility of Bohemian Waxwings, Arctic Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks in influx years, while mammals may include Moose (European Elk) and a darker variant of Red Squirrel.
Most people in search of owls (and bears) visit Finland where Wolverine and Red-flanked Bluetail are also possible but if it's Cranes visitors are after then Sweden is the place to go. During the first half of April 20,000 or so gather at Lake Hornborga (Hornborgasjon) a few hours from Stockholm and in early September the same number come together at Bergslagen, along with up to 20,000 (Taiga) Bean Geese. This is also a good time to see Elk (Moose) because the bulls have a full rack of antlers ready for the autumn rut. Each autumn about 500 million birds migrate from Scandinavia to Europe and Africa, and four million are recorded annually at Falsterbo, a migration bottleneck at the southern tip of Sweden, a particularly good place to watch migration in action, involving, on good days, usually when a southwest wind blows, big numbers of raptors, (Common) Wood Pigeons and Blue Tits. Birds occurring in smaller numbers include Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagles, and (Eurasian) Nutcrackers. The best time to be at Falsterbo is from late August to October. Up north in southern Lapland the best time to look for Reindeer and birds such as lekking Great Snipe, Long-tailed Skua and Lapland Bunting is late May-early June. It is also possible to see Brown Bears in Sweden, at night in July, from luxurious purpose-built hides.
The large limestone island of Gotland is a favourite summer holiday destination amongst the Swedish people but it remains remarkably unspoilt. During June it is possible to see Barnacle Goose, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Golden and White-tailed Eagles (Gotland has the densest eagle population in Sweden), Montagu’s Harrier, Corn and Spotted Crakes, Common Crane, Ruff, Arctic and Caspian Terns, Thrush Nightingale, Barred, Greenish and River Warblers, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers, and Red-backed Shrike, as well as 40-50 species of butterfly in a week, especially on the limestone pavements, and 15-20 dragonflies while the spectacular flora includes 37 of Sweden’s 40 orchids including all three Cephalanthera orchids; Long-leaved, Red and White Helleborines. Half an hour by boat offshore is the one kilometer square Stora Karlsö, an island with the Baltic Sea's largest seabird cliffs where 17,000 pairs of Common Guillemots, 10,000 pairs of Razorbills, Black Guillemots and fuscus ‘Baltic’ Lesser Black-backed Gulls raise their young. Gotland is also the home of one of if not thee best bird artists, Lars Jonsson, who has a public gallery/museum at Vamlingbo Prästgård in the south of the island.
The elegant Long-tailed Skua by Simon Colenutt.
One of the best areas for birds and butterflies in this beautiful country is the Valais region bordering Italy where based in the Val d’Hérens, a Parc Regional, it is possible to see nearly a hundred butterflies in a week during the second half of June including lots of blues, and birds such as Lammergeier (Derborence Valley), Golden Eagle, Alpine Swift, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Nutcracker, Alpine Chough (tame at the Gornergrat glacier at 3000m, reached via mountain railway up from Zermatt, where, if visibility is good, the spectacular views include the Matterhorn), Eurasian Crag Martin, Wallcreeper (Grande Dixence Dam), Red-backed Shrike, White-winged Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor (Gornergrat and Grande Dixence), Citril Finch (Derborence) and Rock Bunting. Many of these birds occur throughout the country of course along with mammals such as Alpine Marmot, Alpine Chamois and Alpine Ibex (Grande Dixence). Also in Valais is the Grosser Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. Other birds present in Switzerland include the shy and rarely seen Rock Partridge and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, with waterbirds at Lac de Neuchatel and the Swiss Bodenssee (Lake Constance) bordering Austria and Germany. The best place in the Swiss Alps for plants is the Upper Engadine in the far southeast where, in July, there are such wonders as Globe, Short-spurred Fragrant, Dark Vanilla and Red Vanilla Orchids. Another good places for orchids, especially in late June, is around the car-free village of Wengen where the mountain pastures contain Burnt, Bird’s-nest and Lady’s Slipper Orchids.
This small, mountainous, subtropical island, less than 400 km (250 miles) long and 150 km (100 miles) wide, in the South China Sea, supports 20-30 endemic bird species and rising as taxonomists continue to split island forms of widespread species into full species and on Taiwan there are about fifty more endemic subspecies! Some of the most spectacular endemics are Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasants, Red (Maroon) Oriole, Taiwan Blue Magpie, Yellow Tit, Taiwan Cupwing, Black-necklaced and Taiwan Scimitar Babblers, Steere’s Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Flamecrest and Collared Bush Robin, while endemic subspecies include Eurasian Nutcracker (owstoni), Golden Parrotbill (morrisoniana), Collared Finchbill (cinereicapillus) and Little Forktail (fortis). Other notables are headlined by the beautiful Fairy Pitta (in the western lowlands) but they also include Malayan Night Heron (which like the pitta is easier to see on Taiwan than anywhere else, even in Taipei Botanical Gardens), Chinese Egret, Black-faced Spoonbill (hundreds winter in the lowland wetlands of the southwest and many stay on until April) and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher (most likely on the island of Lanyu). Mammals such as Taiwanese (Rock) Macaque, Taiwan Serow, and Indian Giant Flying and Red-and-white Flying Squirrels are also possible, and other natural wonders include Taroko Gorge, a narrow chasm with vertical marble walls. The peak time to visit is the second half of April when newly-arrived Fairy Pittas are most likely to be located although rain and mist are to be expected at this time of the year. July is the peak time to try and see the endangered Chinese Crested Tern in the Matsu Archipelago accessible by air from Taipei. Due to the rapidly increasing popularity of bird photography across Asia, be prepared to see some birds in zoo-like conditions, at photographers' 'stake-outs' often complete with screens and many photographers.
The rare Fairy Pitta near the village of Huben on the island of Taiwan by Lars Petersson.
This landlocked country, the smallest in central Asia, lying north of Afghanistan, dominated by the Pamir mountain range and rising to 7495 m (24,590 ft) is sprinkled with spectacular anemones, irises, tulips and so on during the first half of April, not the best time for birds which is late May to early June when it is possible to see Himalayan Snowcock, Lammergeier, Hill Pigeon, White-winged Woodpecker, Streaked Laughingthrush, Rusty-tailed Flycatcher, White-tailed Rubythroat, Blue-capped, Güldenstadt’s and Plumbeous Redstarts, Variable Wheatear, White-browed Tit Warbler, Large-billed Reed Warbler (riparian scrub along Panj River near Khorog, the main town in the Pamir mountain range), Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Black-breasted and Yellow-breasted (Azure) Tits, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Great Rosefinch, Plain Mountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak and White-capped Bunting. Good birding sites include Iskender Kul, a large alpine lake at 2195 m (7200 ft) north of the capital Dushanbe in the Fann mountain range. Farther afield the Pamirs are home to Markhor, Marco Polo Sheep, Ibex, Urial Sheep and Snow Leopard which is most likely to be seen during the winter when they venture lower down.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas, above.
Tanzania - Northern
The greatest diversity and numbers of large mammals on Earth make this A Top Ten Destination, with over a million Blue Wildebeest, over a quarter of a million Thomson's Gazelles and about 200,000 Burchell's Zebras, as well as their predators, including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena and, possibly, African Wild Dog, at the right time of year, and lots of iconic open-country African birds, in landscapes to match, not least the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
The noisy Blacksmith Plover, widespread in Africa south from Kenya, by Francesco Veronesi.
Tanzania - Southern
Many mammals including African Wild Dogs in some of the most extensive wildest places left on Earth, and some localised birds such as Udzungwa Forest Partridge and White-winged Apalis.
Thailand - Northern
Northern Thailand is different from the rest of the country. Mountain ranges support a more Himalayan avifauna and montane specialities at sites such as Doi Ang Khang, Doi Inthanon and Doi Lang include Hume’s Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch, as well as Rufous-throated Partridge, Crested Finchbill, Brown-breasted and White-headed Bulbuls, Silver-eared, White-browed and White-necked Laughingthrushes, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Spot-throated Babbler, Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler, Spectacled Barwing, Dark-backed Sibia, Striated Yuhina and Spot-breasted Parrotbill. There is even a chance of Black-tailed Crake, Hodgson's Frogmouth and Green Cochoa, with some of the shyest species such as Rusty-naped Pitta possible at feeding stations. Other spectacular species present include Collared Falconet, Black-headed Woodpecker, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Common Green Magpie, Slaty-bellied Tesia, White-crested Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, Himalayan Cutia and Gould's Sunbird, while in the lowlands the specialities include the rare Green Peafowl (at the Huai Hong Khrai Royal Development Project). December to March is the best time to visit, when resident species are joined by wintering birds from northeast Asia.
Thailand - Southern
Some of South East Asia’s most spectacular birds including Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, trogons, kingfishers, bee-eaters, barbets, broadbills, pittas like the fabulous irena race of Banded Pitta, and Rail Babbler, wintering shorebirds such as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and primates including White-handed Gibbon.
An extraordinary Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo in Khao Yai National Park, Southern Thailand, by Spider.
Rare high-altitude birds including Przevalski’s Finch, in a family of its own, Blue Eared and Tibetan Eared Pheasants, Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hume’s Groundpecker, Henderson’s Ground Jay, Giant Babax and Kozlov’s Bunting, as well as Wild Ass and a chance of wild Yak, all in phenomenal scenery.
Timor/(Democratic Republic of) Timor-Leste
The island of Timor is the largest and geographically most ancient of the Lesser Sundas islands of eastern Indonesia although the lowland forests and scrub resemble northern Australia which is not far away to the south. There are more endemic birds on this island than any other in the Lesser Sundas and they include such striking species as Banded (or Black-backed) Fruit-Dove, White-bellied Chat, Orange-banded Thrush, Timor Stubtail, Black-banded and Timor Blue Flycatchers, Flame-breasted Sunbird and Tricoloured Parrotfinch. It is usually possible to see these birds, all but 2-3 of the island's endemics or near-endemic birds actually, in West Timor (Indonesia) but Timor (Pheasant) Coucal is endemic to East Timor, Timor Green Pigeon is much more likely to be seen in the east because it is so heavily hunted in the west, and Iris Lorikeet is tricky to see in the west but easier in the east where there is less hunting. The lorikeet occurs in the hills above the capital Dili along with Olive-headed Lorikeet, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Timor Stubtail, Buff-banded Bushbird (Thicket Warbler), Yellow-eared Honeyeater, Black-chested Myzomela, Spot-breasted Dark-eye, Mountain White-eye and Blood-breasted Flowerpecker. Nino Konis Santana National Park at the far eastern end of the island is the place for Timor Green Pigeon and Timor Coucal, as well as Yellow-crested Cockatoo (the park probably supports the largest remaining population of this critically endangered bird), Timor Black Pigeon, ‘Timor’ (Large-tailed) Nightjar, Timor Boobook, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Black-banded and Timor Blue Flycatchers, Timor Stubtail, ‘Timor’ Drongo, Timor Oriole, Timor Figbird and Flame-breasted Sunbird. Water bodies such as Lake Iralalaro support many Australasian species such as Australasian Darter, Pied Heron and Rainbow Bee-eater, as well as Saltwater Crocodiles.
Togian (Togean) Islands
See Indonesia - Sulawesi's satellites, above.
Tonga is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to swim with Humpback Whales. Several operators run carefully organized tours within the Vava'u Islands when the whales are usually present from mid-July to late October, during the dry season. The endemic bird Tongan Whistler occurs only in the same island group, on A'a, 'Euakafa, Kapa, Pangaimotu, ‘Utungake and 'Uta Vava'u, as well as on the island of Late in northern Tonga. To see the other endemic bird, Tongan Megapode, it is necessary to fly to the northernmost island of all, Nuiafo'ou, where the birds can be seen at communal nesting grounds. Neither of the two endemic birds occur on the main island, Tongatapu, but birds such as Many-coloured Fruit Dove, Wattled Honeyeater, Polynesian Triller and Polynesian Starling can be seen in and near the capital Nuku'alofa. From the main island it is possible to travel by ferry to the island of 'Eua where seabirds such as White-tailed Tropicbirds, White Terns and Grey Noddies nest. The best time to look for birds is July to September.
Trinidad and Tobago
Some fine birds, not least Red-billed Tropicbird, a large roost of Scarlet Ibises, a cave colony of Oilbirds, the dazzling hummingbird called Ruby Topaz, and Bearded Bellbird, as well as nesting turtles and coral reef fish.
A male Ruby Topaz hummingbird on the island of Trinidad by Steve Garvie.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel and all but essential travel to parts of Tunisia, mainly in the west and far south, and the state of emergency, imposed after a suicide attack in 2015, has been extended a number of times, most recently in July 2019 by one month. Since 2015 the Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts but terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out attacks. Tunisia is though one of Africa’s most wealthy and developed countries and one with a wide range of habitats despite being only about 800 km from north to south and 300 km from west to east, with coastal wetlands, vast olive groves, central steppes and mountains, and Sahara Desert, in a climate which is hot and dry from May to September but rather cold and wet from November to March the best month to visit to search for species such as Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwater (Cap Bon), Barbary Partridge, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, Greater Flamingos (two thirds of the Mediterranean population winters in Tunisia, mainly in the Gulf of Gabes), Long-legged Buzzard, Barbary Falcon, Eurasian Dotterel (wintering in Jebil NP), Cream-coloured Courser, Audouin’s Gull (Cap Bon), Black-bellied, Crowned, Pin-tailed and Spotted Sandgrouse, Egyptian and Red-necked Nightjars, Levaillant’s (Green) Woodpecker, Bar-tailed, Greater Hoopoe, Temminck’s and Thick-billed Larks, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier’s Redstart, Black, White-crowned Black and Red-rumped Wheatears, African Desert, Spectacled and Tristram’s Warblers, Fulvous Babbler, Spotless Starling and Desert Sparrow (Jebil NP). Endangered North African mammals include Addax, Scimitar-horned Oryx, Dama and Dorcas Gazelle, and the hamster-like Gundi, all of which occur in Bou Hedma NP.
Some of the most exciting birding in the Western Palearctic, but Turkey is a huge country and to see all of its best birds it would be necessary to travel hundreds of miles, so most visitors opt to cover certain areas. The Bosphorus, especially in September, is a great place to watch the visible migration of tens of thousands of raptors including Lesser Spotted Eagles and Levant Sparrowhawks, along with huge numbers of White Storks and some Black Storks, on their way from Eurasia to Africa. The narrow strait between Europe and Asia is also regularly traversed by Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters. In southwest (as well as southern and eastern) Turkey it is possible to see the likes of Dalmatian Pelican (Lake Karine near Bafa), Spur-winged Plover, Smyrna (White-throated) Kingfisher (scarce in the Dalyan Delta), Finsch’s Wheatear (Pamukkale area), White-throated Robin, Olive-tree (Pamukkale area), (Eastern) Orphean and Ruppell's Warblers, Sombre Tit, Kruper's and Rock Nuthatches, Masked Shrike, Black-headed, Cinereous (Pamukkale area) and Cretzschmar's Buntings, and Red-fronted Serin (Gulubeli Pass, east of Dalaman). The south coast is famous for the (Western) Brown Fish Owls at Oymapinar Barrage/Reservoir near Antalya and the chance of seeing the very elusive 'Lilford's' White-backed Woodpeckers at Akseki. East from there is where most of the regionally-endemic (or breeding-endemic) Western Palearctic specialities are though, including Caspian Snowcock, Radde's Accentor and (Asian) Crimson-winged Finch at Mount Demirkazik (along with Wild Goat (Bezoar Ibex) and Asia Minor Souslik). Caspian Snowcock and Caucasian Grouse occur in the far northeast near Sivrikaya and to the south it is possible to see Grey-necked Bunting and Mongolian Finch at Dogubeyazit.
In August 2019 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office continued to advise against all travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Syria and all but essential travel to some other areas in the south-east while also pointing out that British nationals made over 2.3 million mostly trouble-free visits to Turkey in 2018. The dangerous region includes the Birecik area, a well-known birding hotspot where See-see Partridge, Pallid (Striated) Scops Owl, Pied Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Menetries's Warbler, Iraq Babbler, Desert Finch, and Dead Sea, Pale Rock and Yellow-throated Sparrows occur (along with a feral colony of Northern Bald Ibises), with Red-wattled Lapwing near Batman to the east. The best time to look for most birds in Turkey is May.
A singing male White-throated Robin at Seki in Turkey by Michael McKee.
This country of mainly black sand desert east of the Caspian Sea between Kazakhstan to the north and Afghanistan and Iran to the south, supports Pander’s (Turkestan) Ground Jay and Zarudnyi’s (Desert) Sparrow (both in the Turkmenabat region), as well as Caspian Snowcock, See-see Partridge, Lammergeier, Macqueen’s Bustard, White-tailed Lapwing, Black-winged Pratincole, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Pallid Scops Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-winged Woodpecker, Pied Bushchat, Finsch’s, Red-tailed and Variable Wheatears, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Asian Desert, Ménétries’s, Plain Leaf and Sykes’s Warblers, Cinereous Tit, Black-headed and White-crowned Penduline Tits, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Steppe Grey Shrike, Bimaculated Lark, Radde’s Accentor, Rosy Starling, Saxual Sparrow, Pale Rockfinch, White-winged Grosbeak, and Grey-necked and Red-headed Buntings. May is a good time for birds and some of the best sites are the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert, the Amu-Darya, Murgab and Tejen river valleys, the Kopet Dag ('Many Mountains'), and the Kugitang Mountains in the Tien Shan.
Turks and Caicos Islands
This UK Overseas Territory is a small archipelago of low-lying islands and cays south of the Bahamas in the Caribbean. It supports 58 native breeding birds including two endemic subspecies: Thick-billed Vireo (stalagmium) and Greater Antillean Bullfinch (ofella), as well as important breeding colonies of gulls, terns and other seabirds (mainly April to July). For example, Big Sand Cay has a colony of Sooty Terns, along with Hawksbill Turtles. Other birds present include West Indian Whistling Duck, Reddish Egret, White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Greater Flamingo, Brown Noddy, Key West Quail Dove, Antillean Nighthawk (mainly May-Aug), Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Mockingbird, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Cuban Crow and Western Spindalis (Stripe-headed Tanager), while 110 regular passage migrants and winter visitors include Piping Plover and Kirtland’s Warbler. Humpback Whales migrate south through the islands in January to March, on their way to the Silver Bank, north of the Dominican Republic.
This small country is packed with people and wildlife, and a A Top Ten Destination where it is possible to spend an hour with Mountain Gorillas, possibly the ultimate wildlife experience, another hour with Chimpanzees, also possibly the ultimate wildlife experience, see lots of monkeys and many more birds in what is, for its size, the richest country in Africa for birds, over a thousand species in all, including Shoebill, Brown-chested Lapwing, Green-breasted Pitta and many Albertine Rift Endemics, not least African Green (Grauer's) Broadbill.
Demoiselle Cranes, Great Bustards, and Saker and Red-footed Falcons on feather grass steppes, and waterbirds in the Danube Delta region, including Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Great Black-headed Gull, and passage migrant shorebirds and terns.
United Arab Emirates
A midwinter trip to the city parks, dairy farms, fodder fields, deserts, rocky mountain ridges, coastal mudflats and beaches of this safe, accessible Middle Eastern country offers a fine selection of birds that includes Arabian and Sand Partridges, Socotra Cormorant, Indian Pond Heron, Crested Honey Buzzard, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Grey-headed Swamphen, White-tailed Lapwing, Crab Plover, Cream-coloured Courser, Great Knot, Great Black-headed (Pallas's) and Sooty Gulls, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouses, Pallid (Striated) Scops Owl, Desert (Pharoah) Eagle Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, ('Arabian' kalbaensis) Collared Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Bar-tailed, Bimaculated and Greater Hoopoe Larks, Oriental Skylark, Pale Crag Martin, Hooded, Hume’s, Red-tailed (Persian) and Variable Wheatears, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Plain Leaf Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Long-billed Pipit and Striolated Bunting with a chance of Grey Hypocolius. During the 'summer', mainly April to August, Persian Shearwater, and Bridled, Saunders's and White-cheeked Terns may be seen.
This country’s coastal wetlands, grasslands and forested low mountains support a wide range of birds, the rarest in global terms being Greater Rhea, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Straight-billed Reedhaunter, Black-and-white Monjita, Chestnut, Dark-throated, Entre Rios and Marsh Seedeaters, Yellow Cardinal, Pampas Meadowlark and Saffron-cowled Blackbird although the wider list includes Spotted Nothura, Great Grebe, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, Chilean Flamingo, Maguari Stork, Southern Screamer, Cinereous and Long-winged Harriers, Red-legged Seriema, Giant Wood Rail, Wattled Jacana, Snowy-crowned Tern, Nacunda Nighthawk, Guira Cuckoo, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Gilded Sapphire, White and White-spotted Woodpeckers, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Firewood-gatherer, Curve-billed Reedhaunter, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Spectacled Tyrant, White Monjita, Chestnut-backed and Diademed Tanagers, Glaucous-blue Grosbeak, Black-and-rufous Warbling Finch, Long-tailed Reed Finch and Scarlet-headed Blackbird, many of which can be seen within a day or two of the capital Montevideo along the coast of the Rio de la Plata and Atlantic, especially at Laguna de Rocha which has the highest known wintering population of Buff-breasted Sandpipers in South America, and the far eastern coastal strip and wetlands in a Ramsar Site known as Banados del Este where Black-and‐white Monjita, Yellow Cardinal, Saffron-¬cowled Blackbird and several species of seedeater occur. Lying south of the equator the best time to visit is probably during October-November;the southern spring. Most rain usually falls during the autumn and winter.
USA - Alaska
Millions of seabirds and fur seals on the Pribilof Islands; one of the greatest concentrations of birds and mammals in the world, as well as spectacular localised birds such as Spectacled and Steller's Eiders, Red-legged Kittiwake, Aleutian Tern, and nesting shorebirds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew and Rock Sandpiper, and Grizzly Bears, Killer Whales, Musk Ox, Moose and Sea Otters, with a chance of Polar Bear at Barrow where, in autumn/fall, it is also possible to see many Ross's Gulls.
Tufted Puffins are easy to see on the Pribilof Islands of Alaska. Image by Simon Colenutt.
USA - Alaska - Southeast
A chance to see Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding, as well as Grizzly Bears fishing, and Black Bears, amongst the mountains, glaciers, fjords and temperate rainforests of
wild northwest America.
USA - Arizona (Southeast)
A greater variety of breeding birds than any other area of comparable size in the United States; about 190 species in total including over ten species of owl, lots of hummingbirds, Coppery-tailed (Elegant) Trogon, Painted Redstart, and Grace's, Olive and Red-faced Warblers, mostly replaced in winter by Sandhill Cranes, Mountain Plovers, raptors and sparrows, all half a day by road from Tucson.
USA - Arkansas
The small state of Arkansas, north of Louisiana, is home to birds such as Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman’s Sparrow, all three of which occur together at some sites in the southern half of the state including the Ouachita National Forest near Waldron where other breeding birds include Greater Roadrunner, and Kentucky, Pine and Prairie Warblers. In the far north of the state next to Missouri are the limestone hills and mountains of the Ozarks which support 18 species of breeding warblers, most of which are best looked for when they are singing, especially during the middle two weeks of May. One of the best areas is the upper Buffalo River near Harrison from Lost Valley to the springs at Mountain View where the bottomlands and valleys support Cerulean, Hooded, Kentucky and Parula Warblers, as well as Bald Eagle and Wood Thrush. Another good birding site in the far north is Mammoth Spring State Park near Hardy where Wood Duck, Red-headed Woodpecker and Warbling Vireo occur.
USA - Bosque del Apache, New Mexico
Up to and sometimes above 20,000 wintering Snow Geese and thousands of Sandhill Cranes in one of the most impressive gatherings of birds in the world.
USA - California (Northern)
The best chance of Bobcat in the world, a good chance of Blue and Humpback Whales, as well as Northern Elephant Seal and Sea Otter, with the fine selection of birds including Black-footed Albatross, the reintroduced California Condor, the state endemic Yellow-billed Magpie, the near-endemic Allen's Hummingbird, and California Thrasher, all in one of the most scenic places on Earth, not least Yosemite Valley, with the tallest trees in the world (Coast Redwoods), the largest trees in the world (Giant Sequoias) and the oldest trees in North America (Bristlecone Pines).
The USFWS recorded a population of 268 California Condors living in the wild in December 2015, many of them in California where they are being reintroduced into the mountains north of Los Angeles and the Big Sur area of the central coast. Image by Chris Townend.
USA - California (Southern)
A wide range of habitats in a small, often scenic, area means Southern California is a top birding destination. Mountains, pine-oak woods, chaparral, deserts, shoreline and ocean combine to support a great diversity of birds including two endemics (Island Scrub Jay and Yellow-billed Magpie) and several specialities; Black-vented Shearwater (off La Jolla Cove), Brown Booby (on cliffs at La Jolla - now breeding on Los Coronados Islands south of San Diego), Scripps’s (Xantus's) Murrelet, Yellow-footed Gull, Allen’s Hummingbird, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, California Thrasher, California Gnatcatcher (San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve), Wrentit, the nomadic Lawrence's Goldfinch, California Towhee and Tricoloured Blackbird, while other spectacular species include Heermann's Gull, Black Skimmer, Burrowing Owl and Greater Roadrunner. The best times to look for these birds are late April-early May and during the winter when there are thousands of Snow Geese (with Ross's Geese), hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and lots of Mountain Plovers around the southern end of the Salton Sea which is the only regular location for Yellow-footed Gull in the United States, although they are rare in winter (numbers usually peak during late summer). 'Desert' Bighorn Sheep occur in Anza-Borrego SP along with Dulzura and Merriam's Kangaroo Rats.
Gambel's Quail at Grand Junction, Colorado, by Nigel Voaden. This great bird can be seen in the desert scrublands of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northwestern Mexico.
USA - Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is one of the best places on Earth to experience visible bird migration. During the autumn/fall birds from a huge area of northern North America pass through this peninsula at the southern end of the state of New Jersey, 160 miles south of New York, before continuing south. Small bird migration usually peaks during the middle two weeks of September and the main period of migration for all species usually lasts between mid-September and mid-October and includes waterbirds, shorebirds, raptors, warblers, vireos, sparrows and buntings. They may occur in astonishing numbers if there has been a 'fallout', usually after wet cold fronts sweep across the cape from the northwest. During such times there are also likely to be lots of Northern Flickers, Blue Jays and Tree Swallows, and plenty of Belted Kingfishers, while the freshwater and saltwater marshes and beaches also support a few Bald Eagles and hundreds of Black Skimmers. The best sites, crowded with birders during peak season, are Higbee Beach WMA (especially for passage migrant passerines early morning, in what is known as the 'morning flight' when nocturnal migrants flit north and west over the dike in search of roosting and foraging sites for the day), Cape May Point SP (for waterbirds, shorebirds, migrating raptors (the Cape May Bird Observatory's hawk watch platform is here) and the 'morning flight' over the dunes), and Edwin B. Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) NWR, about 50 miles north of Cape May (for waterbirds, shorebirds and raptors).
Although most famous for the autumn/fall migration it is also worth considering visiting Cape May during the spring, when: the spawning of tens of thousands of Horseshoe Crabs in Delaware Bay takes place, their eggs in turn providing food for thousands of passage migrant shorebirds (the spawning usually peaks during the last week of May); over 20 species of warbler may be seen, with nesting and passage migrant species both singing (the greatest variety of warblers and other small migrants usually occurs during the first half of May, especially on overcast days with southwesterly winds); and freshwater and saltwater marshes and beaches support the rare Piping Plover, as well as Bald Eagle and Black Skimmer.
For information on Cape May Bird Observatory, the annual Cape May Autumn Birding Festival (usually held in late October) and the annual 24-hour fundraising birdrace known as the World Series of Birding (usually held in early May) see the New Jersey Audubon website.
USA - Colorado
Seven species of displaying grouse in spring, other birds including Mountain Plover, Lewis’s Woodpecker and Pinyon Jay, and a chance of Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn.
USA - Florida
Localized North American birds such as Magnificent Frigatebird, Wood Stork, Snail and Swallow-tailed Kites, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the endemic Florida Scrub Jay, lots of waterbirds, alligators and West Indian Manatees.
USA - Hawaii
Some spectacular endemic landbirds, not least honeycreepers, seabirds such as Laysan Albatross, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Grey-backed and White Terns, and Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater, the rare Bristle-thighed Curlew, Spinner Dolphins, Manta Rays, Green Turtles, coral reef fish, Humpback Whales and the chance to see rivers of molten lava pouring out of one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world.
USA - Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Pennsylvania
See Pennsylvania, below.
USA - Idaho
From the Snake River to the Sawtooth mountains Idaho supports a fine range of western American birds, best looked for during the second half of May. The Snake River Canyon Birds of Prey National Conservation Area just outside Boise includes an 80-mile-long section of the river where the cliffs provide nesting sites for more than 500 pairs of 15 species of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls including Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon while the surrounding woods and shrub-steppe desert support Calliope Hummingbird, Lewis's Woodpecker, Lazuli Bunting and Black-headed Grosbeak. In contrast the Camas National Wildlife Refuge has numerous nesting waterbirds such as grebes, ducks, Trumpeter Swans, White-faced Ibises, Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes and Franklin's Gulls. For mountain birds head up to McCall where Williamson's Sapsucker, MacGillivray's Warbler and Western Tanager occur.
USA - Louisiana
Many taiga and prairie pothole breeding species winter in the rice-growing region of southwest Louisiana; geese, ducks, sparrows and, best of all, Yellow Rails. Thanks to the rice-harvesting schedule of Cajun farmers there is a better chance of seeing these secretive little birds here than virtually anywhere else. During early November when the annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival is held the rice combine harvesters collect the lagniappe (extra) autumn crop and flush the birds as they spiral inwards, along with other rails, American Bitterns and sparrows. The rice fields were formerly coastal wet prairie where Prairie Chickens and Whooping Cranes nested; both have gone although between 2011 and 2017 ten to 16 hatched juvenile cranes were released annually in a reintroduction scheme which by 2016 had resulted in five pairs making nine nesting attempts one of which included the first successful wild-hatched Whooping Crane in Louisiana since 1939. In addition, pine woods support resident southeastern specialties Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman's Sparrow, and the coastal marshes, beaches and cheniers (tree islands) provide food and shelter for numerous resident waterbirds, wintering species and migrants, and during the spring the sometimes spectacular migration associated with the adjacent Texas coast can be just as good in little-known Louisiana where summer breeding species include Swallow-tailed Kite and Swainson’s Warbler.
USA - Maine
From late May to late June in Maine, the peak of the breeding season where many species reach their northernmost or southernmost limits, it is possible to see thousands of seabirds such as Great Shearwater, Leach's and Wilson's Petrels (all three as well as Fin Whales in 'the Ballpark', a rich area of upwelling, accessible along with Petit Manan Island (where breeding Arctic Terns, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Common Guillemots/Murres and Black Guillemots can be seen at close quarters) on half-day boat trips out of Bar Harbor), as well as Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Bald Eagle, 'Eastern' Willet, Upland Sandpiper (Kennebunk Plains), Blue-headed Vireo, lots of flycatchers, Blue and Grey Jays, Boreal Chickadee, several thrushes including Bicknell’s (on Mount Washington in the White Mountains just across the state border in New Hampshire) and up to 25 species of warbler including Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia, as well as, possibly, American Woodcock displaying, Piping Plover and Black-backed Woodpecker.
USA - Massachusetts
Large numbers of Humpback Whales and seabirds such as Great Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm Petrels on the nutrient rich Stellwagen Bank during the summer.
USA - Michigan
The rare Kirtland’s Warbler winters on the Bahamas and summers in the young jack pine forests on Michigan’s lower peninsula along with Cape May, Golden-winged and Mourning Warblers, as well as Upland Sandpiper, Henslow’s Sparrow and Evening Grosbeak. Kirtland’s Warbler is strictly protected and the best way to see it is on tours usually conducted by the Michigan Audubon Society in mid-May to early July. To look for migrant warblers and other passerines head to Tawas Point, a sandy spit on the shores of Lake Huron where many birds may seek food and shelter after a cold front in spring. Another famous Michigan ‘point’ is Whitefish at the southeast end of Lake Superior ten miles north of Paradise. Tens of thousands of migrant birds pass through, by or over in spring (mostly April when owls including Boreal and Northern Saw-whet may drop in) and autumn/fall. Lake Erie Metropark, about 20 miles south of Detroit, is one of the best Hawkwatch Sites in North America. Raptor numbers usually peak in mid-September but the greatest diversity occurs in October. The seasonal average of over 250,000 raptors was surpassed on the 17th of September 1999 when 547,000 flew over including over half a million Broad-winged Hawks!
A beautiful singing male Golden-winged Warbler, Grayling, Michigan, by Dubi Shapiro.
USA - Minnesota
The boreal bogs and forests of northern Minnesota, especially Sax-Zim Bog and the Superior National Forest north of Duluth, are famous for Great Grey Owls, although there are not many of them and they can be difficult to find. It is probably easier to find them during the extremely cold winter months when it is also possible to see Boreal (Tengmalm's), Hawk and Snowy Owls, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, and Hoary (Arctic) Redpoll, as well as white Short-tailed Weasel (Stoat) at some of the several feeding stations. Looking for them in early June it is also possible to see over 20 species of warbler including Blackburnian, Canada, Cape May, Connecticut, Golden-winged, Magnolia and Mourning, all in full song and breeding plumage, as well as Sandhill Crane and Blue-headed Vireo. Resident species include Ruffed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Grey Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Elsewhere in the state Maplewood State Park is a particularly good place for Golden-winged Warbler and out west in the Felton prairies Greater Prairie Chicken is possible. To the west lies North Dakota, described below.
Pine Grosbeak in a snowy Minnesota winter by Chris Townend.
USA - Missouri
Missouri lies just east of the central United States. Rolling farmland and tiny remnants of prairie cover the north and west, and flat plains and the forested limestone hills and mountains of the Ozarks the south and southeast with the Mississippi River running south along the state’s eastern border with Illinois. In the Americas over 95% of tall-grass prairies have been cleared to make way for agricultural land and less than three percent of what once existed in Missouri remains. The largest and finest remnant is in Prairie State Park near Springfield in the southwest which supports Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Henslow’s Sparrow and Dickcissel, as well as Bison. Greater Prairie Chicken used to occur here. Up to 18 species of warbler including Cerulean, Kentucky and Nashville spend the northern summers in the Ozarks, most of which are best looked for when they are singing, especially during the middle two weeks of May which are also a good time to see the wide range of wild flowers. For breeding and migrant warblers head for Roaring River State Park or the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area (formerly White River Balds Natural Area) just west of Branson where the ‘balds’, forest glades, are good for warblers and Yellow-breasted Chat.
USA - Montana
The sparsely populated (six to seven people per square mile) plains, rivers, lakes, marshes and mountains of the fourth largest of the United States support a wide range of birds and mammals. Prairie pot holes are an especially rich habitat, particularly at Freezeout Lake State Waterfowl Management Area and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge where there are many ducks, White-faced Ibis, American White Pelican, Wilson's Phalarope, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt and Yellow-headed Blackbird with Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Chestnut-collared and McCown's Longspurs, Bobolinks and Lark Buntings in the surrounding grasslands. As for mountains they don’t get much more scenic than in Glacier National Park where Harlequin Duck, Varied Thrush, MacGillivray's, Townsend’s and Wilson’s Warblers, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch and Black Bears occur. Outside the park ‘Goat Lick’, a steep cliff and natural mineral lick above the Flathead River is where Mountain Goats gather during the spring. Grizzly Bears may be seen out on the prairie at Pine Butte Swamp and other mammals abound in the National Bison Range, particularly American Bison which roam among some of the last Palouse Prairie in western Montana. Other Montana mammals include Pronghorn, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Black Bear, and other birds are Blue Grouse, Lewis' Woodpecker and Mountain Bluebird. The peak time to visit is the first week of June during the late spring when there is up to 15 hours of daylight.
Montana also has the largest number (14) of breeding owl species of any U.S. state; Barn, Barred, Boreal, Burrowing, Eastern Screech, Western Screech, Flammulated, Great Grey, Great Horned, Hawk, Long-eared, Short-eared, Pygmy and Northern Saw-whet, while Snowy Owl is a regular winter visitor. The breeding species are best searched for during the second half of April.
USA - Nebraska (Platte River)
One of the most impressive gatherings of birds in the world with about half a million Sandhill Cranes at their staging area in March along with Ross's and Snow Geese.
USA - North Carolina
During the summer, especially late May to early June, up to 40 miles off Cape Hatteras, where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream meet the cool waters of the Labrador Current, there is a considerable upwelling of nutrients which in turn provide a rich food supply for a wonderful selection of seabirds. Regular species are Black-capped Petrel, Audubon's, Cory’s (borealis and diomedea) and Great Shearwaters, Band-rumped (Grant's), Leach's and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Bridled Tern and Pomarine Jaeger (Skua), less regular species include Manx Shearwater, South Polar Skua, Long-tailed Jaeger (Skua) and Sooty Tern, and rare species include Bermuda, Fea's and Herald (Trinidade arminjoniana race) Petrels. Whales, dolphins, turtles, flying fish and even Blue Marlin are also possible. The all-day pelagics are run by Seabirding. Along the coast and inland there are some great birds too, including Brown Pelican, a wide variety of herons, Clapper Rail, shorebirds including Piping Plover, Black Skimmer, Blue Jay and Seaside Sparrow, as well as Southeastern United States specialities such as Wilson’s Plover, Red-cockaded (Croatan NF) and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Swainson’s and Prothonotary Warblers, Summer Tanager, Bachman’s Sparrow and Painted Bunting.
USA - North Dakota
The rolling grasslands and wetlands in prairie-pothole country near Jamestown in Kidder County on the Great Plains of eastern North Dakota are famous for nesting waterbirds, especially ducks (the region is often referred to as the 'Duck Factory' of North America), but also Western Grebe, American White Pelican (one of the continent's largest breeding colonies is at Chase Lake NWR), American Bittern, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, California and Franklin’s Gulls, and Black and Forster's Terns. The grasslands support the rare Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrow, as well as Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ferruginous Hawk, Dickcissel, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bobolink and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Just to the east is Minnesota, described above. The peak time for birding is early June.
USA - Ohio
Crane Creek and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, along the Lake Erie shoreline about 15 miles east of Toledo, make up one of the best places in North America to see warblers during the spring, especially the middle two weeks of May when over 30 species may be seen and the The Biggest Week in American Birding, an annual event, is held. The birds stop to rest and refuel in the tiny stretch of woods here before making the 30-mile crossing to Ontario and often allow close-up views along with cuckoos, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, tanagers and orioles. At nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge it is possible to see a good variety of ducks, herons and shorebirds. Cerulean, Hooded and Yellow-throated Warblers, as well as birds such as Acadian Flycatcher and Wood Thrush more typical of the southern Appalachians can be seen in eastern Ohio in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
USA - Oregon
Because there are so many habitats in such a small area in Oregon there is a greater diversity of birds than in any other similar-sized area in the world at a similar latitude. The range of birds is impressive, whether it is the second half of May, the peak spring period when songbirds are singing and in spring plumage or the first two weeks of September when huge numbers of birds are passing through on southward migration, and includes Harlequin Duck, Mountain Quail, Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Sandhill Crane, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, several owls, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, lots of woodpeckers and flycatchers, Clark's Nutcracker, Wrentit, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush, Lazuli Bunting and Evening Grosbeak, with trickier species including Yellow Rail (Klamath Marsh NWR), Tufted Puffin (Cape Kiwanda SNA), Great Grey Owl (sometimes nesting on known nesting platforms in the Blue Mountains near La Grande) and Tricoloured Blackbird. Mammals include several chipmunks and ground-squirrels, Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn and Yellow-bellied Marmot. In addition, on full-day pelagic trips out of Newport in September it is possible to see Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel and other seabirds such as Laysan Albatross.
USA - Pennsylvania (including Hawk Mountain Sanctuary)
Every autumn/fall mainly September-October an average of 18,000 raptors pass over Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on the Kittatinny Ridge in the Appalachians about 25 miles north of Reading. Species with peak times in parentheses include Osprey (September), Bald Eagle (first half of September), Northern Harrier (October), Sharp-shinned Hawk (mid-September to the end of October), Cooper’s Hawk (October), Northern Goshawk (November), Red-shouldered Hawk (mid-October to mid-November), Broad-winged Hawk (September), Red-tailed Hawk (October-November), Rough-legged Hawk (November to mid-December), Golden Eagle (mid-October to mid-November), American Kestrel (September), Merlin (October), Peregrine (October-November). The Annual Autumn Hawk Watch takes place daily from mid-August to mid-December 9 am to 5 pm at North Lookout when an official counter and interpreters are on hand to point out and identify birds. There may not be many birds if the weather conditions are unsuitable though; it is best to visit on days immediately following the passage of a cold front when the wind blows from the northwest.
An impressive diversity of flycatchers, vireos, warblers and sparrows breed in central Pennsylvania. Singing usually peaks in late May when males arrive and establish territories. There may be as many as five species of Empidonax flycatchers, Henslow's Sparrow is the star of the sparrows, the possible 25 species of warbler include Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Canada, Cerulean, Golden-winged, Magnolia, Mourning and Prothonotary, and Yellow-breasted Chat is also possible.
USA - Texas
Bird migration in action with, in the right spring weather, huge 'kettles' of Broad-winged and Swainson's Hawks, flocks of shorebirds stopping off on their way north, and thousands of small birds including warblers, tanagers and buntings, all in dazzling summer plumage, and all vying for attention alongside wintering Whooping Cranes, resident Roadrunners and summer visitors such as Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Swallow-tailed Kites.
The numerous shorebirds migrating through Texas during the spring include Hudsonian Godwits, some of them in summer breeding plumage like this male by Michael McKee.
USA - Virginia & West Virginia
Possibly the greatest range of breeding warblers for such a small area of North America occurs from the rolling Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia across the Shenandoah Valley to the Allegheny and Cheat Mountains of West Virginia. At the end of May and early June the forested mountains resound with the songs of over 25 species of warbler including Blackburnian, Canada, Cerulean (especially in the oak woods of the Blue Ridge, Virginia), Chestnut-sided, Kentucky, Magnolia, Mourning, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated.
USA - Washington
This west coast state supports an impressive range of birds, whether it is the second half of May, the peak spring period when songbirds are singing and in spring plumage or the first two weeks of September when huge numbers of seabirds, shorebirds and songbirds are passing through on southward migration. The list includes Harlequin Duck, Bald Eagle, White-tailed Ptarmigan (Mount Rainier NP, along Skyline Trail near Panorama Point above Paradise, and along Mt Fremont Lookout Trail above Sunrise), Sandhill Crane, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds (these, as well as Cassin's Finch, and Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks, are attracted to the feeders at Mt Adams Lodge), Tufted Puffin (on Protection Island NWR, accessible via two-hour boat trips from Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula), lots of woodpeckers, Clark's Nutcracker, Varied Thrush, Mountain Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch (Mt Fremont Lookout Trail above Sunrise in Mount Rainier NP). Mammals include Killer Whale (the waters around the San Juan Islands, accessible from Port Townsend, are some of the best in the world for this species), Black Bear, Elk and various chipmunks and ground-squirrels. During September Washington is not only a great place for rare shorebirds in North America it is where a wide range of seabirds gather offshore and on full-day pelagic trips out of Westport Harbor it is possible to see lots of Black-footed Albatrosses, as well as Buller’s and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel and South Polar Skua. In addition, Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater and Tufted Puffin are seen on some trips and rarities have included the likes of Murphy’s Petrel.
The beautifully patterned and coloured Harlequin Duck is widespread across northwestern North America, as far south as Washington and Oregon where they usually spend the summers inland and the winters along the Pacific coast. This superb image was taken by Simon Colenutt in Alaska.
USA - Wyoming (Yellowstone)
Wolf, Grizzly and Black Bears, Bison, Moose and geothermal phenomena such as geysers like Old Faithful.
The desert, steppe, many Mulberry trees (used to feed silkworms and produce silk on the ‘Silk Road’), mountain meadows and slopes covered in junipers and coniferous forests below the snow-capped peaks of Uzbekistan support Pander’s (Turkestan) Ground Jay (in the Kyzyl-Kum Desert), as well as Marbled Duck, Macqueen’s Bustard, White-tailed Lapwing, Little (Hutton’s) Owl, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-winged Woodpecker, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Pied Bushchat, White-throated Robin, Blue-capped Redstart, Finsch’s and Variable Wheatears, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Asian Desert, Ménétries’s, Moustached, Sulphur-bellied, Sykes’s and Upcher’s Warblers, Black-breasted, Rufous-naped, Turkestan and Yellow-breasted (Azure) Tits, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Steppe Grey Shrike, Hume’s Lark, Desert Finch, and Red-headed and White-capped Buntings. Good birding areas include the Chatkal range of mountains (outliers of the Tien Shan near of the capital Tashkent), the Kyzyl-Kum Desert and wetlands around Bukhara. Mid-May is the peak time to look for birds.
The Buff-bellied Monarch, endemic to Vanuatu, looks much better than it sounds as this superb image by Dubi Shapiro illustrates.
The island of Efate is the gateway to Vanuatu but the island where all of the endemic bird species occur is Espiritu Santo. There are at least ten endemics but only five are relatively easy to see; Vanuatu Megapode/Scrubfowl (especially at Palikulo Point but also in Loru Conservation Area), Tanna Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher (a difficult forest skulker), Buff-bellied Monarch (a hyperactive forest skulker and sole member of its genus) and Yellow-fronted (Vanuatu) White-eye, all of which occur in the lowland forests along with the likes of Mackinlay's Cuckoo Dove, Red-bellied Fruit Dove, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, the juliae subspecies of Collared Kingfisher, Cardinal Myzomela, Long-tailed Triller, Melanesian (Golden) Whistler and Southern Shrikebill. At the slightly higher elevation reached via the Butmas Track the endemic Baker's Imperial Pigeon and Vanuatu Honeyeater become possible, but visitors must mount a mini-expedition with porters and camping equipment to much higher forest to try and see the endemic Santo (Guadalcanal) Thicketbird, as well as Palm Lorikeet, Santa Cruz Ground Dove and Rusty-winged Starling, all of which occur only in Vanuatu and the Santa Cruz Islands of the Solomon Islands. The other endemics are Mountain (Santo) Starling which is confined to the highest forests of Espiritu Santo and Royal (Red-headed) Parrotfinch which is rare and/or nomadic on Santo but apparently more numerous on the islands of Emae and Tongoa. Two other rare birds are Magnificent (Collared) and Vanuatu (White-necked) Petrels, although it is possible to see both at sea around Mota Lava and Vanua Lava in the Banks Islands. The coral reefs around the low-lying Maskelyne Islands are some of the best for scuba-diving and snorkelling and Mt Yasur, an active volcano on Tanna Island, is yet another natural wonder. The best time to look for the endemic birds is July to September.
Venezuela - Eastern (Rio Grande-Escalera)
A good chance of Harpy Eagle, thousands of Oilbirds, lots of good-looking cotingas including Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Capuchinbird, Pompadour, Purple-breasted and Spangled Cotingas, and Handsome and Red-banded Fruiteaters, other Guiana Shield Endemics such as Scarlet-horned Manakin, and other spectacular South American birds like hummingbirds, jacamars, toucans, antbirds and tanagers.
Venezuela - Western (Llanos)
Many spectacular birds, some in the amazing Llanos wetlands, some in mountain forests, including Scarlet Ibis, Scarlet Macaw, Yellow-knobbed Curassow, Sunbittern, Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-bearded Helmetcrest, three quetzals, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Handsome Fruiteater and Wire-tailed Manakin, as well as mammals such as Red Howler, Three-toed Sloth and Capybara, and a chance of Giant Anteater and Pink River Dolphin.
Some of Asia’s most spectacular localized birds, endemic to Vietnam and adjacent countries, including Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pittas, Collared Treepie, Vietnamese Cutia and Grey-crowned Crocias, alongside trogons, hornbills and broadbills, and some of the most beautiful primates in the world such as Buff-cheeked Gibbon, and douc langurs.
The best place in the world to see the beautiful Bar-bellied Pitta is Vietnam, where this image was taken by Lars Petersson.
Virginia & West Virginia - USA
See USA - Virginia & West Virginia, above.
Washington - USA
See USA - Washington, above.
Western Pacific Odyssey
An incredible selection of seabirds between New Zealand and Japan, from New Zealand Storm Petrel through Beck's Petrel and Heinroth's Shearwater to Short-tailed Albatross, and many possible whales and dolphins, plus stopovers for endemic landbirds on islands such as New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands (see below).
In this part of northwest Africa currently administered by Morocco it is possible to see a few birds which are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic and a few mammals which are difficult or impossible to see anywhere else in the world. The main town Dakhla is accessible by air or road (over 1200 km south of Agadir) from Morocco. Birds in the huge Dakhla Bay include Royal Tern and a few Atlantic Humpback Dolphins survive in this bay. Inland, alongside the Dakhla-Aousserd Road it is possible to see Golden Nightjar (Oued Jenna) and Cricket Longtail (Oued Jenna), as well as Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse, Dunn's Lark, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Fulvous Babbler, African Desert Warbler and Desert Sparrow, and possibly Pharoah Eagle Owl and Sudan Golden Sparrow (especially at Oued Jenna). The numbers of birds in the often windy desert seems to depend on winter rainfall, with the highest numbers usually after plenty of rain. Mammals present alongside the same road include African Wild and Sand Cats, Golden Jackal, Fennec and Ruppell's Foxes, (Saharan) Striped Polecat, Desert Hedgehog and Lesser Egyptian Jerboa, all of which are most likely to be seen while spotlighting at night. The best time to visit is March to September.
West Papua - Indonesia
Fantastic birds-of-paradise including King-of-Saxony, Magnificent, Red, Wilson's, Western Parotia and Black Sicklebill, most of which can be seen displaying, as well as many other extraordinary creatures such as Palm Cockatoo, Victoria and Western Crowned Pigeons, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Crested Satinbird, Flame Bowerbird, Crested Berrypecker and MacGregor's Honeyeater, and some of the richest coral reefs in the world.
New Guinea is not all about birds-of-paradise. The numerous other spectacular endemics include three species of huge crowned-pigeons including Victoria Crowned-Pigeon which inhabits the northern lowlands where this fantastic image was captured by Nigel Voaden at Nimbokrang in West Papua.
See Indonesia - Lesser Sundas, above.
A beautiful image of a Steller's Jay in Yellowstone by Simon Colenutt.
Yukon - Canada
See Canada - Yukon, above.
Spectacular localized birds such as Black-cheeked Lovebird and African Pitta, a wide range of mammals including Leopards in South Luangwa National Park and a roost of millions of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats, and Victoria Falls.
Zimbabwe is one of the few places where it is possible to see African Pitta; in riverine thickets near Masoka Camp in the Lower Zambezi Valley from mid-November to mid-December/early January, along with African Crake, Lilian’s Lovebird, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Bohm’s Spinetail, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone’s Flycatcher and Arnott’s Chat. To the south, the wetlands around the capital Harare can be great for crakes and flufftails in January-February if there has been enough rain, including Streaky-breasted Flufftail and Striped Crake. There are some good stretches of Miombo woodland nearby where specialities include Miombo Rock Thrush, Boulder Chat and African Spotted Creeper. East of the Harare, remnant patches of montane evergreen forest amongst extensive banana, tea and tobacco plantations on the Vumba (Bvumba) Mountains support three near-endemics; Swynnerton’s Robin, Chirinda Apalis and Roberts’s Warbler (Prinia), as well as Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turacos, Orange Ground Thrush, Barratt’s Warbler, Black-fronted and Olive Bush Shrikes, Blue Swallow (Oct-Mar), Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-throated Twinspot and Grey Waxbill, while more rarely seen species include Buff-spotted and Striped Flufftails. The eastern lowlands support the rare and localized Zambezi (Green) Indigobird. To the south is Matobo National Park where the high concentration of raptors includes the highest density of Verreaux’s Eagle in the world and other birds include Freckled Nightjar and Boulder Chat. In the far west Hwange National Park supports Three-banded Courser, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Racket-tailed Roller, Bradfield’s Hornbill and Crimson-breasted Shrike, and a good variety of mammals such as Wild Dog, Black Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Kudu and Sable. Not far from there is the famous Victoria Falls. Another good place for African mammals is Mana Pools NP where Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo may be seen.