Travel, especially for any great distance, can be expensive and inconvenient, so why do many birders take extraordinary steps to travel for birding? While it is true that there are birds everywhere and it is entirely possible to thoroughly enjoy local and regional birds without any extensive travel, there are many reasons to go further afield to add birds to your life list.
Top Reasons for Birding Travel
Avitourism is a rapidly growing industry, and many destinations are realizing just how important traveling birders can be. At the same time, birders can enjoy many benefits of birding travel, including:
- More Species: The top reason for birding travel is to see more bird species. With 10,000 bird species in the world, there is always a new destination to visit that is home to a rare or unusual bird's range, and visiting different birding hotspots worldwide is the key to seeing more species. Birders might take planned birding tours to unique destinations, add birding side trips to other travel plans or travel more impulsively to seek out rare bird sightings, but the result is the same: traveling to see more bird species.
- Conservation: Birding travel helps raise money for conservation. Many popular refuges and bird preserves track the number of visitors they receive, and more visitation means better funding for ongoing conservation and habitat preservation projects, including new reserves and more land acquisition. Traveling birders should always be sure to sign guest registries and let officials know why they're visiting to help promote future bird conservation.
- Raising Awareness: Conscientious birders will let others know why they're visiting a certain area, from rental car agents to hotel clerks to restaurant servers. This can help raise awareness among local residents about the attractiveness and importance of their regional avifauna and how birding tourists support the local economy. Spreading the word to other birders about a pleasant and successful trip can also encourage even more birders to visit a good birding travel area, bringing even more local awareness.
- Special Events: Traveling can often be the only way to take advantage of special events such as birding festivals, migration watches, Christmas Bird Counts, banding events and other unique opportunities to see more birds, interact with them and participate in popular projects that benefit a wide range of species. Locations around the world offer different meetings, symposiums and other events to encourage birding in many forms.
- Meeting Birders: Birders who travel often meet up with other birders in the field, no matter what their destination may be or when they visit. This is a great way to connect with others who are passionate about birds, and connecting with different birders can lead to local birding tips, insider insights about nearby hotspots or recent sightings and lifelong friendships.
Tips to Make Birding Travel Easier
The longer and more distant the birding trip, the trickier it can be to plan. To make any birding travel easier, no matter where it will be or what birds might be seen...
- Make the most of the trip by planning ahead and researching species, hotspots and local sightings to know what to expect. This will help with easier identification and more confidence in the field. Also note seasonal variations in local birds to avoid disappointment when a migratory bird is not seen.
- Pack appropriately for the climate and season of the travel destination, but don't forget to pack all the necessary birding gear at the same time, including optics, a local field guide and other field bag supplies that can help you maximize your birding experiences.
- Ask for local help whenever it is available, whether that means contacting a local National Audubon Society chapter or the local branch of any birding group, visiting local online bird sighting reports or requesting updated information from park rangers and other wildlife officials.
- Take time to relax while birding and simply enjoy the unusual and – for you – exotic birds you are seeing. Taking photographs of the birds can help you be able to enjoy them and save identification for a later time, but be sure to take sufficient notes so you don't miss any birds you might be able to add to your life list after you tabulate your travel results.
Whether it is just for birding or as part of other plans, traveling for birding has many great benefits not only for birders, but for the birds they see. By understanding why birding travel can be both enjoyable and important, birders can be more willing to spread their wings to see more birds far outside their own regular range.
Photo – Eurasian Golden Oriole © Brian Gratwicke