Birders are often intimately familiar with the best birding hotspots near their homes: the hidden neighborhood parks, unknown ponds and small riparian corridors that often attract so many fascinating birds. These areas can be some of the most rewarding and productive birding locations, but how do you find the same types of locations when you’re in unfamiliar territory?
Birding away from home can be very gratifying since even the most common birds may be new and unusual to you, but if you can’t find those birds it is easy to get disappointed. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to find local birding hotspots even if you’re not personally familiar with the area.
Contact Local Birding Organizations
Contacting birding organizations where you plan to travel is one of the best ways to be alerted to the local birding scene. Audubon chapters, informal birding clubs and even birding supply stores may be able to give you tips on local bird sightings and popular birding areas, and if you’re lucky, there could be organized walks or festivals that fall within your travel calendar. Local organizations can also be helpful by connecting you with a local birder or guide who would be happy to give you a personal tour of the best bird locations.
Resources for finding local birding organizations:
- Directory of Audubon Chapters
- American Birding Association Directory of Birding Clubs (North America)
Visit Wildlife and Bird Preserves
Even if you may not be familiar with the exact species found in unfamiliar territory, if you visit established wildlife preserves and protected sanctuaries you will likely find a wealth of new species for your life list. These areas are protected from development and often restored with native plants to attract birds and wildlife, and many such preserves also feature nature centers and informational booths where you can pick up detailed bird checklists, local trail maps and other tips for local and regional birding.
Resources for finding natural preserves:
- American Birding Association List of Birding Trails (North America)
- The Nature Conservancy Map of Preserves
- National Wildlife Refuge Interactive Map
Visit State and National Parks
Like wildlife preserves, state and national parks are often protected from development and may offer a range of trails for traveling birders to explore. They also have benefit of more extensive facilities that may include campgrounds, accessible beaches and educational centers that can turn a simple visit into a more extensive naturalist getaway. While it may be more difficult to find very reclusive species in busy parks, they are also often much larger than other preserves and offer a wider range of habitats to attract birds.
State and national park resources:
Visit Familiar Habitats
If you know just where to look for the best birds at home, you can find birds in different destinations more easily than you may think. A simple city park can be home to several common bird species and while they may not be anything extraordinary to residents, if you are visiting from a distance the birds you find there may wall be unusual additions to your life list. These are also great locations to visit if you don’t have much time to spare for birding, as many of these areas are easily accessible and can be thoroughly explored in just an hour or two.
To become familiar with common local birds, visit:
- Public gardens
- University campuses
- City parks
- Golf course ponds
Arrange Birding Tours
If your travels happen to take you to international destinations, one of the best ways you can see birds is through organized birding tours. Many tours are several days long and visit multiple habitats, but if your schedule or budget won’t permit that type of excursion you can still contact the company and inquire about shorter tours or private arrangements. Depending on their policies, some companies are willing to arrange individual tours and others may refer you to their experienced guides for private trips. These can be expensive options, however, but for many birders visiting international birding locations is a once in a lifetime event that will be well worth the cost.
Birding tour companies to contact:
Use Online Resources
If you prefer to make your own birding arrangements but still want insight into the best spots for birding, there are a number of online resources available that can make your planning easier and the results more productive. Whether you want to contact a local birder or ask an extensive community of birders for their favorite tips and hotspots, a web-savvy birder can always find a way to arrange travel birding with ease.
Online resources to plan your birding travel:
- Birding Pal: Find local birders
- Birdingonthe.net: Rare bird alerts, organization directory
- Bird Forum: Online birding community
- About.com: Birding and wild birds forum
Whether you hope to do some birding on vacation, want to catch a few new species on a business trip or plan to arrange a bird-centered getaway, there are many ways you can plan to find the most birds even when you’re far away from your familiar birding locations.