Arranging a trip with a birding tour company is a great way to build your life list in a safe, productive way. Understanding the different types of companies is the first step to choosing a birding tour you will enjoy.
What Is a Birding Tour Company
Birding tour companies arrange excursions geared toward finding the most number of bird species in specific locations, often areas with rare or exotic birds. Led by expert guides, either from the company or hired locally with extensive birding expertise, these tours offer a great way to expand your life list exponentially by visiting avian rich areas.
The exact destinations visited by tour companies vary depending on the extent of their planned travels, the expertise of their guides and the interests of their travelers. Many companies can also arrange private tours for groups of interested birders, and specialty tours may be planned for sighting newly classified or discovered species.
There are many specialized birding tour companies available, and many other nature-oriented companies that offer birding trips in addition to other ecological excursions. In general, however, birding tour companies fall into one of three types: worldwide, regional and bird-specific tour companies.
Worldwide Birding Tours
Worldwide birding tour companies usually have years of successful experience leading trips in multiple countries and across multiple continents. One tour usually will visit just a few select areas for intense birding to pick up many endemic species.
Examples of tour companies offering trips worldwide include:
- WINGS: Founded in 1973, this company offers pre-arranged and customized trips for 4-16 individuals. Example destinations include Brazil, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Greece, Egypt, Canada, China and several birding hotspots in the United States, such as Arizona, California, Hawaii and Texas.
- Field Guides: This Austin, Texas company has been offering birding tours since 1985 and currently features more than 120 tours annually. Frequent guests get a 5 percent discount off every fifth tour they take. Example destinations include Australia, Cambodia, India, Japan, Vietnam, France, Kenya, Morocco, Antarctica, Honduras, Panama, Bahamas, Chile and United States destinations in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana and Virginia.
- Bird Treks: This company operates mostly in North America and arranges tours suitable for birders of all experience levels. In addition to Delaware, Maine, Alaska, New Mexico, West Virginia and other United States hotspots, tours also visit Belize, Mexico, Argentina, Kenya, India and Thailand.
- Naturalist Journeys: Small group sizes and a focus that includes birds, wildlife and geology give this company a unique niche in eco tourism. Sample destinations with a birding focus include Jamaica, Antarctica, Iceland, Chile and many United States hotspots such as Texas, Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan and Alaska.
Regional Birding Tours
A regional birding tour company is one that tends to specialize in either one country or several adjacent countries with similar habitats. Guides are typically local experts who are intimately familiar with secluded birding spots and rare sightings that can make any tour even more exciting. To further attract clients, regional tour companies may include additional specializations on local wildlife, culture and history.
Examples of regional tour companies include:
- Exotic Birding: This company specializes in Central and South America destinations and includes a focus not only on birding, but also on wildlife and bird photography. Trips host a maximum of eight participants and may visit Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and the Galapagos Islands.
- Birding Africa: Since 1997 this company has offered African birding tours that include a focus on primates, cats and other wildlife as well as birds. Destinations frequently include Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Madagascar, Botswana and Angola.
- Wilderness Birding Adventures: This company has offered intimate Alaska birding tours since 1986 and includes adventurous components such as sea kayaking and hiking. Sample destinations include Anchorage, Nome, the Kenai Peninsula, Barrow, Adak and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Birding Panama: Birders who want to become familiar with the birds of this tiny but diverse country will appreciate the full and half day tours available as well as the longer excursions into the highlands, lowlands and jungle areas of Panama.
- Birdtour Asia: Asia is home to many unusual and beautiful bird species, and this company offers pre-planned and custom birding trips. Sample destinations include Borneo, Myanmar, China, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Bird-Specific Birding Tours
Some highly specialized birding tour companies offer trips to find unique and highly sought after bird species, often in isolated locations. While these tours are usually shorter than more elaborate trips, they offer a unique and special opportunity for birders to add unusual species to their life list.
Examples of bird-specific tour companies include:
- Shearwater Journeys: Since 1976, this California-based company has offered trips specifically to spot seabirds. Departures for the full and half day trips can be arranged from Monterey, Emeryville, Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg.
- Puffin Tours of Machias Seal Island: This Jonesport, Maine company operates a single, specially designed boat to tour Machias Seal Island, a popular spot for Atlantic puffins and other seabirds including gulls, grebes, loons and auks. Because they have the landing permits for the island with this company, birders can often get within four feet of the puffins.
No matter what type of birding tour you’re interested in, there is a company out there that can help you arrange transportation, expert guides and exotic locations sure to add remarkable and unusual species to your life list.