Nature’s Way: Out of This World Birding

Blue-footed booby (Photo by Jim Hoagland)

Slaty-tailed trogon (Photo by Jim Hoagland)

Andean cock-of-the-rock (Photo by Jim Hoagland)

Jim Hoagland

I have been fortunate to travel the world for birding to places such as the Peruvian Amazon, Costa Rica, Spain, Alaska, Peru, Galapagos, Africa, Europe, and Belize. In Belize. I saw my “spark bird,” the trogon, which started me on my path to becoming a full-time birder.

We just returned from another trip to Peru and the Galapagos, where I spent some time birding outside of our regular sightseeing. In Peru, I hired local guides on my free days to go birding. In the high Andes, I had the privilege to see one of the largest birds in the world, the Andean condor.

Your spouse is not a birder, you say, no problem. Here are some tips on birding with a nonbirding spouse. First, base yourself in a large metropolitan city with museums, galleries, and other attractions.  Second, go with another couple or two, so on those days you are birding, they can enjoy the local attractions. Third, bird early in the morning so you can join the group in the afternoon and share stories of the day. This was how my latest trip went and all went well.

I researched the bird touring companies around Cusco and selected Epidemic Bird Tours. I was glad I did because for three straight days I had two young but seasoned guides who showed me more than 50 life bird species. These guides, Miguel and Rollin, had worked with National Geographic, setting up blinds for filming and had done research in Brazil on the harpy eagle, a very rare and endangered species.

One of the great things about birding with local guides is that you get to see pristine nature sites. Also, the guides will share their life stories, family life, and cultures with you as you travel around. On day-long adventures, you get to enjoy the local cuisines or a prepared meal for breakfast and lunch with them. This type of tour can be done in many different countries as I have also done them in Spain.

At the hotel in Agua Caliente, near Machu Pucci, they offered free morning bird trips around the hotel grounds. On this trip, I saw a bird that I thought I would never see in my lifetime, the very unusual looking Andean cock-of-the-rock.

The other type of bird trips are focused strictly on birding. The goal is to see as many species as possible in a day, a week, or longer. You are up very early, go all day as well as into the night, seeing nighttime birds such as owls, nightjars, and many more. These trips are not recommended with a nonbirding spouse.

There are many tours like that in Arizona as well as other parts of the United States. These tour groups specialize in birding, breaking the trips into categories.

As we all get anxious to travel again, consider a day birding trip to wherever you are going. You might find it to be the best sightseeing trip you ever did. Happy birding!