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By Eduardo Ormaeche

Birding is amazing, no matter where you go and what kind of birds you prefer. For me, highlights are walking down a montane forest road such as the incredible Manu Road in Peru or the equally amazing Santa Marta Road in Colombia, or looking at massive mixed flocks of colorful tanagers and other treasures, or observing more subtle species that are however rare or of major ornithological value. Or watching dozens of canopy dwellers and witnessing a spectacular sunrise from a 165-foot-tall canopy tower in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, or doing a 26-day trip driving through the Andes of northern Peru, ticking a plethora of country endemics. No matter what country, I enjoy birding in South America very much. But, one of my absolutely top favorite highlights of birding is to stand or sit in front of a hummingbird feeding station watching swarms of hummers buzzing all around me while sipping a good cup of tea.

 

Sparkling Violetear by Niall Perrins

Sparkling Violetear by Niall Perrins

Hummingbirds are among the most beautiful, fancy and diverse birds in the world and South America has become an obligatory destination to see these exclusively New World species. Despite controversies as to whether feeding hummingbirds is bad from a conservation point of view, I believe that the frenzy of hummingbirds flying all over and around the feeders is not only one of the greatest shows on earth, but it is also an invaluable learning experience for getting to grips with hummingbird identification. It allows birders to observe the different plumages of males, females, and juveniles of the same species feeding at the same time, to recognize the similarities and differences (sometimes only slight!) between species, and last but not least to have excellent views of some of the most elusive hummingbirds that are much harder to see in the bush than on a feeder. These include impressive things like Booted Racket-tail and in fact (these days) Marvelous Spatuletail.

Booted Racket-tail

Booted Racket-tail          

Marvelous Spatuletail by Ken Logan

Marvelous Spatuletail by Ken Logan                                      

The most famous hummingbird-watching destination has arguably always been northern Ecuador due to its compact size, excellent birding infrastructure, long ecotourism industry history, and of course the sheer number of hummingbird species (and individuals) that visit some of the well-established feeding stations there. A three-week trip to Ecuador might yield the spectacular amount of 74 hummingbird species, a true record. Recently, since Colombia’s violent times are over and thousands of birders put their radars on this fantastic destination, birding has become popular among the locals of Colombia, who realize that birding is a good way to obtain benefits from ecotourism. New lodges and private reserves are widespread throughout the country, providing the most spectacular bird species, including a long list of 69 hummingbird species on a three-week trip. Costa Rica is also one of the top countries for seeing hummingbirds at feeders.

For many years, Peru was a famous destination because of Machu Picchu, the Manu Biosphere Reserve, the unbelievably bird-rich Tambopata National Park and other famed sites. But Peru offers much more than these classic destinations. Today, northern Peru has become a fantastic destination to see some of the most sought-after birds in the world, including the most spectacular of all hummingbirds, the Marvelous Spatuletail.

Marvelous spatuletail Niall Perrins

Marvelous spatuletail Niall Perrins

If you visited northern Peru over ten years ago, you might remember some good birds but also how difficult it was to track them down and how bad the roads were. But today, northern Peru allows some of the easiest (and least expensive) birding in the country, with 90% of all the roads paved. Today you can reach Chiclayo, the classic rendezvous point for northern Peru birding tours, with a direct flight from Panama City, or from Tarapoto after a one-hour domestic flight (daily) from Lima. The stretch of road between Tarapoto in the Amazon and the Pomacochas cloudforest, which is the habitat of Marvelous Spatuletail, is only 280 kilometers (174 miles) and today holds eight hummingbird feeding stations. At the best of times, these can provide between 40 and 45 other hummingbird species in three days only compared to 74 species in Ecuador but given three weeks, not three days!

Amethyst Woodstar by Charly Sax

Amethyst Woodstar by Charly Sax

You can easily join our existing northern Peru tours to see these hummers, or you can book a special three-day visit to this area to enjoy a spectacular selection of hummingbirds, including the endemics Koepcke’s Hermit and Marvelous Spatuletail, and also Royal Sunangel, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-throated Hermit, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, and Little Woodstar, among many others.

Rufous-crested Coquette by Ken Logan

Rufous-crested Coquette by Ken Logan

We invite you to join an easy trip to relax with many brilliant hummingbird species and all the classic Birding Ecotours treats: friendly leaders, comfortable vehicles and hotels, and a few cold beers and nice ginger tea.

Black-breasted Hillstar by Niall Perrins

Black-breasted Hillstar by Niall Perrins

Northern Peru is also one of the best places to see a large number of owl species, so we also offer an “Owls of the World” trip there – see details, including a photo gallery from previous “owls of northern Peru” tours, at http://birdingecotours.com/tour/northern-peru-owl-birding-tour?type=country&where=Peru

Black-throated Mango by Janice Petko

Black-throated Mango by Janice Petko

However, to combine hummingbirds, owls and all the many endemic birds of northern Peru, its best just to join one of our standard trips to this area – either the comprehensive one or the short one (in which we also avoid the highest altitudes, good for those who don’t tolerate these well!) – see http://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-peru-north-and-cordillera-blanca-2017?type=country&where=Peru and http://birdingecotours.com/tour/birding-tour-peru-northwest-abra-patricia-mountains-2016?type=country&where=Peru respectively for the long and short Northern Peru birding tours we offer annually.

Booted Racket-tail

Festive Coquette by Charly Sax

Festive Coquette by Charly Sax

All our other Peru bird tours are shown at http://birdingecotours.com/tours/destination/country/peru – these include the classic southern routes as well.

Fork-tailed Woodnymph by Alan van Norman

Fork-tailed Woodnymph by Alan van Norman

Rufous-crowned Coquette by Niall Perrins

Rufous-crowned Coquette by Niall Perrins

White-bellied Woodstar by Niall Perrins

White-bellied Woodstar by Niall Perrins

Tours by destination



Bhutan

Ibisbill

Bhutan, known as the land of the Thunder Dragon, is a quaint, quiet, and scenically spectacular country with a strong conservation ethic rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions. Vast areas of unspoiled forest still cover the Himalayan foothills, that spread over much of the country. We expect to find most of Bhutan’s fabled Eastern Himalayan species such as Beautiful Nuthatch (and other nuthatches), Ward’s Trogon, the unbelievable Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ibisbill, and of course Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, and other vivid pheasants. Other highlights include Wallcreeper, spectacular sunbirds, five species of parrotbills, up to ten species of laughingthrushes, striking and gorgeous forktails along the fast-flowing rivers, in addition to a plethora of other tantalizing jewels.

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China

Blue Eared Pheasant

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, China is the world’s second-largest country by land area. China’s landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. Particularly interesting for birders are the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Qinghai.

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India

Sarus Crane - India

Joining a birding tour in India, a vast country twice the size of South Africa, should be on any birder’s wish list! The country shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan  to the northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.  Sri Lanka lies to the south, the Maldives to the southwest, and Indonesia to the southeast of India in the Indian Ocean. India is the seventh-largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population, although its much higher birthrate makes it likely to reach pole position in less than ten years. It is an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language, and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth.

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Indonesia

Green-backed Kingfisher

The fauna of the vast island country of Indonesia is characterized by high levels of biodiversity and endemism due to its distribution over a vast tropical archipelago. Many sources credit Indonesia as the most species-rich country on earth. Indonesia is divided into three ecological regions; western Indonesia, which is more influenced by Asian fauna, and the east, which is more influenced by Australasian species. The Wallace Line, across which lies the Wallacea transitional region, notionally divides the two regions. There is a diverse range of ecosystems, including vast rainforests, beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, coastal mudflats, tidal flats, algal beds, and small island ecosystems. 1718 avian species are distributed across the entire country, which straddles all three of the Asian, Wallacean, Australasian regions.

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Israel

Long-eared Owl - Oz Horine

Israel is at the junction of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many birds’ migration paths pass straight though Israel twice a year: each spring about half a billion birds migrate through the country northwards to the breeding areas, and each autumn they move to their wintering areas to the south. The continental bridge effect also means that Israel has more birds than expected – about 540 species. For some of these, Israel is the northern distribution boundary; for others the southern.

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Japan

Whooper Swan - Mark Brazil

Japan’s avifauna is incredibly rich, with more than 600 species having been recorded here.  More than 60% are migratory, therefore winter is the preferred birding season in Japan. This is the time for watching wintering Hooded and White-naped Cranes in addition to the native Red-crowned Crane. and many other resident and migrant species  in addition to the approximately 60 endemic or regionally endemic species.

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Malaysia (Borneo and the Peninsula)

Black-and-yellow Broadbill

To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia – a bubbling, bustling melting-pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese, and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony. This multiculturalism has made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise and home to hundreds of colorful festivals. It’s no wonder that Malaysians love celebrating and socializing. As a people, they are very relaxed, warm and friendly.

Geographically, Malaysia is almost as diverse as its culture. Eleven states and two federal territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) form Peninsular Malaysia, which is separated by the South China Sea from East Malaysia, which includes two states (Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo) and a third federal territory, the island of Labuan.

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Mongolia

Eurasian Hoopoe

The very name Mongolia conjures up images of a vast, remote and distant land — the land of Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khaan) and the Mongol hordes. While Mongolia is certainly vast and much of it is remote, it is also home to an exciting array of poorly known and rarely observed birds that occur only here. As we traverse this vast land we will often be traveling on rarely used roads, and occasionally driving across steppe grasslands, using GPS to navigate our way to exciting wetlands where no roads venture.

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Nepal

Ibisbill

The former kingdom of Nepal, now officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a land-locked country in Asia and one of the most mountainous on the planet. It is located in the central Himalayas, and of the world’s ten highest mountains eight are in Nepal. This land was cut off from the outside world for many decades after the second world war. But now it has opened up its boundaries to travelers, and it offers birders the opportunity to experience the immensity of birding the world’s highest mountain range without the high costs associated with visiting Bhutan.

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Philippines

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant

The Philippine Archipelago (more commonly known simply as the Philippines) is a remarkable collection of over 7000 individual islands. From a birding point of view, it uniquely combines influences from tropical south-east Asia and the more temperate parts of the continent (Japan, China and Korea). However, about a third of the birds are endemic, including some of the most spectacular species on the planet. Philippine (Monkey-eating) Eagle is the largest eagle on earth, and is reason enough for most wildlife enthusiasts to visit this island nation. This critically endangered bird (see http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3528) has a world population of just a few hundred, and as the national bird of the Philippines it is an appropriate representative of the disgusting plight of this archipelago’s avifauna. This is, quite simply, one of the “must-visit immediately” countries of the world, since the birds are quite literally going extinct due to massive scale deforestation. Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, Luzon Bleeding-heart, 17 endemic owl species, six kingfishers, 10 hornbills, 11 parrots, two broadbills, two pittas, Celestial Monarch (which truly does look celestial) and Sulphur-billed Nuthatch are just a few of the over 200 endemic birds that are becoming increasingly out of reach to the birder as each year goes by. If you’re a serious birder, we strongly advise that you visit the Philippines, but do it now before it’s gone.

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Sri Lanka

Red-faced Malkoha

Sri Lanka is a picturesque island situated at the southern tip of India and home to 33 currently recognized endemic species. Sri Lanka is a continental island and has been connected to India for much of its geological past through episodes of lower sea level. Despite these land-bridge connections, faunal exchange between the rainforests found in Southern India and Sri Lanka has been minimal. This lack of exchange of species is probably due to the inability of rainforest organisms to disperse though the interceding areas of dry lowlands. These dry lowlands are still dry today and receive only one major rainy season, whereas Sri Lanka’s “wet zone” experiences two annual monsoons. This long insularity of Sri Lankan biota in a moist tropical environment has led to the emergence of a bewildering variety of endemic biodiversity. This is why southwestern Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of southern India are jointly regarded as one of the globe’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is the westernmost representative of Indo-Malayan flora, and its abundant birdlife also shows many such affinities.

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Taiwan

Mikado Pheasant - Chun Hsien Huang

Taiwan has more than 200 mountains that soar above 3,000 meters in height, and its unique geology and topography have created breathtaking scenery and alluring coastal scenes. Geographically, Taiwan is situated at the point where the Asian continental shelf meets the vast Pacific Ocean, providing it with an unparalleled ecological diversity and a huge number of plant and animal species concentrated in a relatively small place, perfect for ecotourism. Taiwan has world-class geological features, such as the awesome Taroko Gorge, and it has the highest mountain in Northeast Asia, Yushan or Jade Mountain. The island also has some of the friendliest people in the world and eight magnificent national parks, and it is a gourmet’s paradise with the finest of Chinese cuisine – all of which imprint indelible memories in the minds of its visitors.

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Thailand

Silver-eared Leiothrix

Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand and the capital of the Chiang Mai Province, 700 km north of Bangkok. The district is covered by many mountains, chiefly stretching in the north-south direction. The river Ping, one of the major tributaries of the Chao Phraya River, originates in the Chiang Dao Mountains. The highest mountain of Thailand, Doi Inthanon at 2 565 meters, is located in this district. Several national parks are also found here: Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep-Pui, Mae Ping, Sri Lanna, Huai Nam Dang, Mae Phang, Chiang Dao. Here in the north the birder will find numerous Himalayan foothill species, while in the south the avifauna mainly consists of Malay Peninsula birds.

The peninsula of southern Thailand, part of geological Sundaland, is a birders’ and naturalists’ paradise. Bounded by the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west, this lush tropical region boasts a maritime climate and a unique combination of terrestrial and marine attractions that rank among the best globally. Our tour is designed to incorporate the most spectacular of the region’s unique karst limestone scenery while searching for the region’s diversity of specials.

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We can run any of our tours privately any time and we can also arrange custom itineraries - send us your wish-list and we'll put the itinerary together! See more here.



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