‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers – said a nineteenth-century poet. So apt words describe our feathered friends as they gracefully lift off the ground and soar above. Their flight holds hope, freedom, and courage. Millions of bird lovers flock to bird parks across the globe to watch these fantastic aviators in action.
In this listing of the best bird-watching destinations in the world, there is not enough space for all the other remarkable reserves where hordes of birds congregate. But it gives you a bird’s eye view – pun intended!
1) Manu National Park, Peru
Verdant and vibrant, the Manu National Park rises from 150 m to 4,200 m above sea level. It boasts 1,000 different kinds of birds or a whopping 10% of the world’s bird species. Situated where the Tropical Andes meet the Amazon basin, the park is inhabited by the Andean Condor, Mountain Caracaras, Blue-banded Toucanet, and many striking Hummingbirds like the Gould’s Inca.
2) Monte Verde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Seated 6,000 feet above sea level on the Continental Divide in the Tilaran mountain range, this forest covers 35,089 acres and hosts over 400 bird species. Meaning Green Mountain, Monteverde includes six significant trails through the virgin jungle. Five hundred varieties of orchids grow here.
Playground of the critically endangered Resplendent Quetzal and the Three-Wattled Bellbird, the park also gives glimpses of the Golden-Throated Chlorophonia, Orange-bellied Trogon, and the colorful Keel-Billed or rainbow-billed Toucan.
3) Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, India
The only park in the world with four species of Big Cats, namely Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Clouded Leopard, the impenetrable Namdapha rainforest is true wilderness. It houses Elephants, Indian Rhinoceros, Flying Squirrels, and primates like the hooting Hoolock Gibbon and the adorable Slow Loris.
Over 425 species of birds, including five types of hornbills, the shy Satyr Tragopan, rare Green Cochoa, and the near-threatened Ward’s Trogon, are a big draw.
4) West Papua, New Guinea, Indonesia
Have you seen Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise with its signature handlebar-mustache tail? Or the stunning Lesser Bird of Paradise gliding through the air? Is the Masked Bowerbird shooting you a fierce glance?
Go to the sultry forests of West Papua, where 680 bird species reside, more than 300 endemic and 115 migratory. See the rare Crescent-caped Lophorina in the Arfak Mountains, the dramatic Babbler and Victoria Crowned Pigeons, the raspy Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, Pesquet’s Parrot, and the rich chocolate brown Papuan Boobook.
5) Isle of May, Scotland
Only 1.5 km long and 0.5 km wide, this island is home to a startling 285 bird species. Featuring rocky terrain and cliffs, beaches, and a peninsula, it is devoid of predators and a haven for seabirds. Among them are the cute Puffins this isle is famous for. You can also spot Razorbills, Cormorants, Terns, Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and Oystercatchers.
At the height of the breeding season, this isle can host a humungous 200,000 seabirds!
6) Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India
A renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bharatpur needs no introduction. Renamed Keoladeo National Park, it is the haunt of more than 400 bird species. Birders celebrate when they catch sight of the imposing Sarus Crane, the tallest flying bird in the world. The Demoiselle Crane, Siberian Rubythroat, and Marsh Harrier are hiding amid the marshy wetlands. Look out for the Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Rosy Pelican, and Painted Stork. Migratory birds fly in from as far off as Siberia.
7) Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, Africa
A birder’s delight, it is the abode of the Crown Crane and the gregarious Jackson’s Turaco sporting a peculiar fluffy crest. Augur Buzzard, Ibis, Flamingo, Ostrich, and Hunter’s Cisticola are other elegant dignitaries that grace the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
8) Falkland Islands, U.K.
An archipelago in the South Atlantic with many islands and cliff-lined coasts, the Falkland Islands is a birder’s paradise. More than 230 species proliferate here. The abundant bird life accommodates the Black-browed Albatross with a massive wingspan of 7–8 feet, Giant, Storm and Diving Petrels, the inquisitive Striated Caracara, and Geese. Endemic varieties include Cobb’s Wren, Falklands Flightless Steamer Duck, and the Tussac-Bird.
Technology and birders have come together to engage newer generations of bird lovers and aid conservation. Smartphones, catchy photographs, videos, social media, art, and cinema are helping us spotlight species that are thriving or vanishing.
Their songs, eloquent chatter, endearing antics, and acrobatics continue to entertain us. Their kaleidoscopic plumage and astonishing camouflage tactics intrigue and enlighten us. Many facets of their behavior when flying in a group, navigation based on the earth’s magnetic field, and migratory patterns are still mysteries.
As we marvel at our avian pals, birding destinations around the globe are seeing crowds of visitors every day – proving once again that ‘Hope is the thing with feathers!’
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