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Top 10 Birding Destinations in Latin America

September 7, 2016 by Michael Eiseman divider image
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Nearly one-third of all the world’s bird species can be found in South America alone, so it’s not surprising that numerous Latin American destinations across both Central and South America top most birder’s bucket lists.

From a country boasting the most birds in the world and a Top 3 international birdwatching mecca, to the highest concentration of protected park lands on the planet and adorable endangered penguins, the widely varied destinations of Central and South America have something for just about every avian enthusiast.

Here are are Top 10 destinations for bird watching throughout Latin America:

Argentina

Although the most popular birding destination in Argentina is Tiera del Fuego, this large South American country includes a huge assortment of biomes and luxurious, slightly European accommodations. This unique combination makes it a popular and accessible destination for traveling birders.

Approximate Number of Species: 1,053 (47 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Magellanic Woodpecker, Patagonian Canastero, Rothschild’s Swift, Chubut Steamer Duck, Refuscent Tiger Heron
Time to Go: winter
National Bird: Red Ovenbird

Belize

This tiny Central American destination is chocked full of natural riches, including a highly diverse and prolific avian population for such a small country. Nearly half its land is nationally protected, making it a true birder’s paradise from the South Coast all the way to the central highlands and beyond.

Approximate Number of Species: 574 (9 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Agami Heron, Blue-Crowned Motmot, Crimson-Collared Tanager, King Vulture, Orange-Breasted Falcon
Time to Go: year-round
National Bird: Keel-billed Toucan

Brazil

Brazil is a huge country with a huge count of bird species, making it a birdwatching mecca. The Pantanal, in particular, is a top wildlife and birding destination of not only South America but of the world. It ranks highest in South America for number of endemic species, as well as at number three of the world’s top birding destinations.

Approximate Number of Species: 1,830 (250 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Capuchinbird, Collared Puffbird, Greater Rhea, Harpy Eagle, Hyacinth Macaw
Time to Go: Dry season is August through September, but full season provides a whole new experience
National Bird: Rufous-Bellied Thrush

Chile

This long, narrow coastal country include widely many varied habitats, but Patagonia and its endangered Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins are always popular for global travelers and especially birders. There may be no more unique and beautiful place on Earth for a birdwatching vacation.

Approximate Number of Species: 530 (15 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Austral Pygmy-Owl, Chilean Hawk, Diademed Plover, Giant Hummingbird
Time to Go: Varies by region
National Bird: Andean Condor

Colombia

Colombia boasts more birds than any other country and six new species discovered in this century alone. The popular Santa Marta region includes the highest concentration of endemic species found anywhere on Earth. Visit the country’s four distinct regions, the Andes, Pacific, Amazon and Llanos, for a bevy of beautiful birds.

Approximate Number of Species: 1,900 species (72 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Gorgeted Wood Quail, Blue-Billed Curassow, Yellow-Eared Parrot, Chestnut-Bellied Hummingbird, Dusky Starfrontlet
Time to Go: Year-round, but avoid rainy season in March, June, September and November
National Bird: Andean Condor

Costa Rica

This small Central American country has some of the best and most diverse accommodations and widest array of habitats (six distinct regions) of any Latin American country. It also boasts the highest concentration of protected land in the world, making it an attractive option for birdwatchers. The Cano Negro Reserve and Monteverde top most birders bucket lists.

Approximate Number of Species: 812 (6 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Bare-Necked Umbrellabird, Three-Wattled Bellbird, Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, Keel-Billed Toucan
Time to Go: January through April and September-October in some regions
National Bird: Clay-Colored Thrush

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

Made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos tops bucket lists for global travelers and birders alike. In addition to the famous archipelago, the northwestern Choco region is said to have some of the best birding in the world, with an extremely high concentration of endemic species.

Approximate Number of Species: 1,700 (25 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: The Galapagos Hawk, Blue-Footed Boobies (also Red and Nazca Boobies), Darwin Finch, Black Broad Albatross
Time to Go: Year-round with fall and spring being ideal
National Bird: Andean Condor

Guatemala

Guatemala is among the Top 25 world countries with the highest variety of natural resources— among them are reptiles, insects, mammals and, of course, birds. With seven distinct biomes, including tropical humid forest, tropical rainforest, chaparral and more, it’s possible to see a highly varied array of bird species, including a large concentration of endemic species here.

Approximate Number of Species: 700 (30 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Fulvous Owl, Garnet-Throated Hummingbird, Horned Guan, Resplendent Quetzal, Long-Tailed Manakin
Time to Go: April
National Bird: Resplendent Quetzal

Panama

The relative ease and accessibility of this small Central American country’s highly varied biomes makes it among the most popular birding destinations in the world. Here, it’s possible to jump from region to region in a matter of hours, ticking a lot of boxes on your must-see bird list in only a short amount of time.

Approximate Number of Species: 950 (12 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: Stripe-Cheeked Woodpecker, Azuero Parakeet, Escudo Hummingbird, Pirre Bush Tanager, Coiba Spinetail
Time to Go: Mid-December through mid-April
National Bird: Harpy Eagle

Peru

Nineteen percent of the world’s bird species are found in Peru, and the most popular destination for avian enthusiasts is Manu National Park. From the cloud forests and the Amazon, to the Peruvian coast and The Sacred Valley, you won’t be disappointed with a birdwatching trip to Peru.

Approximate Number of Species: 1900 (139 endemic, endemic breeders and near endemic)
Highlights: White-Masked Antbird, Pale-Billed Antpitta, Scarlet-Banded Barbet, Long-Whiskered Owlet, Marvelous Spatuletail
Time to Go: October and November
National Bird: Andean Cock of the Rock

If you’re ready to start checking off that list of must-see birds, contact us today to begin planning your dream birding vacation.

Please note, times to go (when not specific months) are based on U.S. seasons rather than in-country seasons.


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