Five Bucket List Birdwatching Destinations for 2023

From the depths of Antarctica to the heart of the Amazon, the earth is teeming with a vast array of birds, waterfowl, raptors, and other avian life—and for seasoned birders, there’s no better time than now to start planning your next birding feather campaign. While each continent has its own fascinating array of wildlife, the following destinations offer a truly unforgettable experience, giving visitors the chance to explore remote ecosystems, catch a once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon, or add to your bucket list. with some elusive endemics.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

Colombia is renowned for its spectacular bird biodiversity, with more than 1,900 species recorded within its borders – and for those keen to spot some of the country’s most elusive birds, a trip to the Sierra Nevada is definitely in order. This expansive region is home to some of the highest coastal mountains on the planet, and its unique high-elevation ecosystem has fostered endemic species such as the spiny-tailed, Santa Marta Wren, and black-backed thorn. For those looking to experience the Sierra Nevada up close, Colombian ecotourism company Manakin Nature Tours runs an expedition to the region, offering ample opportunities to spot these elusive creatures in the flesh.

North Platte River Valley, Nebraska

Nebraska is home to a lot of wheat, corn and soybeans, but crops aren’t the only thing the state has to offer. From February through April, the North Platte River Valley comes alive with hundreds of thousands of migrating sandhill cranes, each using the area as a critical stopover point before making the journey north to breed. While riverside towns like North Platte, Kearney and Grand Island are full of cranes throughout the season, those wanting a more in-depth experience can book an early morning blinds visit with The Crane Trust or Rowe Sanctuary, two Nebraska organizations dedicated to ensuring the safety of these birds for years to come.

Mount Leuser National Park, Indonesia

The iconic Mount Leuser National Park spans Indonesia’s North Sumatra and Aceh provinces across 792,700 acres of protected rainforest—and all of this vast jungle is home to a huge array of native birds. Some of Southeast Asia’s most majestic birdlife can be found soaring through the park – brahmin kites, owls and rhinoceros, to name a few – while dazzling species such as Temminck’s sunbird and lesser green leafbird can also be found flying in the forest. . Beyond the birds, the more remote side of Aceh Park is home to some of Indonesia’s most iconic mammals, including tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Wildlife abounds throughout the Okavango Delta, a highly biodiverse natural feature that has earned both Ramsar Wetland and UNESCO World Heritage status. In terms of majestic megafauna, each of the five big game animals (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos) can be found in the area, while giraffes, cheetahs and spotted hyenas are just some of the other creatures found inhabiting the park—and when it comes to birds, there are over 400 different varieties to look out for. Marabou storks, southern terns and golden cranes are all fascinating creatures, but be sure to look out for the iconic lilac-breasted roller, a highly sought-after species thanks to its dazzling plumage.

Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand

New Zealand’s extreme isolation has blessed it with particularly high rates of endemism, and while many native species have suffered from predation by introduced species, one tiny island has been carefully cultivated to avoid that fate. Located about 19 miles north of Auckland, Tiritiri Matangi underwent intensive reforestation efforts followed by the eradication of Polynesian rats, and in modern times, this lush island is a haven for many of New Zealand’s native birds. During a visit, newcomers can expect to find endemic specimens ranging from the tūī to the North Island kōkako to the small spotted kiwi.

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