So I thought I would make a list of my guesses at to the top ten, then see if any of them agreed with the lists on the web. But I got Costa Rica and Hawaii, and ran out of inspiration. Also it really depends on which birds you want to look at. Some birds only live in Australia, others only on Madagascar, and the toucans only inhabit parts of Central and South America.
Nearly all the lists I looked at contained Papua, New Guinea. Due to a wide range of climates and habitats, the island has a wide range of birds of many types. The main attraction is the Bird of Paradise group. But you may find more than 700 species, 300 of which are found no where else. Megapodes abound, six species of these interesting birds are found no where else. As for parrots, 44 species occur here alone. There are lorys and lorikeets, fig parrots and pygmy parrots, eclectus parrots, and hanging parrots.
Did you know that the netspeak for bird watcher is twitcher? Yeah, me neither. This site (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/travel-tips-and-articles/76653) doesn’t even list Costa Rica, but does start with New Guinea, and included Antarctica! Penguins and seabirds are just not enough for me to brave the long trip and the icy weather. Did it just get cooler in here?
I can’t imagine why Costa Rica was left off so many lists! With 830 species waiting to give you a photo op, it’s perfect, and closer to me than New Guinea or Antarctica. Many macaws, Amazons, and toucans can be found there. And the incredible quetzal, a member of the family of trogons, adds a grace note to the experience. Last, and least in size but not in interest, hummingbirds migrate or inhabit the country, at least 30 species. I can’t help but put this at the top of my list.
Africa boasts its own list of top ten sites, and topping all the lists is Kruger National Park in South Africa. Nature Travel Network (http://naturetravelnetwork.com/2013/02/africa-top-ten-places-to-travel/) states they have a respectable bird list of 400 species. This is a much better destination, to me, for seeing penguins. Also turacos, including the Grey Go-away-bird. Four types of poicephalus parrots, like the Meyer’s parrot, and peach face lovebirds are natives. Rose-ringed parakeet was introduced. Two families of owls, a smattering of nightjars, and sweet mousebirds may also be found there.
The Nature Conservancy asked readers of their blog to submit their favorite bird watching sites. Many of the submissions were in the US. The first suggestion not in the states was Mindo Cloud Forest in Equador. Tropical Birding (http://www.tropicalbirding.com/central-south-america-birding/ecuador/) professes that for sheer diversity of birds in a short trip, Ecuador tops the list. Hummingbirds, once more, are a big draw here, and a new species arrived a couple years ago, a White-Bellied Pygmy-Tyrant. The Cloud Forest itself boasts tree moss, giant ferns, rare orchids, an impressive battalion of butterflies, and birds. Parrots to toucans, cuckoos and warblers, and hummingbirds.
Australia is definitely on my list, as I have a deep fondness for zebra finches, Gouldian finches, cockatoos, and cockatiels. Daintree Rainforest in Queensland is an Internationally recognized World Heritage site with 430 species of birds to look for. Cassowarys, herons, kingfishers, and kookaburras enjoy this primitive land perserve. Parrots include lorikeets, fig parrots, and the magnificent king parrot. Here’s a great site for more information: (http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/the-daintree-land-before-time.htm)
As long as we are in the neighborhood, let’s look at Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand. On the tip of the pennisula is Taiaroa Head, where the albatross have a protected nesting site. This is the only albatross nesting site on an inhaited mainland! You may also find yellow-eyed penguins in the area, as well as spoonbills, plovers, and herons. The peninsula is home to the only castle in New Zealand, and also a wonderful for the imagination Lover’s Leap. No parrots like this place, but just over the mountains you can find kakapo natural habitats. The Royal Albatross Center (http://www.albatross.org.nz/) and the Kakapo Recovery Organization (http://kakaporecovery.org.nz/) are good resources, and if you can get to Dunedin during one of Sirocco’s public appearances, you can kill . . . you can complete two tasks in one trip. If you are one of the 8 people in the world who have not seen Sirocco’s famous video on YouTube, look for a link to it on the kakapo site.
On the list of the 25 best birding spots in the States, Texas boasts a few, including Rio Grande where a birding festival is held yearly. You might see several types of whistling ducks, chachalacas, wild turkeys, quail, grebes, and herons. Or spoonbills and storks, hawks and coots, and the green parakeet! Also owls, gulls, and hummingbirds. Woodpeckers, phoebes, and fly-catchers. Two beautiful buntings. Here’s a look at these and more: (http://www.thedauphins.net/rgv_birds.html)
I took a look at the Green Parakeet, because there are some sites which say the US has no native parrot species since the passing of the last Carolina parakeet. It appears these parakeets are nonmigratory but do relocate to take advantage of better food and nesting places. They have established self-sustaining colonies in cities in southeast Texas, using palm trees to nest in. Fascinating.
Another place that comes up is Cape May, New Jersey. The New Jersey Audubon organization has a separate page for Cape May: (http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionCapeMayBirdObservatory/CMBOHome.aspx)
No parrots, of course, but the autumn bird migration is going to start soon. Millions of birds pass through Cape May, and late October is the height of the season. Current sightings include herons, pelicans, woodpeckers, warblers, and finches.
Since the birds are moving north, let’s look at Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Over 260 species can be spotted there, and birding is good even in winter. Again, we are not in parrot country, but still there are lots of interesting birds to see. Dippers top my list, as well as owls, sharp-shinned hawks, and nuthatches. Be prepared for lots of cold and snow and ice and did I mention cold? Hmm, this might not be my favorite place, but at least it’s easier to reach than the Antarctic. Here’s a good link with more information. (http://www.canadianrockies.net/banff/birding.html)
I think now I want to head homeward, and the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-bird-watching-sites-southern-california-pg,0,7861410.photogallery) says that Southern California is one of the best places in the world to watch birds. Like Papua, New Guinea, there are so many different habitats that everything pretty much comes here a time or two. Our only parrots are feral, but they are famous enough to have a book and a movie available!
Another famous birding event in SoCal is the return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano. (http://www.missionsjc.com/preservation/swallowsstory.php) I read a story once that a priest at the mission was asked about swallows that return to the mission sooner than the March 19th due date. Smiling, he said, “We call those finches.”
Along the coast here, you might also see plovers, turnstones, grebes, egrets, avocets, osprey, and gulls. (http://www.pbase.com/niemand/shore_birds&page=all) Just inland, you might see quail, oriels, mountain bluebirds, hummingbirds, juncos, buntings, sparrows, hawks, eagles, and owls. (http://www.surfbirds.com/namericanbirds/sparrows-finches.html) And for those wild parrots, (http://californiaparrots.us/) there’s no place like home.
Let’s review my list:
1. Papua, New Guinea.
2. Costa Rica
3. Kruger National Park in South Africa.
4. Mindo Cloudforest, Ecuador
5. Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia
6. Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand.
7. Rio Grande Valley, Texas, USA
8. Cape May, New Jersey, USA
9. Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
10. Southern California, USA, from San Juan Capistrano to San Diego.
Please let me know if you agree or if you know of a better place! I never got to the British Isles or Europe. Maybe twenty sites would have encompassed a better representation. Thanks!