Beak to Beak: The Art of Birding

Beak to Beak: The Art of Birding

Adventure travel can expose you to some of the most incredible places, the most unique habitats, and put you beak to beak with some of the earth’s most amazing creatures: birds. Birding can be done anywhere, at any time, by anyone. Since I generally combine birding with another activity like hiking, sea kayaking, or even road tripping, persuading folks to join is never all that hard. I just ask whomever I’m with to give me a heads up on any cool birds they see and, boom! They’re birding!

Blue-footed Booby chicks on the Galápagos Islands.

You can start in your own backyard, but let’s face it, you were thinking of taking an adventure vacation anyway. Why not add birding to the agenda? To help narrow your choices, you can use eBird, a birding trip planner, to explore a region. Here are a few of my favorite places:

  • Baja Mexico: You can’t go wrong with this destination. Birds are easy to spot due to sparse vegetation. This makes Baja the perfect place for beginners.
  • The Galapágos Islands: Not only do the Galápagos Islands host numerous avian species found nowhere else on earth, the wildlife’s comfort with humans allows for very close approaches. If you’re hoping for some seriously awesome photo opportunities, this trip is excellent.
  • Peru: As the record-breaking location of the world’s biggest big day, seeing as many unique bird species as possible in a 24 hour period, Peru is esteemed for having some of the best birding on the globe. If you’re looking to build a very impressive life list in a very short amount of time Peru is a great place to start.

Now that you have a place to go, the next step is to gear up. Bare minimum, you’ll need your eyes and ears. From there, you can go as crazy as your budget will allow. On most birding trips, I usually just bring a compact set of binoculars and my camera to save myself the hassle of lugging around heavy gear.  For cameras, I recommend the Cannon PowerShot SX400IS. It’s not only small and light enough to carry with me everywhere, it also has a 30x optical zoom. Once I get back to civilization, I can pull out my copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds or use Cornell University’s nifty website and get to work on identifying my finds. If you have a smartphone, consider downloading an app or two to help with in-field idenfication.


The last step in becoming a birder is to get out there and bird! Visit locations where birds are likely to be: water sources are a fantastic place to start. Focus on looking and listening. Birds are most active in the early morning when they’re feeding; this is also when many birds are most vocal, which makes them easier to find. If you want to keep track of what you see (highly recommended), you can record your findings either in a paper journal or online. Taking photographs can help you identify unfamiliar species long after they’ve flown away. 

Birding is one of the most accessible, and thrilling (Yes, thrilling!) ways to enhance just about any outdoor adventure. Once you feel the confidence that comes with identifying a familiar species and the curiosity that follows unfamiliar sightings, you’ll be hooked! The more you see, the more you’ll want to see. From your own backyard to all corners of the planet, you can find birds anywhere. So, pick a destination, gear up for the adventure, and BIRD ON!

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