gold finch about to take flight

Seek out striking birds, like the goldfinch, on your travels. (Photo: Getty Images)


Bird Is the Word: Channel Your Inner Bird-Watcher in These 5 Destinations

Few hobbies invite enthusiasts to be still in the way that the trendier-than-ever sport of birding does. Unlike, say, fishing or painting, the entry point into birding requires no talent and very little equipment. Start with binoculars, a Sibley guide and a phone app or two. You’re done.

Soon you’ll need only get a glimpse through your binocs at an avian’s tail feathers or distinctive coloring on its underbelly to figure out if you’re looking at a yellow warbler or a goldfinch. Or perhaps you’ll start identifying birds by their sweet (or shrill) songs.

But don’t let a lack of knowledge hold you back if stopping, looking and simply hanging out in the company of some feathered friends calls to you. Seriously. Every birder started somewhere, and there’s no need to feel like a dodo if your bird identification knowledge doesn’t go much beyond pigeons. You’ll get there. As for where to go? These five spots are aces.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

woman with binoculars
You don’t need a lot of gear to bird watch. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cape May, New Jersey

Founded 45 years ago, Cape May’s Bird Observatory is a birder’s paradise (and a bird paradise, too).

A popular spot for migratory birds during both the fall and spring migrations, the Cape serves up birding festivals and guided bird walks, a School of Birding and, when you and your other humans get hungry, plenty of seaside treats.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is famous for its resident penguins, but they’re not the only bird show in town. Many birds that summer in winter-chilly spots enjoy Cape Town’s warm sun the rest of the year (well, after a long trip). Watch for Arctic terns and subantarctic skuas.

warbler on a branch
Listen closely for the warbler. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area; Quebec, Canada

From snow geese to warblers (and 30 different kinds, at that), Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area’s wide range of terrain gives a bunch of birds places to rest while migrating.

And others? They call it home year-round. During the winter months, follow the trail of bird feeders to see who is filling up on their seeds of choice.

toucan on a branch
Be on the watch for colorful birds, like the toucan. (Photo: Getty Images)


With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is a lifelong birding quest worth embarking on.

A good starting point is Bali, where more than 1,500 bird species flit about, waiting for you to ooh and aah over their brilliant colors. One worth watching for is the endangered Bali myna, with its bright-white plumage set off by a 1970s-esque splash of blue feathers across its eyelids.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

No country is host to more bird species than Colombia. According to Audubon, birders can eyeball more than 1,900 different avian species if they stick around (and travel around) long enough.

If you just have time for one destination in Colombia, make it the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, home to more than 600 species of birds. Study up on the different kinds of tanagers before you go.