It’s the Year of the Bird and the Centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
So grab the binoculars and head to the mountains, the coast or the canyons to observe beautiful creatures in flight during your family vacation.
Here are six places to consider:
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the cliff-diving blue-footed boobies? Or the 8-foot wingspan of the waved albatross? The latter is also known for an elaborate courtship dance that can include 20 minutes of bowing, honking, whistling and bill clacking. But perhaps the most famous and biologically important of the island birds are Darwin’s thirteen finches. The creatures were central to the scientist’s evolutionary theories. Learn more about the volcanic island’s winged population via a cruise or a hotel-based tour.
Socorro, New Mexico.
With more than 500 winged creatures on its bird list, this Southwestern state offers ample opportunity for bird-loving families. Visit the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for the annual Festival of the Cranes to see snow geese and sand hill cranes land en masse at sunset. Learn more during tours, workshops and hikes crafted for all ages and levels of experience.
Everglades National Park, Homestead, FLA.
Follow paved roads or wooden boardwalks to spot warblers, mangrove cuckoos, herons, egrets and other wading birds in the country’s largest sub-tropical wilderness area. Eagles, hawks and osprey also abound in this 1.5 million-acre park. Home to 360 species, a World Heritage Site and designated as a Wetland of International Importance, the national park offers a free Junior Ranger program to enhance the experience for young explorers.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, this 740-island archipelago is best known for their large and accessible rare bird colonies. Home to as many as one million penguins, visitors are eager to see five of the seventeen species frolicking in the surf or waddling along the beach. Be on the lookout for the Cobb’s wren, a striated cara-cara and the flightless steamer duck. The islands also serve as the breeding ground for more than 70 percent of the world’s black-browed albatross.
Visit this region to see as many as 250 bird species, including more than 15 kinds of colorful hummingbirds, the elegant trogon and a painted restart. Make your way to the Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (CMA), a 49,000-acre conservation region, rich with winged wildlife, thanks to careful preservation of the fragile ecosystem. Each January, the Wings Over Willcox (WOW) festival celebrates the migrating sand hill cranes.
Located on two migratory bird flyways, the Central and Mississippi, and near the Neches River and Pine Island Bayou, the area attracts hundreds of species to the delight of enthusiastic birders. A popular viewing spot, the Big Thicket National Preserve encompasses 108,000 acres and has been recognized as a “Globally Important Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy. Head to the Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands to scope for a variety of species of ducks, snow geese and snowy egrets, along with hard-to-find species like prairie warblers, red-bellied woodpeckers, eastern screech-owls and king rails.
Water and waterfowl come together at the “Last Wild River”, the Natchez, in east Texas and in Beaumont, along with many other winged creatures. A water source for wildlife in the area, the river attracts birds from around the state and country, especially during birding season. Running north to south for 416 miles, the river is large but borders Beaumont for easy access and great vantage points. The river is home to 300 species of birds include herons, the anhinga, owls, hawks and wood ducks.
Each year, Beaumont participates in the annual “big sit” birding event, a challenge to spot (and hear) as many birds as possible in 24 hours. Check the web site for dates and details.
Note: National Geographic, National Audubon Society, BirdLife International, and more than 100 other organizations have declared 2018 the Year of the Bird. Coinciding with the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act's ratification, it's a great moment to pledge to learn more about the world of birds. #BirdYourWorld