Category Archives: Birding

Owl Prowls in the USA

Your guide presses a finger to her closed lips and the adventure begins. You follow her in silence as she leads your group into a dark forest that seems like the setting for a fairytale. Moonlight slips through tree branches, illuminating a path. When a shape shifts among the shadows, you stop to stare. Your guide calls into the dark, making. She makes a series of whistled hoots that speed up, like a dropped ball settling on the ground.


Your guide calls a second time. Again, silence.

When your guide makes another series of hoots, this time there is an answer in the forest. Moving from shadows into the moonlight, a bird appears. Its wings flap with a brushing sound so subtle you aren’t certain you heard it. The owl glides in total silence and lands on a branch above you. Suddenly, the benefit of exploring the wilderness with a guide becomes clear. This moment, curated by expert naturalists with a keen understanding of the ecosystem around them, is unforgettable.

You will recall the large eyes blinking among the branches. You will remember how these inhabitants of a dark world were illuminated by the guide’s spotlight, their bodies glowing as they glided past you and vanished. Whenever you glimpse a forest at night, you will know it is filled with life that stirs when the sun disappears. You will listen for owls, and you may even call back to them.

An Evolved Species

Evolution has equipped owls with fascinating adaptations. Velvety feathers with serrated leading edges enable silent flight, minimizing turbulence and dampening noise. Owls can swivel their heads up to 270 degrees, a feat facilitated by their unique neck structure with extra vertebrae and ample blood vessels. The forward-facing orientation of their eyes provides powerful binocular vision, giving owls exceptional depth perception for hunting.

Owls’ hearing abilities are equally extraordinary. The strategic placement of ear openings at different heights allows sounds to reach each ear at slightly different times, aiding in precise prey localization. The circular arrangement of feathers that forms an owl’s facial disc funnels sound to the bird’s ears, enabling the hunter to detect subtle movements. An owl knows when a mouse is sneaking through grass or a vole is tunneling beneath the snow.

Owl Prowls in the United States

Those lucky enough to experience an owl prowl report feeling intensely alive and closely connected to nature. Fortunately, you don’t need to travel far to find awe-inspiring owls. 

The United States is home to 19 owl species, each among the most magnificent birds on Earth. Prowling for them, whether in deserts of the Southwest during spring or in snow-buried boreal forests in winter, provides a fulfilling adventure not far from home.

Owling in Southeast Arizona

Many Naturalist Journeys’ travelers have enjoyed superb owling. Take for example the Southeast Arizona: Spring Sky Island Sampler Tour. In May of 2023, the group encountered a whopping seven owl species. During nighttime owl prowls, the group spotted a Whiskered Screech-Owl, while Western Screech-Owls hooted their bouncing ball song.

A spotlight illuminated a ghostly Barn Owl hunting over a field. In a sycamore tree, the group observed a Northern Pygmy-Owl, featuring false eyespots that confuse prey and predators alike. Spotted Owls were heard and seen roosting. Baby Great Horned Owls, near fledgling, jostled in a nest cavity in Portal, where Naturalist Journeys has its headquarters. Finally, the group was treated to great views of the world’s smallest owl, a raptor no larger than a sparrow, the Elf Owl

Naturalist Journeys hosts guided tours in Southeast Arizona all throughout the year. Discover the bustle of spring migration, a rainbow of hummingbirds, wintering Sandhill Cranes and even a pair of resident Elegant Trogon along the way. And, of course, owls galore!

Learn more about Arizona’s Sky Islands here.

Minnesota’s Winter Wonderland

In February of 2025, participants on the inaugural Minnesota: Winter Owling Tour will search for Snowy, Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Boreal Owls. 

During these winter owl prowls, you can look for Snowy Owls, their pale plumage camouflaging their bodies. Their feathered feet are like fluffy slippers that insulate their skin from cold snow. 

The Great Gray Owl that haunts the forests of the north is among the world’s largest owls by wingspan and body length, but weighs a mere two and a half pounds. Though this owl seems like a big ball of feathers, its powerful body can punch through hard-packed snow to snatch prey. 

The Northern Hawk Owl is another impressive hunter of boreal forests. It has a distinctly long tail and behaves more like a hawk than an owl. While perched atop solitary trees in daylight, this predator can sight prey up to a half mile away. 

The elusive Boreal Owl is also a sit-and-wait predator that hunts from perches. But it listens at night for creatures scurrying on bare forest floor beneath trees and tunneling through snow. This small owl with a square head peers through giant yellow eyes into the dark.    

Endless Opportunities

Optional owl prowls add intrigue to several other US tours. From seeking a Great Gray Owl in Yellowstone National Park, to searching for Great Horned Owls on a Kansas tallgrass prairie, to prowling the ponderosa pine forests of South Dakota’s Black Hills, venturing into the night world can be as exciting as traveling to an unknown country.

The nocturnal wilderness awaits, and the owls are calling.

Brazil’s Pantanal: Big Cats & Unparalleled Birding

Imagine a wilderness so vast that no signs of civilization can be seen or heard. Lakes shimmer among grasslands and savannas, and rivers meander through forest corridors. This is Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland. 

The wilderness that surrounds you seems timeless and immense. You lose track of how long you’ve been in the boat, searching the shores. As you gaze into rustling grass, you recall the camouflaged coat of an ocelot that you saw the previous night. The armored body of a caiman glides through waterways as you scan for jaguars stalking among the grasses, their spotted coats blending with dappled sunlight. A thrum of wingbeats snags your attention as cormorants, herons and egrets take flight. You see the scarlet flash of a Jabiru Stork.

A capybara shuffles down a mud bank into the river and paddles its pig-shaped body with webbed feet. This is the world’s largest rodent—and one of the jaguar’s favorite prey. You lean over the edge of the boat, peering deeper into the shadows on land, your eyes locking on every subtle movement.

A True South American Safari

Recounting all of the natural wonders that you may encounter on a Pantanal tour in Brazil requires more than a blog post—it would take a book.

To start, ten times the size of the Everglades, the Pantanal sprawls from western Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay. The Pantanal is like an enormous body with many organs, all of them united by the pulse of the Paraguay River and its tributaries. Here, the power of the Pantanal lies in its yearly rhythm of drought and flood. Seasonal rains force rivers to overflow their banks, revitalizing the parched plains, painting the landscape vibrant hues of green and blue. As the lifeblood of water courses through the Pantanal, a maze of lagoons and marshes form. When the rains stop and the floodwaters recede, the region dries. Fertile grasslands remain, leaving a feast for scores of hungry herbivores. These plant-eaters provide food for one of the world’s most elusive and charismatic carnivores: the jaguar. 

This apex predator, one of the world’s largest cats, is the star of the show. But the Pantanal is much more than the jaguar. Naturalist Journeys has created a South American safari that encompasses all that Brazil’s Pantanal has to offer. Search for iconic species like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater and explore the weave of ecological connections in the tapestry of this wetland ecosystem. 

Traveling with a Naturalist Journeys Guide

Naturalist Journeys combines outstanding lead guides with local experts to showcase the remarkable biodiversity of this region to travelers with insatiable curiosity. The success of past Pantanal tours at seeing wildlife and birds has been phenomenal. For many travelers, a glimpse of a single jaguar can be the highlight of a lifetime spent searching the world for rare wildlife. In 2017, a Naturalist Journeys’ group saw seven.

Naturalist Journeys’ guide and accomplished big carnivore expert, Wes Larson recounts his time on tour in 2023:

“We had simply incredible luck with mammals on our trip, particularly with jaguar sightings, and we had fantastic luck with jaguars hunting along the river, as well as a couple really special sightings away from the river. We had TWENTY Giant Anteater sightings, which has to be a new record, and some of our group got a great look at the smaller Southern Tamandua as well.”

Subsequently, birds are abundant on these South American safaris. Tours of Brazil’s Pantanal, when combined with an Atlantic Forest pre-extension, have recorded as many as 334 bird species.

Stay Among Locals

The Pantanal’s significance extends beyond the myriad species it supports. This wetland is a natural water purifier, filtering pollutants and safeguarding downstream ecosystems. It serves as an important carbon sink, absorbing greenhouse gasses and mitigating climate change. The Pantanal also nurtures local communities who have lived with its seasonal rhythms for generations. 

Accommodations on Brazil’s Pantanal tours immerse travelers in a local way of life—you stay on cattle ranches, for instance. These working ranches have comfortable accommodations for guests and surrounding habitat with abundant wildlife. 

After a successful safari day in the Brazilian sun, you can relax in the afternoon shade beneath ranch trees. Sip a cool drink as you watch a cobalt blue Hyacinth Macaw, the world’s largest parrot, crack open palm nuts. On the ranch grounds you might add more birds to your life list, which could include species like Greater Rhea, Toco Toucan, and Helmeted Manakin. Or you might opt to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of so many birds and other animals new to you but common to this bounteous region.

Naturalist Journeys offers several tours to the Pantanal each year. Click the links below to learn more and experience a truly wild haven at the heart of South America.    

Brazil’s Pantanal: Jaguars! And More…

Our 2024 Departures:

July 3 – 13, 2024 w/ Greg Smith

Aug 10 – 24, 2024 w/ Mason Flint

Sept 9 – 19, 2024 w/ Wes Larson

Oct 7 – 17, 2024 w/ Dave Mehlman

Birding Paradise: 5 Colossal Country Checklists & 2 High-Density Hotspots

Colombia is widely acclaimed as a birding paradise, home to 1864 bird species, more than any country on Earth. Its species range from South America’s largest, Andean Condor, soaring on wings 11.5 feet from tip to tip, down to tiny Gorgeted Woodstar, a hummingbird whose stubby wings produce a slow, bumblebee-like flight.

Though geographically smaller than fellow South American countries Brazil and Peru, which also make the “top 5 birdiest countries” list, Colombia beats both out for birds because of its ‘location, location, location.’ Bridging southern Central America and South America proper, Colombia is home to species that live in both regions, and to a stunning 83 birds that live no place else, among them 17 endemic hummingbirds!

  • Colombia is a birding paradise
  • buffy helmetcrest is one of 17 endemic hummingbirds in Colombia, a true birding paradise.
  • Colombia is a birding paradise in part because of topography

Birding Paradise Rankings

Here is how the top 5 ‘birding paradise’ countries rank for total numbers of bird species according to Birdlife International.

  1. Colombia, 1864
  2. Peru, 1861
  3. Brazil, 1816
  4. Indonesia 1722
  5. Ecuador, 1622

Bonus: Two High-Density Hotspots

Having a high number of species is one way to measure “birdiest,” but another is the number of bird species per square mile. Both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica score in the top 10 for “birdiest countries” by this measure. Tours to both of these countries are so pleasurable because the birding is easy and relaxing, with the potential to see a large number of species without significant travel between spots.

  • Parlatuvier Bay is part of the new UNESCO biosphere reserve in Northeast Tobago
  • Trinidad Ecotourism and the Scarlet Ibis are synonymous
  • Jamaican Tody is one of 200 birds found in this tiny birding paradise

One attribute shared by these ‘birding paradise’ countries is their tropical location. For most plant and animal species, biodiversity is dramatically higher at the equator than at the poles, though there are many competing theories about why this “latitudinal diversity gradient” exists.

All of the top 5 are also large countries. The reason we offer three tours to Colombia because it would be impossible to see all of its impressive birds all on just one trip!

Beyond their tropical ecology and sizeable landmass, each of these ‘birding paradise’ countries has unique geographic and climactic features that support its particular suite of birds.

In this four-part series, we will discuss those factors, digging into what makes each a unique and inviting birding destination. In Part 1 we explore Colombia, in Part 2, Peru and Brazil and Part 3, Indonesia and Ecuador. In Part 4 we discuss Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, “high-density hotspots” that offer easy island birding and an exotic suite of species.

Colombia’s Geographic Diversity

Bridging Central and South America, Colombia is a land of geographic extremes, beginning with northern and western borders defined by extensive coastlines along both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The country is divided north to south by the towering Andes Mountains, descending to savannas and Amazon lowlands in the heavily forested interior. For obvious reasons, birding Colombia is an adventure that invites one to visit and revisit, exploring each birdy area in turn!

Our guide of the year, David Mehlman, encouraged us to bring back birding and nature tours to Colombia, and his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the country places you in very good hands when visiting to this birding paradise. Dave helped us devise the following three routes, and we may well add more in the future!

Colombia Birds & Nature in the Coffee Region

Jan 23 – Feb. 3, 2023 | $5,390 w/guide Dave Mehlman & January 24 – February 2, 2024

This tour explores the famous “Eje Cafetero,” designated by UNESCO as being a World Heritage Landscape and a haven for both coffee drinkers and birds.

Colombia birding paradise comes with Panama food and drink!
Coffee cherries are beautiful! Naturalist Journeys stock

We have easy access to renowned birding areas such as Otún-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary near Santa Rosa (with its famous flocks of Red-ruffed Fruitcrow) and the Rio Blanco Nature Reserve just outside Manizales, with a bird list of over 500 species and a legendary feeding station for antipittas.

  • red-ruffed fruitcrow is one of 1800 species we may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • a brown-banded anpitta is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia

We also include time at high elevations at the Los Nevados del Ruiz volcano, where we experience permanent snowfields just north of the equator! This unique area of the Central Andes above tree line, covered in a vegetation type called páramo, is the habitat for many rare, unique, and difficult-to-find species. We look here for Buffy Helmetcrest, Andean Siskin, Stout-billed Cinclodes, White-throated Spinetail, and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch.

Our hotel here has natural hot springs, which you are welcome to enjoy as a guest if you’re not distracted by the numerous iridescent hummingbirds to be found at the feeders just outside! We naturally sample local coffees, and enjoy a cultural field trip to a coffee farm, and even have one cooking class, learning to make the famous Colombian dish called sancocho.

Colombian Amazon

Aug. 6 – 16, 2023 | $TBD from Bogota w/guide Dave Mehlman

Colombia’s Amazon may be best described from a naturalist’s perspective, as remote, difficult to access, and relatively unexplored by birders until quite recently. This is a magical trip where two of Colombia’s best destinations for birding in the Amazonian ecosystems collide, including the incredible Orinoco basin forest surrounding Puerto Inírida and the gorgeous, mystical Guianan Shield.

  • Fiery Topaz  is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • Giant River Otter is one of the mammals we may see in the birding paradise of Colombia
  • Turquoise Tanager  is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • Collared Puffbird  is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • Gould's Jewelfront  is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia
  • a brown-banded anpitta is one of 1800 birds you may see on a Naturalist Journeys birding and nature tour to the birding paradise of colombia

In 2020, our tour operator acquired 200 hectares of land near Puerto Inírida to establish an environmental reserve. This reserve involves the indigenous communities for the conservation of the wildlife that occur there and we are excited to meet these communities who are so involved in a successful ecotourism project.

We may see more than 400 species of birds, some of them considered among the rarest in Colombia. In addition to the bountiful birds we encounter, we are also on the lookout for special mammals like Yellow-handed Titi monkey, Pink River Dolphin, Giant River Otter, and many more!

Colombia Birding and Nature in the Central Andes

Nov. 7 – 18, 2023 | TBD (2022 price was $4690 DBL / $4990 SGL w/guide Dave Mehlman

We explore the terrain of the Central Andes which contains a diverse mix of coffee and other agricultural plantations, natural habitat, small towns, and world-class nature reserves. The birding is excellent with numerous species easily seen as we hike trails and visit bird feeding stations for hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, motmots, and many more!

This tour includes a break in the middle to explore and experience the legendary “paisa” culture which Medellin and its surrounding department of Antioquia are famous for. We also explore the valley of the Magdalena River, Colombia’s largest, in search of water birds and other species.

We hope to see unique bird species found in few other places such as Yellow-eared Parrot, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Red-bellied Grackle, Golden-headed Quetzal, and manakins, tanagers, and flycatchers too numerous to count!

Next Up in Birding Paradise Part 2: Peru and Brazil

Group birding Bosque Yanahuanca Jaen, Peru. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott

World Migratory Bird Day: 5 Trips for the Ultimate Migration Experience

World Migratory Bird Day is a global campaign dedicated to introducing the public to migratory birds and ways to conserve them. This year’s goal is to reduce the impact of light pollution on migratory birds. To commemorate this day, here is a list of 5 Naturalist Journeys guided nature tours where you’ll surely find migrating birds.

Maine’s Monhegan Island 

September 9 – 16, 2022 & September 17 – 24, 2022

Experience the joy of fall migration from Maine’s beloved Monhegan Island, a natural migration hotspot! Migrating birds flying south can get off track and find themselves at dawn out at sea. Once they correct, the almost two-mile-long island is a magnet, a patch of green where they can land for food and shelter. 

This privately-owned island welcomes birders to enjoy its 350 acres of trails protected by a local conservation organization. 

Notable Species: American Redstart, Northern Parula, Swainson’s Thrush, and over 25 species of warbler!

South Texas: Fall Migration! 

October 9 – 16, 2022

As one of the greatest birding destinations in the United States, South Texas boasts over two dozen tropical bird species that spill across the border. During our October tour, we arrive at the height of the fall migration of raptors and other neotropical species.

Notable Species: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Harris’ Hawk, Hooded Warbler

Portugal: Fabulous Birding & Culture

October 12 – 24, 2022

Fall migration in Portugal runs from August into early November and our timing on this birding tour is perfect for arriving waders, waterbirds, and raptors. Enjoy refreshing temperatures, stunning cultural sites, delicious meals, and a wide array of coastal species. 

Algarve, Portugal is a notable stop on this trip and is a region rich in protected wetland areas and migrating birds. and is situated on a major fly-way for migrants from Africa. Birding stops here will include the complex network of canals, saline flats and salt pans of the Castro Marim Nature Reserve and the Tavira area of Ria Formosa Natural Park. 

Notable Species: Black Stork, Griffin Vulture, Spotted Flycatcher, Great-spotted Cuckoo

Veracruz, Mexico: River of Raptors & More

October 15 – 26, 2022

Our exciting Mexico birding tour to Veracruz, known as the migration crossroads of the Americas, explores the intersection of diverse biological realms, and sites of historical encounters between peoples of the old and new worlds. Not only will you get the chance to explore the world-renowned Veracruz River of Raptors, the largest hawk migration site on the planet, but you’ll find yourself at a major migration pathway for passerines, butterflies, and dragonflies. 

Each fall, Veracruz hosts 4-6 million migrating raptors on their way to their winter dwellings. This includes 200,000 Mississippi Kites, which is nearly the entire world population!

Notable Species: Broad-winged Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Cooper’s Hawk, Black Vulture

Platte River Cranes

March 12 – 18, 2023 & March 19 – 25, 2023

Each year, half a million Sandhill Cranes descend upon Nebraska’s Platte River. By March, nearly 80% of the world’s population crowds a 150-mile stretch of the river, creating a migration spectacle that is simply mind-boggling to witness. This is the largest gathering of cranes anywhere in the world!

As the state of Nebraska proudly claims, “Some people regard Nebraska as a place you cross on the way to a more interesting place. About a million sandhill cranes disagree.”

Notable Species: Sandhill Crane, Snow Goose, Bufflehead (Winter Resident), Northern Shoveler (Winter Resident)

To find out more about WMBD’s mission and how you can positively influence the lives of thousands of migratinging birds, visit their website:

Bigger than Birding: Wildlife Safaris and Cruises for Everyone

We feel for the partners of birders who don’t (yet?) share their avian passion. That is one reason we offer many wildlife safaris and cruises each year, creating fascinating trips that are bigger than birding.

We have seen many bird-curious partners and friends converted by these trips over the years, which is, of course, gratifying. But for others, these more generalist wildlife safaris and nature cruises are simply a great opportunity to travel together with more to see and do than non-stop birding. That said, be advised that we are a birding company and there is a significant amount of birding on ALL our tours.

Wildlife Safaris

All of our African safaris, our Brazil Pantanal tours and our Panama: Introduction to Biodiversity trips are definitely bigger than birding! Spectacular and charismatic wildlife and gorgeous landscapes are hallmarks of all of these tours. Photos are probably the best and easiest way to show what you will see, so below are short slideshows from each of our tours with space available.

Our South Africa tour, which includes time enjoying the wines and culinary delights of Cape Town and substantial time enjoying one of the world’s most spectacular wildflower explosions, has already sold out for 2022. But watch this space for 2023 dates for a prime example of a ‘bigger than birding trip’ that is also a wonderful introductory trip to Africa!

The Cape Floristic Region in South Africa is one of the best birding and wildlife safari destinations!
South Africa’s Western Cape Floristic Region. Photo Credit: Greg Smith

We wrote a blog earlier this year about how to choose an African safari that is right for you, with many of Naturalist Journeys’ founder Peg Abbott’s insights. Below enjoy some of the sights available on our upcoming African safaris.

Landscape Photography: Ultimate Namibia-Botswana Tour

Our Ultimate Namibia-Botswana Combo: Birds, Wildlife & Landscapes is July 23 – Aug. 15, an unforgettable three week trip!

This trip would be perfect for a photographer who is interested in dramatic landscapes to accompany the wonderful wildlife viewing that characterizes all of our safaris. Along our route we witness massive red dunes, fanciful granite outcrops, isolated, iconic inselbergs, colonial Swakopmund on the scenic coast, and world-renowned Etosha National Park.

  • Namibia is a wonderful birding and wildlife safari destination
  • Desert birds feature prominently on Naturalist Journeys Namibia birding and wildlife tours
  • Namib Aloes are part of our birding and wildlife safari to Namibia
  • Oryx against red dunes is one of the things you'll see on Africa birding and wildlife tours with Naturalist Journeys.

Gorilla Trekking, Chimpanzees & Other Primates: Uganda

On both of our Uganda tours, guests have the option of adding on treks to interact with endangered Mountain Gorilla and on the July tour, Chimpanzee. Our optional Gorilla trekking is in Bwindi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to approximately half of the world’s endangered population of Mountain Gorillas. This vast reserve offers arguably the most productive montane forest birding in Africa and supports 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species.

Be aware: Gorilla trekking is not for the faint of heart (or the bum of knee), though these encounters offer a stunning and emotional payoff at the end of your trek. Guests sometimes encounter Gorilla after as little as an hour of hiking with our guides and porters, but four or five hours of hiking would not be unusual.

  • Mountain Gorilla in Uganda, a biodiversity hot spot visited on our birding and wildlife tours.
  • Mountain Gorilla in Uganda is part of an Africa birding and wildlife tour
  • Mountain Gorilla are found in the biodiversity hotspot in Uganda known as Afromontane Forest on a Naturalist Journeys birding and wildlife safari

Our Chimpanzee trekking is in Kibale National Park, the single best safari destination for Chimpanzee tracking in East Africa, home to an estimated 1450 individuals. This park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of all tropical forests in Uganda and hosts 13 species of primates in total. It is also home to the rare L’hoest’s Monkey and East Africa’s largest population of the threatened Red Colobus Monkey. Other primates that you may see include the Black-and-white Colobus, Blue Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Red-tailed Monkey, Olive Baboon, Bush Baby, and Potto.

L’hoest’s Monkey may be seen on Naturalist Journeys' birding and wildlife tours to Uganda
L’hoest’s Monkey Photo Credit: Charles J. Sharp via Wikimedia Commons

Brazil & Pantanal Safari

July’s trip to Brazil is already sold out, but there are still spaces on both our August 2-12 trip and our Oct. 11-21 trips.

We wrote a standalone blog about this wonderful safari to Brazil. Here is a gallery of a few not-birds you might see:

  • Jaguar are residents of Brazil, a biodiversity hot spot, on our birding and wildlife safaris
  • Giant River Otter require huge territories in Brazil, a biodiversity hotspot we visit on our Brazil birding and wildlife safaris
  • Capybara are among the creatures we see we visit on our Brazil birding and wildlife safaris
  • The South American Tapir is among the most exciting Brazil birds and wildlife
  • Maned wolf are amond the creatures we may see we visit on our Brazil birding and wildlife safaris.
  • birding guides are your best chance of seeing species like Harpy Eagle in biodiversity hotspots we visit on our Brazil birding and wildlife safaris

Panama: Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity

This year’s Panama: Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity Oct. 1-9, is guided by charismatic Ph.D couple Howard Topoff and Carol Simon, who deliver informative and entertaining presentations on a wide variety of tropical biodiversity topics nearly every day on this tour.

Lodging is at the world-famous Canopy Tower, surrounded by the lowland tropical forests of Soberania National Park, and the fabulous Canopy Lodge, in the picturesque foothills of El Valle de Anton, both perfect locations for exploring tropical ecosystems.

  • moths and butterflies will be all up in your visit during a birding and wildlife safari to Panama
  • Goffroy's Tamarin may be seen on our birding and wildlife tours to Panama
  • the Panama Canal is a bonus viewing on our birding and wildlife tours there.

Among the non-birding highlights in Panama:

  • Watch Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Mantled Howler, and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth in the surrounding forests
  • Spend time at the Summit Botanical Gardens, which houses more than 100 non-releasable animals — a great way to study many species difficult to see in the wild
  • Explore by boat on Gatun Lake, looking for Lesser Capybara, West Indian Manatee, and more
  • Enjoy an afternoon at the Panama Canal, learning its history and watching cargo ships go through the locks
  • Learn about the herps that live in Panama’s forests during a presentation by guide Carol Simon called “Poisonous Reptiles and Amphibians of the Rain Forest” and also get a bat presentation!
  • Visit Cerro Gaital to learn more about the butterflies of the region, from the large Blue Morpho to the pretty little Passion Vine butterflies

Cruises: Bigger than Birding

Our cruises to the Galápagos Islands and Alaska’s Northern Passages in particular are wonderful options for new birders, the birding-curious and friends and partners of birders.

North to Alaska!

Alaska’s Northern Passages and Glacier Bay July 9-15, 2023 has the pleasure of being guided by Naturalist Journeys founder Peg Abbott. We have a standalone blog about this magical Alaska cruise, already sold out for 2022, so look alive if you want to sign up for 2023.

Built for close encounters with some of the most charismatic animals found anywhere in North America, the Safari Explorer is designed to go where mega cruise ships simply can’t.

Video from guide Peg Abbott

Charting our path amid Southeast Alaska’s island archipelago, we are all but certain to see Humpback Whales, Orcas, Sea Lions and seals, seabirds, shorebirds and many other species, including Grizzly Bear!

Grizzly Bear are a not uncommon sight. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott

Cruise to the Galapagos Islands

Journey to the Galápagos Nov. 6-13, 2022

Completely isolated from hunting pressure and with little-to-no fear of humans, Galapagos wildlife can sometimes seem to be hamming it up for your attention in plain, nearby view. In fact, if there was ever a place where nature photography can be had without lugging around a heavy telephoto, it’s the Galapagos Islands.

Up-close photography is easy on our vaccinated cruises to the Galapagos birds you could see on Naturalist Journeys' vaccinated cruises
No telephoto needed for these not-so-shy birds. Photo by Ed Pembleton

As we move among rugged black “new” islands of the volcanic island chain and the soil-, plant- and animal-colonized “old” ones, we swim and/or snorkel among colorful fish, and sometimes dolphins, turtles or even penguins, whose frenzied fishing swirls the schools. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz provides context and history to the conservation of this most magical place.

Safaris, Cruises, and Private Tours

For the non-birder, the new birder and the birding curious, Naturalist Journeys Wildlife Safaris and Cruises are all fabulous choices. In addition, you can take further control of your adventures by booking any of our tours with a group of friends as a private tour! We can also plan an Invdependent Birding Venture around whatever it is you want to see!

Our Trinidad and Tobago Birding Guides found 237 species in the “Off Season” In eBird Checklist Challenge

The Collaboration with Naturalist Journeys Was a Win-Win-Win!

Our Trinidad and Tobago birding guides found 237 species of birds in the off season during a win-win-win eBird checklist collaboration with Naturalist Journeys that benefits birders everywhere. They submitted 20 eBird checklists representing two dozen birding hotspots throughout the islands.

“We should all be encouraged by this outcome and for the impressive numbers of birds which we now know can be seen during what we generally consider our off season; including dozens of rarities and even a few lifers,” wrote Jason Radix, our longtime lead guide for Tobago, who coordinated the e-Bird checklist project. “This update can now be used as a reference list for future bird watching tours.”

To see what they saw on these unique and gorgeous islands, join one of Naturalist Journeys’ guided group tours to Trinidad and Tobago.

Helping our guides cope with a loss of tourism income was the primary motivation for Naturalist Journeys owner and founder Peg Abbott to create the eBird checklist incentive program. In a COVID-induced lull in ecotourism she paid the guides a modest monthly stipend to keep getting out in the field and to keep their birding skills sharp, while contributing to important citizen science.

It is a bonus that their eBird checklists will be a great encouragement to birders who have begun to return to the just-opened country, as they demonstrate that a great variety of birds continue to proliferate in Trinidad and Tobago, even in what’s considered off-season. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country shut to tourism for a long 16 months, during which, UNESCO named Northeast Tobago a Man and the Biosphere Reserve, underscoring just how precious it is to biodiversity.

In all, our guides visited more than two-dozen birding hotspots and submitted 20 eBird checklists. 

Surprising them both, our longtime Trinidad and Tobago birding guides actually recorded life birds during the project: Our Tobago expert Jason Radix saw his first Bran-colored Flycatcher, after many years of birding the islands, and Lester Nanan, a third-generation ecotourism pioneer in Trinidad, saw his first Hook-billed Kite.

Their eBird checklists are especially important in the absence of reports from visiting birdwatchers. This bird data drought was observed all over the world, as described recently in the journal Biological Conservation, not only with birds but for all user-dependent collaborative nature data collection.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by stay-at-home orders have definitely affected the quantity and quality of data collected by participants,” according to lead author Wesley Hochachka, a researcher at the Cornell Lab quoted in an article about the study on eBird’s website.

Studying eBird checklist data from New York, Spain, Portugal and California, “​​(o)ne of the biggest changes they noted was in the type of habitat the reports were coming from,” eBird wrote in its piece, Pandemic-related Changes in Birding may have Consequences for eBird Research. “With more people at home, more people reported birds around urban areas…Less common habitats, such as wetlands, may then be under-sampled because restrictions on human travel make it less likely that birdwatchers will go there.”

Our guides not only traveled to wetlands but to all the varied habitats our guests get to experience on our tours in Trinidad and Tobago. Below, enjoy descriptions of those habitats and see galleries representing the many wonderful birds that can be seen even in the “off season” with Trinidad and Tobago birding.

Caroni Swamp

In Caroni National Park, we moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they fly in to roost, an experience you won’t soon forget.

  • Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Scarlet Ibis
  • Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Mask Cardinal
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Common Potoo
Common Potoo. Photo Credit: Carlos Sanchez


The best area for finding shorebirds in Trinidad is the extensive area of tidal mudflats along the west coast—an area locally known as “Waterloo”. We plan our departure time with tides in mind. Of significant interest are birds arriving from mainland South America.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Laughing Gull
Laughing Gulls. Photo Credit: Terry Peterson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Solitary Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper. Photo Credit: Terry Peterson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Tricolored Heron.
Tricolored Heron. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Osprey
Osprey in flight. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce

Nariva Swamp

We bird the swamp formed where the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding. This is a very full day with many stops and the discovery of species found nowhere else on the island.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Savannah Hawk
Savannah Hawks. Photo Credit Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Yellow-hooded Blackbird.
Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Photo Credit Sandy Sorkin
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Purple Gallinule
Purple Gallinule. Photo Credit: Carlos Sanchez
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Pied Water Tyrant
Pied Water-Tyrant. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Pinnated Bittern. Photo Credit: Dave Ramlal


We visit the hummingbird retreat called Yerettê, “Home of the Hummingbird.” Located in the Maracas Valley, this private home and lush garden attracts up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including White-tailed Sabrewing
White-tailed Sabrewing. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Long-billed Starthroat
Long-billed Starthroat. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Ruby Topaz.
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Copper-rumped Hummingbird. Photo Credit: Buck Nelson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Blue-Chinned Sapphire
Blue-chinned Sapphire. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography

Aripo/Arena Forest

A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally-wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. We explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions—alternating from wet to dry.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Striated Heron.
Striated Heron. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Red-bellied Macaw
Red-bellied Macaw. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Orange-winged Macaw
Orange-winged Macaws (r) with bonus Yellow-crowned Parrot. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Collared Trogon.
Collared Trogon. Photo Credit: Robert Martinez

Main Ridge Forest Reserve

We visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, tracing the spine of Tobago. Founded in 1776 and considered the first forest reserve created for a conservation purpose, it’s a great place to find furtive species.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Blue-backed Manakin.
Male (left) and female Blue-backed Manakin. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist includingTrinidad Motmot.
Trinidad Motmot. Photo Credit: Mukesh Ramdass
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Photo Credit
Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Photo Credit: Cristina Heins
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including White-tailed Sabrewing
White-tailed Sabrewing. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Yellow-legged Thrush
Yellow-legged Thrush. Photo Credit: Dave Ramlal

Full List of Birds:

Little Tinamou
Common Ground Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Eared Dove
Pale-vented Pigeon
Gray-fronted Dove
Scaled Pigeon
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Ringed Kingfisher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Striated Heron
Tricolored Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-bearded Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
Blue-backed Manakin
Striped Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Greater Ani
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
White Hawk
Common Black Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Gray-lined Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Great Black Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Yellow-headed Caracara
Plumbeous Kite
Long-winged Harrier
Apolmado Falcon
Pearl Kite
Crane Hawk
Hook-billed Kite
Black-hawk Eagle
Tropical Pewee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Forest Elaenia
Bran-coloured Flycatcher
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Spotted Tody-Flycatcher
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Euler’s Flycatcher
White-throated Spadebill 
Streaked Flycatcher
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Fuscous Flycatcher
Sulphury Flycatcher
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Trinidad Motmot
Wilson’s Snipe
Western Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs
Wattled Jacana
Southern Lapwing
Ruddy Turnstone
Stilt Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Black-necked Stilt
Masked Cardinal
American Flamingo
Scarlet Ibis
Hudsonian Godwit
Rufous-vented Chachalaca
White-headed Marsh Tyrant
Pied Water-Tyrant
Green-backed Trogon
Guianan Trogon
Collared Trogon
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Red-billed Tropicbird
Laughing Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Large-billed Tern
Roseate Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Bridled Tern
Yellow-billed Tern
Common Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Brown Noddy
Brown Booby
Red-footed Booby 
Audubon’s Shearwater
Black Skimmer
Bicolored Conebill
Blue Dacnis
Turquoise Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Swallow Tanager
Speckled Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Trinidad Euphonia
Violaceous Euphonia
Purple Honeycreeper
Green Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Saffron Finch
Blue-black Grassquit
Blue-faced Grassquit
Sooty Grassquit
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Tricolored Munia 
Common Waxbill
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Red-rumped Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet
Green-rumped Parrotlet
Orange-winged Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Red-bellied Macaw
Bearded Bellbird
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
White-cheeked Pintail
Tropical Mockingbird
White-necked Jacobin
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Green Hermit
Little Hermit
Copper-rumped Hummingbird
White-chested Emerald
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
Black-throated Mango
Blue-chinned Sapphire
Green-throated Mango
White-tailed Goldenthroat
Gray-breasted Martin
Caribbean Martin
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
White-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow 
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
Band-rumped Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Short-tailed Swift
Masked Yellowthroat
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Golden-fronted Greenlet
Scrub Greenlet
Chivi Vireo
Tropical Parula
Golden-crowned Warbler
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Long-billed Gnatwren
House Wren
Rufous-breasted Wren
Grayish Saltator
Olivaceous/Blue-gray Saltator
Plain Antvireo
White-bellied Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Black-crested Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
White-fringed Antwren
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Channel-billed Toucan
Least Grebe
Pinnated Bittern
Least Bittern
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Tropical Mockingbird
Cocoa Thrush
White-necked Thrush
Spectacled Thrush
Northern Waterthrush
Yellow-chinned Spinetail
Pale-breasted Spinetail
Striped-breasted Spinetail
Streaked Xenops
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Barn Owl
Grey-necked Wood Rail
Yellow-breasted Crake
Red-breasted Meadowlark
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Yellow Oriole
Giant Cowbird
Carib Grackle
Yellow-hooded Blackbird
Shiny Cowbird
Crested Oropendola