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Birding Trips – Combining Bird-Watching and “Regular” Vacation Activities

White-tailed EaglePassionate birders are a breed apart – I know folks who think nothing of flying from NYC to Argentina at a moment’s notice in the hope of spotting a non-descript sandpiper that happened to show up unexpectedly.  Some such people, however, sometimes (rarely!) manage to talk non-birders into becoming their significant others, in which case such excesses might be frowned upon.  Then there are those who enjoy bird-watching, but would like to also swim, ski or visit museums on their vacations.  Fortunately, there are options that can accommodate all levels of bird-watching enthusiasm.

Birding Plus…

The Sierra Club, the USA’s oldest grassroots conservation organization, sponsors a number of Volunteer Vacations – trips that include birding and conservation-oriented activities while leaving time for other pursuits as well.

A very popular trip involves volunteers in the creation of wildlife habitat at Florida’s Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge.   By helping to transform abandoned citrus groves into hammock-studded wetlands, participants can observe a huge array of birds and other wildlife while assisting in their continued survival.  Ample time is scheduled for more traditional vacation pursuits as well.

The wildlife of the American Southwest, including a variety if birds found nowhere else, is the focus of restoration projects in Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico (home base of the Mexican Wolf reintroduction program).   Volunteer researchers on Martha’s Vineyard focus on preserving avian and other biodiversity in pond, forest and stream habitats.

The Sierra Club also sponsors trips for those seeking environmentally friendly ways to observe birds.  New Zealand’s amazing Kiwi Birds, the fauna of Tanzania and a host of other possibilities are available on all 7 continents.  Other experiences are organized with families or special interest groups in mind.  Further information is available on the Sierra Club Website.

For Serious Birders

PelicansTrips catering to those who want to spend all of their time observing birds and other animals are the specialty of the National Audubon Society.  The adventures currently offered span the globe from the Arctic to the Antarctic, the Great Lakes to the Galapagos, and points in-between.

Be sure to check local museums, zoos and special-interest groups as well – many offer a surprising range of opportunities, including day trips.  For example, participants in programs sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History can observe Bats, Screech Owls and over 200 species of birds – right in the heart of New York City! 

Further Reading

The National Audubon Society’s Travel Ethics are a fine example of the guidelines one should follow on wildlife-viewing vacations.


White-tailed Eagle images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dmgultekin
Brown pelicans images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nehrams2020

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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