How to Plan a Birding Trip

Birding, or bird watching, is an exciting and educational pastime. If you have developed a love for spotting birds and their calls, then you may not be content to simply watch in your own region. Avid bird watchers plan birding trips in nearby regions, across the country and in other countries. The best birding adventures happen when you plan extensively and know what to look for. You may need to research transportation, lodging and guides, in addition to the species you are looking for. There are a large number of regional guides, Audubon societies and websites dedicated to bird watching across the world, so you can find adequate information on almost any area you would like to visit. Learn how to plan a birding trip.


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    Determine your budget. A birding trip can be as extravagant or cost-effective as you desire. Deciding how much you can afford may have a hand in limiting your options for travel.
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    Choose your location. If you do regular research on birds and their migratory patterns, you may already have a list of places that you want to visit. Once you have chosen a domestic or international destination, you will likely choose dates based on when the birds you want to see are active in the area.
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    Buy a map of the region you plan to visit. Use this map to help you circle places where you would like to visit. You can start planning your itinerary.
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    Find a copy of "Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges" and other books about the region's prime birding areas. Read the books and mark the places you want to visit on your map. Note how long you want to spend in each area in hours or days.
    • You can find regional birding books and information by looking at your local library, online and on bookstore websites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Don't forget to check if your state has free resources online. For example, there is a bird trip planning tool for Florida bird watchers at
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    Count the number of days you would like to spend in the area. Create an itinerary from the areas you have circled and the lengths of time you want to spend. You should arrive at your dates for travel from this itinerary.
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    Consult your regional birding books again for advice about lodging, transportation and meal planning. Many of these guides provide a comprehensive look at travel in the area. Book lodging and transportation according to this advice and your budget.
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    Book your airplane, rental car, train or other travel, once your dates, location and other plans are set. It is best to do this 1 to 3 months in advance to ensure you can arrive in time for the region's best bird watching. Book further in advance if you are traveling during peak travel times in the region.
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    Arrange meetings with other bird watchers who have visited the area. You can benefit from their experience. They may also show you pictures from their trip to prepare you for packing and research.
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    Make a list of target birds. When reading your books, guides and doing your Internet research, write down species of birds that you want to see on your trip. Obtain the numbers for the National Audubon Society and any Rare Bird Alerts in the area, in order to find out specific information about the birds' habits.
    • Some birders choose to make sheets or cards about their target birds. You can find pictures and write down details about nesting, calls and other invaluable information. By bringing this information with you on your trip, you may increase your chances of seeing new species of birds.
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    Pack for your trip. Pay special attention to the weather in the area, so you are prepared for the season on long birding adventures. Pack an extra set of binoculars in case you lose a pair in your luggage.


  • To make your field guides even more useful when you are on your birding trip, highlight parts of the book that may prove useful. Affix plastic tabs to these important areas and color code them. This will provide quick reference in the field.
  • Consider booking a bird watching tour with a company. In areas with large wildlife refuges, some companies run guided tours that can help you maximize your time in the region. If you do not like to research or plan your own birding adventures, then this is your best option.
  • The American Birding Association American Birding Association is an excellent source of information and recommendations for North American birders or North American trips. They publish regional guides and connect local birders.

Things You'll Need

  • Map
  • Regional birding guides
  • Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges
  • Budget
  • Pens or markers
  • Highlighters
  • Transportation
  • Lodging
  • Target bird list
  • National Audubon Society number
  • Rare Bird Alert number
  • Extra binoculars

Article Info

Categories: Birdwatching | Planning Travel