Being the destination of choice for countless temperate zone birds in the winter, and possessing numerous flamboyant species of its own, the stretch of land that connects North America to its southerly cousin have long been prime hunting grounds for aspiring birders. Unlike hunters though, they seek to shoot their targets not with a gun, but with the telescopic lens of an impossibly expensive DLSR camera.
While the weather from Mexico to Panama is usually much more agreeable than the conditions that prevail further north over the balance of the year, it’s the sheer diversity of species of out feathered friends that motivate these enthusiasts. Even with a bounty of species to peep and check off on their lists, certain parts of Mexico and the Central American land bridge are better suited to this pursuit than others.
With this in mind, we have uncovered three specific areas within the region that are especially conducive to birders, combining massive numbers of different species, rare avian specimens, and amenities that make exploring these areas as comfortable as possible.
1) San Blas, Mexico
Situated about 100 kilometres by road north of Puerto Vallarta is the sleepy fishing town of San Blas, a quiet place that has excellent beaches and a thriving surfing culture. What this area is best known for however is the quality of its birding, as coastal lagoons, swamps and estuaries harbor close to 300 species of birds, which counts as the second biggest concentration of avians in the Western Hemisphere (only a site in Panama has more … more on that later).
2) Carara National Park, Costa Rica
While seeking out natural environments with massive amounts of species is always a fruitful strategy when it comes to birding, some seek out winged creatures that are hard to spot. Scarlet macaws fall into that category, as its reported beauty are betrayed by the difficulty in finding it.
If this quest has brought you to Costa Rica, then spending your time in Carara National Park will give you the best chance at spotting this fabulous bird, as flocks of this bird take flight at reliable times during the day. All you have to do is show up in the morning or evening and wait patiently. Another great spot is Corcovado National Park! Consider renting a house on the Osa Peninsula in Puerto Jimenez as you can even see lots of birds, especially scarlet macaws from the porch.
3) Soberanía National Park, Panama
Remember how we mentioned a few paragraphs ago that the number #1 birding spot in the Western Hemisphere could be found in Panama? Well, we wouldn’t conclude this article without spilling the beans on this special place (that would just be cruel). In Soberania National Park, located on the east bank of the Panama Canal about 20 kilometres northwest of Panama City, over 500 species await your trigger happy camera finger. The display of colour is so dramatic at times, even your non-birder friends who think you are nuts will be suitably impressed!