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Top 10 birding sites in Suffolk

From Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours – South Africa, USA (Ohio) and UK (Norfolk)

Suffolk’s beautiful coastline boasts many excellent bird reserves. Combining coastal birding with visits to some of the county’s famous inland reserves such as Lakenheath Fen and Cavenham Heath should generate an impressive bird list including some rare species, given a few days.

RSPB Minsmere is one of the UK’s best reserves for birds. It gives easy access to scrapes, extensive reedbeds, the sea, heathland and extensive woodland. Dartford Warbler Curruca undata is one of the many specials here, although there are larger numbers of this species on adjacent heathland reserves mentioned below. A great many waterbirds including Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris, egrets and herons which sometimes include Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, abound. Many gulls and terns move between the sea and the scrapes in summer, sometimes with rare species for East Anglia like Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii.

The nearby Westleton Heath NNR is one of the best places for Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Dartford Warbler Curruca undata, European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus at dusk and Woodlark Lululla arborea.

The National Trust Dunwich Heath reserve boasts similar birds to Westleton, along with rafts of Common Scoter Melanitta nigra and smaller numbers of Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca from the clifftop in winter.

Further south is the Upper Hollesley Common which has breeding Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus along with the heathland species mentioned abiove for the other reserves.

It’s great combining a visit here with sister reserves RSPB Hollesley Marshes and RSPB Boyton Marshes; the scrapes and estuary habitat of these sites attract many waders, waterbirds and reed-associated birds including a lot of rarities such as Black-winged Stilt Himantopis himantopis.

Landguard Point near the Essex boundary with its bird observatory is a famous place for migrants, often attracting rarities.

Nearby is Suffolk Wildlife Trust Trimley Marshes Nature Reserve which is great for water and reed associated birds.

There are many other excellent coastal nature reserves in Suffolk, but I now have to move inland so as not to exceed mentioning ten sites, not easy in this bird-rich country! RSPB Lakenheath Fen is one of Britain’s most reliable sites for Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Common Crane Grus grus, Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus, large numbers of Eurasian Hobby Falco Subbuteo and many others. This reserve is also famous for previously holding nesting Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus but unfortunately no longer (although occasional migrants still pass through).

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve is one of the best places for seeing Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus, as well as other heathland species mentioned earlier for the reserves close to Minsmere.

The nearby Suffolk Wildlife Trust Lackford Lakes is a delightful place to spend a half day birding. As usual, many birds are on the menu, including Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and many woodland and water associated birds.

Newbies and Wannabees

The trouble with most of the info ‘out there’ is that it is aimed at those with a mere passing interest in birds, or, worse still for newbies, the very experienced birder.

Those of you who are developing an interest, love birds and wild places but have never actually been birding, often ask me where and how to begin.

The temptation will be to hang on the coattails of your birding mate or local bird watching group… but hold hard there… first you need to have an inkling of what sort of birder you are, or want to become.

So, what do you need to ask yourself?

What is your motivation? Have you been caught up in a friends excitement at seeing rarities? Do you just love the birds that come into your backyard and sip from the birdbath or visit the feeders? Is there something magical about flight? Do you long to capture their beauty with a brush or camera? Perhaps you just want to see more and know more. There is no right or wrong answer, but knowing your personal responses will make a difference to how you set off on the birding journey.

However you intend to start, whatever your aim or motivation… one thing holds true in all cases – start small, local and cheaply.

Why? Well you don’t want to join the crowd of people taking up hobbies, spending thousands on kit that, a few months later, sits unused at the back of a cupboard or is sold back to suppliers at a great loss!

There are two essentials for new birders, optics and a way of identifying birds. Start with cheap, but good optics. Some really good makers cater for the low end of the market with very good quality optics that may not be as durable or fancy looking as the top-end stuff, but will get you started. My recommendation would be Opticron. Their lenses are excellent. The entry level may be a bit clunky, not as robust or as lifelong guaranteed, but will cost little enough for you to have no regrets if birding turns out to not be for you. If you do retain your interest and move up to more durable and prettier kit, those inexpensive optics can sit in the glove compartment or on the kitchen window so you are never without some when some rare beauty turns up when you are pursuing other life aims.

Don’t buy a fancy camera. If you have a decent mobile phone it’s going to have a pretty good camera. It won’t get you those crippling shots the long-lenses enable, but its not going to be an expensive mistake either. Moreover, you can join the local camera club or teach yourself the basics on line with your phone, only upgrading when your growing skills get you frustrated with the kit. To be honest, it’s the same with the binoculars… you will know when you’ve outgrown the entry levels and want something with the stabilisers taken off!

By ‘starting small’, I mean don’t throw yourself into the pastime like there is no tomorrow… once a week birding sessions will get you out in nature, exercising and enjoying without it being an obsession. Wait until that too frustrates you when you hear of a ‘good bird’ locally when work or domestic commitments prevent you taking a look.

Why stay local? Because you need to know the common birds of your area well enough to know them from a fleeting glimpse. You will end up relying on other people’s identification if you start with uncommon birds. The more you recognise the everyday birds the better equipped you are to spot something less ordinary.

Start with your own garden. Of course, like most people, you will recognise a dozen species because they are common in your area… but can you tell male from female? Do you know an immature common bird or that same bird in winter AND summer plumage. Time spent seeing the subtle changes will really stand you in very good stead when going further afield.

The next step is your local park or nearby farmland. Most of those birds will be seen on your own property, but a handful are common there and unfamiliar at home. By now your ID skills will be honed and you won’t need prompting to spot cocks and hens, ducks in ‘eclipse’ or in moult.

You will soon be ready to try out common local habitat types. Many of the birds you see near water will be different to those in your local wood or scrubland.

If you have never really got into nature you might now need to think about appropriate wear… for birding there are two considerations, colour and noise. Why do birders wear greens, browns and khaki? Because, that way, you blend into nature… steady movement is hard to see then, but the slightest twitch when you are in bright red will startle even the dullest bird. When trying on that coat see if it rustles or otherwise makes noise when you move. It’s all about ‘fieldcraft’, a skill sadly lacking in lots of people not experienced in being in nature. Trawl the net and see what that is all about.

Lastly, you need to know what you are looking at. There are hundreds of great books and apps. Get the one that is most local to you first. But there are some classics depending where you are in the world such as Collins Field Guide for Europe, David Sibley for North America, Slater for Australasia and so on. Take a look at the page for your state or country and see the fieldguides listed. Most of these are also available as apps with the added advantage of having recordings of the birds’ calls.

Now you will be ready to star off and see if you are going to be a life-long birder!

Summer Birding Alternatives

Every birder knows that the peak birding seasons are Spring and Autumn, but many of us will find goodies in winter too.

Migration will, in many places, see birds passing through on their way to breeding grounds in other places, or streaming back to their winter homes. If you are lucky enough to be close to large lakes or seas, Autumn can be great as birds feed up before the long flights over sea or dessert, so hang around longer than those spring birds seeking breeding territories before rivals get there.

Come winter, birds that breed in the Arctic’s brief summer may well move just far enough away for unfrozen lakes and feeding fields.

But summer is the season of birding frustration. For a start, when all the leaves are in the trees, it’s a lot harder to see the birds, especially because their plumage will often be deliberately designed to be hard to spot so predators will not notice them.

Moreover, at the end of Spring there will be lots of hard to ID youngsters confusing things even more.

So what do birders do, apart from jet off on birding tours to the tropics for colourful lifers?

Most of us re-ignite our interest in other natural wonders. Many of us will note butterflies and moths when we see them but deliberately search for them in summer as it’s the peak time to see the most and they might be flight but are colourful and relatively easy to spot. Dragonflies are not just food for Hobbies but great to see in themselves and the adults tend to live out their short lives in the summer sun.

Many insects attract our attention and one soon finds that bees and wasps, beetles and other invertebrates can be as fascinating as birds and just as hard to identify. I have a tiny urban yard… no bigger than a decent sized lounge, but so far it has clocked up twenty-four species of hoverfly and as many solitary bees and bumblebees.

Stripe-faced Dronefly

Late spring through summer are when non-tropical orchids pout in brief appearances and if you are not lucky to find them there will certainly be hundreds of wildflower species blooming in the woods and fields, desserts and wetlands.

Southern Marsh Orchid

This is my first year of trying to note what I see. The great thing about plants is that they stay put for photos, so I use my cell phone to take pictures and then ID them at my computer. There are some great apps to help and coupled with the internet and knowing their location makes it a lot easier. I’m no expert, so I can’t be 100% certain of the correct species, but it’s fun to try and in just a few outings I’ve seen at least eighty species of wildflower including half a dozen orchids.

There is no doubt, taking an interest in the entire environment and all of nature’s wonderful diversity fill my birdless summer days!

The Best Birding Destinations in Namibia

Namibia’s Top Ten Hot Spots for Birds

~ By Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours

Namibia is a varied country, from the coastal Namib Desert to the riverine forests of some huge rivers, the Okavango and the Zambezi. Thanks to these diverse habitats, it is possible to see about 400 bird species and 50 mammals in under three weeks.

Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia is a fabulously scenic place to look for localized birds. These include the sometimes elusive, peculiar, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler Euryptila subcinnamomea, and Rosy-faced Lovebird Agapornis roseicollis near the southern limit of its range (it’s a Namibia near-endemic barely getting into South Africa and Angola).


Moving north-west, Sossusvlei boasts the highest sand dunes on the planet, and is a great place to find some desirable desert birds. These include Dune Lark Calendulauda erythrochlamys, Burchell’s Courser Cursurius rufus and Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii. Other parts of the vast Namib-Naukluft National Park and the (also vast) NamibRand Private Nature Reserve are well worth exploring for magnificent scenery and awesome desert bird and mammal species.

Walvis Bay Lagoon

Walvis Bay Lagoon is full of birds, sometimes well over 100,000 of them, including both species of flamingo and vast numbers of overwintering waders. It is also arguably the best place on earth for the localized, tiny, Damara Tern Sternula balaenarum and in the nearby sandy desert there are reliable sites for Dune Lark Calendulauda erythrochlamys and Gray’s Lark Ammomanopsis grayi.


Moving inland again are the Spitzkoppe, spectacular inselbergs towering straight out of the desert plain. This is a famous site for Herero Chat Namibornis herero and also abounds with other localized species including Rosy-faced Lovebird Agapornis roseicollis and Monteiro’s Hornbill Tockus monteiri, one of a plethora of northern Namibia/southern Angola endemics.

Erongo Mountains

Nearby the Spitzkoppe are the Erongo Mountains, which are also a must-visit site on the picturesque Namib Escarpment. The beautiful liquid song of Rockrunner Achaetops pycnopygius resounds from the rocky slopes. Small parties of charismatic White-tailed Shrike Lanioturdus torquatus are very much in evidence. The elusive Hartlaub’s Spurfowl Pternistes hartlaubi makes a racket from atop boulders around dawn.

Etosha National Park

Continuing northwards, one reaches one of the world’s greatest game parks, Etosha National Park. I’ve never missed desert Black Rhino Diceros bicornis here, and it is also one of the best places in the world for Africa’s three biggest cat species. It is a superb place for some charismatic African birds like Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius, Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori and Pygmy Falcon Polihierax semitorquatus. And it is also great for far more localized species including Stark’s Lark Spizocorys starki, Black-faced Babbler Turdoides melanops and the peculiar Bare-cheeked Babbler Turdoides gymnogenys.

Kunene River

The Kunene River area is one of Namibia’s most remote corners. A healthy population of Angola Cave Chat Cossypha ansorgei, previously thought to be an Angolan endemic, was recently discovered in the rugged Zebra Mountains in this corner of north-west Namibia. Cinderella Waxbill Estrilda thomensis is the other Angolan near-endemic that is often sought in these parts. It’s also the southern boundary of the range of Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush Chichladusa arquata and Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus.

Okavango River

Further east at Rundu, another large river, the famous Okavango River, forms the boundary with Angola. Here, the Okavango is relatively narrow, before it starts fanning out into the Okavango Delta. This area is an exciting place to spend some time birding. There are scarce dry woodland species around, and in years of good rainfall, tropical waterbirds arrive in numbers, sometimes for example there are lots of Dwarf Bittern Ixobrychus sturnii around.

Mahango Game Reserve

The tiny Mahango Game Reserve, also on the Okavango but a bit further east, must be Namibia’s most bird-diverse birding site (at least for its size) and boasts a bird list of well over 400 species. These include desirables such as Wattled Crane Grus caranculata, Bradfield’s Hornbill Lophoceros bradfieldi and so many others. It is also a super-amazing place for mammals, including rare ones such as Roan Antelope Hippotragus equinus and Sable Antelope Hippotragus niger. Popa Falls is nearby and is a must-visit.

Katima Mulilo

Moving to the extreme eastern end of Namibia is the town of Katima Mulilo on the great Zambezi River. Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis and the gorgeous Schalow’s Turaco Tauraco schalowi are just three of the many targets here.

Best Bird Watching Destinations for Seabirds UK

What are the Best Ten Bird Watching Destinations for Seabirds in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom is blessed, it has some of the best seabird watching destinations anywhere in the world.  Here are ten of the best places to go bird watching for seabirds in the UK (in alphabetical order):

Bass Rock:

This island off the coast of Scotland in the outer part of the Firth of Forth and is home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets (150,000), as well as other seabirds such as Shag, Eider, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills. It has been described as one of the ‘wildlife wonders of the world’. There are cameras on the island beaming live pictures back to the mainland at the Scottish Seabird Centre as well as organised boat trips.

Bempton Cliffs:

Located in East Yorkshire, Bempton Cliffs is probably England’s most accessible seabird colony where half a million seabirds gather between March and October on the towering chalk cliffs. It is home to a large colony of Gannets as well as other seabirds such as Puffins, Razorbills, and Guillemots. Viewing platforms on the RSPB reserve allow views of the birds from above with amazing views of Gannets diving for fish. 

Calf of Man:

The Calf of Man is a 2.50 sq km island located off the coast of the Isle of Man and is home to a large colony of seabirds, with thirty-three seabird species nesting there including Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots, and Shag. It has the added attraction of being on a migration route and has a bird observatory. Other birds include Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Chough. The Calf of Man Island is accessed by small boat operators running return trips from Port St Mary and Port Erin. Sailings are subject to suitable weather conditions, tide and the availability of the boatmen and all journeys must be booked in advance.

Farne Islands:

Located off the coast of Northumberland, the Farne Islands are home to a large colony of seabirds, including 43,000 pairs of Puffins and fabulous Tern Colonies as well as Razorbills, Guillemots, and Kittiwakes and an Atlantic Grey Seal colony. You can get a boat at Seahouses and sail around the islands to get a close look at the birds and seals. At some times landing is allowed but often not to protect the birds. It is also renowned as home to religious hermits for centuries. Saint Cuthbert introduced laws in 676CE to protect the Eider Ducks and nesting seabirds; thought to be the earliest bird-protection laws anywhere in the world.

Handa Island:

Located off the west coast of Sutherland, Scotland, Handa Island’s massive sandstone cliffs are home to a large seabird colony of Guillemots, as well as other seabirds such as Fulmar, Puffins and Razorbills. It can be accessed by ferry. The seas around the island is good for spotting Basking Sharks and cetaceans.

Isle of May:

This small predator-free island off the east coast of Scotland in the northern part of the Firth of Forth and is a National Nature Reserve and is home to a bird observatory. It is is also home to large colonies of Terns, Gulls, Puffins, Razorbills, and Guillemots as well as a seal colony. In clement weather there are boat trips that get you close to the action. It is also famed for the rarities that land up there.

Lundy Island:

Located off the coast of Devon, predator-free and wildlife-rich Lundy Island is home to a large colony of Manx Shearwaters as well as other seabirds such as various gulls, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots. It has also regularly turned up a number of rarities from America. The waters around are good for cetaceans.

Mull of Galloway:

Located in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, the Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most southerly point and is managed as a reserve by RSPB. It is home to a large colony of seabirds, including Gannets, Kittiwakes, and Puffins and a great place to see breeding Black Guillemots. Spring and early summer are the best times to see the wildflowers and breeding seabirds. Early autumn can be amazing for seeing the migration of songbirds through the reserve and for the huge rafts of Manx shearwaters gathering offshore.  

Skomer Island:

Located less than a mile off the coast of Wales, Skomer Island is the most important seabird site in southern Britain with maritime grassland, lush inland vegetation, streams and man-made ponds and is rich in historical remains. It is a National Nature Reserve and surrounded by a Marine Nature Reserve. It is home to a large colony of half the world population of Manx Shearwaters (310,000) as well as other seabirds such as Storm Petrels, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.

St Kilda:

This remote archipelago off the west coast of Scotland is the westernmost part of the Outer Hebrides and is home to large colonies of seabirds, including Petrels, Puffins, Gannets, and Fulmars. It also has its own endemic sub-species; St Kilda Wren.

All these destinations offer fantastic opportunities to observe and appreciate a wide range of seabird species in their natural habitats.

Where Can You See Hummingbirds?

There are many countries in the world where you can view hummingbirds, but all are in the Americas where every country has between one and one hundred and thirty-two species. Below the countries are listed in order of the most species to the least.

Colombia (168): Colombia has more bird species than any other country in the world. Moreover, with 168 hummingbird species recorded, it has more hummers than anywhere else on earth. These include a dozen endemics; Gorgeted Puffleg Eriocnemis isabellae, Colorful Puffleg Eriocnemis mirabilis, Black Inca Coeligena prunellei, White-tailed Starfrontlet Coeligena phalerata, Dusky Starfrontlet Coeligena orina, Santa Marta Woodstar Chaetocercus astreans, Chiribiquete Emerald Chlorostilbon olivaresi, Santa Marta Blossomcrown Anthocephala floriceps, Santa Marta Sabrewing Campylopterus phainopeplus, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia castaneiventris , Indigo-capped Hummingbird Amazilia cyanifrons, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae.

Ecuador (132): With 132 species of hummingbirds, Ecuador is one of the greatest destination for bird watchers wanting to see hummingbirds. With many lodges in prime hummingbird territory sporting hummingbird feeders, many can be seen with ease. It has three endemics; Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis, Violet-throated Metaltail Metallura baroni and Esmeraldas Woodstar Acestrura berlepschi.

Peru (124): Peru has 124 species of hummingbirds, many of which can be seen in the cloud forests and high Andes. Fourteen are endemic; Koepcke’s Hermit Phaethornis koepckeae, Peruvian Piedtail Phlogophilus harterti, Bronze-tailed Comet Polyonymus caroli, Gray-bellied Comet Taphrolesbia griseiventris, Black-breasted Hillstar Oreotrochilus melanogaster, Bearded Mountaineer Oreonympha nobilis, Coppery Metaltail Metallura theresiae, Fire-throated Metaltail Metallura eupogon, Black Metaltail Metallura phoebe, Marvelous Spatuletail Loddigesia mirabilis, White-tufted Sunbeam Aglaeactis castelnaudii, Purple-backed Sunbeam Aglaeactis aliciae, Spot-throated Hummingbird Leucippus taczanowskii, Green-and-white Hummingbird Amazilia viridicauda

Venezuela (101): Venezuela is known for its rich birdlife, including a diverse array of hummingbird species. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 101 species of hummingbirds found in Venezuela. Five are endemic; Tepui Goldenthroat Polytmus milleri, Venezuelan Sylph Aglaiocercus berlepschi, White-bearded Helmetcrest Oxypogon lindenii, Scissor-tailed Hummingbird, Hylonympha macrocerca and Green-tailed Emerald Chlorostilbon alice. However, it’s worth noting that the exact number of hummingbird species in Venezuela may vary slightly depending on the source consulted.

 Brazil (81): Brazil is lucky, having 81 species of hummingbirds, many of which can be seen in the Amazon rainforest. Thirteen are endemic; Saw-billed Hermit Ramphodon naevius, Hook-billed Hermit Glaucis dohrnii, Broad-tipped Hermit Anopetia gounellei, Dusky-throated Hermit Phaethornis squalidus, Minute Hermit Phaethornis idaliae, Sombre Hummingbird Aphantochroa cirrochloris, Dot-eared Coquette Lophornis gouldii, Frilled Coquette Lophornis magnificus,Long-tailed Woodnymph Thalurania watertonii, Brazilian Ruby Clytolaema rubricauda, Hyacinth Visorbearer Augastes scutatus, Hooded Visorbearer Augastes lumachella and Stripe-breasted Starthroat Heliomaster squamosus.

Bolivia (81): Bolivia is a country with a rich diversity of hummingbird species. According to the latest information available, there are 81 species of hummingbirds recorded in Bolivia, including two endemics; Coppery thorntail, Discosura letitiae and Blue-headed Sunbeam Aglaeactis pamela. However, as one of the less studied countries it is possible that new species may be discovered or identified in the future as the study of hummingbirds in the region picks up.

 Panama (59): Panama has 59 species of hummingbirds, of which four are endemic; Veraguan Mango Anthracothorax veraguensis, Violet-capped Hummingbird Goldmania violiceps, Glow-throated Hummingbird Selasphorus ardens and White-throated Mountain Gem Lampornis castaneoventris. It is also home to some of the most colourful and diverse species in Central America. Having great infrastructure and a number of well-placed eco-lodges it ius a great place to see a great variety of hummers.

Mexico (58): Mexico has 58 species of hummingbirds, with some of the most spectacular species found in the cloud forests of the Sierra Madre. There are tweleve endemics: Short-crested Coquette Lophornis brachylopha, Mexican Sheartail, Doricha eliza, Beautiful Hummingbird Calothorax pulcher, Bumblebee Hummingbird Atthis heloisa, Golden-crowned Emerald Chlorstilbon auriceps, Cozumel Emerald Chlorstilbon forficatus, Dusky Hummingbird Cynanthus sordidus, Long-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus excellens, Blue-capped Hummingbird Eupherusa cyanophrys, White-tailed Hummingbird Eupherusa poliocerca, Mexican Woodnymph Thalurania ridgwayi and Xantus’s Hummingbird Hylocharis xantusii.

Costa Rica (53): This Central American country is home to 53 species of hummingbirds, making it one of the best places in the world to view them, especially as it has a great infrastructure and lots of eco-lodges with feeders. Only two hummingbirds are truly endemic, Coppery Headed Emerald Microchera cupreiceps and the Mangrove Hummingbird Amazilia boucardi although several others are only found here and in neighbouring Panama.

Honduras (44): Honduras is home to 42 species of hummingbirds although two other ‘accidentals’ have been recorded. They include one critically endangered endemic the Honduran Emerald Polyerata luciae.

Guatemala (39): is home to over 39 species of hummingbirds, none are endemic. Some of the most common species found in there include the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazila tzacatl, Violet Sabrewing Campytopterus hemileucurus and the Sparkling-tailed Woodstar Tilmatura dupondtii.

Guyana (39): There are thirty-nine  species of hummingbirds that have been recorded in Guyana, none of which are endemic. Some of these species include the Long-tailed Hermit Phaethornis superciliosus, Black-throated Mango Anthracothorax nigricollis, Green-tailed Goldenthroat Polytmus theresiae and Rufous-breasted Hermit Glaucis hirsutus.

Nicaragua (37): has recorded 37 species of hummingbirds, making it a great place for birdwatching enthusiasts. Some of the most common species found in Nicaragua include the Violet-headeded Hummingbird Klais guimeti, Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutile, White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora and Green-breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii.

Suriname (35): Although it is one of the smallest countries in South America, there are thirty-five species of hummingbirds that have been recorded in Suriname. These species include the Crimson Topaz Topaza pella, Long-billed Starthroat Heliomaster longirostris and Blue-tailed Emerald Chlorostilbon mellisugus among others.

French Guiana (32): According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), thirty-two species of hummingbirds have beeen found in French Guiana. These include the Blue-chinned Sapphire Chlorestes notata and Grey-breasted Sabrewing Campylopterus largipennis among others. However, the number of species may vary depending on the source consulted, as new species may be discovered or taxonomic changes may be made.

 Argentina (29): Argentina has 29 species of hummingbirds, not counting hybrids and vagrants, including Swallow-tailed hummingbird, Eupetomena macroura, Sparkling violetear, Colibri coruscans and Purple-crowned plovercrest, Stephanoxis loddigesii.

Belize (21): There are 21 hummingbird species that can be found in Belize. These include: Canivet’s Emerald Cynanthus canivetii and White-bellied Emerald Chlorestes candida.

 Paraguay (20): According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there have been 20 species of hummingbirds known to have occured in Paraguay. These species include the Glittering-bellied Emerald Chlorostilbon lucidus, Fork-tailed Woodnymph Thalurania furcate and  Gilded Hummingbird Hylocharis chrysura, none are endemic.

Trinidad and Tobago (18): These Caribbean islands are home to 18 species of hummingbirds, including the Tufted Coquette Lophornis ornatus and the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird Chrysolampis mosquitus, making them a great destination for those looking for a more tropical experience.

USA (15): There are fifteen species of hummingbirds that have bred in the United States, although the there are others which have been recorded, making a total of 27. The most commonly seen species in the United States is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris, which breeds in the eastern part of the country, although it might turn up anywhere, and migrates south for the winter. Other species that are found mainlky in the southern states from California to Florida include Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna, Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri, Calliope Hummingbird Selasphorus calliope and Allen’s Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin. The number of species seen in the United States increases during migration periods, when some species from Central and South America may pass through or overshoot.

Uruguay (8): Only eight hummingbird species have ever been recorded in Uruguay, and two of these were vagrants. Hummingbirds are mostly found in Central and South America, with the greatest diversity occurring in the tropical regions of the Andes Mountains. Uruguay’s birdlife is more characteristic of the temperate grasslands and Atlantic forests, and there are over 450 bird species recorded in the country, including many colourful and unique species.

Chile (6): There are currently six known species of hummingbirds that can be found in Chile. These species are the Green-backed Firecrown, Oasis Hummingbird, Chilean Woodstar, Andean Hillstar, White-sided Hillstar, and Giant Hummingbird.

Puerto Rico (5): Puerto Rico has five hummingbird species, including two endemics Green Mango   Anthracothorax viridis and Puerto Rican Emerald Chlorostilbon maugaeus. 

Jamaica (4): Jamaica is home to just four species of hummingbirds, but all are endemic the Jamaican Mango Anthracothorax mango, Vervain hummingbird Mellisuga minima, the Black-billed Streamertail Trochilus scitulus, and the Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus known as the Doctor Bird.

Cuba (2): Cuba has just two species of hummingbirds but both are endemic: the Bee Hummingbird Mellisuga helenae, which is the world’s smallest bird and the Cuban Emerald Chlorostilbon ricordii.

Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti) (2): There are two hummingbird species found on the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These two species are the Vervain Hummingbird Mellisuga minima and the Hispaniolan Emerald Chlorostilbon swainsonii.

Canada (1): Canada some species of hummingbirds occasionally visiting during their migration or as a rare vagrant. Only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which is known to breed in eastern North America and migrate south for the winter sometimes nests there.

Lesser Antilles: Several of the islands in the Lesser Antilles also have hummingbird species, such as the Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus, Purple-throated Carib Eulampis jugularis and the Green-throated Carib Eulampis holosericeus, which are all found in most islands.

The Best Birding Destinations in Ohio

Ohio’s top ten birding spots

~ By Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours

Ohio is rightly famous as one of the best places on the planet to see a plethora of dazzling-coloured American wood-warblers. It is also an underrated destination for some other iconic species such as Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus which winters annually along the Lake Erie shoreline. If you are only going to visit Ohio once, then May is the best month as it’s a crazy-amazing place for spring migration, but there are a lot of birds to entertain a birder year-round.

Magee Marsh

Magee Marsh is one of America’s best migration sites. Here, most of the eastern wood-warblers can be seen and photographed with ease during spring migration, often at or below eye level as they fuel up on insects before embarking on the long flight across Lake Erie. This is also a fantastic place to see other brightly-plumaged species such as Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula, Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea and stacks more. The beautifully-marked American Woodcock Scolopax minor can usually also be seen close-up here in spring.

Howard Marsh Metropark

The nearby Howard Marsh Metropark is arguably the best wetland birding site in north-western Ohio and generally hosts some scarce species along with all the common water-associated species.

Oak Openings Preserve Metropark

Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, also in north-western Ohio, is a fabulous place to see Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus and a host of other great birds.

Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

Moving east but staying on Lake Erie’s shores, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is an excellent site in winter for Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus and Long-eared Owl Asio otus, but make no mistake it also attracts all kinds of other desirables year-round.

Burke Lakefront Airport

Burke Lakefront Airport on the shores of Lake Erie next to Cleveland is one of the most famous spots for seeing Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus, although this species is regularly encountered anywhere in the northern half of the state.

Conneaut Harbor

I have a love-hate relationship with Conneaut Harbor. It’s as far as you can travel from my previous home in Columbus, central Ohio, and still be in Ohio. So, after three hours of driving, one just needs to hope that one or more of the rarities (often a shorebird) the place is famed for, is actually still there.

Batelle Darby Creek Metropark

Moving to central Ohio, Columbus is a city full of amazing, and free, metroparks. My favourite one is Batelle Darby Creek Metropark. I have never missed American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus on all my many visits there, and Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis is sometimes present. Rails are very much in evidence and are often seen and heard close-up. This is also one of the best places for Sedge Wren Cistothorus stellaris along with the far more abundant Marsh Wren Cistocthorus palustris. Localized and scarce sparrows, with luck including either of the two “orange” sparrows during the autumn, can also be seen here.

Big Island Wildlife Area & Killdeer Plains

Big Island Wildlife Area and the nearby Killdeer Plains, within fairly easy reach of Columbus, is another area that often hosts scarce birds.

Shawnee State Park

Shawnee State Park in hilly southern Ohio is a wonderful place to observe more southern warblers at their breeding grounds. The beautiful Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea is one of the major targets here. A couple of the scarcer yellow-type warblers and Yellow-breasted Chat Icterus virens also lurk here.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field

Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers taught themselves to fly, is a great place for Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus, some other charismatic species, scarce sparrows and more.

Birds Need Mangroves – Part One

~ Guest Blogger Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow ~

Mangroves are plants that mostly grow in subtropical and tropical regions that are subject to periodic tidal inundation by salt water.  In the NT mangals (mangrove forests) cover about 4,120 sq. km, constituting a third of such communities found in Australia (Lee, 2003).  Mangals in southern Australia are dominated by a single plant, Avicennia marina.  But in the tropical north the richness is astounding with at least 36 species in Darwin Harbour alone.

Within days of my arrival in Darwin, in mid-1975, I was among the mangroves fringing Darwin Harbour fishing and canoeing and birdwatching and learning about crocodiles, box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, and all the other things likely to kill one.  However, I thought the mangroves worth the risk, for the wildlife there had to be seen to be believed.

I was rapt, particularly by the birds, and began to learn what I could from the limited information available in those days, and through observation.  I spent long hours sitting on a convenient stump or looping root, my feet deep in clinging mud, listening and watching.

Stilt-rooted mangroves Rhizophora stylosa

Mangrove birds range in size, from the tiny Little Kingfisher Ceyx pusillus to the one of the world’s largest herons, Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana, and in boldness (or lack of it) from the shy Chestnut Rail Eulabeornis castaneoventris to the outgoing and inquisitive Mangrove Robin Peneoenanthe pulverulenta.

Once, a Mangrove Robin hopped up to my baby son Rowan as he sat gurgling happily in his pusher on a mud flat while my husband and I were searching, in vain for that very same species with our birding group.  Occasionally this little creature would hop close to me and cock its head as if to query what I was up to as I crouched within a grove of Ceriops tagal, skinny little mangrove trees that form dense groves, watching for Chestnut Rail.  Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet, and naturalist described the feelings that arise from such an encounter:

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.

Some birds are quite plain, for example, the tiny brown-grey Mangrove Gerygone Gerygone levigaster while others take the breath away, the royal blue, purple, turquoise and bottle-green of various kingfishers, for example.  Then there is Red-headed Honeyeater Myzomela erythrocephala, its scarlet plumage as bright as a Christmas lantern, and the butter-yellow and leaf-green Yellow White-eye Zosterops luteus.  The calls were just as varied, from the rollicking song of Green-backed Geryone, Gerygone chloronota, to the sonorous trumpeting of Black Butcherbird Cracticus qyoyi.  I loved them all and was happy to perch enraptured, on the looping roots of a stilt-rooted mangrove, just listening and watching.

I didn’t realise how limited my knowledge was until two years after I arrived an Aboriginal elder, Mary Lee, invited me to join the Aboriginal Women’s Resource Centre Committee.  Mary was one of the Larrakia or ‘saltwater people’ who spoke for the Darwin area.  One of our jobs was to take Aboriginal women from camps around Darwin to the mangroves. There we gathered shellfish, chopped down dead trees for mangrove worm (shipworm, Teredo sp.), and caught mud crabs, gigantic creatures with claws capable, so I was told, of breaking the neck off a beer bottle.  It was fun, and ploughing through knee-deep mud and clambering over the looping roots of those stilt mangroves was great exercise.

World’s Rarest Birds

We are often asked what the world’s rarest birds are. Not as easy a question to answer as you might think for a number of reasons. For example, some bird species thought extinct are sometimes rediscovered with no inkling of population size, and birds that inhabit very inaccessible places may be more common than sightings make us think. Decreased populations happen because of various factors – habitat destruction, climate change, poaching, and hunting among others. Some species that are in isolated places may never have had large populations.

However, based on current research and conservation efforts, here are some of the rarest birds in the world:



Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata – Considered by many to be the rarest bird in the world, there are only a handful of individuals remaining in the wild.

Madagascar serpent eagle Eutriorchis astur – This raptor from Madagascar is critically endangered, with only around 100 individuals remaining in the wild. 

Shoebill Balaeniceps rex – is a large, prehistoric-looking bird that is found in swamps and marshes in parts of eastern and central Africa. It is listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss and hunting.

African pitta Pitta angolensis – is a brightly coloured bird found in the rainforests of central and eastern Africa. It is rare and difficult to spot due to its secretive nature and habitat loss.

White-headed vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis  – The white-headed vulture is a large bird of prey found in savannas and woodlands in sub-Saharan Africa. It is critically endangered due to habitat loss, poisoning, and hunting.

Taita thrush Turdus helleri – is a small, endangered bird found only in the Taita Hills of Kenya. It is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.

Long-billed tailorbird Artisornis moreaui –  The long-billed tailorbird is a small, elusive bird found only in the Usambara and Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania. It is endangered due to habitat loss and degradation.



Cebu flowerpecker Dicaeum quadricolor – a tiny bird from the Philippines is critically endangered, with only a few dozen individuals remaining in the wild.

Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus – This elegant bird from India is critically endangered, with only around 250 individuals remaining in the wild.

Forest owlet Heteroglaux blewitti – This owl from India is critically endangered, with only around 250 individuals remaining in the wild.

Sumatran ground-cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis – An elusive bird from Sumatra that is critically endangered, with only a few hundred individuals remaining in the wild.

Philippine eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi – This eagle is one of the rarest and largest raptors in the world, with a population of fewer than 500 individuals. It is also known as the monkey-eating eagle because it preys on monkeys and other small mammals.

Himalayan Quail Ophrysia superciliosa – This bird is endemic to the western Himalayas of India and is thought to be extinct. Reports of a bird with an identical description may mean it is only critically endangered with a population of fewer than 200 individuals.

Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris – It is a migratory bird that breeds in Siberia and winters in North Africa, but the last confirmed sighting was in 2019, and it is now considered critically endangered if not extinct.

Rufous-headed Robin Larvivora ruficeps – It is found only in a small area of forest in the Philippines, and there are estimated to be fewer than 250 individuals remaining.

 Spoon-billed sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus – is a small wader which breeds on the coasts of the Bering Sea and winters in Southeast Asia. It is critically endangered, with a current population of fewer than 2500 – probably fewer than 1000 – mature individuals. The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats through its migratory and wintering range.



Kakapo Strigops habroptila – This flightless parrot from New Zealand is critically endangered, with only around 200 individuals remaining in the wild. At one stage only 20 or so females remained and only their longevity and a breeding programme on a predator-free island has saved them from extinction. 

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi – This small bird is found only on the island of New Caledonia and was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1998. It is critically endangered with a probable population of fewer than 50 individuals.

 Regent Honeyeater Anthochaera phrygia – is a striking black and yellow bird that is critically endangered, with around300 individuals left in the wild.

Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis – The Night Parrot is one of Australia’s most elusive birds, and for a long time, it was thought to be extinct. However, in recent years, a small population has been rediscovered in remote parts of Western Australia and Queensland.

Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus – is a small, quail-like bird that is the sole representative of its family It is scare anywhere and only found in a few scattered grassland habitats in eastern and southeastern Australia. It is classified as endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Gilbert’s Whistler Pachycephala inornata – Gilbert’s Whistler is a small bird that is only found in a few isolated patches of rainforest in northeastern Queensland. It is classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster – is a small parrot found only in Australia, with a population of fewer than 70 individuals in the wild, and this only after a captive breeding programme took it from the edge of extinction when only 17 individual birds were known.



Most very scarce European birds have populations in Asia or Africa although a few are endangered across their range. The following have very small populations anywhere:

Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarious – This bird is critically endangered, with fewer than 200 breeding pairs left in the wild and decreasing numbers. It is found in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti – This bird is also critically endangered, with only around 1,600 individuals remaining in the wild. It is found in Spain and Portugal.


North America:

California Condor Gymnogyps californianus – This vulture from North America was once on the brink of extinction but has since made a slight recovery. However, it is still considered critically endangered, with only around 500 individuals remaining in the wild, which can be found in southern California, Arizona, and Utah.

Socorro Dove Zenaida graysoni – a dove from Mexico’s Socorro Island, it is critically endangered, with only around 100 individuals remaining in the wild.

Whooping Crane Grus Americana – With a population of only about 800 birds, the Whooping Crane is one of the rarest birds in North America. It can be found in Texas and Canada and has long been the subject of attempts to bring it back from the brink.

Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii – With a population of only about 4,000 birds, the Kirtland’s Warbler is one of the rarest birds in the US. It can be found in Michigan and occasionally Wisconsin and winters in the Bahamas. Its population has been increasing in recent years, thanks to conservation efforts.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis – The Ivory-billed Woodpecker has not been seen in the US since the 1940s and is considered to be extinct, although there have been unconfirmed sightings in recent years.

Bachman’s Warbler Vermivora bachmanii – With a population of only about 100 birds, the Bachman’s Warbler is one of the rarest birds in the US. It has not been seen since 1988 and is considered to be critically endangered.

Hawaiian Crow Corvus hawaiiensis – With a population of only about 1,000 birds, the Hawaiian Crow is one of the rarest birds in the world. It is found only in Hawaii and is critically endangered.

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Tympanuchus cupido attwateri – With a population of only about 50 birds, the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is one of the rarest birds in the US. It can be found in Texas and is critically endangered.


South & Central America:

Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii – This brilliant blue parrot from Brazil is critically endangered, there were only a few individuals left in captivity and none in the wild. It is now being captive bred and slowly re-introduced in its former strongholds.

Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi – This bird is found only on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and was thought to be extinct after a volcanic eruption destroyed half of the forest on this small island, until it was rediscovered in 1997. 8 birds were taken into captivity and bred later to be introduced. It is still critically endangered with a population of around 500 individuals.

Blue-eyed Dround Dove Columbina cyanopis – This dove is found only in a small area of Brazil and is critically endangered with a population of fewer than 250 individuals.

Stresemann’s Bristlefront Merulaxis stresemanni –  This critically endangered bird is found only in a small region of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Its habitat is being destroyed by deforestation, and the species is also threatened by hunting and trapping.

Araripe Manakin Antilophia bokermanni –  This brightly coloured bird is found only in a small area of northeastern Brazil, where it inhabits dry forest and scrubland. The species is considered endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as poaching for the pet trade.

Hooded Visorbearer Augastes lumachella – This hummingbird is found only in a few isolated areas of Colombia, where it inhabits high-altitude cloud forests. The species is considered endangered due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as climate change.

Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis – This large parrot is found only in a few isolated areas of the Andes Mountains in Colombia and Ecuador. The species is considered endangered due to habitat loss, hunting, and capture for the pet trade.

Horned Guan Oreophasis derbianus – This bird is found in the cloud forests of Guatemala and Mexico. It is endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis – This bird is found in the lowland rainforests of Central America. It is rare due to habitat loss and hunting and its population decreasing.

Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja This iconic bird is found in the rainforests of Central and South America. It is considered rare due to habitat loss and hunting.

Great Green Macaw Ara ambiguous – This bird is found in the rainforests of Central and South America. It is endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.

Do birds feel the cold?

~ Guest Blogger Fatbirder ~

How do birds cope with extreme cold and extreme heat?

While some bird species have adapted to survive in cold environments, most birds are endothermic, which means they regulate their body temperature internally just like humans. Of course, like us, their body temperature needs to remain within a certain range to function correctly, and when the temperature drops too low, birds may struggle to maintain their body temperature.

Of course some birds migrate to warmer areas during the winter months. This is not because they cannot cope with cold but more about food sources… insectivorous birds will have nothing to eat when freezing weather kills off many insects and prevents others from flying. A few species can adapt, such as Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps that switch from an insect diet in summer to fruit during Autumn. The has led some individuals to chance the cold weather and stay during winter because they will get the pick of nesting territories in Spring before their fellows arrive back.

Birds have various ways of coping with cold weather, including behavioural, physiological, and anatomical adaptations. They have a variety of adaptations such as thick feathers, shivering to generate heat, and reducing their metabolic rate to conserve energy. Some of these strategies include:


Birds have a specialised layer of feathers that acts as insulation and helps to trap heat close to the body, thereby keeping the bird warm.


Like humans, birds can shiver to generate heat, which helps to maintain their body temperature.


Many birds will roost in sheltered areas such as trees, shrubs, or birdhouses to protect themselves from the cold winds. Doing so in large congregations also helps as does…


Some bird species, such as penguins, huddle together in groups to conserve warmth. Within a large flock birds take their turn on exposed sides then move  into the middle to share others’ body heat.

Puffing up:

Birds can puff up their feathers to create air pockets that help to trap warm air close to their bodies.

Adjusting metabolic rate:

Some birds can lower their metabolic rate to conserve energy and maintain body heat during cold weather.

Diet Changes:

Many birds adapt to the cold by changing their diets to include more high-fat foods.


Some bird species migrate to warmer areas during the winter months avoiding the need to adapt.

Overall, birds have evolved a variety of strategies to cope with cold weather, allowing them to survive and thrive in a range of climates.

However, if the cold becomes severe, it can still be harmful to birds, especially if they can’t find sufficient shelter, food, or water. So, it’s essential to provide food and water sources for birds during cold weather to help them survive. Sadly, birds do die from cold, especially when the weather changes suddenly.

On the other side of the coin, birds have a variety of strategies to cope with heat, as they are warm-blooded animals that maintain a stable body temperature despite changes in the environment. Some of the strategies to avoid cold work to avoid heat too. Here are some ways that birds cope with heat:


Like dogs, birds regulate their body temperature through panting. By rapidly breathing in and out, they are able to evaporate moisture from their respiratory system and release heat.

Seeking shade:

Birds will often seek out shady areas to escape the heat of the sun. This can be in the form of trees, shrubs, but they also use man-made structures such as buildings or bridges.


Many birds take frequent baths, either by splashing around in water or by taking a dip in a body of water. This helps to cool them down by lowering their body temperature and providing moisture to their feathers.

Fluffing up:

Some birds will fluff up their feathers, which creates an insulating layer of air around their bodies. This helps to regulate their body temperature by reducing heat loss.

Changing their behaviour:

During periods of extreme heat, birds may change their behaviour to conserve energy and avoid overheating. For example, they may become less active during the hottest part of the day, or they may seek out cooler microclimates such as the base of a tree or a shaded area. Birders will know that the heat in the afternoon is a bad time to go birding.

Watching birds walking on ice, or in very warm water provokes the question; can birds feel the cold in their feet. If the ground or the air is cold, a bird’s feet will feel cold too.

However, birds have adapted to deal with cold temperatures in different ways. Some birds, like penguins and certain species of seabirds, have specialised feathers and blood vessels in their feet that help them conserve heat and prevent their feet from freezing in extremely cold environments. Other birds, like ducks and geese, have a special ‘counter current’ heat exchange system in their legs and feet that helps to maintain a constant body temperature even in very cold water. Some draw blood away from their feet so it doesn’t freeze!

Overall, birds have a range of physiological and behavioural adaptations that allow them to cope with cold or heat and maintain a stable body temperature, even in extreme conditions.