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How to have the best birding experience in Central America

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Home to an astonishing abundance of tropical flora and fauna, Central America is a mecca for birders, ecologically minded families, romantics, and active travelers. You'll be amazed traveling through this tropical wonderland of active volcanoes, hidden beaches and waterfalls, rainforests and cloud forests. Full of rare and exotic birds, you can also see a wide array of other wildlife such as monkeys, sloths and sea turtles. Whether you're an amateur or a seasoned birder, here is what you need to know about birding in Central America.

Before the visit

  • ​Your trip can have a much greater impact on the birds you care about if you visit places that support conservation. To make sure you have the biggest impact, determine which sites support bird conservation, conserve forest areas and employ local guides in their visits to rural areas, and visit those sites and lodges!
  • Before visiting a site, try to know the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and possibilities of rain. This will allow you to prepare properly and foresee possible problems. Also look for information about the regulations and possible risks when visiting each site.

During your visit

  • For your safety, stay within the trails, do not enter private property. 
  • Keep in mind the impact your presence may have on the birds you observe. To avoid frightening them, wear opaque colors, converse in a low voice and avoid movements that cause the birds to flee. 
  • The breeding season is very important for birds. Do not take pictures of nests or chicks. If possible, avoid disturbing the birds and chicks during the nesting season.
  • If you drive, do so carefully and keeping in mind that any wild animal can cross the road at any time. Take special care if you drive near protected wildlife areas.
  • Exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming. Never use "audio playback" to attract birds, this interferes with the natural behavior of birds, especially species that are threatened, endangered, of special concern, or that are rare in your local area. Do not harass the birds using laser pointers or making noise to scare or attract them.
  • Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private landowners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
  • Do not feed the birds or any wild animals. 
  • Be aware that smoking and lighting fires in wild areas is not allowed in most places.
  • Travelers anywhere are at an increased risk of theft so do not leave valuable equipment without securing it.

After your visit

  • If you've observed a rare or threatened bird, and if appropriate, take pictures of it and report it on Ebird.
  • Support a wildlife society or conservation organization in the country you visited!
  • Share about the importance of conservation in Central America with your friends and family to help spread awareness!

For more information on birding or trips to Central America give me a call. Living and working from San Jose Costa Rica allows me to keep up to date on all of the latest conservation efforts here in Central America and I love sending people to places that are doing amazing conservation work. To learn more you can also read our blogs Amazing Places to stay in Central America or When and Where to go birding in Panama.

Keeping it wild,

Grettel Calderon

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