North America (USA and Canada) Birding Tours
North America encompass many different regions and nations depending on which definition used and who you ask. For the sake of our birding tours and organization, we consider North America to be made up of three major countries: The United States of America, Canada, and Mexico. Some consider Central America and the Caribbean to fall within North America, however we have split that up to be more associated with South America as the avifauna overlaps more there and we call that the neotropics. If you are looking for any of those destinations, please check out our Neotropics Region page encompassing South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The vast majority of North America comprises the entirety of the Nearctic realm with small slivers in Mexico and south Florida being classified in the Neotropical realm. From a birding perspective, North America can be separated into what are known as the four major flyways: The Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific. To simplify things further we view these as East, West, and Central regions. These regions contain incredible diversity of ecoregions and climates within them including massive forests, mountains, deserts, oceans, lakes, grasslands, and shrublands. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, we offer bird watching tours throughout the continental United States including Maine, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, and California! In addition to these major areas on the mainland of North America, we also operate birding tours in Hawaii and Alaska.
According to the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy, version 11.2, the North American bird list stands at an impressive 2,313 species. However, once the Caribbean and Central America (including Mexico) are removed, that number for the USA and Canada drops to a more modest 1,252 species. While certainly not the most avian rich region (it’s about quality rather than quantity, think about all the American warblers and alcids including three puffin species!), North America still offers numerous incredible birds, mammals, and scenic views for all travelers to enjoy.
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Lower 48 States
Highlighted by the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean and the ancient Appalachian Mountains, the eastern United States offers tremendous birding opportunities. Starting with Maine, we explore the northeast with its rocky shores and inland to the hardwood forests of the mountains targeting breeding species such as Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Bicknell’s Thrush, and many more. All the way southwards down along the coast we visit south Florida and the Keys. This is the only Neotropical region in the US and as such it hosts its own unique species including Brown Noddy, Mangrove Cuckoo, Black-whiskered Vireo, Limpkin, and the endemic Florida Scrub Jay just to name a few. Heading away from the coast we come to Ohio in the Midwest region. This state features a bonanza of migrant songbirds and on our Ohio (with brief forays into neighboring states) birding tours we search for all the eastern Wood-Warbler species including Swainson’s, Cerulean, Kentucky, Worm-eating, Golden-winged, Bay-breasted, Magnolia, and Kirtland’s Warblers. With the potential for 100+ species per day, Ohio is an amazing place to bird during spring migration!
The central USA features not only the vast prairie grasslands of the Great Plains, but also so much more with portions of the Boreal Forest in the north and temperate coniferous and mixed woodlands in the south. Visiting freezing Minnesota in January, we search for boreal specials such as Great Grey and Northern Hawk Owls, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, and Boreal Chickadee. Heading south to thaw out a bit, we now offer two tours to south Texas, one in the winter and one in the spring. Hugging the Gulf of Mexico, both tours offer amazing and unique birding experiences highlighting some special bird species such as Whooping Crane, Green Jay, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and so many more! Finally, we feature a tour to Yellowstone in the fall, bordering on the central and western edge as it features some Great Plains as well as the impressive Rocky Mountains. This tour features the amazing megafauna of North America, including American Bison, Elk, Moose, Grey Wolf, and Grizzly Bear, in addition to some spectacular avian targets. Bird highlights include Barrow’s Goldeneye, Mountain Bluebird, Trumpeter Swan, Clark’s Nutcracker and more.
The mighty western United States features the powerful Rocky Mountains and the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, with so many ecoregions in between. Our Washington and Oregon tours showcase the northern Pacific coastline as well as the interesting temperate rainforest habitat of the interior, not to mention some impressive mountain peaks. We will search for American Dipper, Varied Thrush, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Wandering Tattler, and so many others. Colorado showcases some true Rocky Mountain birding with a route circling the state in search of grouse and other great species. Top targets include Gunnison Grouse, Lesser and Greater Prairie Chickens, Black Rosy Finch, Pinyon Jay, and Thick-billed Longspur. Arizona is one of the most diverse states in the USA and we now offer a northern Arizona tour and a complete southeast Arizona tour. In the north, the Grand Canyon stands supreme as one of the natural wonders of the world. In addition to the mighty canyon, the high-altitude birding around Flagstaff offers a fantastic composition of species including California Condor, Lewis’s and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Steller’s and Pinyon Jays, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and Green-tailed Towhee. The desert shrublands and sky island canyons of southeast Arizona might be the best birding in the entirety of the United States. Here, many unique species can be found as they creep to their northern range limits from Mexico including Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Chickadee, Thick-billed Kingbird, Violet-crowned and Lucifer Hummingbirds, and Five-striped Sparrow.
Finally, that brings us to the massive state of California, measuring in at over 160,000 sq. miles (420,000 sq. km). As such we have split our exploration of the state into a northern California tour and a southern California tour. The northern tour features pelagic trips out into the productive waters of the Pacific as well as interior birding in the beauty of the mixed-oak woodlands. A wide array of species are possible including Black-footed Albatross, Buller’s Shearwater, Yellow-billed Magpie, Golden Eagle and White-headed Woodpecker. The southern tour features the amazing climate of Los Angles and San Diego as well as a quick venture to the Salton Sea. Here we target California specials such as California Gnatcatcher, Island Scrub Jay, Yellow-footed Gull, California Thrasher, California Towhee, and many others.
Hawaii and Alaska
We are excited to now be featuring a set departure itinerary to the aloha state of Hawaii! This small archipelago hosts 48 endemic bird species and subspecies with at least 30 of these being listed as Threatened or Endangered (by the IUCN). These native birds are in real peril, facing many threats including habitat loss, rats and snakes, and avian malaria being transmitted through mosquitoes. There are many efforts being made in helping these birds that desperately need it. Please check out our friends at Pacific Rim Conservation for more information and ways you can help out!
Our set itinerary Hawaii birdwatching tour involves some island-hopping covering three major islands that are still accessible: Oʻahu, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi (Big Island). The natives and endemics will be top targets but there are also a number of exotic, introduced species now considered countable by the American Birding Association which will also be featured. Three days on O’ahu should include highlights such as White Tern, Oahu Amakihi, Oahu Elepaio, Hawaiian Coot, Bristle-thighed Curlew and Red-crested Cardinal. Following a short flight to Kau’I, the next three days will feature species including Nene, Kauai Amakihi, Apapane, Anianiau, Kauai Elepaio and the Critically Endangered Akekee. The final leg of the tour features forest birding on Hawai’I as well as a full day pelagic trip. A few of the top targets include Hawaiian Hawk, Omao, Hawaii Creeper, Hawaii Akepa, Akiapolaau, Iiwi, Hawaii Amakihi and Apapane. Pelagic seabirding will have us searching for Hawaiian, Juan Fernandez, Mottled, White-necked and Black-winged Petrels, Christmas and the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Newell’s Shearwaters. There are so many amazing birding highlights on offer here plus some of the most unbelievable scenic views in the world.
The remote and vast wilderness of Alaska makes it feel like its own country. Being so massive, it is difficult to reach all areas, however we offer a main tour route covering Denali, Seward, and Nome plus an extension to the far northern town of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow). After flying to the remote town of Nome, we will spend three days targeting some amazing species including Bristle-thighed Curlew, Arctic Loon, Bluethroat, and Aleutian Tern. We will return to Anchorage and begin exploring the Denali Highway searching for Golden Eagle, Willow Ptarmigan and Gyrfalcon. A trip down to the Kenai Peninsula and a boat trip out onto Resurrection Bay will hopefully score targets such as Horned Puffin, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Red-necked Grebe and Glaucous-winged Gull. After exploring all of these amazing areas, some folks will continue their journeys with a flight to Utqiagvik, the northern-most city of the USA where in the summer it doesn’t get dark (this is indeed the land of the midnight sun!). Here many amazing species breed including Steller’s, Spectacled, and King Eiders, Yellow-billed Loon, and Pomarine Jaeger. Overall, Alaska is a place unlike any other in the world and the birding there represents this well.
Canada and Mexico
Canada and Mexico
The bordering nations to the south and the north of the USA offer up some unique and fascinating birding opportunities. These nations encompass massive areas and different ecoregions and habitat types. From the taiga of Canada to the subtropical south of Mexico, many amazing species can be found in these expansive countries.
Unfortunately, we are not currently featuring any set departures to either of these destinations. However, we are able to help arrange private and customized tours to these areas for clients strongly wanting to visit. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.