Swoop into Avian Paradise: Top Bird Watching Destinations in South America

If you’re as  passionate about spectacular plumages, eccentric trilling and soulful courtships, the planet’s fourth largest continent is calling you. Across a breathtaking array of pristine ecosystems, South American countries are blessed with the finest birding destinations in the world. From the Toco Toucan’s oversized colorful bill to the peculiar vocals of the Capuchinbird and the shrewdness of the stunning Hyacinth Macaw, the incredible diversity is a treat for ornithologists and naturalists. Grab a pair of binoculars and camera and take flight with us for the most exciting expeditions to spot nature’s feathered ambassadors, as our local wildlife experts guide you to the most spectacular destinations for birding trips in South America.

Costa Rica: Cloud Forest Residents

Enchanting Flying Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, Savegre in Costa Rica, with green forest in background. Magnificent sacred green and red bird. Action flight moment with Resplendent Quetzal.

Bird watching across South America is incredible, and Costa Rica is no exception. The enchanting cloud forests of Montverde are home to more than 200 species of birds. Many birders undertake the pilgrimage just to spot the cleverly camouflaged Resplendent Quetzal with its shimmering plumage of metallic blues, greens, and red belly. Set off in the early mornings with our Costa Rica birding guides and you can spot an array of other beauties like the Three-Wattled Bellbird, Golden-Browed Chlorophonia and Orange-bellied Trogon. 

For those seeking intimate, off-the-radar spots, the smaller Curi-Cancha reserve limits just 50 visitors at a time across a network of nine well-maintained trails, where cavorting monkeys, coati and armadillos hang out with their feathered friends. For a truly immersive getaway, consider staying at San Gerardo de Dota. You can spot enchanting hummingbirds – including the Magenta-throated Woodstar and Coppery-headed Emerald – while relaxing at apple and peach orchards, hiking up the mountains or trout fishing.

Colombia: Birding in coffee country 

Sight colorful toucans in Tikal.- Guatemala travel guide

With more than 1,900 species of enchanting pájaros, Columbia hosts one fifth of  the world’s total bird population, including 200 migratory species. The only South American Country with two oceans, its proximity to the equator creates spectacular avian diversity across Andean valleys, paramos (high altitude moorlands) and forests. The rolling hills and cascading waterfalls of Otun Quimbaya Nature Reserve make it to the top of our hotlist for bird watching destinations in South America. Best known for the exquisite Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, they host a delightful population of colorful toucans, parrots, antpittas, tanagers, tropical kingbirds and rufous-collared sparrows. 

Set out on a tailor-made trip to the highlands to spot the Green-fronted Lancebill and Torrent Tyrannulet fluttering over Otun River, waiting to catch insects, while a large, mysterious Southern Lapwing  – the only crested wader in South America –  ambles by the meadows. One of the most striking birds you will find in the sanctuary is the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, distinguished by its curious fan-shaped crest, brilliant orange plumage and a low, guttural croaking sound. 

Mexico: Song of the Toh

Swoop into Avian Paradise: Top Bird Watching Destinations in South America

Mexico is not technically South America, but we couldn’t resist adding the Turquoise-browed Motmot, also known as Toh or Pájaro Reloj (clock bird) to this list. Characterized by its long tail with disk-shaped feathers at the end that swing like a pendulum clock, this creature is a Mexican warbler,  Mayan myth and a lesson in humility, all rolled into one striking package. 

Believed to guide lost adventurers to hidden natural wells, the singing Toh awaits you near and inside caves and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula. Book the ultimate private bird watching tour with our local wildlife experts at the intimate Chunyaxché Mayan Community and Muyil archaeological site, where you can spot over 80 species of birds including the Collared Aracari, Olive-throated Parakeet and Masked Trogon. 

Peru: Soaring over the Andes

Swoop into Avian Paradise: Top Bird Watching Destinations in South America

With more than 84 ecosystems, Peru’s incredibly diverse landscape swings from rugged mountains to lush rainforests, making it one of the most underrated birding destinations in South America. We recommend working with Peru experts to determine the best itinerary for your particular birding interests. At a depth of approximately 13,600 feet – more than double the depth of the Grand Canyon in the United States- Colca Canyon is one of South America’s most dramatic birding destinations. 

Besides the Giant Colibri, the Andean Goose and the Chilean flamingo, this is your chance to marvel at the mighty Andean Condor – the largest and strongest raptor in the world – which can cover a 100 miles without flapping its wings. From the soaring Andes to an intimate Amazonian rainforest getaway, the forests of Puerto Maldonado are home to the Plum-throated Cotinga, Striolated Puffbird, toucans, macaws, and cream-colored woodpeckers, along with jaguars, capybara and anaconda Our specialist birding guide can arrange a customized tour for an unforgettable birding experience in these Amazon lowlands.

Ecuador: Meet the ‘origin’als

Swoop into Avian Paradise: Top Bird Watching Destinations in South America

A photography and bird watching paradise in South America, Ecuador’s biologically diverse birding locations shelter more than 1,700 species of feathered wonders. Book a tailor-made Galapagos bird watching boat cruise for a fabulous introduction to the living classroom of Charles Darwin, whose studies of the three species of Galapagos Mockingbirds, thirteen species of Galapagos Finches, and the giant tortoises later became his ground-breaking book On the Origin of the Species. Pristine, isolated locations and excellent sunlight assure memorable sightings and photographs of endemic cuckoos, flycatchers, doves, mockingbirds, penguins, flamingos and albatross. From North Seymour’s seabirds including frigatebirds and the Galapagos’ most sought after celebrity, the Blue-Footed Boobie, to Mosquera’s ea lions and shorebirds, the World Heritage Site archipelago is unadulterated birding heaven. 

Brazil: Feathered Republic

Swoop into Avian Paradise: Top Bird Watching Destinations in South America

Brazil’s astounding wildlife includes a dazzling array of over 600 species of idiosyncratic birds, from the handsome Horned Sungem and elusive Collared Crescentchest to the gaudy Frilled Coquette. Eco friendly lodges at spectacular locations and friendly local guides assure one of South America’s most awe inspiring bird watching experiences. Consult our South American wildlife experts for a tour of Mato Grosso do Sul in the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area. Spanning three countries and more than 42 million acres, it’s the holy grail to spot the most colorful cast of iconic characters – Scarlet Macaw, Hyacinth Macaw, Spectacled Owl Toco Toucan and the colossal Jabiru, South America’s tallest flying bird. Whether you choose a private ‘ethnobotanical’ tour of the Centro Ñape community in North Eastern Brazil or set out on an expedition to spot the critically-endangered Pato Mergulhao (Diving Duck) in Cerrado’s tropical savannah in Eastern Brazil, you’ll come back enamored. 

Navigating South America’s exquisite avian diversity is like wading into a lush, vivid wonderland. Call our South America experts for thrilling bespoke experiences and rare sightings during an unforgettable birding vacation.

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