Looking for birds on safari?
The birds are in town. In fact, Africa boasts 2,341 different species of birds to gaze in dumbfounded amazement at. Can there be a better place on earth to go birdwatching?
Sure, you can go on safari in different parts of the world.
But doesn’t this incredible continent offer the quintessential safari experience? Just hear the word ‘safari’, and conjure up images of silhouetted animals parading across sun-soaked, shimmering African plains. This is one reason over 30 million tourists go to African destinations every year.
The abundance of bird-species makes safaris an ultimate bird-spotting experience. In Africa, or elsewhere, you have the opportunity to see some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful birds.
However, there remains a certain knack to successful spotting. You can never guarantee you’ll see what you set out to. Having some insider knowledge before you go may help in your avian endeavors.
Keep reading to discover 7 tips for successful spotting of birds on safari.
How to Spot Birds on Safari: 7 Top Tips
Sure, the big 5 are great. But you can’t forget the birds. That’s almost literally true- there are so many around you’re sure to look up to an incredible display of birdlife.
However, the rarer species require greater skill and insight to come across.
Check out these 7 tips to make the most of your bird spotting experience.
1. Learn About the Birds in Advance
An awesome birdwatching experience starts with knowing your birds.
After all, you have to know what you’re looking at to truly appreciate birds on safari. Sure, with little knowledge you might marvel at the colors, wingspans, speed, and other attributes. But you can’t go much further than that. An understanding of birds enables you to make the most of the trip.
For instance, you may have incredible luck, and see one of the rarest birds in the world. And you might not even know it! Make the effort to learn about the birds you might see on the trip. This will help you know what to look for when you get there.
Start by grounding yourself in the different bird families. Commit to memory their different characteristics. From there, it usually comes down to size, shape, color, and bill types. Finally, watch for the specific behavior of the bird, and pay attention to the environment you’re in too.
All of this makes it easier to identify the birds you see on safari. Knowing the species of the bird means you’re able to appreciate them all the better.
2. Know When They’ll Be
Give yourself the best shot of seeing your favorite birds on safari.
It’s no good spending the entire day patrolling the area only to find they only come out at night. Find out when they come out to play and structure your safari around that.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid the hottest part of the day. It’s no fun being stuck inside a jeep in the midday sun anyway. But it’s also generally a time when birds are inactive. Aim for the earlier and later parts of the day for most birds.
That said, there are exceptions. This is where learning about birds will pay dividends. You may already have an idea when they’re most likely to appear.
Similarly, think about the time of year you’re going. Each season is likely to have an impact on the birds you’ll see. Temperature and water levels are two important considerations. For example, warmer weather attracts birds from cooler climates around the world.
Settle on what you want to see. Find out when they’re in town. And book your safari accordingly.
3. Know Where They’ll Be
You’re never guaranteed to see anything on safari.
This is the great outdoors, after all. It’s unpredictable.
However, you can improve the likelihood of seeing your favorite birds by knowing where to look. That starts with deciding your destination. Obviously, not all birds will be found in the same country. Think about the birds you want to see and pick the place accordingly.
You need to know where to look in the country too. Knowing where the birds will be is more than just about location. It also applies to the exact whereabouts. Grasslands, waterways, and forests all host different types of bird. Position yourself where the birds are most likely to be.
This is where organized tours come into their own. Your guides will know exactly where to take you. They’ll have expert and insider information to get you where you need to be.
4. Leverage Online Communities
How do you find out all of the information we’ve just suggested?
Sure, you can do it all yourself. Encyclopedias, internet research, field guides and so on will all play their part. Indeed, watching birds on safari can quickly become a passion. You may well have been learning all about birds for years.
However, those new to the pastime should know online bird spotting communities are your friend.
These sites will put you in touch with birding enthusiasts around the world. You can ask questions, seek advice and recommendations. You could even ask for exact safari itineraries to see specific birds. People will be more than happy to share their knowledge.
Nicely, you can even find opportunities to bird spot in your local area. Not only can you meet interesting people, but you can improve your birding knowledge in advance of your trip.
Birdforum.net is one example to get you started!
5. Pack the Essentials
Certain gear will stand you in good stead for your trip.
A good pair of binoculars are absolutely essential for safari (and birdwatching in general). You may be seeing many birds from a distance. Binoculars will ensure you see more than just a dot on the horizon. See birds from afar, and improve your chances of identification in the process.
It can feel like there are as many binocular options as birds though. The prices vary accordingly. You can pay anywhere from a hundred bucks to a few thousand. Quality usually varies with price.
A solid set of binoculars are a worthy investment for an avid spotter. However, excessive expenditure probably isn’t worth it for a one-off trip. Choose something sturdy, waterproof, with a wide lens (for quality in low lighting), that falls within your budget.
The same goes for a camera.
Having a quality camera for your safari means you can capture in detail anything you see. Your photos will be a fantastic record of your experience. They can also support your further learning.
Aim for a camera with a decent lens, high ISO (for quality in low lighting) and fast shutter speed. Faster shutter speeds mean you can shoot more frames per second. This is invaluable for capturing the dream photograph.
It’s unlikely that camera phones will cut it. However, as a last resort, they can do an okay job at close range. That said, they can be handy in other ways. For instance, many field-book type apps now exist.
They’ll help you identify the birds you spot in your area, and point out the best places to see them.
6. Improve Your Photography Skills
Having a great camera is one thing.
Being able to use it is another.
Learn how to shoot (photos) if you’re serious about taking photos while bird-spotting on your safari.
Having a camera is great. However, you can spend your whole time looking through a lens. Imagine coming away with only poor-quality photos to show for the day. The blurry image may be enough to help a pro identify the species. But it won’t be good enough to display on your wall back home!
7. Be Patient
Patience is the key to successful birdwatching.
That’s the case if you’re at home in the park, or on the plains of the Serengeti. Patience truly is a virtue for this pastime. You can’t predict when, or if, your bird will appear. You could be sat for minutes or hours, with or without success.
Thankfully, it’s difficult to be bored on safari. You’re surrounded by nature, in the midst of a totally new environment, with new sights and smells to enjoy at every turn.
However, any level of time pressure may particularly test your patience on safari. It’s far harder to remain patient when you know you’ve paid through the nose, have one day remaining, and haven’t seen anything yet!
Try to remain patient. The rarest bird in the world may be just around the corner!
Time For Watching Birds On Safari
There you have it: 7 top tips for spotting birds on safari.
Safaris are an immensely popular activity. But many people go solely for the land animals. What about the birds?! In Africa and elsewhere, thousands of bird species are available to see.
Whether you’re new to the bird-spotting scene, or a seasoned hand, a safari presents a prime opportunity for bird enthusiasts. But this popular pastime isn’t always straight-forward. A bird-spotting safari requires certain preparations and knowledge to make the most of it!
Hopefully, the tips above will help you do just that!