Grab the binoculars and head to the mountains, the coast or the canyons to observe beautiful creatures in flight. Here are five places to consider:
1 Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Perhaps you’ve heard about the cliff-diving blue-footed boobies? Or the 8-foot wingspan of the waved albatross? The latter is also known for an elaborate courtship dance that can include 20 minutes of bowing, honking, whistling and bill clacking.
Perhaps the most famous and biologically important of the island birds are Darwin’s 13 species of finches. The creatures were central to the scientist’s evolutionary theories. Learn more about the volcanic island’s winged population via a cruise or a hotel-based tour.
2 Socorro, N.M.: With more than 500 winged creatures on its bird list, this state offers ample opportunity for bird-loving families. Plan to visit the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for the annual Festival of the Cranes next November to see snow geese and sandhill cranes land en masse at sunset. Learn more during tours, workshops and hikes crafted for all ages and levels of experience.
3 Everglades National Park, Homestead, Fla.: Follow paved roads or wooden boardwalks to spot warblers, mangrove cuckoos, herons, egrets and other wading birds in the country’s largest subtropical wilderness area.
Eagles, hawks and osprey also abound in this 1.5-million-acre park. Home to 360 species, a World Heritage Site and designated as a Wetland of International Importance, the national park offers a free Junior Ranger program to enhance the experience for young explorers.
4 Falkland Islands: Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, this 740-island archipelago is known for its large and accessible rare-bird colonies, home to as many as 1 million penguins. Visitors are eager to see them frolicking in the surf or waddling along the beach.
Be on the lookout for the Cobb’s wren, a striated cara-cara and the flightless steamer duck. The islands also serve as the breeding ground for more than 70 percent of the world’s black-browed albatrosses.
5 Southern Arizona: Visit this region to see as many as 250 bird species, including more than 15 kinds of colorful hummingbirds.
Make your way to the Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area, rich with winged wildlife, thanks to careful preservation of the fragile ecosystem.
Each January, the Wings Over Willcox festival (Jan. 14-18) celebrates the migrating sandhill cranes.