About the Birding Tours
The Southern Tour
The southern tour of Bonaire is Susan’s favorite for photography. Because it is flat and open, there is usually great line-of-sight with the birds, so it offers excellent photographic opportunities. South is particularly nice in the afternoon when the sun is shining onto the shoreline and the saliña (where many of the birds are found). The southern tour is mostly a driving tour, and stops are made when birds are located.
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site.
This area in the south of Bonaire has been declared a WHSRN site, one of only two in the Caribbean region. More than 20,000 shorebirds of 17 differing species visit the Pekelmeer each year. This includes a large concentration of shorebirds, with 1% of the biogeographic population of Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus griseus/hendersoni) and the threatened rufa subspecies of Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa).
Birds you may expect to see on the southern tour.
In the south of Bonaire, along the Cargill salt flats, there are a variety of birds commonly observed, including herons and egrets, flamingos, ospreys (more prevalent during the winter months), seabirds, and shorebirds. During spring and fall migrations, migrant shorebirds can be found as well. Bonaire’s Brown-throated Parakeet might also be found on the southern tour.
The Interior Tour
The interior tour of Bonaire is a favorite one for those birders who are looking for diversity. A prime component of this tour is a hiking tour of Bonaire’s wastewater treatment plant, the one location on the island which offers a continual source of fresh water. Because of this, the location offers the best avian diversity on the island.
Birds you may expect to see on the interior tour.
In this location, you may see migratory birds or those which over-winter on Bonaire, warblers, ducks, herons, egrets, and usually some flamingos, but not in quantity. It’s also possible to observe Ospreys, Merlins (both more prevalent during the winter months), and shorebirds. Bonaire’s Brown-throated Parakeet might be found in this location as well.
Prepare for hiking.
This is mainly a hiking tour and the trails (where there are trails) are not groomed, but natural. During the hike, you’ll be brushing past thorn trees, and also walking upon a trail with thorns.
Sturdy closed shoes are mandatory, sneakers do not have a thick enough sole and thorns could go through them. Be sure to wear thick-soled hiking shoes, and long pants and long sleeves to avoid scratches.
The Northern Tour
Going north, it is possible to see many of the same birds, but because north is hilly and much more forested (especially after the rainy season October through January) there is not the same line-of-sight with many of the birds, thus making good images more difficult. Birds may be partially hidden in foliage or further away.
Also, the road on the northern tour is narrow and twisty, so spotting a bird, and pulling off to the side of the road to observe and photograph it, is, in most cases, simply not possible. Instead, for the northern tour, several birding hot-spots will be selected where we will quietly sit to see what comes to visit–it’s a different style of birding from the southern tour.
Birds you may expect to see on the northern tour.
In the north, one can expect to see herons and egrets, flamingos, ospreys (more prevalent in the winter months), Crested Caracaras, parakeets, terrestrial birds, and, depending upon the time of day, Bonaire’s Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot, locally called the “lora.”
What to bring for your Birding Tour:
Bonaire’s tropical sun may be overly bright for many, so it is suggested that you bring a big floppy hat to shade your face and the back of your neck. Sunglasses may also assist with glare from the sun.
To avoid sunburn, a light‐weight long‐sleeve shirt, such as a rash guard, is recommended. If you have uncovered skin, do be sure to wear a reef‐safe sunscreen.
In most cases, annoying insects (mosquitoes, gnats, or no‐see‐ums) are not a problem. However, on days of light wind, they can become a nuisance. Bug spray will be available, but if you have a favorite brand, do pack it. If you are visiting during the light‐wind months of September and October, it is also recommended to pack a bandana, which can be placed over the nose and mouth if the insects are overly annoying.
If you plan on photographing, please bring your longest lens capability. All types of cameras, even smartphones, can be used on the tour, but being able to zoom in will definitely enhance your images.