Choosing Between Organized Bird Tours & Self-Birding

For many, birding is a hobby where they take up the challenge to understand birds, watch them, list them and know about the bird’s behaviour, while for some it is their life itself! There are huge numbers of bird species that are endemic to different parts of the world. Almost every country has their endemic bird species, unique and different from the ones of other locations.

Thus, for bird watching and individuals wanting to engage in this hobby it requires travel to various parts of the world. This can be done in two ways, either you choose the roite to do it yourself or opt for one of the organized bird tours offered by tour companies specialized in bird watching.

One of the main question that comes is how to choose the method of travel for optimum results. Here are some thoughts on selecting the best option.

Self- bird tours: If you have enough knowledge about the bird species and you love to go on your own, you can try bird tours on your own. However, before you start your birding tour yourself, there are some things you should be aware of. Most of the time bird watching is not done with the eyes, but they are identified with their sound before even seeing them. A fair bit of knowledge and preparation before any of your bird tours should be done before embarking on a trip like this.

There are a lot of destinations around the world that are famous for bird tours. These include easy destinations like Texas or Colorado as well as tough destinations like Alaska or the Andes in Ecuador. The destination also plays a factor when deciding whether to go it alone of pay a bit more and go for the well planned and organized bird tours.

Planning and Logistics

All planning, booking hotels, transportation, meals and any other factors must be well researched and taken care of by you. This usually involves weeks or even months of planning. In some remote regions, this may be impossible even if you researched well enough and have the knowledge of where to go.


When on your own you have the ability to ensure that you get what you want. If you are into photography, it may be the best option to go it alone. You can spend all day searching for particular species or getting the right angle, the right lighting and other factors.


When on your own birding tour, you can be flexible. Organized birding tours follow a schedule. If on your own, you can do whatever you like. Feel tired one morning? Then you sleep in. You can be as flexible or as ridged as you like.

Locating Hot Spots

Everyone has access to information on the internet. You can research all the hot spots and be armed with a bank of knowledge before heading to a destination. However, most times the information on the internet are the common well known parks where you will find many other tourists and birding enthusiasts. Locals would sometimes be the only ones with knowledge of some hot spots that you will never find on the internet. One way around this is simply having a conversation with hotel owners or local guides to obtain some advice on local spots.


Most importantly, the main gear that you require while self-birding is your eyes and ears and there will be no one who will spot birds for you.


Self-birding sometimes appears to be cheaper and will usually be cheaper. However, you can find an organized tour for almost any budget.

Organized birding tours: Compared to self-birding, in organized birding tours you will get an organized tour itinerary along with tour guides who will take you to the trails most suitable for finding target species. It’s obvious that when you have taken an organized birding tour you will more than likely be with a group unless the tour is private. Skilled birding guides can spot birds and calls you may not be able to identify on your own.


One of the main advantages of an organized tour is that all hotels, meals and transportation would normally be included. This is usually a big factor for most people in the planning phase of any holiday. An organized tour takes all the stress of planning away from you.

Meeting your Objective

A key factor with organized tours would be locating the right hot spots for what you want to see. If you are into bird photography, you can join a tour specifically designed and slow paced to facilitate this. If you are a “twitcher” or world lister, then you might be targeting endemics and the objective will be on species count. This may be difficult to achieve on your own.


For some birders, sharing information at the end of the day and meeting strangers with similar interest is also a big attraction. Sharing photo tips and learning from others during the tour also increases the value of an organized tour. This is something you may not be able to experience while on your own.

Local Hot Spots

Organized tours can also provide opportunities to visit destinations you may never know of or consider if going alone. Tour operators with local guides are usually fantastic when it comes to local hot spots, culture and understanding of local conditions.


In some key birding destinations, safety can be an issue. Moving around on your own can be intimidating in those places and opens up some risks. With an organized tour, the risks are reduced considerably.


One disadvantage of an organized tour is the cost. It can sometimes be expensive. However, you can always find an organized tour to suit your budget. It often appears expensive as you get to see the total cost in one figure. When you tally the accumulative cost of doing it yourself and factor in all the planning time involved and risks, you might realize a well planned tour by a good birding company can be the same cost or even cheaper.

At the end of the day, whatever you choose you are going to have a fantastic time. What you need to do is decide which factors are important to you and make the call based on that. There isn’t a right or a wrong way when deciding on bird tours. Knowing what you want and what suits you and doing just that is the only thing that will matter.

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