If you’re an avid birder, you probably have a bucket list of rare birds you dream of seeing one day. But like any bucket list, the distance between dreaming and doing can feel greater than the distance a Bar-tailed Godwit travels while migrating, especially when there is an element of risk involved.

The following destinations, though home to some of the rarest, most breathtaking birds on earth, might give even the most daring birder pause, especially given their travel advisory status from GRID – the Global Rescue Intelligence Delivery system, which is informed by the most recent and relevant resources, including the U.S. Department of State.

And yet these trips are not impossible. With smart research and planning, an abundance of persistent awareness, a Global Rescue membership with a security add-on and a lot of courage, you have the best chance to realize those birder bucket list dreams.


The close-up face of a Night Parrot.
Night Parrot – Photo by Kimberly Collins

1. Australia

It’s no surprise that Australia is very safe for traveling and has a low-risk rating (exercise normal precautions) by GRID. But you would need to embark on some daring adventures to spot the Night Parrot, only found in the Outback once the sun sets.


Two Beautiful Nuthatches perched in a tree.
Beautiful Nuthatches – Photo by Lee Alloway

2. Bhutan

Bird Spot lists Bhutan as one of the top birding destinations in the world.

“Unlike many other countries in the Himalayas, which have undergone massive deforestation programs, the kingdom of Bhutan has protected large areas of forest which means many species of birds thrive here that do not elsewhere,” according to Bird Spot.

Although GRID gives Bhutan a low-risk rating as well, we strongly advise that travelers have evacuation services for their trip due to the mountainous, remote nature of the country. In general, medical resources are scarce, especially outside populated areas. But if you’re willing to take the risk, you will be richly rewarded with the opportunity to see a wide variety of birds, including several endangered species like the Baer’s pochard, the Black-necked Stork, or the Beautiful Nuthatch.


A raptor soars high above the mountains in Peru.
An enormous bird of prey soars above the Peruvian mountains – Photo by Belinda Grasnick

3. Peru

Rated as having a moderate risk (exercise increased caution) by GRID, travel to Peru gets more dangerous the more remote you are. And you will need to get remote to see the more than 1,800 birds native to this South American birding paradise, said Nicholas Lund, expert birder and writer.

“Peru has one of the largest species lists of any country on Earth,” he said. “But to see them, you will need to travel to every region of the country, traversing the Humboldt Current, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin.”


A Dulit Frogmouth perched in a tree at night.
Dulit Frogmouth – Photo by Ross Tsai

4. Indonesia

“This tropical nation is one of the most storied birding destinations in the world, with hundreds of islands to explore and thousands of species to discover,” Lund said.

An increased level of caution is advised due to terrorism and natural disasters. But if you’re willing to take the trip, you may be lucky enough to see:

The Sunset Lorikeet, found on the islands neighboring Indonesia.

The Bronze Parotia of the Foya Mountains, which lives in West Papua, Indonesia.

The Dulit Frogmouth of Borneo, a mountainous island in the Indonesian archipelago.


Two Lear's Macaws perched on branches in captivity.
Lear’s Macaws – Photo by Jan Helebrant

5. Brazil

GRID also rates Brazil as a moderate risk country. There’s heightened risk as you travel through forests and encounter tropical birds, but it may be worth it to see:

The Lear’s Macaw. Although endangered, this bird, also known as the Indigo Macaw, can still be found in northeastern Brazil, especially at a reserve called the Canudos Biological Station. There you can find guided tours through the sandstone cliff habitat where they live.

The Scaled Ground-Cuckoo, which lives in the lower Amazon in northern Brazil. The Matador Network reports the bird is very hard to spot, and you must be prepared to “access some very inhospitable terrain and endure the stinging bites of the army ant swarms the species habitually follow.” reports the bird is very hard to spot, and you must be prepared to “access some very inhospitable terrain and endure the stinging bites of the army ant swarms the species habitually follow.”


The green and light yellow head and brown upper body of a Raggiana Bird of Paradise.
Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise – Photo by Mark Gillow

6. Papua New Guinea

GRID rates Papua New Guinea as high risk because of civil unrest, crime and piracy. Medical care is spotty, and birding adventures will take you to remote, hard-to-reach places. A trip here would require serious consideration and planning, and a Global Rescue membership with a security add-on would certainly provide the additional protection needed as you attempt to see:

The Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise, which is native to Papua New Guinea.

The Dwarf Cassowary—one of the world’s most elusive birds.

The Greater Bird-of-Paradise, which lives in inaccessible, dense rainforest habitats in Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands.

The Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise, which is found only in the Bird’s Head Peninsula in the far west. According to Nature Anywhere, this is a brand-new species!


The brilliant emerald green and ruby red of the Resplendent Quetzal
Resplendent Quetzal – Photo by Ryan Acandee

7. Guatemala

The Resplendent Quetzal lives in the mountainous tropical forests of Central America and is the national bird of Guatemala. Bella Falk for BBC’s Discover Wildlife reports that the quetzal is extremely elusive, and to see it in Guatemala, “you have to go to one of just four protected cloud forest reserves, which means getting up before dawn and hiking for several hours into the jungle.”

Crime levels are high in Guatemala and although medical services are available in Guatemala City, emergency medical care would be spotty on a remote trip to find this bird. For these reasons, we urge travelers to reconsider their trip to Guatemala (GRID rates it as a high-risk country).


A Golden Pheasant walks along the grass.
Golden Pheasant – Photo by Peter Trimming

8. China

The Golden Pheasant is native to the mountainous areas of western China. Due to political instability, GRID gives China a high-risk rating, and we urge people to reconsider travel. Medical care in China is also unpredictable, which is a critical emergency care gap especially since many China birding adventures would be in higher altitudes where the likelihood of Acute Mountain Sickness, HAPE or HACE is a serious threat.


9. The Democratic Republic of Congo

A trip to find the Congo Bay Owl is extremely dangerous, not to mention extremely rare. The last one seen was in 1996, the Matador Network reports. Could you be the next to lay eyes on one? Only if you’re willing to travel to the Itombwe Mountains in a high risk-ranked country fraught with politically motivated, violent conflicts, civil unrest, terrorism and kidnapping.


A Shoebill stork in the daylight.
Shoebill Stork – Photo by Eric Kilby

10. Senegal

This is the only non-extreme risk (“do not travel”) country where you may be able to spot the Shoebill Stork, White-crested Turaco and the Blue-bellied Roller.


Should You Stay or Should You Go?

As with any travel, we strongly advise our members always to abide by Global Rescue’s GRID-informed guidance. As you plan your next birding trip, always consider the risks involved. The best place to start is by reaching out to our team of experts who will help you identify and understand the potential dangers of a trip anywhere, and help you prepare to minimize the risks involved.