Eurasian Widgeon

Reinventing Paradise Birding

Reinventing Paradise Birding: 2015 and Beyond

steve shunk paradise birdingI started teaching birding classes in 1992, and Paradise Birding officially debuted in 1997. Since then, the business has grown steadily, so that we now have over 1200 birders on our master email list. We are greatly appreciative of all your support over the years! Thanks to your loyalty, we weathered the worst of the economic period in the last few years, and business has begun to recover dramatically in the last 18 months.
Over the last year, my girlfriend and business partner, Christine Elder, has completely overhauled our web site, and this inspired us to take close look at our “brand” and our business model. We have an original mission statement, but this was the closest thing I ever had to a plan for the company. I simply added tours any time I had scouted a new location, promoted those tours to the mailing list and web audience, and ran the tours that reached the minimum registration. I rarely concerned myself with competition or marketing, as it was all I could do to just manage the daily operations of the business.
With Christine’s efforts to increase the profile of Paradise Birding, it has become time for us to take a closer look at where we fit into the increasingly crowded landscape of the birding tour business. What do we do that sets us apart? What do you, our clients, want? Why do you come birding with us? And how can we continue to satisfy your collective desires for new birding experiences?


I started teaching birding as a way to share my own enthusiasm for birds and as a vehicle to educate people about conservation. Conservation has always been a part of our birding “message”. Sound ecological systems require conservation of resources in our world of growing human population pressures. Conversely, the cascading degradation of unhealthy ecosystems eventually reaches all organisms in those systems, including humans. We like showcasing healthy ecosystems, but in order for these places to sustainably persist, we need to ensure they are conserved.
Conservation of bird habitats around the world is a gargantuan task. Our small company can only hope to have a small impact on the health of the global ecology. One of the things that sets Paradise Birding apart from other birding tour companies is my knowledge and experience with woodpeckers, and woodpeckers are keystone organisms—critical ecological components—in forests and woodlands around the world. This brings us to our first initiative in the reinvention of Paradise Birding:


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists more than 20 of the world’s 180 woodpecker species (in the subfamily Picinae) as threatened at some level. In 2015, we will begin a series of woodpecker conservation tours, with the following goals:

Our Woodpecker Conservation Tours will take to such exciting places as Brazil, Columbia, Japan, Vietnam, Borneo, and South Africa, as well as the Caribbean and even the North American continent!

Click this link to see a spreadsheet of the target species, their locations, and our tentative Woodpecker Conservation Tour schedule. Email us now to put your name on the interest list for a given tour so we can keep you updated as plans progress!



Our second initiative addresses the pace and planning for our tours. Many of you over the years have told us how much you appreciate staying multiple nights in single locations. Less packing and unpacking and less traveling from town to town mean more birding time and a chance for broader appreciation of our favorite birding sites. We do our best to avoid single-night stays, but only a few of our tours stay longer than 2 nights in the same spot, and we want to change this.
For 2015, we will expand several tours so that we stay at least 3 nights in each location. Whenever possible, we will also plan new tours with this theme in mind. Here some examples how this will look for 2015:


tanagerImproved Guide : Client Ratio

I worked 9 years for Recreational Equipment Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one of the most important things I learned from REI was the value of good customer service. We have always sought to offer you the best possible service on our tours, and we hope that this commitment is one of the reasons you keep coming back for new trips from year-to-year. For 2015, we will take this commitment to a higher level, with the following pledge and our third new initiative for the New Year:

We believe that additional guide support will ensure that you get the best possible customer service, plain and simple. Our tour costs, and hence the fees you pay, will go up in the coming year to cover the second guide, but we believe that the enhanced level of service will be well worth the extra cost.
Getting additional guides trained and experienced will also mean we can expand our future tour schedule by offering overlapping trips. We recognize that many of you come birding with us because you like birding with me personally, but we further this commitment to you by pledging to only hire other guides that will make you want to come back on their next tour. 


We hope that you will personally take advantage of our exciting new initiatives, along with our full complement of tours in the coming year (and beyond!). We are always open for feedback on how we can better serve you, so please keep your ideas coming. Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, and help with a Christmas Bird Count or two. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Good Birding!