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About WINGS Tours

The Company

We began in 1973 when Davis Finch and Will Russell formed Northeast Birding, an organization offering tours under their own leadership to the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. After some exploratory ventures, our program was gradually enlarged to include tours to Alaska, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. Rich Stallcup joined the company in 1977, giving us broader knowledge and better geographical balance, and the range of our tours continued to expand. In February 1980, we concluded an agreement with Sunbird, under which we offered a schedule of joint tours. In July 1980 we formed WINGS, incorporating Northeast Birding and Will Russell Weekends. We purchased Sunbird in August 1982, and David Fisher was appointed director of our United Kingdom operations. In 1987 we moved our headquarters from Northeast Harbor, Maine, to Tucson, Arizona.

Contact Information

Our telephone numbers are (866) 547-9868 (toll-free from the US and Canada) and (520) 320-9868.

Our fax number is (520) 320-9373.

Our e-mail address is wings@wingsbirds.com

Our mailing address:
WINGS
1643 N. Alvernon, Suite 109
Tucson, Arizona 85712

The office is staffed from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday, by Kathi McIvor, Greg Greene, Liz Payne, Erin Olmstead and Matt Brooks. Will Russell is WINGS’ managing director.

The Tours

Our tours are planned as ones that we ourselves would like to go on, so they are very strongly oriented toward birds. All WINGS leaders have varied interests in natural history and other related fields, but the timing and itinerary of our tours is dictated almost entirely by ornithological considerations. A few tours combine serious birdwatching with other activities appropriate to the area, or even with simple relaxation, and these are clearly indicated.

Unless otherwise noted in the tour text, group size for our tours ranges from four to 16 people plus the leader(s). Very occasionally, group sizes will be larger, as when the use of chartered aircraft or boats requires larger groups to keep our per-person costs within bounds.

If you have never taken a birding tour, you might want to look at our essay Choosing a Birding Tour.

The Pace of Our Tours

Birdwatching involves some odd hours and at least a modest amount of physical activity, and we want all participants to understand fully what’s required. Birds are most active during the early hours, and often we’ll have a pre-breakfast walk or an early breakfast before leaving for more distant points. All tours require gentle walking, sometimes for periods of up to six hours. Birdwatching is continuous, of course, and we rest as necessary. At times we climb hills, walk on uneven or wet terrain, or push through vegetation. On tours with more than one leader, we are sometimes able to have “faster” and “slower” groups. Lunches are often picnics, but sometimes we have a sit-down or “fast food” lunch. In warm climates we usually rest during the heat of the day, venturing out again in mid- to late afternoon and returning to the hotel an hour or so before dinner. A bird list is compiled most days, usually before or after dinner. Nightlife more adventurous than an after-dinner drink is seldom possible on most tours, as we normally stay in hotels well away from commercial development.

All activities are optional within the general framework of the tour. We encourage and assist participants in the pursuit of personal aims if these do not conflict with the conduct of the tour. Persons with specific non-ornithological goals should contact WINGS before the tour to determine whether they can be realized.

Most tour participants have been birdwatching for some time, and while their skills may vary, they normally have binoculars, know how to use them, and are familiar with at least the rudiments of how to watch birds. If you have never watched birds before, please contact us and we’ll suggest a few ways to help you prepare for your tour.

What the Tour Price Includes

The price for tours includes all travel as noted in the itinerary, lodging in comfortable hotels/motels or their equivalent unless otherwise indicated, all meals unless otherwise noted, tour materials, and the services of the leader(s). Routine tips for included meals, porters, drivers, and other service providers are also included. Gratuities for WINGS/Sunbird leaders are at your discretion.

The Single Occupancy Supplement listed for each tour provides a single room throughout the tour unless otherwise noted. Certain small lodges will not provide single rooms if they are heavily booked; these are listed in the “Notes” section of their respective tour itinerary. In such cases, the portion of the Single Occupancy Supplement applicable to the lodge or lodges will be refunded.

Unless a single room is specifically requested on your reservation form, all registrants will be assigned a suitable roommate. If no roommate is available, a single room will be provided and you will be charged the Single Occupancy Supplement.

Baggage handling assistance is provided by our hotels or by the leader(s) unless otherwise noted.

The following items are not included in the tour price: passports, visas, departure taxes, immunizations, excess baggage charges, optional excursions, telephone calls, alcoholic beverages, laundry, room service, snacks, or anything of a purely personal nature. If you have questions, please contact us.

Restrictions on Tour Participation

Restrictions on participation are a matter of common sense, and we impose no absolute restrictions. If you have a health problem or any physical limitation that may hamper or restrict your full involvement in any aspect of the tour, or about which we should be aware for your safety (for example, walking difficulties, diabetes, asthma, angina, and so on), please advise us in detail and in writing at the time you reserve space. We will provide any information that you or your doctor may need to judge your capacity to participate fully in the tour, and we may request a physician’s letter indicating that you are healthy enough to participate on the tour. We do not normally program strenuous physical exercise, but if it cannot be avoided, the fact is made explicit in the tour description and in the General Information sheets for the tour. Participants should be able to complete gentle walks of up to half a day, ride in any seat in tour vehicles, and meet the simple schedule of the tour. We reserve the right to send home persons unable or unwilling to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with the satisfactory operation of the tour.

Please note that we do not allow the collecting of plants or animals during any tour.

Reservations, Deposits, and Payments

Reservations for tours require a deposit of 10% of the tour cost per person, of which $200 is non-refundable upon receipt. Certain tours, such as Kenya and most cruises, may have higher deposit requirements; participants will be notified of those deposit amounts when they register. If the tour is not yet priced, the deposit amount is a flat $350. After the tour is priced and if 10% of the tour price exceeds $350, WINGS may send a supplemental invoice for the difference.

Reservations with deposits are accepted in order of their receipt. Telephone reservations are accepted provided that they are followed by the appropriate deposit within 10 business days. Reservations can be made online here. A printable reservation form can also be found by following the previous link.

Invoices for the balance of the tour price will be mailed about 14 weeks (98 days) before the departure date. Payment is due on receipt of our invoice.

Payment must be made in US dollars by check, credit card (MasterCard or Visa), money order, or bank transfer.

WINGS offers a 4% discount on most tours (some cruises excepted) when the tour balance on the final tour invoice is paid by check, money order or bank transfer; details can be found here. Within 70 days of tour departure, all payments must be made by credit card; no discount will be applied. If you have any questions about our payment and discount policies, please contact the WINGS office.

Refunds

Refunds for tours are made according to the following schedule:

If notice of tour registrant cancellation is received prior to invoicing (normally 98 days before departure but sometimes more – see Tour Confirmation below), the deposit – less the non-refundable amount of $200 – and any payments are refundable.

If notice of cancellation is received between the invoicing and confirmation dates (normally 28 days apart - see Tour Confirmation below), the deposit is not refundable but any payments against the balance of the tour price will be returned. Please note that anyone canceling a Sunbird-organized tour at any time may also be subject to cancellation penalties for deposits or payments, if any, made on their behalf for air tickets or concert tickets.

If notice of cancellation is received after a tour has been confirmed (see Tour Confirmation below), all deposits and payments are non-refundable.

If a tour registrant cancels a booking, WINGS permits a one-time penalty-free transfer of a tour deposit to a subsequent WINGS tour as long as the cancellation and transfer takes place prior to invoicing (normally 98 days before departure but it varies), and as long as the tour to which the deposit is transferred begins within 18 months of the start date of the original tour. If the tour registrant cancels the subsequent tour, the original deposit will not be refunded or transferred.

No refunds are given for skipped meals or other on-tour activities.

Price Increases

Price increases may occur unexpectedly. In costing tours months in advance, we try to anticipate the rising cost of airfares, ground transportation, and lodging, but if unexpected increases occur, we reserve the right to charge participants an increase of up to 10% of the tour price. If greater increases are necessary, participants may withdraw without penalty.

Tour Alterations

Our tours are carefully planned but sometimes circumstances beyond our control require us to make significant changes after a tour has been published on the WINGS website. If such changes, for example in itinerary or leadership, are necessary before a tour has been confirmed to run (70 days before tour departure unless otherwise specified), participants will be informed and may withdraw from the tour without penalty.

If significant changes occur after a tour has been confirmed but before it has departed, it will be WINGS decision whether or not we can run the tour successfully. Participants may withdraw without penalty only if they have WINGS written agreement. If WINGS decides the tour cannot be run successfully, the tour price will be refunded.

If significant changes to itinerary or mode of operation are forced upon us while a tour is in progress—for example, by an airline strike, weather delay, or political crisis—WINGS will adjust the tour to the new realities as best it can but other than for its leaders and staff, WINGS is not responsible for any additional costs. These costs, if any, are a participant expense and will be invoiced after the tour concludes.

Please note that when two leaders are listed, the second may not accompany the tour if there are insufficient registrations.

WINGS reserves the right to increase a tour’s maximum group size by one if the increase has minimal effect on tour operations and if the extra person is the spouse, partner or family member of someone already booked.  The few tours that qualify for this alteration have a “Group Size” note in their “Tour Information” section.

Tour Confirmation

Most WINGS tours are confirmed 70 days prior to their departure date. In rare cases, for example Christmastime tours, an earlier confirmation date may be set. All set non-standard confirmation dates are noted in the Tour Information posted on the WINGS website and mailed to all tour registrants at the time of their booking.

WINGS may on occasion select a tour for Early Tour Invoicing and Confirmation (ETIC). These are typically international tours where participants often have pre- or post-tour travel plans and/or the tour has internal flights that may become space-limited as the tour start date approaches. If a tour is a candidate for the ETIC process, registrants will be notified sometime in the months prior to the normal invoicing date (98 days before tour start). Participation is voluntary - those who choose not to participate will be invoiced at the regular time - but we’ll need a threshold level of acceptance before early invoicing can move forward. If that threshold is not reached, the tour will be invoiced at the normal time.  ETIC allows participants to make their travel arrangements much sooner than would otherwise be possible, and may allow WINGS to purchase in-tour services at a lower than projected costs. These savings, if any, will be returned to the clients who opted for ETIC. More information can be found here.

Tour registrants are advised to be cautious about purchasing services such as flights from home or personal pre- or post-tour activities prior to WINGS’ formal confirmation of their tour. If WINGS has to cancel or alter a tour before formal tour confirmation, registrants will be responsible for any penalties associated with the cancellation of such services. If the early purchase of such services is important, registrants are advised to discuss their purchase with WINGS.

Closed Tours

A confirmed tour is listed as “closed to new bookings” when it is inside the date on which it was confirmed – normally 70 days out but sometimes longer – and all the spaces have been booked and paid, with payments now non-refundable. Cancellations after this point are extremely rare and no formal waitlist is maintained. Should a very late cancellation occur, the tour will be listed immediately on the WINGS website home page under the “Upcoming Tours” heading.

Tour Cancellation

In case of cancellation by WINGS, all deposits and other payments for the tour or tour extension will be refunded. Participants should note that the cancellation of a tour’s pre-tour or post-tour extension does not affect their rights and obligations with respect to the main portion of the same tour. Please note as well that WINGS reserves the right to cancel all or part of a tour at any time if we feel that the health and/or safety of our participants is at risk. For more details on refunds, see Refunds above.

Tour Materials

Past or prospective bird lists and General Information sheets will be sent to each registrant on receipt of a deposit. Final tour information, meeting instructions, a participant list, and any additional materials will be mailed about three weeks before tour departure. A final tour report will be mailed to all participants after the tour.

Tours Abroad

Having the correct documentation in place before your trip is essential and visa requirements for U.S. citizens (and citizens of other countries) vary notably by country. WINGS will provide details about obligations known to us at the time, but regulations can change with little or no notice. It is the participant’s sole responsibility for checking foreign entry requirements and when necessary, obtaining a visa from the appropriate embassy or consulate. Alternatively, a visa service can be convenient; for a fee they will handle everything to obtain your visa or expedite your passport. Instructions can conveniently be downloaded from the CIBT website. They can be reached at 800 577 2428800 577 2428. Mention account number 50097 to obtain discounted rates.

Travel Insurance

WINGS is pleased to offer our clients travel insurance from Travelex. Just click on the link for a quote. Travel insurance offers welcome protection to those for whom a health-related trip cancellation is a concern. Travel insurance also usually protects you if you fall ill while on the tour (for example, it may get you back home). Please note that most travel insurance companies require insurance to be purchased within a certain amount of time after initial deposit(s) are sent to the travel company. Please check with your preferred carrier to determine this time limit.

You can purchase your Travelex policy through WINGS here.

Travel to the Point of Departure

WINGS and Bon Voyage Travel would be happy to assist with your travel arrangements. If you would like assistance, please contact Donna Nelson with Bon Voyage Travel at (800) 518-7338(800) 518-7338 or (520) 825-2757(520) 825-2757 x 226, ask for Donna and identify yourself as a WINGS client.

Sunbird

Some of the tours we offer are organized by our British company, Sunbird. Their standards are identical to ours. Sunbird-organized tours are identified as such at the end of the tour text. Sunbird’s website can be found at www.sunbirdtours.co.uk.

Sunbird Tour Prices

As noted above, a number of the tours displayed on the WINGS website are organized by our British company, Sunbird. Sunbird prices these tours in pounds sterling (hereafter simply pounds) and advises WINGS of the pound price. This usually takes place in July. WINGS then converts the pound price to US dollars at a conservative exchange rate and posts the dollar price on the WINGS website. Sunbird of course posts its pound price on the Sunbird website.

Our U.S. dollar prices for 2014 Sunbird organized tours were set in July 2013 using an exchange rate of $1.55 per pound sterling. Our U.S. dollar prices for 2015 Sunbird organized tours were set in June 2014 using an exchange rate of $1.62 per pound sterling. As noted above, the dollar prices calculated at these rates are the ones that appear on the WINGS website.

Once a price has been posted to the WINGS website, it remains unchanged. However at client invoicing time, we take the pound sterling invoices from Sunbird and convert them to dollars using the exchange rate in effect at the time of the Sunbird invoice, plus a modest hedge against currency fluctuations. Please note that the invoicing exchange rate may be more or less than the rate we used when the tours were originally priced, and as a result the tour price in dollars at invoicing may be somewhat more or somewhat less than the tour price posted on the WINGS website. Please note too that WINGS clients on Sunbird tours can always pay WINGS the pound sterling price rather than the dollar price. Both will be listed on client invoices. For additional details, please contact the WINGS office.

Assumption of Risk and Liability Release Agreement

While WINGS BIRDWATCHING TOURS, INC., spares no effort in its attempt to provide its clients and staff with a safe travel environment, we frequently travel to remote locations where medical care may be nonexistent or minimal, where the terrain may be rugged and unpeopled, and where local governments may respond very differently than our own. We expect our clients to take reasonable and prudent care for their own safety and to recognize that WINGS cannot guarantee anyone’s personal safety. For these reasons, we are willing to provide you with the tour opportunity you have requested only if you accept your personal responsibilities and you release us from liability for your safety within the limits of the law by entering into the Assumption Of Risk And Liability Release Agreement that you will be sent at the time you register for a tour.

Download the Assumption Of Risk And Liability Release Agreement [PDF, 64KB].

Note: The WINGS website constitutes our document of record. Should published or distributed materials concerning tour descriptions, itineraries, costs, etc., differ in any way from the current WINGS website version, the WINGS website version is correct.

Updated: May 2014