I have recently started using the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS for bird photography. It is the size of a small SLR camera but has a 35 X optical zoom, or the equivalent of about an 800 mm lens. The quality is quite good and it shoots excellent HD video also. It has great image stabilization and can even be had held at the maximum zoom. A newer model has a 50X optical zoom lens. The SX 40 is about $330.
A lot of my friends are excellent bird and nature photographers. Glenn Bartley is a Canadian but spends a lot of time in the tropics. Here is one of his photos of the Andean Cock-of-the Rock. This species is found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, PerÃº, and Bolivia. Females are much plainer in appearance. After mating, the male disappears and the female has to build the nest and raise the young. Same behavior as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.