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Focus on a Bird Festival

Photographers train their lenses at fields of sandhill cranes and snow geese at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge’s Festival of the Cranes in New Mexico.
Photographers train their lenses at fields of sandhill cranes and snow geese at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge’s Festival of the Cranes in New Mexico.
Credit: Susan Morse, USFWS
A sandhill crane performs its stately courtship dance.
A sandhill crane performs its stately courtship dance.
Credit: USFWS

With so many national wildlife refuges located near one of the nation’s four major flyways, it is no wonder refuges are favorite bird festival sites. Many bird festivals occur in April and May to coincide with spring migration and International Migratory Bird Day, observed on or about the second Saturday in May.


The day calls attention to the remarkable journeys of some 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and wintering grounds in South and Central America. Many refuges will host public events on or around that day. To find an IMBD event near you, see the Bird Day Map. This year’s IMBD theme is “Go Wild, Go Birding.”

 

  • Tundra Swan Day

Saturday, March 12, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT
Celebrate the return of the tundra swans. Enjoy family activities, crafts, movies and  guided sections of the refuge’s auto loop to watch these beautiful migratory birds. Learn more about Bear River Refuge.

  • Eagle Festival  

Saturday, March 12, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
The refuge’s 11th annual Eagle Festival features live raptor programs, kids’ activities, a photography workshop, a guided bird walk, exhibits and the popular Eagle Prowls. Free events for the whole family. Learn more about Blackwater Refuge.

  • Prairie Chicken Festival

Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Enjoy tours of the refuge, native plants and Attwater’s prairie chickens on their booming grounds. Learn more about the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge and the festival.

  • Santee Birding and Nature Festival

Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1 — Santee National Wildlife Refuge, SC
Join birders and naturalists at one of the state’s only nature festivals. Take field trips throughout the midlands of South Carolina. Learn about wonderful natural places and their inhabitants. Learn more about Santee Refuge.

  • Balcones Songbird Festival

Friday, April 29 to Monday, May 2 — Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Enjoy refuge tours and workshops. Learn more about the festival. Learn more about Balcones Canyonlands Refuge.

  • Birding Festival

Saturday, April 30, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Henry N. Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center, IL
The event, highlighting the area’s rich history, abundant wildlife and natural areas, features  guided canoe tours, bike trips, hikes and field trips to Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Nature enthusiasts and birders are also invited to participate in Birding Blitz 2011, a fun competition to identify birds. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

  • May Day Fly In

Sunday, May 1, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Celebrate opening day of the refuge’s seasonal trail system. See how many birds you can find on a checklist. Volunteer naturalists will be on the trail with spotting scopes. They will also lead hands-on nature activities. Learn more about the refuge.

  • International Migratory Bird Day Celebration

May 14, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
Choose from two activities: 1) Take a one-hour bird walk with naturalists at 8 a.m. Look for migratory birds such as warblers, orioles and kingbirds. Beginners are welcome. The bird walk is limited to 24 people. 2) Hop on a refuge bus tour to see migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.
The refuge tour is limited to 24 people. Call 575-835-1828 for reservations. Learn more about Bosque del Apache Refuge.

  • Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

Thursday, May 5 to Sunday, May 8, Homer, AK
This four-day birding festival features workshops, tours, hikes and entertainment plus field trips to Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Birds to see include: rufous hummingbird, horned puffin, red-necked stint. Learn more about Alaska Maritime Refuge.

  • The Biggest Week in American Birding

Thursday, May 5 to Sunday, May 15 — Northwest Ohio
This major bird festival features field trips to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Birds to see include: Kirtland’s warbler. Learn more about Ottawa Refuge.

  • Horicon Marsh Bird Festival

Friday, May 6 to Monday, May 9 — Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, WI
Enjoy guided birding hikes, bus and boat tours, bird banding demonstrations and more.
Learn more about Horicon Refuge.

  • Virginia Birding Festival

Thursday, May 12 to Saturday, May 14 — Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, VA
Enjoy guided bird walks, owl prowls, refuge bus tours, photography and birding workshops, family activities. Free event registration begins mid-March. To register, call 757-986-3705. Learn more about Great Dismal Swamp Refuge

  • Tualatin River Bird Festival

Friday, May 13 to Sunday, May 15 — Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Enjoy nature photography workshops, a bike ride, river paddle trips, native basketry, nature journaling workshops, art and music, a winemaker’s dinner and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Tualatin River Refuge.

  • Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

Thursday, May 12 to Monday, May 16 — Farmington, UT
This birding festival features field trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. See if you can spot a burrowing owl. Learn more about Bear River Refuge.

  • Wings Over Muscatatuck Bird Festival

Saturday, May 14 — Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, IN
The festival features guided bird tours of the refuge, bird walks, live birds of prey programs, kids’ birding activities and many wildlife-related interpretive programs. Learn more about Muscatatuck Refuge.

  • Celebrate Birds for International Migratory Bird Day

Saturday, May 14, 9 a.m. to noon — Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge, WA, and McNary National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Identify, count and observe bird species. At McNary Refuge, take part in bird games and activities about the amazing effort and obstacles birds experience on their migrations. At Toppenish Refuge, enjoy a hayride. Learn more about International Migratory Bird Day. Learn more about Toppenish Refuge and McNary Refuge.

  • Alaska Birding Festival

Thursday, May 19 to Sunday, May 22 — Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, AK 
This three-day event includes field trips and a children’s program. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Kenai Refuge.

  • Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds

Thursday, May 19 to Sunday, May 22 — Detroit Lakes, MN
This birding festival will feature field trips to Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District and Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Tamarac Refuge.

  • Birding Festival

Friday, June 10, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  and Saturday, June 11, 6 a.m. to noon — Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, ND
Free birding festival focuses on grassland species, especially sparrows. Includes youth activities and prairie wildflower walk. Learn about on-going research on sharp-tailed grouse. RSVP’s required. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Lostwood Refuge.

  • Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Wednesday, November 9, to Sunday, November 13 — Harlingen, TX.
The festival includes field trips to Laguna Atascosa, Lower Rio Grande Valley and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. Featured events: lectures, workshops, birding trips, boating on the Arroyo and other guided trips. Birds to see include: great kiskadee, green jay, Altamira oriole and chachalaca. Learn more about Southwest Texas Refuges.

  • Festival of the Cranes

Tuesday, November Nov 15, to Sunday, November 20 — Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM

Marvel at the dramatic dawn fly-outs and sunset fly-ins of thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese. This standout birding event features six days of workshops, tours, events, lectures, hikes, fine art and photography, and more. Learn more about the event. Learn more about Bosque del Apache Refuge.

 

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