Surprise. You don’t have to be a serious birder to get a kick out of a refuge bird festival. All you need is a wish to see skies suddenly fill with more birds than you’ve ever seen before.
National wildlife refuges make great festival sites because they’re bird magnets; many protect key bird habitat along the country’s major flyways. Many festivals coincide with spring or fall migration. Here are some great refuge bird festivals to check out in 2015:
Festival of the Cranes
January 10, 2015
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, AL
See thousands of wintering sandhill cranes plus whooping cranes and white pelicans. The easternmost refuge in the Mississippi Flyway, Wheeler Refuge boasts Alabama’s largest population of wintering ducks. Enjoy workshops, nature walks, live raptors and kids’ activities.
Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway
January 21-25, 2015
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is one of several field trip destinations for this major West Coast bird festival. The refuge, a Central Valley birding hotspot, boasts a large viewing platform overlooking wetlands teeming with bird life, a photography blind (available by reservation), an auto-tour route and miles of hiking trails.
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival
January 21-26, 2015
Eastern Florida State College in Titusville
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a field trip destination for this yearly bird festival, billed as one of the country’s largest and best. Included: workshops, exhibits and demonstrations.
Winter Wings Bird Festival
February 12-15, 2015
Klamath Falls, OR
The four-day festival offers visitors the chance to visit nearby Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Crater Lake National Park and other Klamath Basin birding hotspots.
Florida Scrub-Jay Festival
February 28, 2015
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL
The festival celebrates the only bird species unique to the Sunshine State. Florida scrub-jays are found at Hobe Sound, Lake Wales Ridge and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuges. Enjoy live music, guided nature walks, live animal displays, children’s crafts and environmental exhibits.
Whooping Crane Festival
February 19-22, 2015
Port Aransas, TX
“America’s Birdiest Small Coastal City” hosts a festival that includes a field trip to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see cranes in their winter habitat.
San Diego Bird Festival
March 5-8, 2015
Mission Bay Park, CA
Festival field trip destinations include San Diego Refuge, San Diego Bay Refuge, Tijuana Slough Refuge and Seal Beach Refuge. Also featured: workshops, sea birding and cultural activities.
Othello Sandhill Crane Festival
March 27-29, 2015
Experience the beauty and wonder of the natural world, highlighted by the return of sandhill cranes to the Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington. Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is one of many field trip destinations. The three-day community event includes wildlife tours, lectures on the area’s natural and cultural heritage, an art contest and children’s activities.
April 9-12, 2015
The festival includes field trips to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken Festival
April 11-12, 2015
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Eagle Lake, TX
See the courtship dance of the endangered Attwater’s prairie-chicken in coastal prairie habitat at this annual celebration. Tours to view these imperiled birds start at 7 a.m.
Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival
April 15-21, 2015
Field trip destinations for this festival along the northern California coast include Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The event also includes scores of eco-tours and workshops, an art show and live birds of prey.
Bayou Teche Black Bear and Birding Festival
April 17-19, 2015
The annual festival celebrates species found in North America’s largest river swamp, such as the American white pelican and roseate spoonbill. Guided boat tours and paddling trips into Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge are featured attractions, along with a photo show, music and fireworks.
Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival
April 23-25, 2015
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, VA
Enjoy a festival in a birder’s paradise during the height of the spring neotropical songbird migration. You might catch a glimpse of a Swainson’s warbler and Wayne’s warbler, two of North America’s most secretive birds. The festival is part of International Migratory Bird Day, which celebrates the incredible journeys of migratory birds between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America.
Balcones Songbird Festival
April 24-27, 2015
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Enjoy guided birding and nature tours of the refuge, which boasts some of the finest birding habitat in the state.
Wings ‘N’ Wetlands Festival
April 24-25, 2015
Great Bend, KS
Enjoy birding in the wetlands of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and other Central Flyway locales during spring migration. The festival includes guided small-group field trips and workshops. For added details, visit: http://kansasbirdingfestival.org/.
South Dakota Birding Festival
May 1-3, 2015
Fort Randall, SD
Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge and Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge host this annual festival. The festival includes field trips by foot and bus, songbird banding and presentations
International Migratory Bird Day Celebration
International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is the only international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Each year IMBD explores a different aspect of migratory birds and their conservation. Many wildlife refuges take part in IMBD celebrations.To find an IMBD event near you, see the Bird Day Map. Learn more about International Migratory Bird Day. As the date approaches, check the Refuge System special events calendar for more IMBD event listings.
Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival
May 7-10, 2015
The state of Alaska’s largest wildlife festival includes field trips to Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Biggest Week in American Birding
May 8-17, 2015
This major bird festival takes place at the peak of spring bird migration in the Lake Erie Marsh region of the state. The festival features field trips to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
Cache River Nature Fest
May 9, 2015
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL
The 14th annual festival highlights the rich diversity of habitats and wildlife in the Cache River Watershed. The festival will include guided birding hikes, canoe tours, live animal demonstrations plus many exhibitors and programs.
Wings Over Muscatatuck Bird Festival
May 9, 2015
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, IN
The all-day festival includes guided bird van tours, bird and nature walks, kids’ activities, live birds of prey programs, birdhouse building, a bird-calling contest, and the Junior Duck Stamp Contest Awards ceremony. Visitors are also welcome to take part in a May Day Bird Count, part of a statewide count.
Chincoteague International Migratory Bird Day Celebration
May 9, 2015
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA, and many other locations
Celebrate the spring arrival of thousands of shorebirds at this annual fest, one of many to celebrate the journey of migratory birds. Chincoteague’s annual celebration features workshops, bird walks and guided lighthouse tours.
Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival
Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Ashland, WI
May 14-16, 2015
The annual festival features field trips to Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge, guided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff. Other field trip and hike destinations: the Moquah Pine Barrens, Bibon Swamp, Morgan Falls and St. Peter’s Dome.
Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds
May 14-16, 2015
Detroit Lakes, MN
Tours of Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge will be part of the festival.
Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival
May 14-17, 2015
This three-day festival includes field trips to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, workshops, kids’ activities and a Kenai River float with local birding experts.
Festival of Birds
May 14-17, 2015
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. MN
The Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds includes workshops, guided field trips and presentations. This year’s festival will feature authors Carrol Henderson (“Bird Feeding in America”) and Robert Janssen (“Birds of Minnesota State Parks”). Professional wildlife photographer Melissa Groo from Ithaca, NY, will present the keynote.
Great Salt Lake Bird Festival
May 14-18, 2015
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is among the festival’s field trip destinations.
Down East Spring Birding Festival
May 22-25, 2015
Near Calais, ME
The annual festival includes guided hikes, boat tours and expert presentations. It also features field trips to Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, one of the event sponsors.
Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival
June 10-14, 2015
Field trips to Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge and Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge are highlights of this festival celebrating remote prairie, wetland and meadow birding hot spots.
Florida Keys Birding Festival
September 2015 Date TBA
The festival spans the 120-mile-long chain of coral islets or ‘keys’ and features field trips to Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge along with other national, state and private natural areas. Events include guided bird and butterfly walks, a photography workshop, a free, family-friendly wildlife fair, citizen science with Florida Keys Hawkwatch and several backcountry excursions.
Ridgefield Birdfest and Bluegrass
October 3-4, 2015
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA
The annual festival, along the lower Columbia River, offers guided bus tours, Audubon bird shows, live music, arts and crafts, and activities at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a full-scale replica of a Native American structure found in the old town of Cathlapotle. The 2015 festival will also celebrate the refuge’s 50th anniversary and the completion of a new pedestrian universal-access bridge.
Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival
October 9-11, 2015
Cape Charles, VA
The event features field trips to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges.
Ding Darling Days
October 18-24, 2015
Enjoy a week of fun-filled and informative programs, bird walks, tours, paddling and family activities at J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel, FL
Wings over Water Festival
October 20-25, 2015
Northeast North Carolina
This multi-day festival features field trips to five national wildlife refuges: Pea Island, Alligator River, Mattamuskeet, Pocosin Lakes and Mackay Island. Also included: classroom programs, bird walks, paddling trips, and talks on wildlife photography and natural history.
Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival
November 4-8, 2015
Field trip destinations include Santa Ana, Lower Rio Grande Valley and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuges. Buses and minivans at the South Texas Refuge Complex will support festival-goers.
Festival of the Cranes
November 17-22, 2015
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
See wintering sandhill cranes and snow geese by the thousands at this scenic refuge outside of Socorro. Enjoy workshops, tours and other events at one of the most celebrated bird festivals in the country.
Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend
November 26-29, 2015
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA,
The refuge will offer guided walks, tours and other special events to mark the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge. Some tours will be in areas normally closed to the public. The refuge provides habitat for greater snow geese and many other migratory birds.
The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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