Should You Attend a Birding Festival?

Rob Ripma

I was very excited to attend the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Texas for the first time last week. The festival was absolutely amazing, and it got me thinking about who a birding festival is right for. Sure, experienced birders will enjoy the field trips, programs, and presentations, but what about people that fall more in the beginner to intermediate range of birding experience?

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

One of the many amazing birds that I saw at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

For me, birding festivals are for all birders no matter what their skill level. One of the best ways for newer birders to learn more about birding and bird identification is to go out with people who have more experience and soak up all the knowledge that those people have. I did this in my local park when I started birding, and because bird festivals can bring together all sorts of people from many areas of the country, field trips can be the perfect forum for learning from others. Many of the major birding festivals also offer field trips based on your skill level so that the leaders can really focus in on helping you learn.

Another great part of birding festivals are the programs and presentations. Festivals are able to bring in amazing speakers from all over the country (and sometimes the world), and these presenters have amazing things to share with all of us. You will find that the topics of these programs range far and wide, but I can guarantee that there is always something to learn from these amazing speakers.

Green Jay

Green Jays are one of the highlights for participants attending their first Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

Many people don’t really think about how important the vendor areas are at birding festivals. From binoculars to tour companies to publishers, it is amazing how many products and services you can learn about! If you’re thinking of buying a new pair of binoculars, why not attend a festival where all of the major manufacturers are present so that you can try them all out before making that investment? Have you been considering going on a birding vacation with a tour company? Go to a festival and get to know some of the guides before making that decision.

Aside from the field trips, presentations, and vendors, my very favorite part of birding festivals is the people you meet. Some of my closest friends are those I’ve met at birding festivals or conferences, and while we may not get to see each other very often due to distance, it’s always a blast to reunite at festivals across the country.

Friends at Festival

Me (second from the left) with some of my new friends at the Biggest Week in American Birding in 2012.

Here is a small sample of the festivals in the US:

-       Space Coast Birding Festival – Florida – January

-       San Diego Birding Festival – California – February

-       The Biggest Week in American Birding – Ohio – May

-       Potholes & Prairies Birding Festival – North Dakota – June

-       Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival – Arizona – August

-       Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival – North Carolina – October

-       Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival – Texas – November

  1. Patsy Hicks says

    A great birding festival is the Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico—every November people come from all the world to see thousands of the Sandhill cranes, snow geese and other wintering birds here. Many great workshops,tours, and lectures also available for birders.

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