Coordinated events to celebrate birding and birds happen throughout the year all around the globe, but what exactly is a birding festival, and what can you expect to find if you attend one?
Bird and birding festivals are organized to take advantage of a specific region’s bird-friendly features, such as key migration areas or unique habitats. Depending on the festival and why it is organized, the event may be just a single day or could last up to two weeks. Local birding societies, tourist offices, universities and nature preserves often organize festivals to promote the unique birding in their area, and additional sponsors may include individuals, businesses, charities and other organizations.
Festival dates are often chosen to coincide with an exceptional birding atmosphere, such as during peak migration periods when more bird species will be available. At any given time, however, there may be both large and small festivals occurring in different locations to highlight birds and birding for interested enthusiasts of all skill levels.
No matter where a bird festival is located or how long it is scheduled to last, it will typically include the same key features that birders come to look forward to at each festival they attend.
- Field Trips: Field trips are the heart and soul of any birding festival. These excursions to local hotspots are typically led by expert guides who are familiar with the area’s birds and where to find them. Transportation to and from field trip sites may or may not be provided, and trips can last from just an hour or two to all day marathon events.
- Workshops: These educational presentations are designed to help birders perfect their birding skills. Popular topics include selecting optics, digiscoping, bird photography, identification, birding by ear, and bird-friendly landscaping.
- Presentations: While still informative, presentations are generally less focused than workshops and often include more subjective topics. Discussions of regional diversity, conservation, exotic birding travel and local bird-oriented research are popular. Most festivals also include a keynote speaker who may present on any of these topics or a bird-related topic personal to them. Live bird demonstrations from wildlife rehabilitation and rescue facilities are also popular presentations.
- Spotlight Birds: Many festivals select a single bird to serve as the focal point for the event. This is usually a bird that can be found in the area at the time of the festival, and different workshops, presentations and field trips may be designed to focus on that bird.
- Youth Activities: Festivals are often designed with the whole family in mind, and a range of youth oriented activities are possible depending on the festival’s focus and scope. Popular options include building birdhouses, beginning birder workshops, bird-related games and other novelty activities.
- Vendors: Most bird festivals host a selection of vendors offering bird-related merchandise for sale. Artwork, books, conservation materials, birding gear and promotional items are often available, and local birding clubs and organizations may be offering free brochures and other literature as well. Backyard birding supplies such as feeders and birdhouses may also be available.
Cost of Festivals
The cost to attend a festival can vary widely. Some festivals are free to attendees because they are community outreach programs from local agencies, while others may require a modest registration fee and additional fees for field trips or workshops. Keynote banquets also usually require a fee. Some festivals do offer both free and paid activities, and free activities generally include many of the presentations and workshops, and possibly smaller field trips.
Benefits of Birding Festivals
With so much to discover at birding festivals, the benefits of attending one are clear. It is an opportunity to meet other enthusiastic birders and explore new areas with unfamiliar birds under the tutelage of expert guides, and it gives all birders a chance to sharpen their skills both through workshops and practical field trips. What are you waiting for? Find a festival and get ready to celebrate birds!