Explore Go Lists

Flock to Fall Bird Festivals

Picture a sky blanketed with birds this fall and winter erupting into flight, filling the air with calls and the sound of thousands of wings beating together. For a fun, inexpensive way to find out more about birds, experience a birding festival at one of your National Wildlife Refuges or other federal lands.

Search by state: Alabama, California, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington

Fall (September through December): Florida Keys Birding Festival, Florida (September), Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival, Virginia (October), Ridgefield Birdfest and Bluegrass, Washington (October), Wings over Water Festival, North Carolina (October), Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend, Virginia (November), Festival of the Cranes, New Mexico (November), Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas (November).

Winter (January through March): Festival of the Cranes, Alabama (January), Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Florida (January), Winter Wings Bird Festival, Oregon (February), San Diego Bird Festival, California (February/March).


Cranes flying at Wheeler
National Wildlife Refuge
Festival of the Cranes—January 10, 2015

The 2nd Annual Festival of the Cranes will be at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of Decatur. See thousands of wintering sandhill cranes as well as whooping cranes and white pelicans. Considered the easternmost refuge in the Mississippi Flyway, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. During the festival enjoy refuge tours, birding workshops, nature walks, live raptors and kids’ activities. Did you know that the refuge is just one of many sites on the Central Loop of the North Alabama Birding Trail?


Elegant tern San Diego NWR
San Diego Bird Festival—March 5–8, 2015

The San Diego Bird Festival includes workshops, an optics expo, pelagic (open sea) birding, art and cultural activities and field trips to mountain, shore, desert and wetlands that include three coastal San Diego Bay area national wildlife refuges. The refuges protect a rich diversity of endangered, threatened, migratory, and native species and their habitats in the midst of a highly urban coastal environment at the south end of San Diego Bay. Look at these checklists from past festivals to build your enthusiasm!


Roseate spoonbill (Susan
Lopez/ Share the Experience)
Florida Keys Birding Festival—September 23–28, 2014

Join a guided walk, workshop or evening presentation at the Florida Keys Birding Festival with events in these locations. The six-day festival spans the 120-mile-long chain of coral islets or “keys” and features field trips to Dry Tortugas National Park, the National Key Deer Refuge, or Biscayne National Park as well as to other national, state and private natural areas. The festival offers something for everyone from guided birding and butterfly walks and talks, a photography workshop, a free, family-friendly all-day wildlife fair, citizen science with Florida Keys Hawkwatch and several backcountry excursions.

Red-cockaded wood-
pecker at nest hole
(Mark McCloy/Share
the Experience)
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival—January 21–26, 2015

Eastern Florida State College in Titusville hosts the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, billed as one of the largest and best birding and wildlife festivals in the U.S. You’ll find festival trips and events at numerous sites in and around the Space Coast area including Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Choose from a variety of activities to participate in including presentations, field trips, classroom and field workshops, exhibits and demonstrations.

New Mexico

Snow goose (Steve Perry/
Share the Experience)
Festival of the Cranes—November 18–23, 2014

Join the Festival of the Cranes near Socorro, approximately 1 ½ hours from Albuquerque. Migrating birds, including sandhill cranes and thousands of snow geese make their winter home in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The 57,331 acre (23,201 hectares) refuge straddles the Rio Grande River at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert. Attend a variety of great workshops, guest speaker lectures, guided tours and other events during the festival. Use this 2014 festival brochure (PDF) to help you plan your visit then come enjoy the Land of Enchantment at this world class birding area! Read this article about bird band #599-05468 on a crane with some serious frequent flyer miles or watch this video about cranes at Bosque.

North Carolina

Snowy Egret at Pea Island
National Wildlife Refuge
(Matthew Karns/Share the
Wings over Water Festival—October 21–26, 2014

Come to the Wings over Water Festival at the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a six-day event featuring scores of talks and trips on birding, paddling, wildlife photography, young birders introduction and natural history. Field trips include trips to Pea Island and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuges. Download the festival brochure (PDF) to help you plan your trip.


Adult bald eagle
at Lower Klamath NWR
(Shravan Sundaram/
Share the Experience)
Winter Wings Bird Festival—February 12–15, 2015

The Winter Wings Festival requires advance planning and it’s definitely worth it. Activities for everyone fill this four-day event in southern Oregon, near Klamath Falls. Birdwatchers, photographers and families will enjoy learning about nature during this event. During the festival, be sure to visit nearby Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, or Crater Lake National Park and these birding hotspots (PDF) in the Klamath Basin to add to your birding life lists. See what’s in store for the 2015 festival program and events.


Great kiskadee at Santa
Ana National Wildlife
Refuge (Eric Haskell/
Share the Experience)
Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival—November 5-9, 2014

Located in and around Harlingen, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival includes field trips to Laguna Atascosa, Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. Events include lectures, workshops, birding trips, boating on the Arroyo and other guided trips. Look for the great kiskadee, green jay, Altamira oriole and chachalaca.


Great egret at Chincoteague
National Wildlife Refuge
(Meghan Caslin/Share the
Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend—November 27–30, 2014

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge offers an open house, special events and programs to mark the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge during the Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend. The refuge is on the Virginia end of Assateague Island and includes more than 14,000 acres (5666 hectares) of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest and provides habitat for migratory birds (especially greater snow geese), habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and song birds as well as other species of wildlife and plants. For more details visit the refuge’s website, or call (757) 336-6122.

Oystercatcher (Kim Schmidt/
Share the Experience)
Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival—October 10-12, 2014

Head out to Cape Charles this fall for the Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival. The event has field trips to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges. Nearby Kiptopeke State Park will also host several programs and offers camping in the park.


Belted kingfisher at
Ridgefield National
Wildlife Refuge (Donna
Torres/Share the
Ridgefield Birdfest and Bluegrass—October 4–5, 2014

The annual Ridgefield Birdfest and Bluegrass, on the shore of the lower Columbia River, celebrates the feathered creatures that make their home in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Use this handy brochure (PDF) for a list of all the festival events. Families and kids may especially enjoy the U.S. Fish and Wildlife guided bus tours (Saturday only), the Kinetic Bird Parade, arts and crafts or watching the Audubon Bird Show.

More bird festivals...