Flocking to Fall Bird Festivals

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Picture an autumn sky blanketed with birds erupting into flight, filling the air with calls and the sound of thousands of wings beating together. Fall is the perfect season for celebrating birds and their migrations. Experiencing a festival at one of your National Wildlife Refuges or other federal lands during fall migration presents the opportunity to participate in fun and informative activities while witnessing one of nature’s wonders. With migration reaching its peak in the coming weeks, we’re providing our recommendation for six incredible festivals to take in the show!


Six fabulous festivals for celebrating birds

John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest (October 4-7, 2023)


A Palm Warbler rests on a bare red tree branch in the sunshine

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge (Janet Bauer, Share the Experience)

Birders and nature lovers from across the United States and Canada flock to south Alabama every year to experience one of the prime birdwatching opportunities on the Gulf Coast during fall migration. Register now for the 19th Annual John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest, a premier event centered around birds!

The Alabama Coastal BirdFest takes attendees into the Mobile Delta, to the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary, historic Fort Morgan, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, among other locations. The four-day event also includes workshops on subjects such as hummingbirds, the basics of birding, monarch butterflies, and how to use common birding apps. Plus, you can enjoy a family-friendly Bird and Conservation Expo at the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center.

BirdFest and Bluegrass Celebration (October 7, 2023)


A plump Golden Crown Sparrow sits atop a bare, thorny tree branch

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Helen Kehrt, Share the Experience)

Ridgefield, Washington’s Annual Birdfest and Bluegrass Celebration brings attention to the migration of the Sandhill Crane to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This year’s festival is packed with all-day fun in town and on the refuge. Stop in the City of Ridgefield for vendors, crafts, and music downtown. Be sure to participate in the self-guided Carty Unit refuge “Wander Walk” and guided geology tours. Honor the birds of the hour and RSVP for special Sandhill Crane Tours, occurring at 6am and 5pm local time.

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival (October 17-22, 2023)

North Carolina

A brown and white mottled barred owl perched on a crooked white-barked tree branch

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (Judy Schneider, Share the Experience)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, which offers visitors educational opportunities and experiences on North Carolina’s national wildlife refuges. Today, over 90 birding, paddling, photography, art, and natural history programs offered on six national wildlife refuges in northeast North Carolina. Enjoy an exploratory hike at ​​Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge South Pond, which is normally closed off to visitors. Kayak tours, workshops, and guided birding excursions are only some of the exciting opportunities in store!

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (November 8-12, 2023)


Four male and two female redhead ducks in flight in a clear blue sky

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Brandon Jones, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Located in and around Harlingen, Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival includes field trip destinations to Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. There are activities for every age and interest level at this festival, with over 120 field trips, presentations, Birders Bazaar trade show, souvenirs, and local art and photography displays, across five fun-filled days. Keep your eyes peeled for the great kiskadee, green jay, Altamira oriole and plain chachalaca. Registration opens September 4th!

Chincoteague Waterfowl Weekend (November 25-26, 2023)


Silhouettes of a sand piper and a heron on the shore at sunrise

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (Bill Tucker, Share the Experience)

We can’t think of a better way to spend your Thanksgiving weekend than visiting Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge for guided walks, tours and other special events marking the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge. Some tours will even be in areas normally closed to the public! The refuge provides habitat for greater snow geese and many other migratory birds. The refuge is on the Virginia end of Assateague Island and includes more than 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares) of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest.

Festival of the Cranes (December 6-9, 2023)

New Mexico

Sandhill crane in a marsh in the early morning light

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Shantanu Sinha, Share the Experience)

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, located about an hour south of Albuquerque, is the winter home for thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese. Festival of the Cranes will run from December 6-9, with four days of field workshops and expert seminars you won’t want to miss. Harness your creative side and submit your best Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge photos to the annual photo contest, open July 30-October 1.

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