Bird watching in winter, especially in a cold climate like that found in much of the northern United States, might not seem like the best idea in the world. However, if you attend one of the winter bird festivals, typically held in January or February, you might actually look forward to such an activity.
The winter bird festival is not only an event reserved for the northern states, though. There are plenty of them where the weather is not so chilly at the beginning of the year.
Let’s take a look at ten of these birding festivals held around the country. There may be one near you or in one of your winter vacation destinations. Check the individual websites for exact dates - the amount of information you find there may vary, depending on the time of year you visit.
Bird Watchers Will Enjoy These 10 Winter Festivals In The U.S.
1. Sax-Zim Bog Winter Bird Festival, Meadowlands, Minnesota
The Sax-Zim Bog is about 45 minutes northwest of Duluth, Minnesota. Named for Solomon Saxe and a certain Mr. Zimmerman, the bog boasts over 240 species of birds. Though many of them do leave for the winter, you can normally count on seeing ruffed grouse, downy and hairy woodpeckers, ravens, chickadees, and nuthatches.
2. Whooping Crane Festival, Port Aransas, Texas
In Port Aransas (locally known as Port ‘A’), you can find not only whooping cranes but the roseate spoonbill, crested caracara, American white pelican, peregrine falcon, and dozens more. Make your way to the coast near Corpus Christi, Texas, to find all these fine birds.
3. Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Many parts of the Mississippi River are excellent locations to find bald eagles. Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, is one of the best. Visit this quaint, small town and discover the eagles and other local birds.
4. Burrowing Owl Festival, Cape Coral, Florida
If you want to see burrowing owls, you go to Cape Coral. It has the largest known population of these curious birds. Others to look for include the yellow-billed cuckoo, American avocet, Baltimore oriole, purple gallinule, many hawks, woodpeckers, and herons, plus dozens more.
5. International Festival of Owls, Houston, Minnesota
This festival exists because of Alice the Great Horned Owl and her keeper, Karla Bloem. You can learn more about them at their site below. The International Owl Center in Houston (pronounced House-ton, unlike the Texas city), Minnesota is also the home of the World Owl Hall of Fame.
6. St. George Winter Bird Festival, St. George, Utah
Enjoy the presentations, workshops, and field trips of the St. George Winter Bird Festival in southwestern Utah. The area is home to over 375 bird species during the year, many of which you can see in the winter months.
7. Hudson River EagleFest, Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Just north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River is a spit of land designated as Croton Point Park. There the Teatown Lake Reservation holds EagleFest. The reservation itself is only a couple of miles east of the park. Typically, you can participate in a full day of events at this festival.
8. Lake Apopka Birdapalooza, Magnolia Park, Florida
Lake Apopka is just northwest of Orlando, Florida. Popular birds in the area include swallow-tailed kites, great blue herons, snowy egrets, and mottled ducks. Birdapalooza is all about tours, bird banding, pellet dissection, and more.
9. Winter Wings Festival, Klamath Falls, Oregon
The Klamath Basin (in and around Klamath Falls, Oregon) boasts almost 300 species of birds throughout the year. You can see most of them in the winter too. The festival features speakers and presenters, a photo contest, and other family events.
10. San Diego Bird Festival, San Diego, California
This festival is a major, multi-day gala held in the Marina Village Conference Center in San Diego, California. There are over 50 events available to attend, most of which you’ll pay for, but some are free.
Whether you attend one of these festivals or another that you discover on your own, you’re sure to have a fun time birding this winter. Tell me about it when you return!
Gary Sonnenberg is an amateur birder (he has bird feeders in his backyard), board gamer (he has played Agricola over 400 times), and optics fan (he owns a pair of binoculars and a telescope). Gary is also the owner of Optics Owl.