San Diego Bird Festival field trip from years past
Debbie Jordan

Birding Festivals Get Creative This Year

Birding Festivals Get Creative This Year

May 28, 2020|Birding| by Holbrook Travel

Birders are not ones to be dissuaded from following their passion. When it comes to the coronavirus crisis enveloping the world, festival-goers and organizers are getting creative with their programming. Holbrook’s Jen Hajj reached out to leaders from the birding community to get their take on these events.

New River Birding and Nature Festival

Dawn Hewitt of Bird Watcher’s Digest says: “I attended a few early morning virtual birding trips of the New River Birding and Nature Festival. That’s a festival I’ve attended for the past five years or so, and it’s always a highlight of my year. I enjoyed hearing the bird songs, and seeing faces of the organizers (whom I love). Facebook Live worked pretty well, and it was fun, but it wasn’t nearly as good as being there. They did a great job though, of reminding me how much I love birding in the New River Gorge, and how much I enjoy the camaraderie of that festival. The NRBNF folks did a valiant job of offering all sorts of events during the festival. I sure hope I can be there next year!”

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

Stephanie Ashley, falconer and birder: “Great Salt Lake Bird Festival did a virtual birding event in which you went birding on your own and shared your eBird list with the festival for a chance to win a prize. When it was over, they published a bird list compiled from sightings from different places. It was fun to participate.”

Hawk Mountain on bird festivals going virtual:

Rachel lola Taras (Ridgetop Rachel) from Hawk Mountain: “Although I’m disappointed to miss the beak-to-beak interaction, I understand and appreciate the socially distances compromise. Without a virtual option, I would miss the opportunity to engage with new conservation initiatives, interact with mentors, and support my favorite vendors. We can embrace this time as an opportunity to improve the way we share our conservation message, specifically to folks who have recently discovered birds while homebound. Looking forward to making the most out of virtual opportunities!”

Central American Birding Week

Canopy Family of Panama helped sponsor the Central American Virtual Birding Week virtually (May 18-23). Leading bird guides and experts from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama presented on Central American birds and birding. Eva Matthews Lark from Hog Island reported: “I attended the Central American Virtual Birding Week webinars. Usually during this time of year I can’t make it to festivals due to my work schedule, but it was nice to be able to watch these live recordings at my own pace. Being able to stop the video and take notes was useful. I especially liked the mix of culture and birding provided by the presenters and the ability for them to answer questions from the chat.”

Snake River Raptor Fest 

The Snake River Raptor Fest is going virtual in 2020 in response to the spread of COVID-19. This year’s virtual festival features a selection of raptor-themed kids' activities, presentations, panel discussions, live music, and more. Presentations will begin the afternoon of Monday, June 1, and will continue throughout the week, culminating in the main event on Saturday, June 6.

San Diego Bird Festival

San Diego Bird Festival is going ahead with a 2021 Festival, Feb. 17-21, but it will look quite a bit different from the usual festival: limited field trip capacity with attendees providing their own transportation, virtual workshops, and webinars with local and international speakers. There will be sponsorship opportunities. “We’re still figuring it out,” says Festival Coordinator Jen Hajj. “The market will tell us what it wants from San Diego Bird Festival and we will do our best to deliver that.” Visit for more information as it becomes available.

Yampa Valley Crane Festival

The 9th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival is scheduled for Sept. 3-6, 2020. They are moving many of their festival events to a virtual platform and offering a series of educational videos about the Greater Sandhill Crane through their website. Keynotes scheduled for 2020 are being moved to 2021.


Though many prominent festivals are taking the year off, they can still use support. Bird festivals frequently serve as fundraisers for conservation organizations, funding projects benefiting endangered species, education programs, and on-the-ground restoration programs. If your favorite festival is canceling due to COVID-19, consider sending them a donation.