MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Spring bird festivals

After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.

Birders in spring.

© Torsten Muller

Birders watch waterfowl in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in southwest Wisconsin.

By April, the harbingers of spring are on the move.

"The spring migration is well underway!'' comes the report from wildlife refuges. "Eagles and swans, Canada geese, robins, sparrows, sandhills cranes have arrived!''

Where there are birds, there are birders ó and bird festivals. Those are especially nice for beginners, who donít yet have the skills to find and identify birds.

If thereís a bird-banding demonstration, donít miss it; itís a good chance to see identifying markings of a bird close-up. 

Below are a few of the best festivals in 2017. Space on field trips and tours goes fast, so sign up early.

April 22, Earth Day Birding Festival in Hastings, Minn. This festival at Carpenter Nature Center, above the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, includes raptor and introduction to birding classes, bird-banding demonstrations and guided birding trips. Reservations are required.

April 29-30, Spring Fling at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Paradise, Mich. At the southeast corner of Lake Superior near the Soo Locks, thousands of migrating birds are funneled past this point, adjacent to Seney National Wildlife Refuge and next to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

The festival includes early-morning and dusk owl programs plus walks and workshops. 

May 6, Spring Birding by Mini-Train near Alma, Wis. Spot birds while riding the Chippewa Valley Railroad Association's mini-train from Durand through the Tiffany Bottoms, along the Chippewa River as it flows to the  Mississippi. 

Cost is $40, including lunch. Reserve early. For more, see Birding by rail.

May 12-15, Horicon Marsh Bird Festival in east-central Wisconsin. This large festival is around a large marsh often called the Everglades of the North.

There are bird hikes, bird-banding demonstrations, pontoon-boat tours, canoe and kayak tours, bus tours and a round-the-clock Big Sit, in which participants try to identify as many birds as possible.

A gray jay on the Gunflint Trail.

© Beth Gauper

The whiskey jack, or gray jay, likes to get close to food-bearing tourists.

For more, see Life on Horicon Marsh.

May 12-14, Spring Warbler Weekend in Lake City, Minn. The St. Paul Audubon Society hosts this festival from Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City, Minn., with beginner bird walks, speakers, birding games and evening owl walks.

May 13, Bird Festival in Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Near Trempealeau, Wis., watch bird-banding demonstrations, go on a canoe tour or take a bird or wildflower hike.

May 18-21, Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Learn to identify bird songs and join field trips at this big festival in northwest Minnesota, near the convergence of prairie with northern pine forest and eastern hardwood forest. 

Space in field trips to local refuges fills quickly, so reserve soon.

May 18-20, Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival based out of the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center in Ashland, Wis. Activities include bird-banding, hikes and expeditions, hatchery tours and kayaking tours of estuaries. 

May, Bird Fest at Crex Meadows in Grantsburg, Wis. Join birding tours, watch bird-banding, make a wood-duck box, listen to presentations and get tips about wildlife photography.

May 31-June 4, Boreal Birding & Northern Landscapes Festival in Grand Marais, Minn. Workshops and field trips on North Shore birds, wildflowers, insects and geology, hosted by the North House Folk School

June, Door Islands Bird Festival on Washington Island in Wisconsin. This festival on the tip of the Door Peninsula includes birding hikes, a dinner program and a field trip by ferry to Rock Island.


Last updated on March 2, 2017