7 Fantastic Birdwatching Festivals from Corpus Christi to Naples

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The Gulf Coast is a nature lover’s paradise. Not only are some of America’s best beaches fringed by the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico but further inland are the dark and mysterious marshes of ocean wetlands and forests.

This combination of unique habitats makes the Gulf Coast an ideal destination for many bird species. Many towns along the coast have held annual festivals to celebrate the birds that call the Gulf Coast home to not only birdwatchers but outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Here are 7 of the best festivals you should see this year.

Texas 

We started our tour in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi Texas where locals say it’s America’s biggest bird festival.
The festival begins on the third Wednesday in April and lasts for five days. Each day will be filled with interesting and informative presentations from professional ornithologists with a focus on demonstrations from Project Raptor. They brought the inevitable flocks of eagles and owls and put on a spectacular show.
The main draw of the festival is the sheer number of adventures and I mean the many outdoor adventures nearby where birders of all generations can check a species or two off their bucket lists. In 2021 organizers said the species managed to see 314 birds including a rare and endangered heron.
There are so many events and trips planned that it is impossible to list them all here. Visit the festival schedule page for performances.

Pro Tips

The main festival base is the South Texas Botanical Garden. There is a registration fee for participation and then a separate fee for each field trip. It is recommended to purchase tickets online in advance and make reservations for field trips.
If you can’t fully enjoy the festival there are special pre- and post-festival tours available.

2. Whooping Crane Festival — Port Aransas, Texas 

A horn-like call can be heard from miles away signaling the arrival of a whooping stork in Port Aransas Texas.
The stork is an endangered bird. In 1941 the number was reduced to 15 but gradually increased due to strict bird protection laws. More than 100 now.
Whooping storks spend the summer in Canada but migrate to Port Aransas for winter and spring. The city celebrates its return with the annual Hopping Crane Festival. The four-day event begins on the fourth Thursday in February and includes workshop lectures by educators and zoologists and many opportunities to see these beautiful and rare birds in the wild.
But weekends aren’t all about bigmouths. Day trips are offered to watch the birds and see dolphins playing in the bay.

Pro Tips

Be sure to check out the festival hosting hotels webpage where you can find great deals on accommodation while in Port Aransas for the festival.

3. Galveston Feather Fest — Galveston, Texas 

Any time of year is a great time to visit Galveston Texas. Distraction is defined as being stuck in time. Row upon row of beautifully restored historic houses line several streets. And of course the beach is amazing.
In spring the island welcomes bird lovers to the annual Galveston Feather Festival. This four-day event begins on the third Thursday in April and is packed with birding and photography outings in the evenings of birding and photography workshops and social events.

Pro Tips

Field trips are individually priced and can be purchased online. Find the tour you want to join and register as soon as possible to secure a spot. You can join a waiting list to be notified when seats are full.

4. Eagle Expo — Morgan City, Louisiana 

Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Morgan Basin, the largest wetland in the United States, is home to one of North America’s most spectacular birds: the American condor. For four days starting on the third Thursday in February Morgan City opens its doors for visitors to celebrate the eagle with its annual Eagle Show.
Several boat trips are planned in the basin and at Bayou Long to see eagles in the deep blue Cajun skies. More than 60 eagles have been seen in recent years
Another popular weekend field trip will take you to the Bayou Tech National Deer Sanctuary and other areas where you’ll see amazing creatures like the great white pelican and the red-shouldered eagle. The list continues to grow.
The weekend starts with a special Thursday night at the Patterson Civic Center followed by a Friday night social at Lakeside Park and Campground where you can meet other like-minded birders over drinks and food.
Tickets can be purchased online.

Pro Tip

Morgan City has great restaurants that you must visit while in town. Two favorites are Atchafalaya Cafe serving great Cajun seafood (try the Lowcountry shrimp and grits) and Rita Maes Kitchen serving Southern comfort food since 1957.

5. Great Louisiana Birdfest — St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana 

While in Louisiana we crossed Lake Pontchartrain west of Morgan City to St. Parish. Tammany and the annual Louisiana Big Bird Festival.
Birders will tell you that the parish is a birder’s paradise and over 1 million birds migrate every spring. It’s not uncommon to see over 150 different birdfest species.
This event takes place in the last week of March and lasts until the following Monday. The festival holds two poultry workshops one on Saturday and the other on event Sunday. Most weekends are filled with field trips to various habitats where you can hunt different species of bitter chocolate ibis and more.
Tickets range from $5 to $45. You are encouraged to contact festival organizers Northlake Nature Center for ticket and program details.

Pro Tips 

Unlike other birding festivals which require a bus or van to get around the countryside this festival tour is self-guided. Meet at a central location and have your company on site. Contact Northlake Nature Center for more information.
Take time to explore the nature center. The center has a 30-mile loop that leads to panoramic views of the Bayou Castine and Lake Savannah.

6. Alabama Coastal Birding Festival — Spanish Fort, Alabama

One of the biggest bird festivals in the Gulf is the Alabama Coast Bird Festival which is held on the shores of Mobile Bay on the last weekend of September.
Every year thousands of people (no pun intended) gather at the state-run 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort for a 4-day event to experience the amazing number of species that call this area home. their permanent home or move there annually.
Program highlights include a full schedule of basic birding workshops on how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your backyard for photography and how to select and plan domestic and international birding adventures.
Then there are field trips that take you through transitional marine forests and snow-white beaches to the mud flats of Blakely Island and Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast and unique adventures in Amazon River Mobile. . Delta Tensa.
A portion of the proceeds from this event will help preserve and protect this stunning and lush environment.
Ticket information is not available at the time of writing but like all bird festivals there will be a separate admission fee for each tour. Please contact the South Alabama Land Trust for the latest flight ticket and schedule information.

Pro Tips 

While you’re at the festival be sure to check out the many nearby historic attractions including the battleship USS Alabama Mobile History Museum and the Mobile Carnival Museum which showcases the history of American Mardi Gras.

7. Festival of Birds — Naples, Florida 

While most bird festivals last only a few days the Florida Bird Festival lasts an entire month.
Levanto is now a hybrid festival that includes online presentations and workshops as well as in-person field trips to some of Florida’s most spectacular reservations including Big Cypress Bunche Beach and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Pro Tips

Tickets for this event are around $45 but additional field trip fees may apply.

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