Birding festivals and events canceled due to COVID-19 outbreak

Sandhill Cranes take flight over the Platte River in Nebraska, one of North America’s great wildlife spectacles. Photo by leaves002/Shutterstock

The spread of coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it causes has led to the cancelations of pro sports seasons, Broadway plays, March Madness, and parades, as well as the closure of Disneyland. Now, we can add birding festivals, conventions, and other events to the list of functions being called off.

Some people on social media have expressed disbelief at the need for these measures, but public-health experts say that one of the main ways the virus can be contained is through social distancing — literally staying away from others, not shaking hands, hugging, etc. It’s a lot to adjust to, but there’s sound reason for it. During the 1918 flu pandemic, experts say, cities that quarantined sick patients and closed schools, theaters, and churches cut their death rate in half. Still, that pandemic killed somewhere between 17 million and 50 million people worldwide.

Below are the festivals and other events that are canceled as well as parts of their statements about the closures. If you were registered for a festival, you will almost certainly receive a refund of any fees; if not, follow the links to contact the organizers. Most if not all of the events are planning to be held again in 2021.

We are updating this post as we learn of new cancelations. If you hear about a birding function being canceled, please send us an email.

Blackwater Eagle Festival, March 14, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland

“Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge has cancelled the Eagle Festival on Saturday, March 14th, due to the coronavirus pandemic, in order to protect our community, visitors, and volunteers. The Refuge will continue to welcome guests to the Refuge and Visitor Center as we closely monitor this situation.” Full statement

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, March 20-22, Othello, Washington

“The difficult decision was made this morning by the Othello Crane Festival Organizing Committee, the City of Othello, and the Othello School District and our valued partners to cancel the 2020 Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.  On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the Adams County Commissioners held a meeting in which Dr. Alexander Brenzy, Grant and Adams County Health Officer, presented on the evolving COVID-19 outbreak currently impacting Washington State. … The official recommendation of Dr. Brenzy was to cancel the 2020 Othello Sandhill Crane Festival as a proactive step out of an abundance of caution in order to protect the health of both Festival attendees and the local population, in addition to doing our utmost to limit the virus’ further immediate spread into Eastern Washington State.” Full statement

Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival, March 20-22, Blaine, Washington

“Due to the current COVID-19 situation and following the recommendation of the Whatcom County Executive regarding events of over 50 attendees, we regret to announce that the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival will not take place this year.” Full statement

Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival, March 20-21, Kearney, Nebraska

“Due to the increased travel restrictions and being mindful of the COVID-19 situation, Audubon Nebraska has decided to CANCEL the 2020 Crane Festival. We know this is an inconvenience, and we sincerely apologize, but the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors are of the utmost importance to us.” Full statement

Note: The Rowe Sanctuary has canceled its public tours and programs as of March 16.

Spring Bluebird Festival, March 21, Traverse City, Michigan

“This event has been canceled.” Website

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Festival, March 28-29, Eagle Lake, Texas

“In keeping with guidance from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and acting out of an abundance of caution, we are suspending the annual Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Festival this year.” Full statement

A Celebration of Swans, April 1-30, White Horse, Yukon

“The Wildlife Viewing Program has cancelled all events related to A Celebration of Swans in 2020. Additionally, Swan Haven Interpretive Centre will be closed for the season.” Full statement

Mackinaw Raptor Fest, April 3-5, Mackinaw City, Michigan

“To help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch has canceled the April Mackinaw Raptor Fest. When that threat vanishes, we will consider re-scheduling the Fest for the fall of 2020 so you can enjoy the hawk and owl south-bound migration.” Full statement

The Great Louisiana BirdFest, April 3-6, Mandeville, Louisiana

“Due to Governors Stay at Home order BirdFest April activities CANCELLED with plan to reschedule in Fall 2020. Regular programs are suspended through the end of April.” Full statement

Galveston Feather Fest, April 14-20, Galveston, Texas

“In keeping with recommended novel coronavirus precautions, the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council has decided to cancel the FeatherFest Birding & Nature Photo Festival planned for April 14 – 20 in and around Galveston, Texas. Your health and safety is of utmost priority, and it has become time to take necessary steps to avoid contributing to the spread of this pandemic.” Full statement

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival, April 15-20, Woodward, Oklahoma

“Due to the recent nationwide developments in regards to the Coronavirus, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival. Human health and safety is our number one priority for both our festival participants and volunteers.” Full statement

Olympic BirdFest, April 17-19, Sequim, Washington

“Its cancelation is so disappointing for the birders and for the Sequim hotels and restaurants that serve them each year,” said Powell Jones, director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, “and the loss of revenue will be leave a huge gap in the Center’s revenue.” Full statement

Harney County Migratory Bird Festival, April 16-19, Burns, Oregon

“The Harney County Migratory Bird Festival Planning Committee has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 event based on the March 16 mandate from Oregon Governor Kate Brown.” Full statement

Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival, April 17-19, Grand Isle, Louisianna

“This year’s event has been cancelled. We plan on seeing you next year! The birding trail and beaches will remain open for birders. Please enjoy.” Full statement

Godwit Days, April 17-23, Arcata, California

“The Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival, to be held in April, has been postponed due to the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.” Full statement

Atlanta Bird Fest, April 18-May 17, Atlanta, Georgia

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and out of an abundance of caution for the health of our event leaders, volunteers, participants, supporters, and staff, we have rescheduled Atlanta Bird Fest for Fall 2020.” Full statement

Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest, April 22-26, St. Augustine, Florida

“We regret to share that in light of the updates regarding Coronavirus (C0VID-19), the 2020 Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest is cancelled.” Full statement

The Birdiest Festival In America, April 22-26, Corpus Christi, Texas

“In keeping with the recommended coronavirus precautions, it is with a heavy heart that we must inform you that the Birdiest Festival in America 2020, that was taking place April 22-26 has been cancelled.” Full statement

Delmarva Birding Festival, April 23-26, Locations in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia

“Registration is open for the 25th annual Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend, but we will likely postpone the event.” Full statement

Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival, April 23-26, Cottonwood, Arizona

“Canceled: Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival” Full statement

Point Reyes Birding & Nature Festival, Point Reyes Station, California

“We have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Point Reyes Birding & Nature Festival, as the health and safety of our flock is our top priority.” Full Statement

South Llano River Birding Festival, April 24-26, Junction, Texas

“Refunds are being processed for all who registered. We hope to see you next year!” Full statement

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Spring Fling, April 24-26, Paradise, Michigan

“In response to measures being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, Spring Fling has been canceled.” Full statement

Balcones Songbird Festival, April 24-26, Lago Vista, Texas

“CANCELLED! Please be patient as we process notification and refunds.” Full statement

Owens Lake Birding Festival, April 24-26, Lone Pine, California

“The 2020 Owens Lake Bird Festival has been cancelled in an effort to do our part to help slow the spread of this virus.” Full statement

Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival, April 24-26, Hoquiam, Washington

“We are postponing the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival scheduled for April 24-26, 2020 until next year.” Full statement

Hatchie BirdFest, April 24-26, Brownsville, Tennessee

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it safer to cancel at this time. Please follow us on Facebook for the most up to date information.” Full statement

Great Dismal Birding Festival, April 25, Suffolk/Chesapeake, Virginia 

“We have made this decision to protect our community. We look forward to hosting this event next year and thank you for your understanding.” Full statement

Heron Days, April 25-26, May 2-3, Lake County, California

“April 25-26 and May 2-3, 2020, has been CANCELLED. This decision is due to the changing circumstances with the spread of coronavirus in California.” Full statement

Birding and Blues Festival, April 26-28, Pacific City, Oregon

“The health and safety of our attendees, volunteers, and presenters are our top priority. Therefore, the Pacific City Birding and Blues festival will be postponed until further notice.” Full statement

New River Birding & Nature Festival, April 27-May 2, Fayette County, West Virginia

“We’ve made the decision to cancel the 2020 New River Birding & Nature Festival due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.” Full Statement

Southwest Wings Spring Fling, April 29-May 2, Sierra Vista, Arizona

“In response to the March 15 advice of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Spring Fling.” Full Statement

Stikine River Birding Festival, April 30-May 3, Wrangell, Alaska

“In order to follow guidelines from the State of Alaska and the City & Borough of Wrangell in preventing the spread of COVID-19, we are cancelling the 2020 Stikine River Birding Festival.” Full statement

Birding Festival of the Florida Keys, April 30-May 4, Florida

“This event has been cancelled. Go to the website for further information if you might be interested in getting on a mailing list for future dates. Please send any support to other more needy festivals in that at this time we are able to weather this challenge.” Website

Tofino Shorebird Festival, May 1-3, Tofino, British Columbia

“With great reluctance we have decided to cancel this year’s festival.” Full statement

Red Slough Birding Convention, May 2-5, Idabel, Oklahoma

“The 12th Annual Red Slough Birding Convention is CANCELLED due to the Coronavirus.” Full statement

Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, May 7-10, Cordova, Alaska

” The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival planning committee has decided that the Shorebird Festival will not go on as planned May 7-10th.” Full statement

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, May 7-10, Homer, Alaska

“(T)he Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival will not proceed as planned in early May.” Full statement

Horicon Marsh Bird Festival, May 7-11, Horicon, Wisconsin 

“It is with heavy hearts that the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival committee share with you, our birding friends and valued supporters, that the 2020 Horicon Marsh Bird Festival has been cancelled.” Full statement  

Birds in The Hills, May 8-10, Bloomingville, Ohio

“Birds in the Hills Festival was originally scheduled for May 8-10 at Eclipse Company Store in The Plains, Ohio. Because of COVID 19 and the associated health concerns, we are postponing the festival, most likely to fall of 2020 or May 2021.” Full statement

Biggest Week in American Birding, May 8-17, Northwest Ohio

“Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Black Swamp Bird Observatory regrets to inform you ​that the 2020 Biggest Week In American Birding will be cancelled.” Full statement 

Bluegrass Birding Festival, May 8-10, Lexington, Kentucky

“This event has been canceled due to the CDC recommendation to not hold events with 50 or more attendees for the next 8 weeks.
We hope to reschedule some activities in the Fall.” Full statement

Yakima River Canyon Bird Fest, May 8-10, Ellensburg, Washington 

“The YAKIMA RIVER CANYON BIRD FEST IS CANCELLED FOR 2020.” Full statement 

Creston Valley Bird Fest, May 8-10, Creston, British Columbia

“Due to the current coronavirus situation, the Creston Valley Bird Fest Committee has decided to delay registration until April 15th.” Full statement

Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle, May 8-10, Erie, Pennsylvania 

“After much consideration related to the pandemic, Covid-19, including recommendations from the CDC as well as our own national organization, we have decided to cancel the Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle 2020.” Full statement

Prince Edward Point Spring Birding Festival, May 9-30, Picton, Ontario 

“Because the National Wildlife Area is closed to the public we are not able to offer our Spring Festival program for 2020.” Full statement

Vancouver Bird Week, May 11-17, Vancouver, British Columbia

“For the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers, supporters, friends, and guests we have decided to postpone Bird Week until the fall to ensure we all stay well during this time.” Full statement

Festival Of Birds, May 14-16, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, the Festival of Birds committee has determined that for everyone’s safety the event will not be held in 2020.” Full statement

Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival, May 14-16, Ashland, Wisconsin

“It is with  heavy hearts that we announce we are going to cancel this year’s 2020 Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival.” Full statement

Tawas Point Birding Festival, May 14-16, Tawas Point State Park, Michigan 

“Unfortunately due to the Corona Virus, we canceled our Migration 2020 Event.” Full statement

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, May 14-17, Farmington, Utah

“Due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Great Salt Lake Bird Festival has been canceled.” Full statement

Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, May 14 -17, Porter, Indiana 

“Due to the current situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana Audubon must unfortunately cancel the 2020 event, scheduled for May 14-17, 2020.” Full statement

Honey Creek Birdathon and Bandathon, May 9-10, Honey Creek, Wisconsin, and 81st Annual Wisconsin Society for Ornithology Convention, May 14-17, Two Rivers, Wisconsin

“The WSO has come to the difficult but we feel necessary decision to cancel all WSO organized events through the month of May. While we are still weeks away from our Convention, the Honey Creek Birdathon/Bandathon, and a number of statewide field trips, we feel it is in the best interest of our membership and our volunteers to take that step now.” The WSO has also called organized field trips in March, April, and May. Full statement

Cape May Spring Festival, May 14-17, Cape May, New Jersey

“With the continuing crisis, we must take the precautionary step of eliminating the Festival’s in-person format. We are actively developing our first-ever virtual birding festival.” Full statement 

Baltimore Birding Weekend, May 15-17, Baltimore, Maryland

“The Baltimore Birding Weekend has been postponed from May 15-17 to October 2-4, 2020.” Full statement

Ladd Marsh Birding Festival, May 15 – 17, La Grande, Oregon

“The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Friends of Ladd Marsh have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Ladd Marsh Bird Festival.” Full statement

Pikes Peak Birding & Nature Festival, May 15-17, Fountain, Colorado

“To combat the COVID-19 Virus, the Festival Committee has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 festival.” Full statement

Down East Spring Birding Fest, May 22-25, Trescott, Maine

“In an effort to promote collective physical distancing, we are cancelling the beloved Downeast Spring Birding Festival this year.” Full statement

Huron Fringe Birding Festival, May 22-25,  May 28 – 31, MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Port Elgin, Ontario 

“With a tear in our eye the Festival Committee announces the cancellation of the 2020 Huron Fringe Birding Festival.” Full statement

Yakutat Tern Festival, May 28-31, Yakutat, Alaska 

“The 10th Annual Yakutat Tern Festival is CANCELLED for 2020. The safety of the community and visitors is of the utmost importance.” Full statement

Acadia Birding Festival, May 28-31, Bar Harbor, Maine

“Due to the situation with COVID-19 and all the restrictions currently in place, I have decided to cancel the 2020 Acadia Birding Festival.” Full statement

Cerulean Warbler Weekend, May 29-31, Barry County, Michigan

“This event has been canceled in response to COVID-19.” Full statement

Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival, June 4-7, Sisters, Oregon 

“After consultation with the Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival Committee, the ECAS Board has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Woodpecker Festival.” Full statement

Kirtland’s Warbler Festival, June 5-7, Roscommon, Michigan

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Kirtland’s Warbler Festival has been cancelled as a matter of public safety.” Full statement

Audubon nature centers

Most Audubon nature centers around the U.S. are closed “to maintain a healthy environment for staff, volunteers, and visitors.” While the buildings are closed, most outdoor trails at the nature centers remain open. Check the status of individual Audubon centers here, and if your local nature center is not affiliated with Audubon, check its website for its status.

We’re adding more events to this post as we learn of more cancelations. If you hear about a birding function being canceled, please send us an email.

Earlier stories:

Should spring birding festivals be canceled due to coronavirus?

Birding tours in China, Israel canceled, postponed due to coronavirus travel constraints

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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