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Birding in Alaska: 8 Not-to-Miss Birding Festivals

Spring in Alaska brings much more than more daylight. It's time for the annual migration of birds — millions head to the arctic from as far away as South America. Communities and towns, many along what's known as the Pacific Flyway, like Ketchikan, Wrangell, Cordova, Homer, the Mat-Su Valley, the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks, celebrate this epic return with spring birding festivals and events.

Stikine River Birding Festival - April 24-26, 2014

Set in the community of Wrangell, the Stikine River Birding Festival’s highlight is the thousands of bald eagles that gather in the area. Visitors can also look for Bonaparte’s gull, glaucous-winged gulls, black-legged kittiwakes, Thayer’s gulls and others. The festival’s featured 2014 artist, Elizabeth Kunibe of Juneau, will be offering public art classes. Other events include lectures, a photo contest and a golf tournament at the local course, Muskeg Meadows. Contact the Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information on this festival.

Alaska Hummingbird Festival - April 29-31, 2014

Ketchikan hosts the annual Alaska Hummingbird Festival each April to welcome the return of the Rufous hummingbird after its long trek north from Central and South America. The festival features guided bird hikes, art shows and numerous children's activities. Festival information is available through the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.

Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge - May 3, 2014

Up north in Fairbanks, this one-day event welcomes the annual return of migratory birds to the Creamer’s Field Migratory Wildlife Refuge. Information booths, bird and nature walks, and family events including crafts and games are all part of the celebration of the peak spring migration of birds through the refuge. For more details, see the Friends of Creamer's Field.

Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival - May 8-11, 2014

This Cordova birding festival is one of Alaska’s best known. Up to 5 million shorebirds migrate through the Prince William Sound community as they make their way to points farther north in the arctic and along the coast of Alaska. The Copper River Delta festival features workshops, Audubon Society speakers, art exhibits, birding walks and a birder’s challenge. Check in with the Cordova Chamber of Commerce for more information.

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival - May 7-11, 2014

Homer's Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival features field events, workshops, presentations, entertainment and birding tours offered by bus, boat and kayak. There is also a special junior birder’s event on May 7. This year’s keynote speaker is Bill Thompson III, the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest. For more information, contact the Homer Chamber of Commerce.

Kenai River Birding Festival - May 15-18, 2014

The Kenai River Birding Festival is held in three communities (Soldotna, Kenai and Seward) on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and features field excursions, lectures, an art show and a special birding float trip down the Kenai River from Skilak Lake to Bing’s Landing by drift boat. During the 2013 festival, the annual Big Sit at the Kenai Birding Platform recorded more than 70 species in a 24-hour period. More information is available through the Kenai Visitor Center.

Yakutat Tern Festival - June 5-8, 2014

Yakutat is famed for having one of the largest and southernmost known breeding colonies of Aleutian terns. The Yakutat area is currently at the forefront of Aleutian Tern research, including studies on population trends, nesting ecology, and migration patterns. This festival includes field trips, children's activities, Native cultural events and art show. For more information, visit the festival's website, Yakutat Tern Festival.

Gunsight Mountain Hawkwatch Weekend - April 2015

The Gunsight Mountain Hawkwatch Weekend held each April is a special event put on by the Mat-Su Birders organization; the 2014 event was on April 13-14. Birders meet at Mile 119 of the Glenn Highway, which is about 77 miles east of Palmer in Southcentral Alaska. Although the event doesn't feature much formal programming, the birding opportunities are particularly special as birders will have a chance to spot golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, northern goshawks, American kestrel, peregrine falcons, merlin and possibly osprey. For more information, contact the Mat-Su Birders.

For more information on birding in Alaska and other festivals and events, contact the Alaska travel experts at AdventureSmith.

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