A Harris Hawk, one of the many birds a watchful eye can spot in southeast Arizona during the annual birding festival.

Birds do not abide by the four-season cycle. They have five, and Tucson is currently in the middle of number three. Those interested in learning more about this unique cycle, and maybe even spotting some rare birds, can do so at the upcoming Southeast Arizona Birding Festival. 

The festival runs from Wednesday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 11, and is hosted by the Tucson Audubon Society. 

“We do a lot of work with birds,” said Luke Safford, coordinator of the society’s volunteer program and the festival.” We help people enjoy birds and protect birds. People come to the festival both for the wealth of information and for the experiences offered.”

The activity lineup consists of workshops, presentations, photo opportunities and field trips. Some of the talks will cover the joys of birdwatching and the different types of birds of prey. The field trips will offer attendees the chance to embark on “half-day, full-day and new overnight birding field trips” facilitated by expert leaders, according to Tucson Audubon Society.

“Last year the Festival collectively saw 230 bird species,” said Matt Griffiths, Audubon Society communications manager. “Southeast Arizona is one of the top five birding destinations in the U.S. because of our unique combo of habitats and elevations, and because many birds come up from Mexico here and nowhere else in the U.S.” 

Major figures in the birding community also come to the festival to speak. This year’s guests include writer and photographer Kevin Karlson and Laura Erickson, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s science editor, photographer, writer and producer of the radio show “For the Birds.”

Kids aren’t excluded from the fun. In fact, on Saturday, Aug. 10, the Kid’s Zone will be open. It gives children the chance to visit Reid Park Zoo, do face paint and go on bird walks.

On Saturday night, the festival will host Fiesta de Aves, a reception and banquet where attendees can catch some of the talks, see some local art and listen to live mariachi music. 

Some of the festival’s partnerships include Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation; Reid Park Zoo; Gathering Grounds in Patagonia; Beyond Bread; Enterprise and Splendido.

The festival also includes the Community Nature Expo, which provides visitors with a more in-depth look into the birding community. Activities at the expo include binocular cleaning, camera sensor cleaning, printer demos, nestbox building and silk painting.

“The Expo is a showcase of the birding world and also a way for local and national experts to reach local Tucsonans, many of whom may not even know about Tucson Audubon, the birding world, or even environmental causes at all,” Griffiths said. “Many bird populations are in danger here and across the U.S., so while it’s fun, educational, and healthy to watch birds, we should all strive to protect them as well.”

As for birds’ five seasons, they are: spring, dry, rainy, fall and winter. But even with all these changes, Griffiths said birding in the Tucson area is excellent year-round. The festival takes place in August due to the more forgiving atmosphere in Tucson with the lack of visitors. 

But that doesn’t mean the birding is laid-back this time of year. 

“It’s a great time to go birding here—it is our ‘second spring’ when the monsoon rains kick in and reinvigorate the lands,” Griffiths said. “Many birds wait until this time to breed and some will have a second clutch of eggs. Also, this is the best time to see the most hummingbirds, and rare birds from Mexico may venture up north of the border.”

The Southeast Arizona Birding Festival takes place from Wednesday, Aug. 7 to Sunday, Aug. 11 at the DoubleTree Inn by Reid Park. 445 S Alvernon Way. For more information, visit

Ambur Wilkerson is a University of Arizona graduate journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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