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The Wonders of Migration

The Fascinating World of Bird Migration: Your questions answered

 ~ Guest Blogger Fatbirder ~

Bird migration is the seasonal movement of birds from one place to another in response to changes in environmental conditions such as temperature, food availability, and daylight. This remarkable phenomenon has fascinated scientists and bird enthusiasts for centuries and continues to be a subject of research and conservation efforts today.

Migration can be dangerous for birds, and many do not survive the journey. They can face numerous threats, such as severe weather, predation, collisions with buildings, and loss of habitat along their migration routes.

In answer to readers’ questions, here are some key facts and insights about bird migration:

Why do birds migrate?

Birds migrate for a variety of reasons, including breeding, nesting, and winter survival. In general, birds migrate in Spring to areas where they can find food and suitable habitats for breeding and raising their young. This can mean a small window of suitable climate and food source in an otherwise inhospitable location such as the Arctic. In Autumn many birds return to their warmer homes.

However, not all migration is long distance. For example, in Europe there are seasonal movements over quite short distances of as little as a hundred miles. There can also be migrations from high to low altitudes and vice versa.

When to migrate?

The timing of bird migration is influenced by a variety of factors, including day length, weather patterns, and food availability. Some species migrate earlier or later depending on these factors, which can have implications for their survival and reproductive success.

How do birds navigate during migration?

Birds use a variety of cues to navigate during migration, including the position of the sun and stars, the Earth’s magnetic field, and landmarks such as coastlines and mountains. For example, the Arctic Tern uses the position of the sun and the polar star to navigate. Some birds have tiny crystals of magnetite in their beaks that allow them to sense the earth’s magnetic field and use it as a compass. Recent research also suggests that birds may use their sense of smell to navigate.

How far do birds migrate?

The distance that birds migrate varies depending on the species and the location. Some birds travel thousands of miles, while others only migrate short distances. For example, the bar-tailed godwit can fly up to 7,000 miles non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand. The Arctic Tern holds the record for the longest migration, flying up to 44,000 miles in a round-trip between its breeding grounds in the Arctic and its wintering grounds in Antarctica.

Some birds, like the Swainson’s Thrush, use a “loop migration” strategy, where they take a longer route on their way to their breeding grounds in the spring, but a shorter route on their way back to their wintering grounds in the fall. Others move slowly to warmer climes in the Autumn stopping and feeding on the way, while some speed to breeding grounds before their spot is occupied

What are the risks and challenges of migration?

Migration is a risky undertaking for birds, as they face many obstacles along the way, including predators, harsh weather conditions, and the risk of getting lost. Birds must also find suitable habitats and food sources along their migration routes, which can be disrupted by habitat loss and climate change. Birds can become disoriented during migration if they encounter strong artificial light sources, such as bright city lights or searchlights. This can cause them to fly off course or even crash into buildings.

Some birds migrate in a V-formation to reduce wind resistance and save energy. The birds take turns leading the formation to share the effort of flying at the front.

How do scientists study bird migration?

Ornithologists and other scientists use a variety of methods to study bird migration, including banding (ringing) and tagging birds with GPS and radio transmitters. By tracking the movements of individual birds, researchers can learn more about migration patterns and the challenges that birds face during their journeys.

Overall, bird migration is a fascinating and complex phenomenon that highlights the importance of conservation efforts to protect the habitats and ecosystems that birds rely on during their journeys.

The top birding spots in Northern Territory, Australia

~ Guest Blogger Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow ~ 

Darwin Mangroves:

Great variety of specialist mangrove birds just a few kilometres from Darwin CBD.  A top spot for one of my favourites, Chestnut Rail Eulabeornis castaneoventris, is on the city-side of the suburb of Bayview Haven.

Other lovely birds are Mangrove Robin Peneoenanthe pulverulenta and Red-headed Honeyeater Myzomela erythrocephala.

The drawbacks are deep mud (a police officer and I got stuck once, thigh-deep), clambering over the looping roots of Stilt-rooted Mangrove Rhizophora stylosa, and the occasional large saltwater crocodile.  Worst of all are the biting midges.  Go when the shadows are long and the tide is out, wear camouflage clothes and keep quiet and still.  If that’s sounds too difficult try Charles Darwin Park just a little further up the road or the bridge over the Elizabeth River, just out of Palmerston, the town south of Darwin.

Stilt-rooted Mangrove

Darwin River:

Of course, this has to be one of my favourite spots – but then I live here!  85 kms south of Darwin, NT Darwin River is a top spot for Partridge Pigeon Geohaps smithii smithii, a bird that’s quietly going extinct elsewhere in the Top End.

Partridge Pigeons

And our place appears to be PP central- the bird breeds here.  Look for a warm brown bird with a white wing spur and red face, and a startled expression. Sadly, gamba grass, a four-metre-high weed is taking over the area (our 20 acres are an island of biological diversity in a sea of the stuff). But look for roads that have weed-free savanna woodland on both sides of the road.  Visit Berry Springs Nature Park on the way for monsoon forest birds and Darwin River Supermarket for an ice-cream.

If coming in August/September watch out for wildfire. Gamba grass fires are dangerous, and the only reason that habitat for Partridge Pigeons still exist here is because of those few landholders (like us) who exhaust themselves clearing the stuff and our wonderful Darwin River Volunteer Bushfire Brigade.

What was once woodland bis now almost completely Gamba Grass

Fogg Dam:

85 km east of Darwin Fogg Dam is known worldwide for its birds and the huge population of water pythons (my children’s dreaming animal). Fogg Dam is an artificial dam built for a rice project in the 1960’s.  It failed, but left a wonderful lake juxtaposed with monsoon and paperbark forest, and floodplains.

Monsoon forest birds include Rainbow Pitta Pitta iris and Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus regina.  Go early in the morning and look for crakes emerging from the spike-rush to feed.

My favourite bird sighting occurred one evening, of Green Pygmy-geese roosting on the leaves of water lillies Nymphea violacea.


Don’t walk along the causeway.  Saltwater crocodiles live in Fogg Dam and I know of at least one attack.

Kudjekbinj (Baby Dreaming), Western Arnhem Land:

Everything beautiful about the Top End is to be found at this small outstation, now deserted.  I used to take birdwatchers to camp among the sandstone.

scenery, gudjekbinj

It is just metres from the cave in which the most senior traditional owners, my sisters, lived as children and ancient paintings on rock of Warramurrunggundji, the creation mother and Yawk Yawk, “fish with a human face”, or mermaid dreaming (my dreaming).


Endemics now rather hard to find in Kakadu National Park are here.  Chestnut-quilled Rock-pigeons waddled around the white sand of the campsite and Banded Fruit-doves flew into feed on the black fruit of Pouteria sericea, a little tree growing in a crevice in the sandstone just behind our tents.

And now White-throated Grasswren has been spotted there.  It used to be easy to see in Kakadu, but not anymore.

As for dangers, a large (up to four metres in length) python, Nyctophilopython oenpelliensis endemic to the Arnhem Land escarpment is known to frequent the area (it posed a danger to my sisters as children).  However, there may be an even larger snake, ‘as long as the distance between two telegraph poles (sister-in-law).   Its name is Ngalinawa, rock snake, big one.

in 2004, I took a tour operator friend to Kudjekbinj, and we camped near the cave where my Yaboks (older sisters) used to live as children.  One day my friend decided to do some exploring, following a path I had previously taken, but was back within the hour, ashen-faced and shaking. He had entered a cave, only to discover a snake track as “wide as a tractor tyre”, and terrified he took to his heels.  Whether it was just a very large Nawaran (Oenpelli Python), or Ngalinawa I don’t know (incidentally, my daughter was named Ngalinawa, to protect her from unscrupulous men).

Another site on Kudjekbinj is dangerous because if the termite mounds there are damaged then the perpetrator becomes pregnant, forever with two or more babies.  And that applies to men as well as women.

Relatives one day hope to be able to have birdwatchers visit Kudjekbinj again.


The ten best birding sites in South Africa

~ Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours ~

It’s certainly not easy to narrow down just a top ten birding spots in this large and diverse country, but I’ll try. It’s the country I grew up in (birding since I was a young child) and have since guided countless trips in all corners of the nine provinces, so I consider it my (rather large) patch.

Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary

Starting near Cape Town, Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, a sewage treatment plant (many a birders’ favourite habitat!) is teaming with flamingos, waterfowl, reed-associated warblers, African Marsh-harrier Circus ranivorus and other birds aplenty. It has also become famous as a magnet for rare birds, and in most years there are several species to twitch. Being located on the edge of the long white sand beach of False Bay with views of the Cape Peninsula mountains (which extend from Table Mountain in the north to Cape Point in the south), one can enjoy spectacular scenery while birding.

Rooiels/Betty’s Bay

Strandfontein is well-positioned for the drive along the mountains that come right down to the sea that are opposite the Cape Peninsula, to get to Rooiels/Betty’s Bay. This is one of the few places where Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus can be seen at sea level rather than high on mountain passes. Many of the other Cape fynbos endemics are also easy to find here. Nearby Stony Point boasts one of the few mainland colonies of African Penguin Spheniscus demersus, and all the marine cormorant species including two localized threatened species are also present here. The penguin colony is now fenced as a rare Cape Leopard Panthera pardus pardus was predating the penguins!

West Coast National Park

Moving northwards, the West Coast National Park is the best place on the planet for the stunning Black Harrier Circus maurus and other localized birds, along with a wader spectacle from October through March. It’s very scenic with the Langebaan Lagoon and sometimes spectacular spring floral displays, and has some excellent mammals such as Caracal Caracal caracal.


Continuing further northwards to near the Namibia border, is Springbok/Pofadder, a remote mountainous part of the world that is the lark epicentre of the world, boasting some extremely range-restricted ones such as Red Lark Callendululauda burra, Sclater’s Lark Spizocorys sclateri and Black-eared Sparrow-lark Eremopterix australis. If larks aren’t your cup of tea, then it’s still a great area for bustards such as Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii and a number of other spectacular birds.

Zaagkuilsdrift Road

Moving far to the east is the legendary Zaagkuilsdrift Road which is in easy reach of Johannesburg. This has some Kalahari-type birds such as Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus, a lot of grassland species and in years of good rainfall, tropical waterbirds including Dwarf Bittern Ixobrychus sturmii. One can accumulate a long very bird list in a single morning here.

Marievale Bird Sanctuary/Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

On the other side of Johannesburg is Marievale Bird Sanctuary/Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. These two reserves that are very close to each other are worth at least one full day of birding. Marievale is one of the country’s best waterbird sites, and Suikerbosrand is superb for spectacular-plumages widowbirds and bishop species, among a plethora of other birds.

Kruger National Park

Just a five to six hour drive east of Johannesburg is one of the world’s most famous game parks, the Kruger National Park which is about the same size as Belgium, so a vast – and spectacularly bird and mammal rich – part of the world.


Wakkerstroom is within easy reach of the southern parts of the vast Kruger National Park, and is rightly famed as an endemic hotspot, with charismatic korhaans including the localised and beautiful Blue Korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens plus localized larks including the Critically Endangered Rudd’s Lark Heteromirafra ruddi.

Northern Zululand

From Wakkerstroom it is then easy to reach northern Zululand, one of the most bird-diverse corners of South Africa. If you only have time to visit two of northern Zululand’s game reserves, then Mkhuze and iSamangaliso Wetland Park (St. Lucia) are likely to be at the top of your list. Both these reserves boast staggeringly high bird and mammal lists.

Sani Pass

Last but not least, is Sani Pass which is easily accessible from Durban. As one ascends this road from the Kwazulu/Natal midlands up the imposing Drakensberg Escarpment into the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, one is able to find almost all the Drakensberg endemics and specials in a single day of birding. Near the base of the pass are species like Bush Blackcap Sylvia nigricapillus, half way up are Protea specialists such as Gurney’s Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi and at the top are Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius, Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and other star species.

How to get the kids into birding

~ Guest Blogger Fatbirder ~

One of the most frequently asked questions by avid birdwatchers is how to get their children into the pastime. Of course, there is no easy answer and no matter how often you lead the horses to the water, they don’t always want to take a drink! Perhaps lesson one is…. DON’T FORCE IT! Nothing will put kids off more than telling them how great something is. Leading by gentle example is probably the best way. But, don’t forget, we don’t all develop an interest in the natural world, and those of us that do can start at any age.

So, segue into oblique ways to get kids interested in birdwatching:

Bring nature indoors:

Even if your kids don’t enjoy spending time outside, you can still bring nature into your home. Get some indoor plants, start a small aquarium, or hang bird feeders outside your window so you can easily see them. This will allow your kids to observe and learn about different aspects of nature from the comfort of your home.

Expose them to books and nature documentaries:

Reading books with a nature theme will inculcate the natural world without you actually seeming to be an advocate. Watching documentaries about nature can be a great way to spark your kids’ interest, especially when doing something with mum or dad is what your kids most want.

Start a garden:

Starting a small garden in your backyard can be a fun way to introduce your kids to nature. Give them their own tiny plot and allow them to help you with planting, watering, and harvesting the plants. This is also a great opportunity to teach them about the different types of plants and their life cycles. Gardening without chemicals is a must of course so they can see that wild things sharing the cabbages and blueberries is more fun than stamping on bugs. It’s hard to be in the garden and not hear the birds singing. Close encounters with a tame Robin brings delight to even the most tech centre child.

Apps & Field-guides:

Don’t leave that field-guide on the shelf. Leave it where you can see the feeders from the window and point out how you can identify the common birds using the book. Install a bird ID  app on their phones and gently encourage your kids to identify different birds they see.

Sneaky Propaganda:

One fun way to get kids interested in birdwatching without them realising is to incorporate birdwatching activities into other fun outdoor activities. For example, you can plan a scavenger hunt in a park or nature reserve and include bird sightings on the list of things to find. Another idea is to go on a nature hike and encourage the kids to spot and identify different birds along the way. Make sure there are unrelated prizes like chocolate so nature and instant pleasure are associated!

Don’t make nature appreciation the centre of the activity but an incidental… so, for example, a family bike ride is about being together and biking… that it is through nice countryside is a bonus. Having the picnic is the fun activity, but pointing out which birds are calling is the bonus there.

On those long car journeys to see grandma make a game out of who can spot the most different species of birds and other wildlife.

Remember that it’s important to be patient and not force your kids to enjoy nature. Encourage them to explore and learn at their own pace, and let them discover the wonders of nature on their own terms.

Once they show an initial interest, there are many things you can do to encourage your kids to become interested in nature! Here are some ideas:

Record Keeping:

Encourage your kids to keep a bird journal where they can record their observations, drawings, and notes about the birds they see.


Make birdwatching a regular activity and involve your kids in the planning process. Ask them where they would like to go and what birds they would like to see. This will help them develop a sense of ownership and excitement for birdwatching.


You can use technology to make birdwatching more engaging for kids. There are many fun bird-related apps and games that can help kids learn about birds in a fun and interactive way, such as Merlin Bird ID, Birdsnap, and iBird.

One on One:

Kids like to feel they have your undivided attention and spending time alone with one parent is special. The activity is less important than the time together. If you take a child birdwatching and give them your whole attention they will value the whole experience, including the appreciation of nature.

Remember that it’s important to be patient and not force your kids to enjoy nature. Encourage them to explore and learn at their own pace, and let them discover the wonders of nature on their own terms.


Top 10 Bird Watching Destinations in India

~ Guest Blogger Mohit Aggarwal founder of Asian Adventures ~

India’s 28 states and 8 territories have an incredibly diverse range of habitats from the highest ice-capped mountains, rolling hills, desserts, salt flats, lush jungle and vast wetlands to temperate woodland, lowland plains, lakes, great rivers, farmland and rice paddies. No wonder that the bird species numbering over 1300 are so rich and varied. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or just starting out, there are plenty of destinations across the country that will leave you in awe of the wildlife.

Here (in no particular order) are the top 10 bird watching destinations in India:

Keoladeo National Park

In Rajasthan, Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous birding destinations in India. Birders can observe over 370 bird species here, including the Sarus Crane, Knob-billed Duck, Dusky Eagle-Owl, and various waterfowl, both resident and migratory.


Pangot, just 15 km from Nainital, is a popular bird-watching destination in Uttarakhand. We know Pangot for its rich variety of bird species, including the Himalayan species, especially the Cheer Pheasant, which makes its home in the hilltop grasslands. Other popular residents of Pangot include Koklass and Kalij Pheasants, Black Francolin, Small and Rufous-bellied Niltavas, and more. Visitors can go on guided nature walks and treks to spot the birds.

Sat Tal 

Sat Tal, in Uttarakhand, is a group of seven freshwater lakes that offer a great bird-watching experience. Bird-watchers can observe over 400 bird species at Sat Tal, including the Himalayan Vulture, Blue-winged Minla, Red-billed Blue Magpie, White-crested Laughingthrush, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, and more.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

In Gujarat, the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is home to many bird species, including migratory birds like Lesser Flamingo, Great White and Dalmatian Pelicans, and various migratory waterbirds such as Greater and Lesser White-fronted Geese, Ruddy-breasted and Baillon’s Crakes and more. Visitors can take a boat ride through the wetlands to spot the birds.

Chilika Lake 

Chilika Lake, in Odisha, attracts a wide range of bird species, especially in the winter. Migrants here include Greater and Lesser Flamingos, a variety of waders, Pallas’s and White-bellied Sea Eagles, and more. Ornithologists have recorded over 180 bird species here, and the lake is also home to the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin.

Thattekad Bird Sanctuary 

Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, in Kerala, is home to over 300 bird species, including Western Ghat endemics like the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Barbet, Malabar Flameback, Flame-throated Bulbul, Wayanad Laughingthrush and more. The sanctuary also plays host to a variety of winter migrants, including Sri Lanka Bay Owl, Black Baza, and more.

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park, in Assam, is famous for its One-horned Rhinoceros population, but it’s also a great bird watching destination. Birdwatchers have recorded a variety of amazing birds here, including Greater Adjutant, Grey-headed and Pallas’s Fish Eagles, Pied Harrier, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Chestnut-capped Babbler and more.

Great Himalayan National Park 

Great Himalayan National Park, in Himachal Pradesh, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to see high-altitude birds like Koklass, Cheer and Kalij Pheasants, Himalayan Monal, Western Tragopan, Red- and Yellow-billed Blue Magpies, Himalayan Prinia, Himalayan Black-lored Tit and many more.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary 

In Karnataka, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is a group of small islands in the Cauvery River. You can see over 230 bird species here, including the Knob-billed Duck, Blue-faced Malkoha, Greater Painted-snipe, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish Eagles, and more.

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

Part of the Kali Tiger Reserve of Karnataka, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to see and photograph a variety of amazing birds like the Great Hornbill Malabar Trogon, Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl, Malabar Imperial Pigeon, Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Dark-fronted Babbler, and more. Visitors can also go on safaris, nature walks and treks through the sanctuary.

Honestly, it is difficult to pick the ten best birdwatching destination in India, as there are so many to choose from. The above ten are ‘must-see’ but there are very many other superb destinations too. With such a diverse range of habitats and bird species, various destinations can offer many unique experiences, making India justified in calling itself that use much over used phrase;  a true bird-watching paradise.

The Best Field Guides for Bird Watching

Here are some of the best bird watching field guides for each continent:

North America

The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley is a popular field guide that covers over 800 species of birds found in North America. You can even buy the guide as two separate volumes for western and western birds. This is without doubt the best field guide for North America and is one of the top three fieldguides for anywhere in the world along with Collins guide for Europe and Robertson for Southern Africa.

Another great option is The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer.

Bear in mind Mexico is part of North America and has much avifauna one might describe as South American

If you bird in one state only there are many suitable guides, but Sibley is a must!

South America:

Birds of South America: Passerines by Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor is a comprehensive guide to the passerine birds of South America. For non-passerine birds, The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide by Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield is highly recommended.

Given that each Central & South American country has a good field guide it makes sense to get the best country guide rather than the continent spanning (very weighty) guides.


Collins Bird Guide by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, and Dan Zetterström is a highly regarded field guide that covers over 700 species of birds found in Europe. It is probably the best field-guide to anywhere and also comes as an app with bird song.

“Birds of Europe” by Lars Jonsson is also a great option.


Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, and Warwick Tarboton is a comprehensive guide to the birds of Southern Africa. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa is more comprehensive, but is far less portable tome.

Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe is a highly recommended guide for East Africa.

West Africa is less well served and most North African species are covered in combination with Europe.


A Field Guide to the Birds of China by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps is a highly regarded guide to the birds of China. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp, and Tim Inskipp is a comprehensive guide to the birds of the Indian Subcontinent.

For southeast Asia there are good guides to Malaysia and to Thailand


Australian birders are spoilt for choice as there are three or four first class fieldguides.

Michael Morcombe’s Field Guide to Australian Birds is comprehensive and current. A personal favourite is The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds as it is not only a comprehensive guide to the birds of Australia but very easy to carry about.

Pizzey and Knight’s Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight is another popular option and The Australian Bird Guide by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin is pretty good too.

You will need a more local guide for New Zealand as there is no comprehensive guide for the whole of Australasia.

There are many other great field guides available for each continent, and these are just a few examples. It’s always a good idea to do some research and read reviews before selecting a field guide. Moreover, for many places a field guide just for a single country makes more sense for visiting or resident birders as they will be more portable and detailed.

Top Ten World-Wide Bird Fairs & Festivals

By Guest Blogger Fatbirder

There are many birding fairs and festivals held around the world, each offering unique experiences and opportunities to see a variety of bird species. They are not uniform events. For example in the USA Birding Festivals tend to be held in top birding locations and the emphasis will be on daily led tours backed up by speakers with some fun events and stalls with most exhibitors being relatively local. Some international bird fairs, such as the UK’s Global Bird Fair have an emphasis on exhibitions from environmental charities, commercial birding companies such as optics, tours and bird feed backed up by speakers and fun events. Exhibitors will be from all over the world. There are even a few built around bird races.

Here are some of the biggest and best birding festivals in the world:

British Birdwatching Fair:

Now known as the Global Birdfair, this is the largest birdwatching event in the world. It takes place annually in August in Rutland, in the centre of England. It celebrates and raises awareness about birds and their conservation. It attracts over 20,000 visitors over three days every year, including bird enthusiasts, conservationists, and nature lovers and has literally hundreds of exhibitors in vast marquees.

The Birdfair was first held in 1989 and has since grown to become the largest birdwatching events in the world. The event was organized by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), along with other organizations. During the pandemic it was held on line. Since then it has not had the involvement of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust but is organised independently by a group set up the person who originally founded BirdFair.

The fair includes a range of activities, such as lectures, workshops, guided walks, and exhibitions, all related to birdwatching and conservation. There are hundreds of stalls selling books, optical equipment, bird food, birdwatching tours, art and other nature and bird related merchandise. Exhibitors come from all over the world.

One of the main goals of the Birdfair is to raise funds for bird conservation projects around the world. Each year, a different project is selected as the beneficiary of the funds raised at the event. Over the years, the Birdfair has raised millions of pounds for conservation efforts, making it an important event for bird lovers and conservationists alike.

Cape May Birding Festival:

The Cape May Birding Festival in New Jersey, USA, is one of the largest and oldest birding festivals in North America, typically held during the peak of spring migration. The festival is organised by the Cape May Bird Observatory, which is part of the New Jersey Audubon Society. It attracts birding enthusiasts from around the world who come to observe and learn about the many species of birds that pass through Cape May during migration as it is a well-known birding hotspot, that sits at the southern tip of New Jersey and is located along a major migratory route for many bird species especially many species of wood warblers.

During the festival, participants can attend guided bird walks and workshops led by experienced birders and naturalists. There are also lectures, social events, and opportunities for bird photography. The festival typically offers a range of events and activities suitable for both novice and experienced birders.

Japan Bird Festival:

The festival is one of Japan’s largest bird-themed events and takes place at Lake Teganuma, Abiko City, in the Chiba Prefecture not far from Tokyo. The location in the northeast of Tokyo makes this place perfect for the event as the area is well-known to be a naturalist area with the massive Teganuma Lake and its surrounding lakes and nature reserves. For years, this birding event has attracted visitors from all over Japan and beyond.

During the Festival there are many activities that include presentations of research and activities related to birds and the natural environment by the government, NGOs, students, and civic groups. 

International Ménigoute Bird Festival:

Every year, during the last week of October, a large international bird show is held in Ménigoute. Ménigoute, situated at 5 kilometres from Domaine les Forges in France is a small village with less than 1000 inhabitants, a hotel, a post office, a bakery and a sports hall. Thousands of people visit the festival in the last week of October.

The festival is visited by bird lovers from all parts of France and beyond. There is plenty to do from watching films from about 15 different countries; participating in excursions; listening to lectures about birds to admiring exhibits of birds and paintings of nature. There are more than 100 stands of nature conservation organizations, nature areas, book stores etc. in a large tent.

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival:

The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is an annual event that thas taken place in South Texas, USA for more than twenty-five years. It is one of the premier birding festivals in North America and attracts birders from around the world. The festival is held in November and offers a variety of birding activities, including field trips, workshops, lectures, and a trade show.

The Rio Grande Valley is known for its rich diversity of bird species, with over 500 species recorded in the region. Its location makes it a place where Canadian and American birders can see species normally found in Mexico and beyond. The festival takes advantage of this biodiversity by offering field trips to different habitats, such as wetlands, grasslands, and forests. Participants can expect to see a wide range of bird species, including raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, and many others.

In addition to birding, the festival also offers workshops on bird identification, bird photography, and other related topics. There are also lectures by renowned bird experts and conservationists, as well as a trade show featuring vendors of birding equipment, books, and other merchandise.

Bruny Island Bird Festival:

The Festival takes place every two years in March at Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia. It was first held in 2010 as a community celebration of the remarkable diversity of birdlife on the island. The three-day Festival is jointly presented by the Bruny Island Environment Network, BirdLife Tasmania and Inala Nature Tours, drawing on the wealth of knowledge and experience of experts in these groups to provide both an engaging and educative immersion in the natural delights of Bruny.

The Festival has become a much-anticipated event by the community and visitors alike. Each Festival brings new features and long-term favourites. In 2022, the Festival continued to build on the four key elements of Community, Conservation, Science and Creativity to further involve the people of Bruny and Tasmania in the many tours, walks, workshops, lecturers, markets and cultural celebrations that are the Festival.

Bringing together Science, Conservation, Community and Creativity to create three days of enjoyment and education about the birdlife of this wonderful island. Packed with new features as well as old favourites, there are Expert Speakers, Birdwatching Tours & Walks, a Market Day, Art Exhibition and musical and comedic evening Celebrations of birds.

Festival of Birds:

The Festival of Birds is an annual event that takes place at Point Pelee National Park in Canada. Point Pelee is a renowned birding destination and is considered one of the best places in North America to see migratory birds because of its position sticking out into Lake Erie it is the first point of landfall for birds migrating across the lake. In bad weather many exhausted birds will ‘fall’ there to recuperate.

The festival usually takes place in May, during the peak of the spring migration season when millions of birds are passing through the area. During the festival, visitors can take part in a variety of birding activities, including guided bird walks, workshops, and presentations by expert birders and naturalists, and take advantage of the park’s many trails and observation towers to view the birds up close.

In addition to the birding activities, the festival also includes live music, food vendors, and other entertainment options.

Champions of the Flyway Bird Race:

Champions of the Flyway is an annual bird race that takes place in Israel. The event is organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the International Birding and Research Centre in Eilat. The main goal of the event is to raise funds for bird conservation projects in Israel, while also promoting birding as a popular hobby and promoting Israel as a birding destination.

The race takes place over a 24-hour period, during which teams of birders compete to see as many species of birds as possible. The race takes place in the Eilat region, which is one of the most important migration hotspots in the world, as millions of birds fly over the area during the migration season.

The event is unique in that it emphasizes the conservation of birds and their habitats, as well as raising awareness about the threats that birds face in the region through a competition. In addition to the race itself, the event also includes educational programs, workshops, and birdwatching tours, which are open to the public.

Since its inception in 2014, the Champions of the Flyway has become one of the most prestigious birding events for ‘listers’ in the world, attracting birders from around the globe. The event has raised over $600,000 for bird conservation projects in Israel, and has helped to promote birding as a popular and rewarding pastime.

Oaxaca Birding Festival:

The Oaxaca Birding Festival is an annual event held in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, that celebrates the rich birdlife of the region. The festival usually takes place in mid-January and is organized by the Oaxaca Birding Club in collaboration with local authorities, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.

The festival offers a wide range of activities for birding enthusiasts, including guided birdwatching tours, bird photography workshops, lectures and presentations by expert birders, and cultural events that showcase the local traditions and cuisine of Oaxaca. The festival also includes a birding fair where participants can buy birding equipment, books, and souvenirs.

Oaxaca is a biodiversity hotspot with over 700 bird species recorded in the region, including many endemic and endangered species such as the Oaxaca Sparrow, Bearded Wood-Partridge, and Dwarf Jay. The festival provides an excellent opportunity to observe these species in their natural habitat and learn about their behaviour and ecology from experienced birders

In addition to birdwatching, the festival also promotes conservation and sustainable tourism practices in the region. Proceeds from the festival go towards supporting local conservation efforts and community development projects.

India Bird Fair:

The Indian Bird Fair is an annual event that celebrates the rich diversity of birdlife in India. It brings together bird enthusiasts, birders, naturalists, photographers, and conservationists from across the country and the world. It features a variety of activities and events, including birdwatching tours, bird photography workshops, bird identification sessions, talks and presentations on bird conservation and birding, and exhibitions showcasing the latest equipment and technology related to birdwatching and bird photography.

First held in 2019 in the state of Gujarat, it has since become a highly anticipated event in the Indian birding community. The fair is organized by the Gujarat Tourism Corporation in partnership with leading bird conservation organizations such as BirdLife International, the Bombay Natural History Society, and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of bird conservation and to promote ecotourism in India. It also provides a platform for bird enthusiasts to connect and share their knowledge and experiences, and to learn from experts in the field.


Other Notable Festivals

Haradh International Bird Festival:

The Haradh International Bird Festival is an annual event organised by the Saudi Wildlife Authority, which takes place in the city of Haradh in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in February or March; the peak migration time. The festival is dedicated to the celebration of birds, their habitats, and conservation efforts to protect them and is part of the country’s efforts to promote ecotourism and preserve its natural heritage.

The festival attracts bird watchers, conservationists, and nature enthusiasts from around the world who come to witness the migration of birds from Europe and Asia to their winter homes in Africa. Haradh is located in the heart of the Al-Hasa Oasis, which is a major stopping point for migratory birds as they make their way south.

The festival features a range of activities, including bird watching tours, educational workshops, and cultural performances. Visitors can also enjoy traditional Saudi Arabian food and experience the local hospitality. 

Festival of the Cranes:

The Festival of the Cranes is an annual event taking place at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, USA. It is usually held in late November and early December and celebrates the arrival of thousands of sandhill cranes and other migratory birds that visit the refuge during the winter months.

Visitors from all over the world can take part in a variety of activities including guided bird watching tours, photography workshops, and educational presentations about the cranes and other wildlife in the area. There are also arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, and live music performances.

One of the main highlights of the festival is the daily ‘fly-out’ and ‘fly-in’ events. Visitors gather at dawn and dusk to watch the cranes take off and return to their roosting areas in the refuge; a unique and unforgettable opportunity to witness the beauty and majesty of these magnificent birds in flight.

High Plains Snow Goose Festival, USA

The High Plains Snow Goose Festival is an annual event held in Lamar, Colorado, USA, that celebrates the spring migration of snow geese through the area. The festival typically takes place in late February or early March and lasts for several days.

During the festival, visitors have the opportunity to observe the snow geese in their natural habitat, as well as participate in a variety of educational activities and workshops focused on wildlife conservation, birdwatching, and photography. There are also birding tours, guided nature walks, and lectures from experts in the field. In addition to the snow geese, the festival also highlights other wildlife in the area, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and various waterfowl. Visitors can also enjoy local cuisine, arts and crafts, and live music. 

Monterey Bay Birding Festival:

This festival in California, USA, offers birding tours and workshops, as well as a birding marketplace. It takes place annually in September.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival:

The festival is an annual event that takes place in Harbin, China during the winter months. While the festival is primarily known for its stunning ice and snow sculptures, it also offers a unique opportunity for birdwatching. It is staged in a park called Sun Island, which is home to a variety of bird species. Visitors can spot birds in the park and waterfowl on the nearby Songhua River.

There are several birdwatching tours available during the festival, which are led by experienced guides who can help visitors identify the different bird species. These tours typically last for a few hours and take visitors to the best birdwatching spots in the park. Temperatures in Harbin during the winter can drop well below freezing, so visitors should dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear.

The Ten Best Birding Spots in Kent


Guest Blogger Fatbirder

Kent has always been a great birding county with a coast on three sides stretching from the Thames Estuary along the Channel to the Sussex border it can be great for sea-watching. The Medway & Stour discharge into the sea creating mudflats and marshes. Kent has a number of precious chalk streams with their unique habitat, the rolling North Downs, several large reservoirs, coastal dunes, reed marshes and almost every sort of farming and fruit growing not to mention the largest area of shingle in Europe it has many different habitats. This is some what diminished by being a heavily populated county with London on its northern doorstep.

Nevertheless, there are many great birding localities and a number that have regularly attracted rare and scarce birds including some never seen elsewhere. Autumn migration can be particularly fruitful because it has the most south-easterly land and so the last feeding stop for birds migrating to southern Europe and Africa. Being the ‘garden of England’ means it is an attractive fuelling depot for fructivores like the winter thrushes and supports a few species overwinter that normally leave the country such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps. It is also well placed for colonisation by species extending their range north. For example, Cetti’s Warbler became well established in Kent before spreading much more widely. Other species have bred here that may colonise such as Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Marsh Warbler, Savi’s Warbler and Penduline Tit.

There are many excellent birding hot spots these ten are in no particular order.


Stodmarsh NNT and Grove ferry occupy a position next to the Stour where mediaeval mine workings collapsed, were flooded and led to the county’s most extensive reedbeds. Roosts of Bittern and Harriers in winter, resident Bearded Tit, and a range of both summer and winter visitors. Perhaps a highlight are as many as forty hobbies hunting over the reeds and water in high summer. The Grove end can be brilliant for passing and resident raptors.

Canterbury Woods

Blean Wood and Clowes Wood in particular offer a rich mix of woodland species including Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Parts are reserves for RSPB and KWT and subject to rewilding by European Bison and wild pigs. The habitat holds rare butterfly species like Heath Fritillary too. It was also the last Southeast location for breeding Golden Oriole.

Bough Beech

Bough Beech Reservoir is particularly good for scarce wintering ducks, waders and woodland passerines. Feeders at the KWT reserve attract nuthatch, woodpecker and marsh tits. But its attraction to birders is its propensity to attract migrating water birds such as Osprey and Terns.

Cliffe Pools

Cliffe pools are old gravel pits which attracted a rich avifauna long before being bought and managed by RSPB. Scarce birds like Black-necked Grebe, Pied Stilt, Pallid Swift have been long stayers and some have attempted to breed. The pools are excellent for a wide range of waders and the surrounding scrub can be alive with warblers, nightingales and finches.

Isle of Sheppey

Elmley is the only National Nature Reserve in the UK managed entirely by its private owners. Emphasis has been on breeding waders and over-wintering wildfowl but it is a magnet for photographers who go for close encounters with four owl species, an incredible density of marsh harriers and a supporting cast of anything from Penduline Tits to flocks of Cattle Egrets. It now holds a greater density of breeding Lapwings than any other site in England. Much of Sheppey is arable farmland with plantings to encourage released gamebirds for the shooting fraternity. The benefit of which extends to large passerine seedeaters in winter and perhaps the best variety of raptors in winter anywhere in the UK. Regular Rough-legged Buzzard and Hen Harrier join with Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Red Kite and an incredible density of Marsh Harriers. Capel fleet has a raptor watchpoint and both Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl are regular along with an accommodating flock of Corn Bunting.

Oare Marshes

On the opposite bank of the Swale is Oare KWT reserve. Marshes, pools and some shallow scrapes attract vast numbers of waders and wildfowl as well as breeding birds like Water Rail and Bearded Tit that can be easy to see. It is a magnet for rare waders in particular and with scrapes close to the road it attracts photographers galore. A very large flock of Black-tailed Godwit commute between here and Elmley via the exposed mud of the Swale and Horse Sands which is a low tide ‘roost’ for common and grey seals.


Sandwich, Pegwell Bay and the adjacent Worth Marshes hold literally thousands of birds at times – such as flocks of up to ten thousand Golden Plover, roosts of 300+ Sandwich Terns and hundreds of Oystercatchers. Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory monitors all year round and the area regularly attracts rare visitors. In 2022 Britain’s first long-staying Eleanora’s Falcon was ‘ticked’ by thousands along with a Red-footed Falcon and a dozen Hobbies feeding over the newly established Lydden Valley RSPB Reserve. The ‘obs’ has cheap accommodation for visiting birders and has great birds any time of the year.


The largest area of shingle in Europe, old gravel extraction lakes, marsh and scrub sticking out into the channel makes this a prime migration locality. The RSPB reserve has scare winter ducks, breeding bittern, three species of Egret and regular long staying rarities such as Purple Ibis. The Dungeness Bird Observatory, located in the ‘dessert’ of shingle is constant effort and the warm water outflow from the nuclear power station attracts flotillas of gulls and waterbirds, especially in winter. Moreover, the lakes are the best site for medicinal leeches, the bushes hold Hairy Bumblebees and just about anything van turn up and does, from Crested Lark, to Iceland Gulls, Little Bittern to Penduline Tits. It is probably the top site in Kent for rarities all year round.

Ham Street Woods

The woods around Ashford are increasingly important for woodland bird species but much other flora and fauna too.

Northwood Hill

Marshes and Bluebell Woods next to farmland makes this an anytime of year attraction. The county’s largest heronry now has as many Little Egrets as Grey Herons and Cattle Egrets and Great White Egrets may also breed there. It is also one of THE places to go to hear Nightingales.

When Should You Rescue Baby Birds?

It’s an age-old problem and one often asked of anyone who is known to have an interest in birds whether a full-on ornithologist or a humble birder. People often find young birds away from their nests during spring and summer. But how can you help them?

People are good natured and fear that the bird will suffer and or get eaten by their cat or a passing bird of prey. During late spring rescue centres often find well-meaning people turning up with a young bird they thought needed help and the truth is most of them should have been left alone or, perhaps, moved from immediate danger.

The first thing these good Samaritans need to learn is the difference between a fledgling and a nestling. Fledglings will be almost fully feathered, nestlings will be mostly featherless. In the former the best action is no action. In the latter case returning the chick to its nest is the only action likely to make a difference to its survival.

The thing is that wandering from the nest is exactly what young birds do that are just learning to fly. It’s normal for fledgling chicks to be away from the nest and, far from being abandoned, the parent bird is probably close by keeping an eye of the chicks leaving the nest.

Of course, there are times when that they could be in danger or are sick or injured and so in need of assistance.  It should be obvious that the bird is injured or ill and the best action then is to put the birds where it is relatively safe from predators. But the majority of the time they are best left alone. Sick birds will either recover or not and human intervention is unlikely to make a difference. Older, injured birds taken into care are more likely to respond to treatment.

So, in the case of nestlings Help look for its nest in the close by trees or bushes. If you spot it, pop the chick back and the parents will look after it. (By the way don’t worry that you picked it up, it’s a myth that baby birds touched by humans will be rejected by its parents, they won’t abandon a chick you return to its nest.)

If you think you’ve found a sick or wounded fledgling or nestling, you can take the baby into care by using a cardboard box with air holes and put a tea towel in the bottom so it can keep warm but don’t try and feed the baby.

If the injury is no significant the bird may well recover and you can put it back in the nearest bush to where you found it.

Its part of nature that most species breed more offspring than can hope to survive into adulthood. Some will succumb to predators, disease or injury. It’s just the way things are. The best we can do is ensure that mother nature has plenty of the world to itself free from human pollution and disturbance so she can thrive.