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NEW $25 Kiskadee Pass – All seminars and the Mexican Fiesta are being offered as a package. The $25 Kiskadee Pass allows you entry to all 7 events that individually would cost over $100. Purchase your Kiskadee Pass with your registration. Individual tickets can be purchased on premises at the Registration Desk. In addition to these events, many other seminars and activities remain free per the Seminar and Special Events listings. Field trips are not included in the pass.



with Homer Hansen
Free with Kiskadee Pass / Wednesday 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The largest family of birds in the world, Tyrant Flycatchers include an amazing diversity of species. Often, these flycatchers can be easily observed perched in the open watching for insect prey. At the same time, flycatchers regularly pose identification challenges due to similar plumages and overlap in range and habitat. As part of this workshop, you will learn about useful characteristics, behaviors, and vocalizations that aid in flycatcher identification. This workshop places an emphasis on bill shape and size, wing length, and primary projection in relation to Tyrannid genera and species identification, as well as vocalization differences between especially challenging “sibling species.” This workshop will start with a brief overview of the family characteristics, and then cover twenty common to uncommon flycatchers of south Texas, including: Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied, Acadian, Alder, Willow and Least Flycatcher, Black, Say’s and Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical, Couch’s, Western and Eastern Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Homer Hansen grew up in Willcox, Arizona surrounded by Sandhill Cranes in winter and Cassin’s Sparrows in summer. Homer has a passion for sharing bird watching with others and is a regular field trip leader for several festivals and served as chairman of the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival for 17 years. Homer is also co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Valley Young Birders Club and the annual Arizona Young Birders Camp. He instructs workshops on sparrows, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, birding by ear, and bird ecology, including: the Lifelong Learning courses for the Tucson Audubon Society, the Southwestern Sparrows IFO for the American Birding Association, and educational workshops for the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) conferences. Homer is a life member of the WFO, Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), and Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), and currently serves on the WFO board as chairman of the Youth Programs Committee.


with Ian Davies Sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Free! Open to the Public / Thursday 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Automatic identification of photos on your smartphone. Tools to find birds anywhere in the world, at your fingertips, all for free. Want to know where to find your next lifers, and how to plan your next birding trip with ease? Technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s now possible to build tools for birdwatchers that weren’t even fathomable only a couple years ago. Sightings and photographs submitted by birders like you around the world help build the future of birding, while also providing incredibly valuable information for researchers and conservationists—giving back to the birds that we all care so much about. Come learn about eBird and Merlin, two free projects that can help you find and learn about birds like never before. Even if you’ve used eBird and Merlin before, this is an opportunity to learn how to get the most out of the free tools that the Cornell Lab has to offer.

Ian Davies works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as the Project Coordinator for eBird (, a free global database of bird sightings that is used by birdwatchers, researchers, and conservationists worldwide. More than 335 million sightings of birds from every country on earth are available for free use by anyone, contributed by more than 315,000 birdwatchers like you. Ian got interested in birds at age 13 when he visited a banding station and released a Canada Warbler. He has been lost to the feathered world ever since. He enjoys traveling to find birds, making sure to collect information on the birds seen through eBird and sharing those resources with birding communities worldwide. He has visited more than 30 countries in the pursuit of birds so far, and looks forward to continuing to explore the amazing natural world that we live in.


with Kevin Karlson
Free with Kiskadee Pass / Thursday 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

This interactive indoor workshop shares a different approach to field identification that Kevin calls Birding by Impression, A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of his and Dale Rosselet’s recent book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series. Comparative digitized photos from their new book encourage the audience to spot differences between similar shorebird species in direct side-by-side views. This exciting ID approach concentrates initially on basic impressions of size, shape and behavior to form an accurate mental picture of each bird seen in the field. A similar approach was used in Kevin’s popular book, The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006).

Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer. He is a regular presence at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including his website Kevin is the author/photographer of two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012).

Kevin recently produced four photographic laminated foldout guides for Quick Reference Publishing of Florida (Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012), Waterfowl of North America (2013) and Shorebirds of North America (2014). He currently leads several bird tours each year and a birding cruise with Dale Rosselet for Carefree Birding of Florida to six countries (


with Stephen Shunk
Free with Kiskadee Pass / Thursday 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Anecdotes from the early 1900s tell of “carpintera grande” flying up the Lower Rio Grande River, and in 1983, birders reported a Pileated Woodpecker from the region. A 1965 report established the Texas Panhandle as the southern terminus of the hybrid zone between “Red-shafted” and “Yellow-shafted” Northern Flickers. In response to reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in eastern Texas in the late 1960s, U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, of Beaumont (author of the U.S. Endangered Species Act), put forth legislation that eventually established the Big Thicket National Preserve.

Stories abound from the history of woodpecker watching in Texas. From the majestic Ivory-billed Woodpecker to the diminutive Downy, 16 woodpecker species have graced the great state of Texas, and 10 species breed regularly in the Lone Star State. Woodpeckers have caught the attention of Texas naturalists, birders, and ornithologists for nearly two centuries, telling volumes about this charismatic bird family. Join Oregon naturalist and North American woodpecker specialist Steve Shunk for an evening of Texas woodpecker storytelling.

Stephen Shunk graduated from Lamar High School in lovely Arlington, Texas, but he didn’t begin birding until 1989, after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Steve started teaching about birds and their habitats in 1991, and he soon landed his first volunteer field job, studying colonial waterbirds for the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. Tired of living in the urban jungle, Steve left California in 1997, eventually landing in the forests of central Oregon’s “Woodpecker Wonderland”—where eleven woodpecker species breed annually in an area smaller than the city of Harlingen! He has spent the last 19 years studying woodpeckers in his backyard and beyond, and his long-awaited Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America hit the shelves in May 2016. Through his company, Paradise Birding, Steve leads natural history tours across the Western Hemisphere. He has lectured on a diverse array of topics from North America to Southeast Asia, and he is a travel writer and editor for the online Nature Travel Network.


Free! Open to the Public / Friday 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Come join us to find out for yourself why 48 million Americans (USFW study) call themselves birdwatchers!
Want to know the names of the birds you are seeing in your backyards, nearby parks, or lake and sea shores? Valuable information from our tag team of speakers on how to use binoculars, books, nature parks and organizations will help you Get Started Birding!
Presenters will help you learn to use binoculars correctly, use birding guide books and some etiquette to help you when birding with others.  Also covered will be where to bird and get help with your birding skills in your local area.  A power point, using the excellent photography skills of Arroyo Colorado Audubon members, will show you the 30 specialty birds of the Rio Grande Valley.  So even if you are not a beginner you may want to come learn to identify these special birds seen primarily in this immediate area.  Super door prizes are included in this free program.  See you there!


NORMA FRIEDRICH, Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society President; Introduction.
PHIL NELSON, Vice-President Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and member of ACAS.
MARILYN LORENZ, Member Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society.


Birding the world - SeminarBirding the World

Free! Open to the Public / Friday 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm (30 minute sessions)
Come tour the world, with a different country presented every 30 minutes, at the RGVBF auditorium. Speakers will be vendors and tour guides who have first-hand knowledge of the destinations, the specialty birds of that country, and the other attractions available to birders. The presentations start at 2pm on Friday. Check the schedule for the countries to be highlighted this year, then plan to attend the destinations on your bucket list. While there will be time for questions at the end of each talk, you can also connect with the presenters at their booths in the Birders Bazaar.


with Neil Hayward
Free with Kiskadee Pass/ Friday 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

In 2013, Boston birder Neil Hayward suffered a devastating bout of the Big Year. The temporary insanity resulted in almost 250,000 miles of travel, taking him to the remote corners of this continent: Barrow in the frozen north; the Dry Tortugas, dangling off the Florida Keys to the south; Newfoundland, poking out to the east; and tiny Adak, adrift in the volcanic Aleutian chain of the west. And a place they call New Jersey. By the year’s end, he’d netted 749 species of birds and set a new ABA Big Year record. In this talk, Neil will take a Big Year and apply cutting-edge high pressure technology and condense it into a Big Hour. Come hear about exotic birds, remote places, volcanoes, polar bears, Aleutian plumbing and more! Government health warning: Big Years can be contagious. High pressure technology not previously tested.

Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he first became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved (permanently) to the US in 2005 to head up the US operations of the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is currently the Field Trip Coordinator and a director of the Brookline Bird Club. He is the author of Lost Among the Birds (Bloomsbury, June 2016), a memoir of his accidental big year. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Gerri and two cats, Sally and Khiva.


with Jonathan Wood
Free! Open to the Public / Saturday 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Jonathan Wood and his vast collection of stunning hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons are a star attraction, with many national TV appearances. Jon is a Master Falconer, a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, and along with his wife Susan, an integral and fascinating part of the Festival.

Do not miss this free offering. Imagine sitting in the Harlingen Auditorium and a hawk with a 4-foot wingspan flies right over your head! Afterward, visit more birds of prey in the Birders Bazaar (for a fee you can even hold one and get your picture taken!).


with Cullen Hanks
Free with Kiskadee Pass / Saturday 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The charismatic Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis) is a globally endangered species that is native to the northeastern corner of Mexico, but a significant population can be found in the urban areas between Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. The origin of these birds is debated, but Texas Parks and Wildlife Department considers this to be a native population. In December 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the Red-crowned Parrot was a candidate species for threatened or endangered status under federal law, making the South Texas Population a high research priority. Despite their visible presence, we still did not have an accurate estimate of the population, or an understanding of their breeding biology. This presentation will introduce you to the status and biology of the Red-crowned Parrots of South Texas, and highlight current research funded by TPWD. We will also invite you to participate in our efforts to better understand this important population by joining our Red-crowned Parrot Project on iNaturalist:

Cullen Hanks is a Texas Nature Tracker Biologist in the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. He grew up in Texas with a love for natural history and outdoor adventure. Cullen earned a BA in biology from Cornell University, and a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. In his Masters, he focused on issues relating to biodiversity conservation and conducted research on the economics of the wildlife trade. Cullen has extensive experience with the collection and management of data on rare and threatened species. He is very passionate about being a naturalist and the contribution of the naturalist community to conservation. Cullen lives in Austin, Texas with his wife. To learn more about the Texas Nature Trackers Program go to


with Erik Bruhnke
Free with Kiskadee Pass / Saturday 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm

Have you ever wondered what that speck of a hawk is, way out on the distant horizon or circling right over your head? Do you wonder which birds of prey are found visiting your backyard? Would you like to fine tune your hawkwatching skills and learn more about birds found here both year round and in migration? Birds of prey are consistently one of the most difficult varieties of birds to identify. Come join Erik Bruhnke as he shares field-learned techniques for identifying raptors both up close and at a distance. From his raptor jokes and identification anecdotes, to his wide range of impressive raptor photographs, Erik’s raptor identification workshop is sure to captivate and educate audiences of all skill levels!

Erik Bruhnke has had a love for birds since he was a child. He graduated from Northland College in Wisconsin with a Natural Resources degree in 2008. Erik taught field ornithology various times at Northland College. During his first six fall seasons following college, Erik worked as an interpreter at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota and was a board member of the Duluth Audubon Society. He has counted migrating raptors at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch in Texas. His avian field experiences have taken him throughout Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Maine, Texas, and western Canada. Erik’s wildlife photography has won national awards, and his writings have been featured in Birder’s Guide via the American Birding Association, BirdWatching, and Birdwatcher’s Digest. Erik leads tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours as well as his own business, Naturally Avian Birding Tours. Although he loves all birds, Erik is a devoted raptor and gull nerd. He currently splits his time between the tropics of South Texas and the Northwoods of Minnesota. He loves to cook and bake in his free time, often while sipping bird-friendly coffee.