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Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival to focus on turkey vulture

Turkey vulture in flight. (Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Turkey vulture in flight. (Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Originally Published: April 20, 2022 2:30 p.m.

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival takes place from April 21-24 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Festivities include field trips, a family day, guided birding activities and a BioBlitz for recording observations.

This year’s theme is “Carrion Birds: Nature’s Clean Up Crew” with the turkey vulture as the featured bird.

Admission to Dead Horse Ranch State Park will be free to festival participants. Dead Horse has over 423 acres of land with three stocked lagoons making it a prime location for bird watching and wildlife encounters. More than 180 species of birds have been recorded at the park.



Many bird species will be migrating through the area during the month of April so the festival offers the opportunity to see both species common to the area and those traveling through to their summer homes to our north.

Presentations at the festival will cover topics such as Verde River ecology, backyard birding and birding basics, mammals and wild plants of the Verde Valley, and recognizing bird calls.

Each day of the festival from 8 to 10 a.m., an Armchair Birding activity allows beginner and experienced birders to take a short walk on the Canopy Trail at the bottom of Owl Road in the park to a location where feeders allow close-up encounters with birds. A knowledgeable guide will attend each session to help with species identification.

Saturday at the festival is “Family Day” with free admission and special activities geared toward children from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. between the lagoons at the park. Guided family nature walks will take place every hour, on the hour. Participants with smart phones and the iNaturalist app can keep a record of the animals, plants and fungi observed during the walks to participate in the Verde Valley Community BioBlitz and contribute to the scientific examination of the state of the river basin.


Vermilion flycatcher. (Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Family day will also have displays of skulls, snakes and other live reptiles, and live rescued birds from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. A vulture “scavenger” hunt sponsored by the Tucson Audubon Society and live painting by artist Syri Hall, the 2022 VVBNF winning artist, will also happen throughout the day.

In addition, Jay’s Bird Barn, Verde Valley Archaeological Society and Pindrop Travel Trailers will host displays.

A full range of workshops and field trips are available with prices ranging from $15 to $100. Workshops include educational presentations about bats, birds and owls, a birding photography sessions and bird related story-telling.

Field trips to observe birds and other wildlife range from Flagstaff to Prescott to Black Canyon City including multiple locations around the Verde Valley.

Kayaking trips along the Verde River with Doug Van Gausig of the Verde River Institute and stargazing with Dennis Young of the Sirius Lookers Astronomy Club are also on the agenda. Workshops and field trips require pre-registration.

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is hosted by Friends of the Verde River and sponsored by the Salt River Project (SRP), the City of Cottonwood, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, The Melting Pot (Sedona) and the Northern Arizona Audubon Society. For more information or to register for an activity, visit VerdeRiver.org/birding-festival.

Cindy Cole is a freelancer for the Independent. Reach her at cindycole@live.com.