Oregon Institute of Technology, 3201 Campus Drive (event headquarters)
The Klamath Basin is justifiably famous as one of the best birdwatching areas in the West, anchored by a vast National Wildlife Refuge system that includes refuges in both Oregon and across the border in California. Thousands upon thousands of migratory birds—most notably waterfowl—use the basin’s sprawling wetlands and agrarian lands as stopovers during both spring and fall; many other species nest in the region, which is composed of numerous habitat types, from open water and marshlands to forested highlands and high-desert steppe. This beautiful area is the perfect place for Oregon’s biggest bird and birding celebration, the four-day Winter Wings Festival, held each February in and around Klamath Falls since 1980 and produced via tremendous volunteer effort by members of the Klamath Basin Audubon Society, with support from sponsors, grants, and participant registration fees. Proceeds from the Winter Wings Festival support local grants to teachers and other entities for outdoor education and community nature-related projects.
Winter Wings Festival Klamath Falls – USA Festivals Photo Gallery
This congenial festival occurs at precisely the time massive flocks of snow and Ross’s geese—starkly white until they take flight en masse and flash black wingtips—occupy fields in the area, joined in the basin by huge flocks of tundra swans, up to two dozen duck species, and myriad raptors, including lots of bald eagles.
One of the highlights of Winter Wings is the lineup of field trips that take participants to key birding sites to see the winged marvels that make this area so special. These birding forays take many forms, with outings of varying lengths to numerous locations throughout the area, with some excursions focusing on particular species and others seeking to find as many different birds as possible. Specifics vary annually, but the festival field trips—some free, others requiring a fee, and all requiring registration—offer something for everyone. Another key component of Oregon’s largest bird festival is the intriguing schedule of seminars and workshops covering many topics, including bird identification, photography, ecology, and conservation.
Snow geese take flight near Klamath Falls, site of Winter Wings Festival.
Each year, the festival features expert speakers presenting both workshops and keynote presentations. Keynoters are announced during the summer prior to the event, and the program schedule is released around mid-November. Online registration begins the second week of December, and attendees should register as early as possible because space fills quickly in the various field trips and workshops. All registration information is available on the festival website; make sure to check the website for updates on the timing of online registration.
Winter Wings is headquartered at Oregon Institute of Technology, the location for most of the workshops and presentations, as well as the robust vendor section, featuring artists, photographers, craftspeople, authors, conservation groups, and various local businesses and agencies. The festival headquarters is also the scene of Winter Wings Bird Central, where all species sighted during the festival are logged by participants. Volunteers at Bird Central can help attendees identify birds, offer suggestions on where to go, and provide directions to prime birding sites. Winter Wings also features a popular bird photography contest, open to anyone, featuring birds photographed during the festival dates (full contest details are listed on the festival website). In fact, bird and nature photography is a central theme of the festival, with a variety of programming—field trips, workshops, and expert speakers—dedicated to this popular art form.