Updated: Nov 10
(This article was written by Lisa Campos and appeared in the Explore Harlingen Magazine, November issue.)
The 30th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (RGVBF) is a five-day festival that celebrates birding in Harlingen. The Harlingen Convention Center hosts the RGVBF, a non-profit festival, which begins on November 8, 2023, and runs through November 12, 2023.
The RGVBF is run by more than 100 volunteers, highlights more than 60 vendors, and brings in approximately $3 million to the local economy annually.
“I think a lot of people who live here don’t even realize that we have the second largest bird festival in the entire country right here in Harlingen. The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is one of the top birding destinations in all of North America. Our festival is an avenue for hundreds of birders from out of state, as well as locals from the RGV, to enjoy and learn about the birds here. We’re always expanding things for our RGV locals to take advantage of, including trips to new places that birders aren’t always allowed, a new fancy Legends of Conservation Gala, and loads of family fun, from our art shows and contests to the live ‘birds of prey’ shows where you can interact with some amazing birds from just feet away,” stated Justin LeClaire, Field Trip Chair of the RGVBF.
More than 500 participants from all over the world flock to Harlingen to attend the RGVBF for a chance to see millions of migratory and resident birds. RGVBF activities include the Birder’s Bazaar tradeshow, keynote speakers, workshops, and more than 100 field trips by bus, van, or boat.
Field trips are held throughout the RGV, including the following locations:
Cactus Creek Ranch in Rio Hondo, TX
Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, TX
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresnos, TX
National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX
Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, TX
Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, TX
Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, TX
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, TX
South Padre Island Bird and Nature Center in South Padre Island, TX
And dozens more
My daughter and I attended the RGVBF for the first time last year in 2022. We were blown away by the size of the festival, number of attendees, and quality of the programming. We took the Parrot Palooza evening field trip and found some red-crowned parrots and green parakeets here in Harlingen. I also took the Masterclass Birding tour led by Jon Dunn, field guide author, at the Frontera Audubon in Weslaco, TX.
Registration is $50 for the full event, or you may purchase an individual pass for $10 per day for Saturday, November 11, 2023 or Sunday, November 12, 2023. Attendees must be registered to sign up for field trips, workshops, keynote speakers, or seminars, which are priced separately. Visitors who want to attend the tradeshow or free family/children’s activities such as the Birds of Prey Flight Show or Children’s Nature Nook, do not need to register.
The festival team is a nonprofit group, with nearly all its supporters being volunteers. More help is always needed to keep the 2nd biggest bird festival in the United States running well. RGVBF has a variety of potential ways to help in either the planning or execution phases of the festival, including tech work, children’s art, hospitality/housekeeping, and many others. Volunteers are given free access to many festival events! For questions about how you can help or sign up to be a volunteer, please email Sylvia at email@example.com.
The RGVBF starts on Wednesday, November 8, 2023, and ends on Sunday, November 12, 2023. Most of the events (aside from the field trips) occur at the Harlingen Convention Center located at 701 Harlingen Heights Drive in Harlingen. For more information, you can contact Justin LeClaire, RGVBF Field Trip Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can visit their website, www.rgvbf.org.