The face of the river…was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.

Mark Twain

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Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival

See You in 2023!

See you back at Dead Horse Ranch State Park for the 2023 Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival! When: April 27 – 30, 2023 Where: Dead Horse Ranch State Park, plus guided birding tours across the state of AZ. Check back for more information in early winter 2023!

Register Early When You Make a Donation

Click the button to make a donation and ensure you are on Friends’ email list to receive updates about the 2023 Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, taking place April 27-30, 2023! When you donate $50 or more, you qualify for Early Bird Registration. Be the first to select your field trips and workshops and ensure yourself a perfect festival schedule!

Early Bird Registration will take place January 29, 30 and 31, 2023. To qualify for Early Bird Registration, each registrant needs to have made a $50 donation to Friends of the Verde River between March 8th, 2022 and January 31, 2023.

About the Festival

Located 100 miles North of Phoenix in North Central Arizona’s Verde Valley, the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival gives participants the opportunity to experience birding during the peak Spring migration season. In 2021, amidst complications from COVID-19, the Festival will be held virtually, and will be accompanied by in-person, size-limited small birding tours across the state of Arizona.

The four-day festival is held at Dead Horse Ranch State Park on the banks of the Verde River. With close proximity to the Verde, Oak Creek, Sycamore Creek and other perennial waters, festival participants are invited to choose from a wide selection of offerings such as guided tours, hikes, and workshops in one of Arizona’s richest birding habitats.

Our experienced guides have extensive knowledge of birds and the habitat that make this region so unique. The Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival is presented each April by Friends of the Verde River, a purpose driven community benefit organization and 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, working to preserve one of the last perennial flowing rivers in the American Southwest.

More About the Festival

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival engages birders, photographers, and nature lovers by providing quality guided birding experiences and workshops across Northern Arizona.

We envision a festival that celebrates an appreciation of a broad spectrum of resident and migratory birds and wildlife in their natural habitats while encouraging stewardship of the unique ecosystem created by the Verde River and its tributaries.

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival has grown and evolved greatly in the 20 years since its founding! This beloved celebration of birding and nature during peak migration in the Verde Valley began as a celebration of birding at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in 2001. The founders of the festival sought a way to provide a fun and educational birding experience to both the local community and visitors. We knew we had an undiscovered treasure in the diversity of habitats within the Verde Valley, as well as great birding in Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

The festival is organized by Friends of the Verde River with a planning committee made up of community volunteers. Some volunteers represent different agencies and organizations, but they all donate their time throughout the year toward the success of the event. The committee has adopted a section of roadway that crosses the Verde River and cleans up litter every other month (see more information about  VVBNF Highway Cleanups here). Our festival volunteers also contribute their time to other work projects, programs and environmental organizations throughout the valley. These dedicated people are the heart of the event.

The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival is recognized by the State of Arizona as an “Arizona Treasure.” The event has grown into one of the most popular events of this type in Arizona. We share the popularity of birding in Arizona with other annual trip-based festivals, such as Southwest Wings, and Wings Over Wilcox.

We are referred to as the “Friendliest Birding Festival” and it is our pleasure to work to maintain that reputation. We pride ourselves on the uniqueness of our offerings and guided trips, the knowledge of our guides and presenters, and the value and satisfaction that participants receive. We hope you enjoy your time along the Verde River and participating in the festival. Welcome!


Coming from out-of-town for in-person guided birding tours?

If you plan on coming from out-of-state to attend the VVBNF, accommodations may be available with our Verde Conservation Partners:

Thank you!

The Festival Committee would like to thank all of YOU for your support of the festival and for your commitment to the natural environment.

The Verde Valley is Important for Birds and Birders

The Verde River, the lifeblood of Central Arizona, is one of the last perennial free-flowing rivers in the Southwest. Along its ribbon of green, the Verde journeys through majestic red rock and basalt canyons. A key driver of biodiversity for the Southwest, the Verde provides habitat for over 200 bird species, 90 mammal species, and 75 native amphibian and reptile species. Arizona’s last best river also supports one of the country’s rarest habitat types, the Freemont Cottonwood/Goodding Riparian Gallery Forest.

The middle stretch of the Verde River courses through the well-watered and aptly named Verde Valley. Meaning “green” in Spanish, the Verde and its watershed generate unique habitat, beauty and economic opportunity. Many of the Verde’s tributaries that begin in higher elevation areas like Flagstaff, Prescott, and Payson emerge in the Verde Valley as perennial streams flowing through the communities of Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Sedona, Cornville, Lake Montezuma, Payson, and Camp Verde.

The Verde Watershed connects diverse life zones from 3,000-7,000 feet in elevation, including pine-fir forests, oak woodlands, pinyon-juniper forests, Sonoran desert scrub, and riparian habitat. The vast Verde Watershed hosts a wide variety of critical habitats for one of the largest concentrations of resident and migratory birdlife anywhere in the Southwest.

Birding Destinations

The Verde River and its surrounding watershed is a prime destination for birdwatching and outdoor recreation, boasting many birding hot spots.

See some high-activity birding hot spots in Yavapai County, home of the Verde Watershed.

See birding hotspots from Coconino County, where the Verde River headwaters begin.

Click on the maps below to open them in a new window!

This interactive story map (above) provides detailed information on the sites highlighted in the Accessible Birding Locations map (below).

For more details on the sites featured in the Accessible Birding Locations map (above), click here to access the interactive story map.

All-Time VVBNF Bird Species List

Learn about birds in the Verde Valley and surrounding areas of Northern Arizona.

The list below provides links for each bird seen at the VVBNF from past years. The links take you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s site All About Birds. Access detailed information about thousands of birds from all around the world, including identification tips, a library of bird calls and songs, a feature to compare similar species, and more.

Are you an eBird user? Please share your observations from the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival with Friends of the Verde River on eBird!

  • Larks

Highlights from the 2022 Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival

Thank you to all who attended the 2022 Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival! We know this year was a little different from festivals before the pandemic, and we’re so grateful for our attendees’ enthusiasm and support for our first in-person festival back. Thank you for making this year’s festival so special!  Over 174 species of birds were recorded over the festival weekend. Click here to download the 2022 VVBNF Species List. During the festival, thousands of observations were submitted to iNaturalist as part of the Verde Valley Community BioBlitz. It was a joy to observe all the wonderful wildlife, plants, fungi, and community of the Verde Valley together. We have so many people to thank for helping us put on this event:

THANK YOU to Our Volunteers:

  • Whit Manter–for organizing trips
  • Nanette Armstrong–for organizing workshops
  • Rachel Wilkin–for support with trips and vans
  • Bob Rothrock–for organizing set up and clean up as well as Cadillac canoe tours
  • Deb LaFrance–for organizing hospitality
  • Barbie and John Hart–for continuous support throughout the weekend

THANK YOU to Our Sponsors:

  • SRP
  • City of Cottonwood
  • Melting Point
  • Northern Arizona Audubon


  • Katie Fallon–for visiting us from West Virginia and providing us with so much info about vultures
  • Homer Hansen–for visiting us from Wilcox and sharing his joy for birds and the Verde Valley
  • Arizona Game & Fish–for providing wonderful educational experiences for all ages
  • Jay’s Bird Barn–for helping new birders find their footing
  • Verde Valley Archaeological Center–for providing tours and guides
  • Red Rock State Park–for allowing us to hold tours
  • Prescott State Parks–for allowing us to hold tours
  • National Park Service, including Tuzigoot and Montezuma Well–for allowing us to hold tours
  • Jeri Higgins–for being the epicenter for the entire event and providing amazing customer service to all attendees
  • Melanie Miles–for coordinating an amazing event

Thank you to all other Friends staff, volunteers, attendees, and supporters who helped make the 2022 VVBNF possible!

Some Favorite Festival Moments: We were so happy to hear about people traveling from afar to enjoy the birding festival! It was wonderful to see familiar faces and welcome new attendees. Many people were excited to see Bald Eagles at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and enjoy the new festival location between the lagoons. Attendees were excited to get to experience Cottonwood and go and try some of the fantastic new restaurants in town. We’d like to give a shoutout to Danae Dearden, our fabulous 13 year old workshop presenter! She led a wonderful workshop on The Plight of the California Condor. Danae works hard to be a part of vital conservation efforts that support rebuilding the population of California Condors. Want to share your favorite moments from this year’s VVBNF? Did you take photos you’d like us to showcase? Email Maya or Melanie and share with us!

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