Birders flock to Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration this weekend

A broadtail hummingbird perches on a red yucca. The Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival takes place this weekend, welcoming naturalists from all over the United States who travel to the Big Bend region for hummingbird-related field trips, lectures, and more. Photo by Sharon McClanahan.

JEFF DAVIS COUNTY — The Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration, a biennial event, will take place this weekend from August 17 to 20, bringing hundreds birders from around the country to local hummingbird hot spots during peak migration time.

The event, which is put on by local nonprofit Trans-Pecos Bird Conservation, includes lectures and vendor booths taking place in the afternoons at The High Frontier — a new resort southeast of Fort Davis officially opening next spring — which will be free and open to the public.

Vendors, including Texas A&M Press and Twin Sisters Natives plant nursery, will be set up from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Talks on hummingbirds and other topics will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. both days.

Early morning field trips led by local and visiting guides to view hummingbirds in Balmorhea, Marathon, Presidio, The Davis Mountains Preserve, Christmas Mountains as well as at homes in the Davis Mountains Resort (DMR) and Limpia Crossing are full.

Cecilia Riley, celebration coordinator, said many of the trips sold out in May, on the day they released tickets for the festival, and had over 150 sign ups by noon.

“People are always surprised when I get calls really late in August when they start thinking about hummingbirds and we’re already full and have been full for months,” said Riley. “But it happens that way every year.”

The hummingbird celebration has been in existence since the ‘90s, first taking place on the Prude Ranch, and has grown in popularity over time. Ticket sales go towards putting on the event — paying homeowners and organizations that help host field trips as well as caterers and more — and any left over revenue goes toward education and bird conservation initiatives.

Hummingbird feeders at various locales have been taken care of weeks in advance, said Riley, to ensure there are enough for visitors to see when they arrive. So far, the whizzing, pint-sized birds were doing their part in showing up.

“This year has been especially hot, but that may be one of the reasons why the hummingbirds are so dense already,” said Riley. “We have had just lots and lots of hummingbirds, five and six species every day.”

Species of note that can be seen in the area include Lucifer, Rivoli’s, calliope and broad-billed hummingbirds, to name a few.

Riley said in addition to sharing the area’s unique concentration of hummingbirds with the national birding community, the celebration brings in valuable dollars to the local economy, which ideally leads to an appreciation for birds and support for their conservation, even among non-birdwatchers.

“By bringing people to our community who spend dollars on hotels, restaurants, shopping, venues, all of that demonstrates to our communities that birds are valuable to all of us out here and hopefully creates some appreciation for little birds, even hummingbirds out here in West Texas,” said Riley.

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