Participants out looking for birds on Estero Bluffs at Sunrise. Palomar Audubon Society | Courtesy Photo

Each year during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival attracts approximately 600 tourists to the city, which is a Globally Important Bird Area and a State and National Estuary. Bird species throughout California, as well as those traveling south along the Pacific Flyway migratory path, can be spotted during this time, according to co-chair of the festival Michele Roest.

The 22nd Winter Bird Festival, Jan. 12 – 15, is held by the Morro Coast Audubon Society, California State Parks, the Central Coast State Parks Association and the City of Morro Bay. However, the event is primarily run by Central Coast leaders and volunteers, many of whom come from Cal Poly.

“I always look forward to having the opportunity to introduce people to birds they’ve never seen,” biological sciences professor and Department Chair Kenneth Hillers said. “I think that helps people make new connections to their environment.”

Attendees must register and pay resulting fees (ranging from $20 to $85 for those 18 and older) at the Morro Bay Community Center at 1001 Kennedy Way. Exclusions apply for Family Day on Jan. 13, which will not require prior registration or payments. 

More than 130 events will be offered during the span of four days, beginning Friday. Visitors will have the opportunity to practice birding in various locations, attend bird identification workshops and embark on hikes and kayak trips, as well as engage with reptiles, butterflies and other wildlife. On Jan. 13 and 14, bird experts will be giving keynote speeches from 7 – 8:30 p.m. Additionally, vendors in the bazaar will be selling bird-related items, such as clothing and art.

Daily schedules and more information about the festival can be found on the website.

“There’s something for everyone,” Roest said. “I just think that birdwatching enhances the quality of your life. There’s a reason why birdwatching is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States.”

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