April 23-25 event expected to draw visitors from across the U.S.; guided tours included

WAKEFIELD — When spring arrives in Kansas, hundreds of migrating bird species return, and with them, large numbers of birdwatchers from across the country. Each year, Kansas hosts a festival to accommodate these visitors with birdwatching opportunities only found in the Central Flyway. This year, it's the Kansas Birding Festival, to be held in Wakefield on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 23-25. (On alternate years, the event, held at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, is called Wings 'n Wetlands.)

“We are excited about this year’s festival because we have seen the event grow and our reputation spread,” says Wakefield resident and event chairman Jerry Patterson. “In the past, we’ve had registrations from Massachusetts to Idaho, and this year we have inquiries from as far away as Florida and Arizona. People across the country are learning that there are great birding opportunities Kansas.”

One reason for the national interest in this festival is the unique bird-watching opportunities found in the region. Located in the northern Kansas Flint Hills along the shores of Milford Reservoir, Wakefield is situated near wetlands and the tallgrass prairie in the Central Flyway, a major bird migration route. This conjunction of birding environments means birdwatchers can spot a wide variety of species in a short period of time. During the 2008 Wakefield festival, bird watchers sighted 174 bird species, including the greater prairie chicken, American kestrel, upland sandpiper, clay-colored sparrow, and snowy egret.

The festival will offer several guided tours, including trips to see greater prairie chickens dance on their booming ground and a trip to the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Other tours include trips to the Kansas Landscape Arboretum, the Milford Wetlands, the Republican River Bottoms, and the Milford Nature Center and Fish Hatchery.

The festival’s banquet, scheduled for Saturday, April 24, will feature nature photographer and noted ornithologist David Seibel as keynote speaker. Seibel, who holds a Ph.D. in ornithology from the University of Kansas will share a presentation of his avian photography.

For more information, including a complete list of scheduled tours and registration fees, visit the festival’s website at www.kansasbirdingfestival.org or phone Chuck Otte at 785-238-4161 or 785-238-8800. More information can also be found at www.VisitManhattanKS.org.