UMMV Birding Festival

Thank you for attending our 2024 Festival!
We look forward to seeing you next year.
17th Annual


May 15 - May 19, 2024

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Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival, May 15 - May 19, 2024

FESTIVAL ARTWORK © 2023 CHRISTOPHER VEST Click to enlarge image. Reprinted by permission, all rights reserved. Visit Chris’s website for more original artwork

The Annual Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival provides a popular venue for visiting southwestern Colorado during the second weekend in May. Nestled between alpine and mesa forests and scenic desert canyons, the Four Corner’s intriguingly diverse landscapes, and mild climate, have drawn people to the region for generations. Ancestral Pueblo farmers dwelled in places now known as Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and Canyon of the Ancients. Today’s meadows, pastures, cultivated fields, historic orchards, stock ponds and reservoirs establish habitat for a wide-spectrum of migratory and resident birds. Some species, such as Lucy’s Warbler, are found no place else in Colorado.

Hosted by the Cortez Cultural Center, the UMMV Birding Festival draws upon the expertise of regional wildlife specialists who volunteer as tour guides and guest lecturers. Each year new tours, and repeat favorites, explore an array of birding hotspots that attract avian species from loons and grebes to sparrows, grosbeaks, and finches. Overnight tours within easy driving distance offer different environs and the prospect of encountering species not found within the Cortez area.

Southwest Colorado’s first birding records date to the 1880s. Tours that combine birding with regional archaeology, ecology, and history take UMMV birders into the realms of gulls, shorebirds, waterfowl, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Bald and Golden eagles, elusive owls, woodpeckers, flycatchers and phoebes, American Dipper, towhees, crossbills, and colorful bluebirds, tanagers, and warblers. The festival’s birding tally has climbed to 180 species.

The UMMV Birding Festival designs activities and tours to fit a gamut of abilities, ages, and interests. Early evening lectures, social hours, a bird-themed art show, and banquet add to the festival’s five days of enjoyment — learning, socializing, and most importantly birding.


2024 Featured Keynote Speaker
Tiffany Kersten
Birdie Big Year: Elevating Women Birders

Tiffany Kersten, our 2024 Keynote Speaker

About Our Keynote Speaker

Our UMMV Birding Festival 2024 Keynote Speaker, Tiffany Kersten, is a Wisconsin native, turned Texan by way of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. Hooked on birds since age 12, she graduated from Northland College with a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology. She has been a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation and spent over a decade as an environmental educator.

Tiffany taught about raptor identification and migration with the Cape May Bird Observatory, monitored shorebirds on Cape Cod, and banded Honeycreepers in Hawaii. She finally landed in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas where she first worked at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, then Quinta Mazatlán World Birding Center, and managed the McAllen Nature Center, before completing a Lower 48 States Big Year in 2021.

She founded Nature Ninja Birding Tours in January of 2022. She has been connecting people to nature through the joy of birding since 2006.

2024 Keynote Address:
“Birdie Big Year: Elevating Women Birders”

Tiffany Kersten didn’t set out to do a Big Year, but after a series of unanticipated and serendipitous events, she suddenly found herself amidst one. As a sexual assault survivor, she spent 2021 traveling to all corners of the country, tallying birds and gifting personal safety alarms to women she met along the way. Her goal was to see 700 species, and to raise awareness of women’s safety in the outdoors. She ended up surpassing her goal and setting a new record, with 726 species. In her presentation, Tiffany will lead us through the fear, empowerment, struggles, and healing that all played vital roles in the personal growth she experienced on this wild adventure.

Tiffany will present the 2024 UMMV Birding Festival’s Keynote Address “Birdie Big Year: Elevating Women Birders” on Saturday, May 18th, 2024 at 5:30 pm at the Cortez Elks Lodge, 2100 N Dolores Rd. (Hwy 145), Cortez.

songbird silhouetteBirding Festival General Information

  • The Ute Mountain Mesa Verde Birding Festival is the major fundraiser for the Cortez Cultural Center. All proceeds benefit the Center.
  • All tours require pre-registration.
  • A registration fee is required for all tours except as noted. Full registration includes keynote banquet and all lectures. Daily registration includes that day's lectures. Full registration is required in order to qualify for the free early bird t-shirt.
  • Unless otherwise noted, tours will return to the Center at approximately 3:00 pm.
  • Carpools/caravanning will be used for all tours. Drivers will be reimbursed for gas by passengers at the GSA rate of 66 cents per mile, divided among all participants in the vehicle.
  • Tour size is generally 13 or less.
  • Cancellations considered on a case-by-case basis up to 21 days prior to start of Festival. All cancellations subject to a processing fee.
  • Availability of restrooms depends on the tour. Nearly all guides scout out restroom locations as well as bird species. Some tours are in parks or other facilities that have established restrooms. Some have outhouses. Others, the only option are bushes. Usually, the leader will mention the restroom plan at the beginning of the tour.
  • All tours depart from and return to the Cortez Cultural Center.
  • Tour times listed are the DEPARTURE time. Please arrive 15 minutes prior.