When we are little, we are taught that birds fly south for the winter. While some birds do fly south, there are numerous species that depend on Buffalo-Niagara’s wintery climate for breeding.
For the third year in a row, an international festival called Birds on the Niagara (BON21) will be held, dedicated to teaching people about the important nature of our region’s varying climate throughout the year, and how fragile it is. With global warming, and temperatures on the rise locally, we are seeing drastic shifts in Lake Erie’s ice conditions (or lack there of). That’s just one reason why it’s crucial to get a greater understanding of our region’s role in bird migration and breeding, so that we can better protect these splendid creatures.
BON21 is the only International North American Bird Festival.
The festival will highlight bird habitats along the International Niagara River Corridor, but it will also focus attention on numerous plights of birds, such as colliding with manmade obstacles that include power lines, windmills, and glass. Aside from the birds themselves, the festival is dedicated to the birdwatchers, and some of the issues that they face will pursuing their passions.
Valentine’s Day weekend was chosen as the ideal time to host the festival, not just for the “love of birds,” it’s also the time of year that birds don their breeding plumage. This ‘feathery festive flair’ is a great draw for ecotourists and adventure travelers, who visit Buffalo and Niagara Falls each winter to witness the migrations and breeding spectacles.
“This is the only international bird festival in North America,” noted Jay Burney, U.S. Co-Chair of BON21. “It takes place in the winter, near Niagara Falls, because of our abundance of birds here. The number of birds that migrate to the river near the Falls is a tremendous ecotourist attraction. This year’s virtual event will allow birders and adventure tourists from across the globe to experience an international birding event.”
This region’s birding biodiversity is on similar levels as those of Galapagos Islands, the Florida Everglades, and Yellowstone Park.
This region’s birding biodiversity is on similar levels as those of Galapagos Islands, the Florida Everglades, and Yellowstone Park. That designation is why the U.S. shore is now deemed a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. An equally significant Canadian effort is underway that enhances the international magnitude of the festival.
“The Niagara Region in winter is a bird wonderland to behold,” stated Kerry Kennedy, Canada Chair of BON21. “Vast populations of northern birds including ducks and geese, gulls and terns, and other visitors from the North find food and shelter here, in the open waters connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Up to 40 species of waterfowl, including Tundra Swans, Buffleheads, Long-tailed, Redheads, and Canvasbacks, and 19 species of gulls, including Bonaparte’s and a variety of rare species, can be spotted.”
This year’s festival will be virtual, with free program access for all attendees.
Birds on the Niagara (BON21) – Third Annual Birds on the Niagara International Celebration of Winter Birds
February 12–14, 2021
Friday, February 12
Programs and Silent Auction to benefit Buffalo Audubon
Friday night programming includes a Meet and Greet and a Silent Auction to benefit the Buffalo Audubon and Birds on the Niagara. Also, there will be a virtual Owl Prowl and a program on the gulls of Niagara.
Keynote Speaker is Dr. J. Drew Lanham
Dr. Lanham is a Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University, a National Audubon Board Member, and a contributor to BirdNote heard on NPR. Lanham received his B.A. and M.S. in Zoology, and his Ph.D. in Forest Resources, from Clemson. His focus is on songbird ecology and the intersections of race, place, and conservation with wild birds as the conduit for understanding.
Lanham’s book, “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Mans’s Love Affair with Nature,” transforms our cultural perceptions of the conservation community and the impacts of race relationships in growing awareness and opportunities of working together as a species to help to enjoy and protect the natural world. Lanham has been an influential spokesperson for the African American conservation and birding experience. His 2013 essay and subsequent videos have been transformational in terms of engaging social issues across racial lines. They include:
In 2020 and during intense Black Lives Matter protests across America, Lanham spoke out about Christian Cooper, a New York City Audubon leader’s experience in Central Park when allegedly accused of harassing a white woman. Lanham’s leadership helped create Black-Birders Week in May and June of 2020.
Saturday, February 13
Saturday will showcase programs including “Virtual Family Winter Birding,” hosted by Tifft Nature Preserve, and a program presented by Jay and Jajean Burney titled “Globally Significant Important Bird Area and the Ramsar Wetland of International Significance.”
Also featured will be a program by Tim Beatley, author of “Bird Friendly Cities,” and various other planning strategies for resilience. Tim is the Biophilia Network founder, an international organization that promotes nature-friendly planning and design for cities and other developed areas. A critical process from Mr. Beatley is to protect and conserve our rare and globally significant habitats and ecological integrity so that future generations can have a better shot at clean water, clean air, healthy populations, and to plan for climate change.
Additional BON21 programming will focus on specific critical conservation needs in the International Niagara River Corridor, ethical nature photography, and where to see birds in the Niagara and includes programs by nature clubs and wildlife organizations on both sides of the border.