Wings over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary

File Photo By Diane Drobka: Sandhill Cranes fly against the sunset sky. The 30th annual Wings Over Willcox will take place Jan. 12 – 15.

Contributed Article By Diane Drobka

Willcox – Registration continues for the 30th annual Wings Over Willcox (WOW) Birding & Nature Festival. The event will take place Jan. 12-15, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, with a full slate of field trips, talks, and activities plus the return of the Saturday-night banquet and silent auction at the Elks Lodge. A welcome reception with music and hors d’oeuvres will kick off WOW on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Willcox Community Center.

The banquet keynote presenter will be Rick Wright, author of the American Birding Association’s field guides to birds of Arizona and New Jersey, and the Peterson Reference Guide to North American Sparrows.

Wright’s talk, The Incidental Sparrow, will share a richly illustrated look at sparrows and their history in southeastern Arizona, including surprising stories of the gold miners, soldiers, and grave robbers who introduced us to some of our most familiar, and most charming, birds.

The Nature Expo will be back in full swing again. Exhibitors like the popular “Arizona Rocks” geology display and Huachuca Area Herpetological Association’s collection of “creepy, crawly critters” are especially enjoyed by kids. Kids can also make their own nest box for a cavity-nesting bird at a free workshop. The Expo is open on Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This year’s Associate Sponsor and WOW’s longtime festival partner, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, will have displays at the Nature Expo. Other festival partners will bring live wildlife, with Liberty Wildlife a favorite among young and old alike. Displays by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are always educational and informative.

Regular exhibitors like Tucson Audubon, along with Jay’s Bird Barn from Prescott, will be there selling books, birding gear, and clothing. Artisans will be selling paintings, photography, jewelry, and homemade items.

The WOW committee is selling baseball caps with an embroidered WOW logo and shirts featuring a painting of a Black-throated Sparrow by artist Ian Rees; these are available as a t-shirt, long-sleeved shirts, and sweatshirts, and all can be ordered in advance online.

And, of course, there are the field trips! The planning team set a goal of offering 30 field trips to honor the festival’s 30th anniversary, so check out the wide variety of offerings, many with limited ticket numbers that sell out quickly. In addition to birding, topics include geology, history, ranching, archaeology, and even wine tasting. Birding trip leaders who volunteer at the festival are top-notch guides who scout areas ahead of the festival and know the best places to go.

There are also two full days of free seminars at the Willcox Community Center including two about Sandhill Cranes. A fresh offering of topics includes jaguars, bats, falconry, owls, and other night birds, beginning birding, snakes, and bird calls.

The Willcox Nature Association is excited to celebrate 30 years and is hoping you will join them at the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival. The WOW committee and all the volunteers would especially like to thank Arizona Game and Fish Department for their 30 years of support and participation in our festival. “We truly appreciate the support of our many partners and participants over the past three decades,” said Homer Hansen, President of the Willcox Nature Association, which organizes the festival. A list of current sponsors can be found at

The website,, is undergoing reconstruction and will gradually contain more details. In the meantime, call Jeri Higgins, WOW Events Registration, at 520-384-2874.