(HELENA) Hundreds of people gathered in the Helena Valley Saturday morning to learn about and celebrate birds.
Local organizations put together the 16th annual World Migratory Bird Day festival at the Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir. It’s intended to get people thinking about the ways they interact with birds.
“Just be aware of the opportunities to conserve birds in Helena, whether it’s in their backyard or whether they come out looking at birds here at the reservoir or any number of other places around the area – being aware of threats to birds and being aware of how they can help birds,” said Rebecca Skeldon, education coordinator for the Montana Discovery Foundation.
The event began around sunrise, as guides took visitors on birdwatching hikes around the reservoir. Some birders reported seeing more than 40 different species.
“There’s great opportunities to see birds this time of year because they’re migrating and some of them are nesting already,” said Skeldon.
The festival also included educational booths, games and crafts for kids, live music performances and food. The Montana WILD Wildlife Rehabilitation Center brought in several live birds of prey, like a kestrel and a short-eared owl.
The theme of this year’s festival was “Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution.” Organizers encouraged recycling and reducing plastic in the environment. Experts say plastic debris can have serious effects on birds’ health.
“Ocean plastic’s a really big issue, and even though we don’t live too close to the ocean, some of our trash can actually end up in the oceans and being a threat to birds,” Skeldon said. “Even the trash in our landfills can be a threat to birds.”
The organizers of the festival include the Montana Discovery Foundation; the U.S. Forest Service; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and the Helena business Birds and Beasleys.