February is all about birds at the North Carolina Arboretum!


Bird is the word at the North Carolina Arboretum in February, with a flock of events, educational programs and chances for discovery all month long. Western North Carolina is a haven for birds, and despite the chill in the air, the Arboretum in the winter is a hot spot for birding.

Birdwatching is a wonderful way to spend time in nature, slow down and relax, and observations can even aid scientists and foster bird conservation. This month, there are so many ways to get engaged at the Arboretum.

“Birds are critical to our ecosystems, but perhaps just as important is their presence within our culture,” says Jonathan Marchal, the Arboretum’s Director of Education. “Birdwatching, or birding, as the initiated call it, is growing in popularity across generations and people of all backgrounds.”

Onsite Offerings

  • ONSITE Saturday, February 18, 10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

    The Arboretum will celebrate its Great Backyard Bird Count Day with beginner bird walks, bird crafts and live bird demonstrations available to the public. This is in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count, an international effort to encourage people of all ages to report their observations of birds to help scientists learn about their populations. This program is free; however, standard non-member parking fees apply.


    10:00 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. Indoor Exhibitors Education Center Lobby
    10:00 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. Bird Mist Netting Demonstration Bird-Friendly Garden
    10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Beginning Bird Walk 1 Starting at Education Center Lobby
    2:30 p.m. Live Raptor Demonstration Locke Craig and Classroom 2
    1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Beginning Bird Walk 2 Starting at Education Center Lobby

  • ONSITE | Tuesday, February 21, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

    Instructor: Joe Sanders


    Help bluebirds thrive in your area by learning how to construct and place a bluebird nest box on your property. Bluebirds actually need human intervention in order to compensate for their natural habitats being overtaken by non-native species. This three-hour class will give a history of the bluebird and its lifecycle. Each participant will build their own cedar nest box of the type that has proven popular with bluebirds. No carpentry experience is required. You will go home with a completed bluebird nest box, mounting pole, and written information on attracting bluebirds to your property. All supplies are included in the registration cost. 

    Joe Sanders has been working with bluebird restoration for over 30 years and is currently a County Representative for the North Carolina Bluebird Society. He has taught classes to numerous community garden groups and currently monitors nest boxes during the nesting season, including those on the Arboretum grounds.

    $120** Non-member Adult** (**Arboretum Members receive a 10% discount on all classes.)


  • ONSITE | Thursday, February 23, 4:30 – 6 p.m.

    Instructor: Tom Tribble with Discussant Yuhan Douglas Rao


    In 2019, National Audubon released “Survival By Degrees,” a study on the impact of climate change on birds in North America. Audubon scientists took advantage of 140 million observations, recorded by birders and scientists, to describe where 604 North American bird species live today — an area known as their “range.” They then used the latest climate models, mostly generated by climate change scientists located in western North Carolina, to project how each species’ range will shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent. The report concluded that two-thirds of North American birds are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise. Tom Tribble couples a lifelong love of birds with an analyst’s ability to make the data vivid in this talk that summarizes the results of the study and describes how we can help.

    Tom Tribble served six years as President and is now an At-Large Director of Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter, which covers Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and several adjacent counties in western North Carolina. Tom has been an Audubon member and avid birder for more than 45 years. Tom worked for 30 years at the NC Center for Geographic Information & Analysis, the State’s Geographic Information System, retiring in 2013. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a Master’s degree from Duke University.

    Yuhan (Douglas) Rao is with the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies at North Carolina State University. His broad research interests focus on advanced statistical models, satellite data development and evaluation, land-atmosphere interaction, and applied research for climate and environment monitoring. Dr. Rao’s recent research looks at how to use long-term satellite data records to study the surface temperature change across the global land surface and how it affects the water cycle and its impact on drought. With strong interests in environmental and wildlife conservation, Dr. Rao is also involved in local community organizations such as the Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter.

    $18 Adult Non-Member** (**Arboretum Members receive a 10% discount on all classes.)


  • ONSITE | Friday, March 3, 9 – 11 a.m.

    Instructor: Kevin Burke


    Enjoy a brisk morning of bird watching and basics at the Arboretum. Get to know your binoculars, field guides, and more with the help of expert birder Simon Thompson of Ventures Birding Tours. If you want to get started in birding, this is the in-person class to take. Warning: Habit Forming. Add this class on for some experience in the field to complement our six-part online Birding Basics series ongoing through June and our monthly Meditative Morning series the first Tuesday of every month. 

    Kevin Burke was introduced to birding while taking an ornithology class and has been birding every day since. He has a degree in resource recreation and tourism from the University of Idaho and honed his birding skills teaching environmental education. Kevin has led birding trips across the country to Washington’s San Juan Islands and Idaho’s back country and abroad with trips to Portugal and Colombia. His lifelong journey has developed into a desire to share his knowledge and help others grow their skills.

    $45 Non-member ** (**Arboretum Members receive a 10% discount on all classes.)



Online Offerings

  • ONLINE | Thursday, February 16, 6 – 7 p.m.

    Instructor: Simon Thompson

    $25** Non-member Adult** (**Arboretum Members receive a 10% discount on all classes.)

    $120 Non-member Adult** Package of five monthly classes in the Birding Basics series


    Birdwatching has increased 300% during the pandemic, and many eyes are newly opened to the wonder of birds. Expand your world view of the wonder of birds in this travelog of birding near and far. We’re going to look at the multiple shapes and colors and variety of birds on the planet. With so much fun and adventure in the world of birds, you don’t have to be a beginner to enjoy this lively presentation by expert birder Simon Thompson.

    Sign on for this engaging online series each month through June and discover the wonder of birding with our expert guides from Ventures Birding Tours. Other topics in the series include Bird Migration, Backyard Birds, Bird Song, and Birding Your Local Patch! 

    Simon Thompson, originally from Suffolk, England, has lived in Western North Carolina for over 20 years. Prior to moving to the US he lived in Lebanon, Kenya, Yemen, and Ghana, where his interest in birds and natural history began. In addition to traveling extensively in the United States, Simon spent six months in China studying the crane and bird of prey migration as a member of the British “China Crane Watch” expedition. As owner and operator of Ventures Birding Tours, Simon has led many birding trips all over the world.

    $25** Non-member Adult** (**Arboretum Members receive a 10% discount on all classes.)

    $120 Non-member Adult** Package of five monthly classes in the Birding Basics series


  • ONLINE | Saturday, February 18, 10:15 – 11:00 a.m.
    Join us virtually for a mist netting demonstration!
    See birds up close and learn about the bird research that takes place at the Arboretum.


The Great Backyard Bird Count

Grab your binoculars and join in on the count! The Great Backyard Bird Count, from February 17-21, is a great excuse to join the birding community while gathering scientific information.

Anyone can participate in the Great Backyard Bird count, and it amazingly easy to register. Just visit www.ebird.org to get started and set up a free eBird account from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants can also find information on in-person or virtual instructional courses on how to observe, record and upload their bird photos at www.scienceacrossnc.org. From there, it’s just a matter of picking a favorite spot to watch birds and enter the information into the app.


ecoEXPLORE Ornithology Season

Grab your camera, get outside and snap some photos of your favorite fine feathered friends! Children in grades K-8 are invited to sign up for the Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, a science enrichment program that encourages students to capture images of plants and animals found in nature and upload them to their online account where they can earn various badges and prizes.

Now through February 28, ecoEXPLORERs can earn their Ornithology Badge by submitting six photos of their backyard birds, along with completing three of the four challenges promoted throughout the season. Plus, there’s even a bonus Woodpecker Badge up for grabs! Follow along with ecoEXPLORE’s Facebook page for challenge-themed videos and more.

Earn Your Free N.C. Bird Count Patch!

Adults can earn badges, too! All you need to do is attend our online course Introduction to the Great Backyard Bird Count — or stream it after-the-fact! Then head out to your own backyard, local park or even the Arboretum to capture and upload your bird observations. Send us a screenshot of the birds you found and we'll mail you a patch to commemorate your contributions to the bird count.