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Third Annual Big “O” Birding Festival

Moore Haven, FL – Bird enthusiasts are waiting patiently for April 2, 2004. That is the day that the Third annual Big “O” Birding Festival begins and for three days, the lake region will be host to hundreds of avid birders in search of the area‚s winged residents.

A project that began as a bid to bring in economic development via ecotourism has blossomed into an event that promises to bring the Glades area the recognition it deserves for its varied ecosystems and its plentiful wildlife – including, the stars of the show – the birds.

Debbie Avery, Executive Director of the Glades County Economic Development Council is proud of the Festival and of the committee that has managed to organize an event that not only appeals to expert and amateur birders alike but also includes the participation of the local residents. The Festival has grown in such a way that the Florida Ornithological Society has decided to make the Big “O” Birding Festival the site for their annual meeting.

The Festival is made up of a variety of events scheduled through the three days that will cover the grasslands of the Kissimmee Prairie, the Caloosahatchie River and Lake Okeechobee itself. But these are not the only areas that birders will be able to visit. Some will take a canoe trip on Fisheating Creek, one of the few free-flowing rivers in the area that boasts pristine surroundings and lush vegetation. Others will enjoy the evening company of Tom Gaskins of the Cypress Knee Museum as he takes them on a hike through his property. As everyone hunkers down beside a campfire for a wienie roast, Gaskins will show off his famous turkey calls and with those, invite the local owls over for a visit.

The field trips are many and are as diverse as the birders taking them. Hard-core enthusiasts can take the Turkey Trot tour that will require some difficult hiking through a piece of property known as Tasmania. But once, the birder catches sight of the Osceola Turkey then the hiking will be well worth the trip. A Regional Bird tour led by Dr. Paul Gray of the Florida Audubon Society will point out Florida Scrub Jays, Red-Shouldered Hawks and Burrowing Owls.

Meanwhile, back at home base at the Doyle Conner Building and nearby City Park in Moore Haven, there is a long list of lectures that are available to those who want to brush up on their knowledge of the very birds they seek. One lecture shows participants how to dissect owl pellets and build owl boxes. Stephen Nesbitt of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation iCommission shares his knowledge of Florida‚s cranes and the Whooping Crane Recovery Project.

For those interested in taking a break between lectures or tours, Moore Haven‚s Riverwalk Park will host an Arts and Crafts Show on Saturday, April 3rd. Visitors will be able to view artwork by bird artists, arts and crafts booths and will also find plenty of food and entertainment.

After three days of non-stop birding events, the Festival wraps everything up on the last day with a Keynote Dinner at the KOA in Okeechobee. The featured speaker will be Brad Winn, Coastal Bird Specailist, photographer and noted Author.

The three days of the Big “O” Birding Festival will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all those attending as well as for the organizers of the event.

For more information on the tours available and registration, call the Glades County Economic Development Council at 863-946-0300. More information is also available at or by sending an e-mail to

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