33rd annual Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival set for May 4-7

Renfeldt: Reservations went on sale early and are going strong

Reservations are already coming in for the 33rd annual Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival,

May 4 to 7, a celebration of the millions of shorebirds migrating through Cordova. The festival is organized annually by the Cordova Chamber of Commerce and many local volunteers.

“We opened registration early this year, in November; it’s usually in December or January,” said Cathy Renfeldt, executive director of the Chamber. So far reservations, which are needed to participate in guided field trips with expert presenters, are really strong, she said.

Engaging presenters and artists involved in the weekend of festivities offer everything from educational classes and live music to fireside socials, and guided birding field trips to sites deemed of hemispheric importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

The goal is to register some 250 folks for guided tours, but many other folks, including locals, will be otherwise engaged in this community-driven event, Renfeldt said.

The shorebird festival was the first birding festival ever organized in Alaska. It was created to celebrate and raise awareness of the Copper River Delta, the largest contiguous intact wetland on North America’s Pacific Coast. In recent years the festival has been used as a case study for successful community driven eco-tourism events that coalesce public, private and community groups to reach shared goals benefitting the economy, environment and local culture – a key tenant of Cordova’s recent Regenerative Tourism destination strategy.


In addition to guided tours to shorebird viewing grounds, this year’s participants will hear from several expert speakers, including keynote presenter Gerrit Vyn, a wildlife photographer and cinematographer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a senior fellow at the International League of Conservation Photographers. Vyn has been photographing birds and wildlife professionally for the last 25 years.

Other festival presenters, like some of the most distant shorebird migrants, will be flying in from as far as Mexico and Chile, Renfeldt said.

The Net Loft, a local business always very active during the festival, is presenting renowned naturalist, artist and educator John Muir Laws as its featured guest instructor. Laws is a principal leader and innovator for the worldwide nature journalist movement, who has dedicated his work to connecting people to nature through art and science. He is also the founder and president of the Wild Wonder Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging nature, connection and conservation through attention curiosity, art, science and community.

Renfeldt said art fans will also be happy to see The Net Loft’s ever-popular fiber art workshops back again, and a live music event presented by Cordova Arts & Pageants, featuring The Backwater Trio.

Renfeldt urged everyone eager to join in the fun to register now at www.coppershorebird.com. Special rates are available through the Cordova Chamber of Commerce for Cordova residents.

Once registered, attendees may use their third-party activities discount code located in their confirmation email, for discounts on many activities and events being offered by local businesses.

The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival is a collaborative event with partners including Chugach National Forest-Cordova Ranger District, Prince William Sound Science Center and The Net Loft, with support from ConocoPhillips, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Alaska Airlines, Audubon Alaska, Cordova Electric Cooperative, Granite Construction, Hamilton Construction, Cordova Telecom Cooperative, Sandia National Labs, and the Prince William Sound Economic Development District, as well as local volunteers and many local businesses.

“We have a lot of local talent. Well-versed, smart, friendly folks who want to pitch in. Some of them will take you out for a birding experience on the water,” Renfelt said. “It’s really community driven tourism. We share these birds with the whole Western Hemisphere. This is the last stop for some birds who have migrated from as far south as Chile.”

A complete festival schedule and information on events and visiting Cordova is available at www.coppershorebird.com, or contact the chamber at www.cordovachamber.com or 907-424-7260.

The announcement about this year’s shorebird festival in Cordova came on Monday, the same day that the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development released its April 2023 issue, with its focus on whether tourism has fully bounced back in Alaska since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tourism season is an economic pillar for Alaska’s economy, with nearly 90% of those who visit Alaska at any point during the year arriving during summer months, including those on cruise ships schedule to come to Alaska from April 17 through Oct. 27. Renfeldt said five small cruise ships are expected to make short stops in Cordova this year, with their passengers coming to shore for about two hours or so. 

“We are keeping the core community values, and then we want to enhance the amenities for locals and visitors alike and create healthy economic diversification, so we don’t just depend on fishing for the economy,” she said. “So, if it’s a bad year for fishing we will have tourism.”