Festival Schedule

Indiana Dunes Birding Festival
May 11-14, 2023

Check out the 2023 festival schedule now!

- Visit our registration website for trips, speakers, and more!
Download the PDF guidebook (final version- January 31)
- Order a hard copy of the guidebook

2023 Festival Keynote:
Jennifer Ackerman


Saturday, May 13 | 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Sand Creek Country Club
Chesterton, IN

Jennifer Ackerman photo

Join us for an evening dinner event with Jennifer Ackerman! A bird-lover since childhood, Jennifer Ackerman has been writing about birds and nature for more than three decades.  She is the author of eight award-winning books, including The Genius of Birds (Penguin Press, 2016), an international bestseller that examines how research has completely revised our view of the creatures we used to regard as ‘bird brained’. Her most recent book, The Bird Way (Penguin Press, 2020) explores new scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds—how they live and how they think. It was selected as “A Nature Book of the Year” by the London Sunday Times and was a finalist for the Edward O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.  Jennifer’s books have been translated into 30 languages, and her articles and essays have appeared in National Geographic, the New York Times, Scientific American, and many other publications. 

 Jennifer’s talks focus on our new understanding of birds, their highly efficient brains and intelligent behavior, and how this is redefining our definitions and perceptions of intelligence itself. What does it mean to be intelligent? What can we learn from birds about our own nature and our place in the natural world? What are the implications of this radical new understanding for conservation of species and the environment? 

 Jennifer grew up in Washington, D.C., one of five girls.  Her dad was an avid birdwatcher and took me out birdwatching on the C&O Canal and the Potomac River on weekends.  They would get up before dawn and head out to listen and to watch the birds as the light rose.  After a year or two, her dad gifted her first field guide, a worn and well-thumbed copy of Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America.  She’s loved birds ever since and has been lucky enough to travel around the world—from Hokkaido to Sweden, Borneo to Austria, Australia to Brazil—following ornithologists and other scientists into the field to learn about their research.  Her favorite bird is the Black-Capped Chickadee because it's so smart and bold and sassy, is a fabulous communicator, and has an amazing memory. 


2023 Festival Headliner:
Chris Haney

Thursday, May 11 | 11:30am
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center
Chesterton, IN

Dr. James Christopher Haney is a conservation biologist, wildlife researcher, and author of more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles, technical reports, and science summaries. He has delivered 150 research and public speaking engagements to national and international audiences. Haney was a coauthor of the "Top 40 Priorities for Science to Inform U.S. Conservation and Management Policy." In 2010, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service invited him to lead what was at the time the largest-ever vessel survey of marine birds in the Gulf of Mexico in order to help document injuries to wildlife that were caused by the Deepwater Horizon blow-out and oil spill. Following 15 years of interdisciplinary research, Dr. Haney discovered how and why conservation makes faulty decisions in his new book: "Woody's Last Laugh - How the 'Extinct' Ivory-billed Woodpecker Fools Us into Making 53 Thinking Errors"

2023 Festival Headliner:
Hannah Toutonghi

Friday, May 12 | 11:30am
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center
Chesterton, IN

Hannah grew up in Washington State, where she discovered her love of birds and the natural world at an early age. After earning a B.S in biochemistry from the University of Washington, field work became the next chapter of her career. She has previously worked at the Natural Resources Research Institute, Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, and the Institute for Bird Populations. Highlights from those seasonal positions include getting dive-bombed by a Northern Goshawk while conducting point counts, banding juvenile Northern Saw-whet Owls, witnessing the irruption of Black-backed Woodpeckers and White-winged Crossbills during fall migration, and hearing Marbled Murrelets in the old-growth forests of the Olympic National Park. Currently, Hannah is a second year master’s student at the University of Minnesota Duluth researching the winter ecology and movement of Northern Hawk Owls.

2023 Festival Headliner:
Chris Bell

Saturday, May 13 | 11:30am
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center
Chesterton, IN

Colombia is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries and is home to more bird species than any other country on the planet. Colombia also remains a truly adventurous destination as more and more remote corners of the country open up to birders and scientists. Chris Bell has been birding in Colombia for the past ten years, during which time he has been lucky enough to explore all 32 departments, observing over 1,400 bird species in the process and finding several new species for those departments.

Join Chris as he recounts tales from his birding adventures in Colombia, from a trek through the Santa Marta Mountains in search of a lost hummingbird to ten-day journeys down Amazonian rivers to find Harpy Eagles and mysterious cotingas in the jungle. As the co-host of the YouTube birding series, The Birders Show, his passion is showcasing the magic of birding in Colombia and helping to make birding more accessible to people worldwide. 

2023 Festival Headliner:
Matt Young

Sunday, May 14 | 11:30am
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center
Chesterton, IN

Matt Young has worked at the Cornell Lab across 15+ years where he has done extensive field work for the Lab’s Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers atlas projects, and was project lead on the Lab’s first Finch Irruptive Bird Survey for Bird Source in 1999. Matt currently is working on Finches of North America with Lillian Stokes and am also the President and Founder of the Finch Research Network (FiRN) and Native Orchid Conservation Network (NOCN), and owner of Mindful Nature Expeditions.  Join Matt as we learn more about the Finch Research Network.