On the third Thursday of each month (except July) the Rio Salado Audubon Center hosts Birds and Beer, a discussion of conservation topics in an informal setting. The event includes craft beer and food in addition to the conversation.
Weldon B. Johnson/

Sample beer and wine, munch some free snacks and hear an entertaining presentation on an environmental topic.

Think of it as happy hour while watching Animal Planet.

Or maybe having a beer with friends, one of whom happens to be an expert on, say, bald eagles.

For nearly seven years, folks have been flocking to the Rio Salado Audubon Center for Birds and Beer on the third Thursday of each month (except July). They enjoy craft beers, wine and snacks and listen to informative and entertaining presentations on birds, animals and other conservation-related topics.

This month’s event, “Top 10 Urban Birding Tips,” is 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 18. On June 15, the presentation will be “What’s Happening With the Colorado River Delta.”

The gatherings started out small but have been growing and are “going strong,” according to George A. Martinez, Director of Advancement for Audubon Arizona.

“This is an event that has taken on a life of its own,” Martinez said. “We run out of chairs on a regular basis. There are so many people who love to come to this and we love to serve them with great information about the environment.”

The April session on bald eagle nest watching drew more than 100 people and strained the capacity of the center’s meeting room. Audubon staff and volunteers raided other rooms for chairs but there were still a few folks standing while raptor experts Russell Benford and Kenneth Jacobson (who happened to be a home brewer) gave their presentations.

MORE FOOD AND DRINK EVENTS: Top food and drink events in May around Phoenix

Before the talk, participants munched hors d’oeuvres provided by Ensemble Catering and sampled April’s beer selection, Chocolate Bunny from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company.

As the event’s title suggests, the discussions skew toward birds and bird watching. Recent talks have included “The Sage Grouse Success Story,” “Highlights From a Big Year of Important Bird Areas” and “Egrets, Cranes and Herons, Oh My!”

But not every gathering is about birds. Other topics have included “Tips and Tricks for Breathtaking Nature Photography,” “A Day in the Life of a Rio Salado Park Ranger” and “The Forest to Tap Story: Little-Known Mysteries That all Arizonans Should Know.”

“Some of our most popular topics have had calls to action,” Martinez said. “Where people don’t just come and gain awareness about a bird species or something going on in the environment, but they leave the room with something they can do to make a difference.”

Favorite topics have also included the mating habits of birds and other species. Maybe it’s the alcohol.

“One of my favorites was about the mating habits of sea lions,” frequent attendee Niki D’Andrea said. “That was interesting. And they had video. So it was fun and whimsical and entertaining as well.”

Whether it’s for the drinks, discussions or just a chance to hang out with friends in a nice setting on a Thursday night, Birds and Beer attracts people to the Audubon Center.

“You’ll probably laugh, you’ll learn a lot and they try to make it as entertaining as possible for everybody,” said regular attendee Keridwen Cornelius. “You don’t have to be a bird expert or a nature expert or science expert. Anyone can have a great time.”

Birds and Beers

What: Monthly social gatherings with beer, wine, snacks and discussions of environmental topics. The May 18 topic is “Top 10 Urban Birding Tips.” On June 15, find out “What’s Happening With the Colorado River Delta.”

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month (except July).

Where: Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Admission: Admission and snacks are free. Participants pay for beer and wine.

Details:  602-468-6470, ext. 103;

MORE AZCENTRAL ON SOCIAL: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Read or Share this story: