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/

Birders gather once a month to sip craft beer and hear interesting lectures on birds or conservation-related topics.

Think of it as happy hour while watching Animal Planet.

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

For nearly seven years, folks have been gathering at the Rio Salado Audubon Center for “Birds and Beer.” On the third Thursday of each month (except July), they gather to enjoy craft beers, wine and snacks and then listen to an informative and entertaining presentation on birds, animals or other conservation-related topics.

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.

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Before the talks, those in attendance munched hors d’oeuvres provided by Ensemble Catering and tried the April beer selection, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company’s Chocolate Bunny beer.

Admission is free,  but the alcoholic beverages are not.

As the event’s title suggests, the discussions tend to skew toward birds and bird watching. In addition to bald eagles, recent talks have included on “the sage grouse success story,” “highlights from a big year of important bird areas” and “Egrets, cranes and herons, Oh My!”

But other conservation 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.”

Some 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, the discussions or just a chance to hang out with friends in a nice setting on a Thursday night, Birds and Beer has people flocking 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.”

Details: 5:30-7:30 p.m., third Thursday of each month (except July). Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix. Admission is free. 602-468-6470 (ext. 103),

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