Competitive Birding

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Some people take their passion for birding to the next level. You might not call their behavior crazy, exactly. Obsessed? Okay, maybe. True bird nerds don’t just keep life lists. They follow rare bird sightings – not just on social media but in person. That might mean hopping on planes at short notice and racing thousands of miles in hopes of checking one more species off their lists. They lose sleep competing with themselves and with others in bird-a-thons and Big Years and other events. 

Here are some of the ways bird nerds live up to their names.

Life List

A birder's life list.

You know you’re hooked on birding when you keep count of all the bird species you’ve seen in your life and those you have yet to see. Here’s how to start. Story: “My Father’s Life List

Birding Contest

Which team can spot the most birds in 24 hours? Contests like New Jersey’s World Series of Birding or the Great Texas Birding Classic challenge entrants to find out.

Personal Best

The light-footed clapper rail is found in salt marshes in California.

Maybe you just want to set a personal challenge. Embark on a Big Year to see how many species you can see in a calendar year. Here’s how to plan for a Big Year.


Think marathons for bird-watchers. Which team can best fight off fatigue and use their skills to see the most bird species in the allotted time?

New York Birdathon
In this annual statewide event, teams vie to spot the most birds in 24 hours while they earn pledges for bird conservation and the National Audubon Society.

Competitive Birding for Kids (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Some teens want in on the act, too. New Jersey college students compete in the World Series of Birding.

Bird Watching as Endurance Sport (The Washington Post)
A columnist describes what it is like to take part in the New Jersey Audubon World Series of Birding, a “wild, 24-hour competition that is part scientific expedition and part grueling endurance event.”

Story Tags

Migratory birds
Wildlife refuges
Wildlife viewing

Recreational Activities