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Get ready for October Big Day and Global Bird Weekend

Global Bird Weekend

This coming weekend promises to be big. Birders from around the world will be out in force tallying species for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s October Big Day and the first ever Global Bird Weekend.

The goal of Global Bird Weekend is to make October 17-18 the biggest ever birding weekend and support BirdLife International’s appeal to end illegal bird trade. One of Global Bird Weekend’s aims is to have more than 25,000 people submit eBird checklists on October 17. Will you be one of them?

Of course, COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, so you should absolutely put safety first, follow local health guidelines, and bird mindfully. You can bird from home and still take part in October Big Day!

Organizers hope that the participants will count up to 6,500 species around the world — roughly 60 percent of the planet’s bird species.

How to participate

  • Get an eBird account: eBird is a worldwide bird checklist program used by millions of birders. It’s what allows us to compile everyone’s sightings into a single massive October Big Day list — while at the same time collecting the data for scientists to use to better understand birds. Sign up here. It’s 100% free.
  • Watch birds on October 17. It’s that simple! October Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone. You don’t need to be a bird expert, or go out all day long. You can report birds from anywhere in the world—even 10 minutes in your backyard will help.
  • Enter what you see and hear on eBird: You can enter your sightings via eBird’s website or — even easier — download the free eBird Mobile app. The app allows you to keep and submit lists while you’re still out birding, explore nearby hotspots, and will even track how far you’ve walked so you can focus on watching birds. Please submit your eBird checklists before 21 October to be included in the initial results announcement.
  • Watch the sightings roll in: During the day, keep an eye on how the lists are growing in different parts of the world. Follow along with reports from more than 150 countries. Stats will be updated in real-time on the October Big Day page.

Global Bird Weekend is inviting birders to create teams or to register individually. No fewer than 100 teams from around the world are ready to go. Many teams are also raising funds for BirdLife’s campaign to stop illegal bird trade. Learn more about creating a team or just scroll through the teams here.

The illegal bird trade is cruel, is pushing birds toward extinction, and is threatening more pandemics like COVID-19 due to the transmission of diseases from animals to humans in poorly regulated markets, especially in Asia.

A very socially distanced team from BirdWatching will join in the fun. Editor Matt Mendenhall will bird from Wisconsin while Contributing Editors Kenn Kaufman, Laura Erickson, and Brian Small will bird in their home states — Ohio, Minnesota, and California. You can support our fundraiser on the JustGiving site to fight the illegal bird trade, and on Saturday, you can follow our team’s progress on eBird.

Sunday is all about sharing: Birders are asked to keep going out birding and sharing your lists on eBird. Sunday is also the day for you to go out and take your camera, sketch pad, and audio equipment and spend the time enjoying the birds with your friends and family. And it’s an ideal opportunity to introduce newcomers to birdwatching.

Tim Appleton, the founder of Global Bird Weekend, says he’d prefer birders stay close to home when they take part this weekend — to minimize potential coronavirus exposure and participants’ carbon footprint.

“Wherever you are in the world,” Appleton says, “in your garden, your local park, or nature reserve, by a wetland or the ocean, deep in a forest or high up in the remotest mountains, every bird sighting counts.”

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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