Global Big Day — 9 May 2015

How many birds can be seen in a single day around the world? That’s the idea behind the Global Big Day effort being coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For more than 30 years, Cornell’s Team Sapsucker has been doing Big Days (Bird Races) to raise money for conservation (and support eBird). We’ve had some great times, from our awesome 294 species run in Texas to last year’s El Gigante that combined Arizona and California for 275 species. We had a great time at the Champions of the Flyway event last year in Israel. Other impressive totals we prefer to forget (Andrew Farnsworth is leading Marshall Iliff 2 to 1 for most flat tires [err, tyres] while driving on the Lab Big Days).


But what’s next? With the Cornell Lab’s centennial in 2015, we decided to make some big changes to the Big Day—most importantly to expand the team drastically. There are few things we enjoy more than going out and seeing how many birds we can see—and we want to share that fun with the world. For 2015 we invite everyone around to join us in an attempt to see as many species as possible on a single calendar day. Are 3000 species possible? 4000? More? Could we document half the species in the world? We have absolutely no idea—but that’s what makes it fun! For birds to count, all you need to do is enter them into eBird. Mark your calendars for 9 May 2015 for the first ever Global Big Day on International Migratory Bird Day and start spreading the word in your area.

This year is a little different from past Big Days because we are interested in the cumulative total from around the world. This means, if you are in Brazil there are 253 species that can’t be found anywhere else. India 57; Australia 347; Puerto Rico 16; Hawaii 33; California 2. Who wants to be responsible for Scottish Crossbill?

Golden-collared-Manakin_270Our hope is that miniature competitions will develop. Who will record more species, the United Kingdom or Portugal? New York or Massachusetts? Colombia or Ecuador? The main differences between this and other bird races, is that we are interested in the number of species we can see by working together—after all, that is the idea behind eBird.

We will be using the hashtag #GlobalBigDay and hope you will use it in discussing this on social media. We recognize that this is not the ideal date for birding all around the world, but we needed to start somewhere. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will be sending more information in the coming weeks.

To find out more head over to:

We realize that people may use other bird recording systems (e.g., Birdtrack), but our hope is that on this one day we can envision a world where all birders worldwide can bring their data together for a truly global snapshot. We continue to strategize with BTO and other groups around the world on how to fund and develop an integrated global system.

If you are new to eBird, take a look at our Quick Start Guide to get started.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Ahh, if only it were so simple! In eBird we have options to display common names in a variety of ways. If you like, you can go with the Yank version of Black-bellied Plover, but we expect many will prefer Grey Plover. eBird has eight English versions of Common Names including English (United Kingdom) (EN_UK) and English (IOC) (EN_IOC) which can be changed from eBird Preferences once you have an account. If you want more details on taxonomy and how this works, see this article.

And feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Chris, Marshall, Brian, Tim, Jessie, Andrew, Ian and the entire eBird and Cornell Lab crew. Thanks also to Cornell student, Luke Seitz for the amazing Big Day art, which you can download here.

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About Team eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The six of us work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Chris Wood, Marshall Iliff and Brian Sullivan coordinate eBird -- the global bird-recording scheme that has gathered 170 million records from over 150,000 users from every country in the world. Andrew Farnsworth coordinates BirdCast, a cross-disciplinary collaboration with computer scientists to predict regional and continental bird migration. Jessie Barry coordinates Merlin Bird ID, an app that uses crowdsourced data to help people identify common birds, currently focused in North America.. Tim Lenz is our eBird Programmer. In our free time, we are all Bird Race addicts and together we hold several Big Day records -- including the North American record of 294.

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