Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day bird count is May 4

More than 30,000 people – including three groups of expert birders from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – are expected to take part May 4 in a massive effort to set a world record. The goal: Tally the greatest number of bird species seen in a single day.

In North America, the hooded warbler is usually found amid dense brush or low branches in swamps and woodlands.

This Saturday is Global Big Day – a free event for anybody who likes birds and being outdoors. Anyone anywhere can take part.

A “big day” in the birding world means counting as many birds as possible in 24 hours. Supporters can pledge any amount for each species tallied or make a one-time gift. The Cornell contingent – known collectively as Team Sapsucker – has set an ambitious goal: Tally 225 species and raise $575,000. Global Big Day is the lab’s largest annual conservation fundraiser.

The Cornell birders are heading to Alabama, Florida and Texas for the event, which takes place from midnight to midnight. Gulf Coast states are crucial for more than 2 billion migratory birds that depend on coastal habitat and resources after an arduous spring journey across the Gulf of Mexico from wintering grounds in Central and South America.

“The Gulf Coast is also a region that has suffered a particularly high number of natural and manmade disasters that threaten birds and wildlife,” said Chris Wood, the lab’s assistant director for information science. “People who support bird conservation through Team Sapsucker help maintain crucial programs and scientific research to help protect migratory birds and the habitats they need to survive.”

Participants from 171 countries joined last year’s Global Big Day. When the counting was done, bird watchers reported more than 7,000 of the world’s approximately 10,000 known bird species. Bird watchers this year will be trying to eclipse that total, a Global Big Day record.

Bird-counting events are often competitions, but Global Big Day means everyone is on the same team, Wood said.

“You don’t need to do a full day of birding,” he said. “Ten minutes, an hour, whatever time you can devote to bird watching on May 4 is great. Every bird counts.”

Participation is easy: Go to to set up a free account. Watch birds on May 4, then enter your list at eBird. Watch in real-time as sightings from the world’s birders roll in.

Other ways to get the most out of Global Big Day:

  • use the Merlin Bird ID app to help ID species;
  • explore eBird Hotspots near you; and
  • share what you’re seeing on social media with #globalbigday.

Pat Leonard is a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Lindsey Knewstub