Birds & Blooms

A Year of Birds

Extreme enthusiast­s roam North America seeking as many birds as possible in a challenge dubbed the “Big Year.”


1,102 Although it’s impossible for birders to find all 1,102 fliers on the official ABA checklist (some are extinct and others are only very rare visitors), top competitor­s have been known to track down over 800 species.

2 Two women, Laura Keene and Yve Nagy Morrell, currently share third place with 816 birds each. Yve could pull ahead if two additional fliers she spotted are accepted for the ABA list.

1939 Guy Emerson, a traveling businessma­n, was one of the first Big Year competitor­s. He planned his business trips in order to see the most birds possible, and in 1939 he recorded 497 kinds of fliers.

18 Birds & Blooms

expert Kenn Kaufman completed a Big Year in 1973, when he was just 18 years old. Relying on the kindness of strangers, he hitchhiked his way across the country.

27 In 2016, Christian Hagenloche­r became the youngest person to break the 700-species barrier. At age 27, he claimed 750 birds.

835 John Weigel holds the American Birding Associatio­n record for most bird sightings in the ABA area. He identified 835 bird species in 2016.

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