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The Ultimate Big Year

Noah with everything he will carry this year - no checked bags!

Noah and everything he will carry this year.

Today, I begin 365 days of intense birding: In 2015, I hope to see 5,000 species of birds around the world. After celebrating this New Year in Antarctica, I will make my way up through South America, then across North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and end in Australia next December. If I survive, by the end of this year I’ll have birded my way through 35 countries!

The logistics of this trip have taken months to plan. Everywhere I go, I will connect with local birders who have generously agreed to host me and show me their home territories. Strategically, a worldwide big year is complex: How long do you spend in one place before it is more productive to move on? What are the target species?

To see 5,000 birds in a year (about half the birds on Earth) will require averaging 14 new species every day—or a new bird every daylight hour. On that level, my strategy is big-picture stuff: I will be birding habitats this year instead of searching for one bird at a time. One thing I like about this planetary approach is that, unlike big years on any other scale, it doesn’t reward chasing vagrants. Instead, I’ll look for birds in the places they’re most common.

Officially, to set a world record, I will have to see at least 4,342 species; a British couple, Ruth Miller and Alan Davies, saw 4,341 in 2008 (as recounted in their book, The Biggest Twitch). Even more than that, I’m looking forward to meeting some incredible people this year, reflecting on the international nature of birding today, and sharing lots of good stories along the way.

It’s sure to be a grand adventure! You can read more about the project, and follow along on my daily blog this year, on the Audubon website (bookmark this link!):

Happy New Year from Antarctica!


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Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker, Associate Editor of Birding magazine, is author of Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica (2011) and The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human (2014). In 2015, Noah completed the ultimate big year, traveling through 41 countries to see 6,042 species of birds between January and December.
Noah Strycker

Latest posts by Noah Strycker (see all)

  • Cagan Sekercioglu

    This is exciting stuff Noah. What I like most about this is that you are travelling light, minimizing your ecological footprint and offsetting what will still be a pretty large footprint. What you are trying to do in one year is how I bird in general. Not chasing rarities but maximizing my lifers by going to new places where new birds are most common. Of course, I dont have the luxury of birding like this more than a few weeks per year. I checked to see that I’ve seen little over 5000 species since 2004, so good luck fitting that into 1 year! For me an excellent day is over 10 lifers and 14 lifers is even better. Having passed 6500 species, 10-lifer days are harder to come by. I dont think I had 365 such days in my entire life, let alone every day of an entire year, but with very good planning and a lot of local help, you may just be able to pull it off. It will be very intense and after a while new birds will just become numbers. Dont lose your enthusiasm and good luck.

  • Peter

    Cool! Keep us posted. What was your first bird of the year?

  • John Mueller

    I hope you keep a good daily blog. I NEED something entertaining while I’m stuck in an office all day

  • Dory

    Well? What’s happening? Any news and pictures will do.

  • Best wishes! This is the very opposite of what we are doing. I have never travelled with the express purpose of birding. Have managed to find 165 species within a couple of kms of home. The strategy is the see every visitor or vagrant that might come by!

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