A State Big Year in High School: Aidan Rominger

By Sarah Toner January 14, 2016
Aidan Rominger out birding

Aidan Rominger is a 16 year-old birder from Indianapolis, Indiana. Last year, Aidan did a statewide Indiana big year. All bird photos were taken by Aidan during the year.

What made you want to do a statewide big year?

Last year I had one goal: to reach 300 species in the state by the end of the year. I was the first person my age to even attempt something like this, but I felt that as my passion for birds grew, I wanted to see every species I could in the state I live in. I also thought “if other people could do it, why not try?”

What was your first bird?

My first bird in the state for the year was a Canada Goose, of all birds.

The Bar-tailed Godwit

The Bar-tailed Godwit

What were some memorable rarities, special birds, or moments on your big year?

Indiana had many great birds last year (2015). The spring in particular was amazing. I saw a post on Facebook of a birder in southern Indiana saying he had an odd “Hudsonian Godwit.” I did a double take when I saw the photo and called my friend Don Gorney.  At the same time, Don was trying to call me because the bird wasn’t actually a Hudsonian Godwit; it was its European cousin, the Black-tailed Godwit! So we hopped in the car and got the bird that evening. Later on, a Ruff was found in Gibson County, only a few miles down the road from where the Black-tailed was hanging out! Another notable rarity was a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Davies County.

The Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Davies Co.

The Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Davies Co.

Was it challenging doing a big year with school and other activities in your life?

It was very challenging to do a statewide big year while enrolled in high school. As many young birders know, time is key for birding, especially while doing big years. Being someone who didn’t have my driver’s license and only had weekends to bird, I had to devote time to school and birding, but I balanced both quite well.

A Swallow-tailed Kite, normally found in the Southeastern US

A Swallow-tailed Kite, normally found in the Southeastern US

How did you finish? What are your thoughts on the big year now that it’s over?

I finished with 306 ABA species for the state. I was pleased to have seen that many species. Honestly, I was just aiming for 300, and it was nice to get 300 species two years in a row in the state. I could not have reached that number if I hadn’t had the support and help from Don Gorney and others. Thank you so much for all the time you all have devoted to helping me reach my dream.


Sarah Toner