Global Big Day 2018: a birding world record

This Black-throated Mango is one of the incredible 1,545 species of birds reported from Colombia on Global Big Day. Photo by Juan Diego Castillo/Macaulay Library.

Birds are incredible. Their power to inspire and amaze brings people together across every imaginable boundary. Global Big Day is the embodiment of this worldwide connectedness: a single day to celebrate birds in every place on Earth. On 5 May, Global Big Day, 28,000 people ventured outside in 170 countries, finding 6899 species: 2/3rds of the world’s bird species in one day. This is a new world record for birding and more birds seen by the Global Big Day team than any one person has ever seen in an entire year. Incredibly, more than 10% of species were reported by only one person, showing the impact that you have. This record belongs to every single person who took part. Thank you, and congratulations.

Importantly, this impossibly fun event also provides valuable information to help the birds we all care about. eBirders gathered more than 1.6 million bird sightings on 5 May, which are now freely available to researchers and conservationists. As a global birding team, together we can gather information on where, when, and how birds make us of the landscape and we can use that information to aid conservation and research that can help keep birds around. And the best part? We can all have fun doing it.

Our favorite part of Global Big Day is the stories. There are the amazing travels: hiking on Friday to a remote campsite to be at the right spot for a specific species at dawn, or boating down a river for a half-day and then racing back to internet to enter your sightings before the results are announced. There is the community: everything from groups of local guides scouring the countryside of Uganda to local community monitors in Mexico representing their country’s incredible biodiversity. And, of course, there are the birds: the rare; the beautiful; the unexpected finds; the crushing misses. Perhaps the most remarkable report on Global Big Day was an Ibadan Malimbe (Malimbus ibadanensis): a new species for eBird for all-time, reported by Adewale Awoyemi from Nigeria. Explore all of Global Big Day’s birds here:

Thanks to Mauricio Ossa Aristizabal for this amazing visual of the Colombian Global Big Day efforts. View larger. 

For the second year in a row, Colombia led the world in bird species on Global Big Day. The herculean efforts of the Colombian birding community found an unfathomable 1546 species in one country in one day. Absolutely incredible work—congratulations. Colombia’s Global Big Day reached from local communities all the way to the country’s president! Even the Colombian Air Force was out, enjoying birds and sharing them with the public. Over 1600 birders submitted 5000 checklists, a truly amazing snapshot of birds in the world’s most bird-diverse country. A million thanks to the partners behind eBird Colombia and Global Big Day Colombia for making this a reality. Right on Colombia’s heels was the monumental coverage in Peru, where 1490 species were reported. With two wins each under the belt of Peru and Colombia, we look forward to seeing who will be the first ‘tri-champion’ country next year!

The Cornell Lab’s Team Sapsucker split into three groups, traveling to California, Honduras, and Colombia. These three countries were chosen to showcase the interconnectedness of migratory birds, with a special focus on shorebirds. Wetlands in each of these countries are a critical home for migrant shorebirds as they move from South America to their Arctic breeding grounds. Each of the Team Sapsucker groups joined with our local partners in the country, setting new big day records in Honduras and Colombia. Learn more about Team Sapsucker’s day here, and thanks to Lowa Boots LLC for their sponsorship.

There are so many other exciting stories and results from around the world. We know we’ll never be able to do them all justice, but we’ve tried to highlight some below. Thank you for being a part of Global Big Day.

United States & Canada

The island state of Hawaii reported a record-high 89 species, including this Laysan Albatross. Photo by Joshua Rudolph/Macaulay Library.

Global Big Day was a lovely spring day in much of the United States, with new migrants arriving overnight, and lots of birds to find. The final US tally was 716, bolstered by great totals from Texas (408), California (361), and Arizona (310). US eBirders also documented 577 species with photographs in their eBird checklists, and 172 with audio—quite remarkable!

Canadian birding teams found 397 species, exactly tying last year’s total, in spite of the earlier date, which amounted to one week less for birds to reach these northern forests. Ontario and British Colombia were neck-and-neck for species, with 262 in BC and 259 for Ontario. To make up for that three-species difference, Ontario eBirders submitted over 1400 more checklists, for a total of 2666 checklists on the day! Quebec edged out BC for the #2 spot for checklists, with 1213.

Mexico & Central America

This Barred Becard performed wonderfully on the Global Big Day in Costa Rica. Photo by Guillermo Saborío Vega/Macaulay Library.

Latin America takes Global Big Day to a level unlike anywhere else. In Central America, the number of checklists doubled over 2017! Panama’s national-level media coverage got people out and about all over the country—and it paid off. 750 species in Panama (and 6x the checklists of last year!) just barely edged out Mexico’s 745 for #1 in this section. 347 Costa Rican birders ranged from the coast to volcanoes, notching an impressive 685 species on their almost 1000 eBird checklists.

Our favorite part of Central American Global Big Days is the local excitement. Teams of young birders, community monitors, birding guides, lodge and park staff, and so much more. Sometimes with just a couple pairs of binoculars to share between participants, it is magical to see and hear the excitement of people making their sightings count. An amazing 35 Central American birders reported over 200 species on Global Big Day!

South America

White-bellied Seedsnipe photographed on the Global Big Day in Argentina. Photo by Emanuel Tiberi/Macaulay Library.

From the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego to the coast of the Caribbean, nowhere in the world compares to South America’s bird diversity. On 5 May, this was on full display: 40% of Global Big Day’s species came from this continent. Two countries had more than 1490 species. Four over 1000. Seven out of the top 10 in the world. Even more incredible than the bird diversity are the amazing birders that proudly represent their communities and countries. Colombia’s inspiring efforts were touched on above, but this is only part of the story. In Peru, over 600 birders took to the fields and forests, representing dozens of local, regional, and national groups. CORBIDI’s organizers did a truly exemplary job, and we can’t wait to see how next year goes.

Peru’s fantastic set of partners, all working together for birding’s biggest day.

Ecuador’s total of 1154 species placed third worldwide, thanks to the mobilization of 220 birders across the country. Brazil’s excellent total of 1036 rounded out the ‘thousand club’, and contained hundreds of unique species, many of which are rare and endangered. Argentina crushed their previous high by 19 species, and are knocking on the door of 700—ending up with 696! Bolivia surged forward massively from past years, landing at #9 in the world, with 703 species!

There is always so much to talk about in South America that it is impossible to do it justice. There are many more exciting local stories of triumph and discovery, and we thank all of you for sharing them with us.

West Indies

Puerto Rican Spindalis is one of the Caribbean endemics found on Global Big Day. Photo by Benny Diaz/Macaulay Library.

With so many endemic birds, the West Indies are critically important during Global Big Day. Check out the list of species reported and you’ll be wanting to go to an island for next year’s event! The Bahamas and Puerto Rico were right next to each other for species totals, with 135 and 133. Fifteen other island nations also made an impact, thanks to help from BirdsCaribbean, SOPI, and many other great groups working on birds in the region.


Lesser Striped-Swallows in Kenya during the Global Big Day. Photo by Tyler Davis/Macaulay Library.

This year’s world record would not have been possible without African birders. Reports from 28 countries added a whopping 150 species over 2017’s event, taking the continental total to 1140. A big thanks to the African Bird Club for helping get people excited across the country. Despite the terrible flooding in Kenya, birders made it out to report 479 species—#1 in the region. This year’s big story in Africa was Uganda, where a fantastic network of local guides and Tourism Uganda helped get 34 birders out across the country, finding 429 species—up from 116 last year! Very impressive work, and we can’t wait to see how Uganda’s eBirding grows by next year!

Further south, South Africa clocked in with 412 species, a nice uptick from 376 last year (thanks BirdLife South Africa, SABAP2, and BirdLasser for all helping spread the word)! Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia each noted a couple hundred species, and were critical to the success of Africa’s tally. Records from undercovered places like Sudan also contributed some rarely-seen species, and an amazing checklist from Nigeria included a new species for eBird (see above)! The UK Ambassador to Madagascar even got out and reported some birds! We really look forward to seeing what African birders continue to discover and report to eBird.


This Northern Boobook was a part of the ‘Campus Big Day’—a great initiative in Thailand to get university students out and birding on Global Big Day. Photo by Natthaphat Chotjuckdikul/Macaulay Library.

India continued their reign as #1 for species in Asia on Global Big Day, clocking in with 577 thanks to BirdCount India and the excellent Indian eBirding community. China’s total of 473 came from a fantastic 101 different eBirders, and bettered last year’s species total by 100!

In southeast Asia, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand’s ‘Campus Big Day’ got university students out across Thailand in a campus-versus-campus competition—helping get 71 different eBirders out across Thailand on 5 May. Further south in Malaysia, our partners at eBird Malaysia helped to publicize and promote this event, and eBirders reported 454 species by the end of the day: good enough for 18th place for all the world’s countries. These reports are especially valuable—with many of the birds in this region threatened by cagebird trade and habitat loss, having a more complete picture of distribution in the region is very important.


This Little Stint was one of the 219 species in Turkey on the Global Big Day. Photo by Mustafa Özdemir/Macaulay Library.

May is prime birding time in Europe, and the 42 countries that took part in Global Big Day made that very apparent! Spain found a very nice 302 species: the only country in the region to break the 300 barrier. A single Spanish team also took the #1 slot for one team of birders, where Ricard Gutiérrez, Sergi Sales, Carolina García, Oriol Muntané, and Gorka Gorospe noted 203 species. Portugal (235), Turkey (219), the UK (213), Germany (206), and France (203) all came in over 200. Rob Martin had the biggest total in the UK for the second year running, with 142 species.

Finland (166) crept closer to Sweden’s 188 this year—who will be on top next year? With nearly double the participants this year as compared to last, we’re excited to see how next year fares. See all 422 European species here.


Australia has some really cool birds of prey, like this Spotted Harrier. Photo by Ged Tranter/Macaulay Library.

Australia’s wonderfully diverse and unique birds make good turnout here essential to the event’s success. The work by the eBird Australia team never fails to make sure that the island continent is well-represented even though it’s early winter there. This year’s 490 species came from 450 different eBirders—will next year crack the 500 mark?! Malcolm Graham and Steven Pratt did another big day in Queensland, with Terence Alexander and Michael Daley— finding an impressive 172 species on the day!

And there you have it—another birding world record in the books! Never before have so many birders gone out in this many countries, found so many birds, and noted them all down in eBird for their fellow birders, researchers, and conservationists. The most exciting part is that it doesn’t end here. Global Big Day doesn’t have to be just one day a year—at eBird, every day is a big day. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should bird 24 hours a day and never sleep, just that eBirding gives you that same birding fun and community—every day of the year.

Birds connect us. eBird connects birders. We can’t wait to see what you continue to find—and share. Stay tuned for news about another ‘big day’ this October 6: mark the date and we’ll be in touch! Have fun, and we’ll see you out there.