Global Big Day 2021 reaches new heights

By Team eBird May 20, 2021
Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

Birds unite people. On Saturday, 8 May more than 51,000 people spanning 192 countries celebrated the birds around them for Global Big Day. Together, the global birding community accomplished FOUR world records! Global Big Day 2021 set new records for the greatest number of birders, from the most countries, reporting more species and more checklists on a single day of birding than ever before. Thank you.

The global eBird community achieved another major milestone on Global Big Day: 1 billion bird observations! eBird’s billionth bird observation was an Australasian Swamphen reported on this checklist by Heidi Krajewski. eBird now contains 1,005,014,471 observations of birds around the world. As eBird grows, it becomes an increasingly powerful resource for science, conservation, and education.

These Global Big Day accomplishments are only possible with the tremendous efforts of eBird’s partners and collaborators around the world, including the eBird portal collaborator network. The enthusiasm of these groups is truly inspiring and we can’t thank them enough. Thanks also to Carl Zeiss Sports Optics for their continuing sponsorship of eBirder of the Month, including the opportunity to win Zeiss binoculars by participating in Global Big Day. We are also excited to have Global Big Day align with World Migratory Bird Day, giving another opportunity to celebrate the birds that we all care about.

Global Big Day by the Numbers

  • 51,816 people from 192 countries went birding
  • 140,818 people identifying birds with Merlin Bird ID
  • 137,685 checklists submitted
  • 7,258 species recorded
  • 69,311 photos shared with the Macaulay Library
  • 2,391 audio recordings shared with the Macaulay Library

Explore all Global Big Day stats here. 

Birds are constantly surprising and inspiring us—and also ensuring that no two Global Big Days are ever the same! As Twitter user Eagle Fandom BNF wrote, “You never know with birding, which adds to the magic”. We couldn’t agree more. Here are some of this year’s Global Big Day stories from around the world.

Gearing-up for Global Big Day

We love seeing how participants gear-up for Global Big Day. Team Wingnut showed you can’t go wrong with a pair of binoculars and some trusted field guides (and a furry friend).

Camille Rondeau Saint-James remembered to pack spare batteries for her audio recording setup, and Twitter user Chendergym’s kit included two items found in many birding packs this year: a face mask and hand sanitizer. What are your must-haves on Global Big Day?

First bird of the day

The first bird of Global Big Day is typically the one that gets you out of bed or out the door.  For diehard birdwatchers, Global Big Day begins before dawn—but the reward of finding an elusive owl or nightjar makes the early start worth it. A lucky few, including Edison Ocaña, didn’t need to go far to find nocturnal birds. Listen to Edison’s recording of a Rufous-banded Owl collected from his home at 4:15am on Global Big Day:

Notorious “early birds”, thrushes—including Eurasian Blackbirds and American Robins—are also common first species on Global Big Day. Their loud, ebullient songs are a good reminder that “It’s time to go birding”!

Tammy’s Bird Diary had a different motivator to start her birding. “First bird seen on the #GlobalBigDay – a brown honeyeater yelling at me to fill his birdbath,” she writes.

First Global Big Day

3,593 people joined eBird for the first time on Global Big Day. Welcome! We’re so excited to have you on the team.

A Twitter user who goes by ‘Duke Baloney’ spent 10 hours birding on their first Global Big Day and found 45 species, including 7 new birds for their life list. Congratulations! The “BAD Birders” also had a successful Global Big Day even though several members of their birding team chose to play football instead.

Michael Bogan spent his first Global Big Day birding the Santa Cruz River in Arizona. He was one of many Global Big Day participants who focused on natural areas within urban habitats.

New and returning Global Big Day participants alike should enjoy Taiwan Birds’ Global Big Day “Tips for friends in other time zones”

Inclement weather

This year, many Global Big Day participants’ essential gear included warm layers and waterproof coats. Though some areas saw sunny skies and mild weather, many other regions experienced strong winds, heavy rains, and frigid temperatures.

UK birders described their stormy weather in terms ranging from “very soggy” to “thoroughly miserable”. Nevertheless—loaded with sandwiches and hot drinks—many still ventured out to find birds on Global Big Day.

Some birders combated the bad weather with optimism; strong storms can provide good opportunities for unusual vagrants or large flocks of migrating birds. Niall Keogh hoped to find spring migrants once the storms cleared over Ireland.

Ruth and Alan also showed high spirits in spite of the blustery weather. “Never underestimate the restorative power of a Glamorgan sausage roll and a hot chocolate. And a male Yellowhammer!” they said.

Sarah Rainsberger encountered similarly formidable conditions in Canada but still managed to spot a rare Glossy Ibis. “Only the gulls and I would be out in this!” she wrote. We are grateful to the many eBirders who persisted despite the “#wet” weather to help set new world records.

Staying local

Global Big Day is a celebration of birds everywhere—even from home. Some birders forwent big day adventures in favor of discovering local birds around them.

Sandy Espinoza F and her family looked for “winged neighbors” from their home in Ecuador. Laura Varano couldn’t leave home for Global Big Day, but still enjoyed a visit from this Chimango Caracara.

Danielle Belleny, a wildlife biologist for Plateau Land and Wildlife Management, shared her story from Global Big Day: “Initially for Global Big Day, I had plans of travelling to a state park nearly 2 hours away from my home to see Green Jays, Northern Bobwhite, Groove-billed Ani, and other south Texas delights,” she says. “I ditched my travel plans after realizing how much time I would be losing from driving and opted for a more local spot. After all, this last year showed me just how much I can enjoy staying close to home. I recently moved to San Marcos, Texas and had yet to really learn the hotspots in the area.”

Belleny decided to visit The Meadow Center for Water and the Environment, an eBird hotspot and culturally important location in San Marcos. “Within the first 3 minutes I got a new lifer, an adult Chestnut-sided Warbler fluttering in the trees around the parking lot. Next to the warbler was a singing juvenile male Painted Bunting and a pair of Yellow-throated Vireos,” Belleny’s birding list quickly grew. “I circled the parking lot, dazzled by the diversity that I was hearing and seeing just along the tree-lined edge.”

Danielle Belleny’s story shows you don’t have to drive hundreds of miles in order to have a fun, fulfilling birding experience on Global Big Day. She says, “Although I was only able to spend 45 minutes birding, I had a surprisingly great time craning my neck to look at the warblers all around me.”


Non-feathered finds

Stepping outside to enjoy birds creates opportunity for other natural encounters, and Global Big Day is no different. We enjoyed hearing about participant’s non-avian sightings—from muskrats and bison to snakes and even orcas!

Cari Oleskewicz reported this American Bison sighting and Paul Smith shared mammalian highlights from his Global Big Day. Kekti Samel’s birding team was temporarily distracted by this colorful garter snake. What a treat!

Thank you!

A massive and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who submitted checklists on Global Big Day. eBird contains more than a billion observations of birds from nearly 700,000 participants, all thanks to your efforts. Your observations into the lives of birds that will help us better understand and prevent avian population declines.

At eBird, every day can be a big day—a reason to step outside even for just 10 minutes to enjoy birds and share observations for science. Together we can help better understand, conserve, and enjoy birds for many years to come. Thank you for being a part of it.