Great Wisconsin Birdathon: Chasing Records and Saving Birds

By Team eBird March 20, 2013
Great Wisconsin Birdathon
Great Wisconsin Birdathon

On May 19th 2002, Randy Hoffman and Al Shea had just one of those days.  Starting at Mud Lake Wildlife Area and ending at Horicon Marsh, Randy and Al crisscrossed Wisconsin covering 400 miles and recording a jaw-dropping 230 bird species in 20.3 hours.  This Big Day not only broke the previous Wisconsin Big Day record (by 10 species!) but also set one of the highest single day Big Day totals ever recorded in the United States!  It is days like this that remind us just how good birdwatching in Wisconsin can be and offer yet another reason to be excited for this year’s Great Wisconsin Birdathon.

A joint effort of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, the Great Wisconsin Birdathon is a fundraising event where birders collect pledges or contributions pegged to the total number of species they see on a birdathon in the month of May. Proceeds go to the Bird Protection Fund which supports statewide bird conservation programs and projects including Citizen Science for Birds, Bird City Wisconsin, Wisconsin Stopover Initiative for Migratory Birds, Important Bird Areas, Kirtland’s Warbler monitoring and Whooping Crane reintroduction.  In last year’s pilot birdathon, seven teams of expert birders from across the state raised more than $21,000 and saw a combined total of 239 species!

This year’s official inaugural event is expected to be bigger and better. With the creation of the website, there are now opportunities for birders of all skill levels to participate.  You can form your own team and do your own Big Day, donate to an existing team or regional Celebrity Team or join a guided Big Day Field Trip.

The guided Big Day Field Trips allow you to participate in the Birdathon alongside an expert guide at one of eight birding hotspots statewide including Crex Meadows, Horicon Marsh and the Lake Superior Shoreline.   The website serves as a hub for the event with the ability to create your own birdathon team page, sign up for field trips, post pictures, update content and collect pledges with a few clicks of the mouse.

Teams of all skill levels and from all regions of the state- from the “Lower Chippewa River Titmouseketeers” to the “Wizards of Oz(aukee County)”- already have signed up for this year’s event.  With an expanded field of teams, the 2013 Great Wisconsin Birdathon aims to not only raise funds for bird conservation, but also to encourage more Wisconsinites to get out and enjoy the spectacular birding in the month of May.  And who knows, maybe one of this year’s teams will have just one of those days!

Please visit the Great Wisconsin Birdathon website ( and pledge your support to bird conservation!

Thanks to Paul Senner from the Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin for writing this article.