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What Is Global Big Day? How To Participate?

eBird's Global Big Day results

PS! May 11th this year!

Watching birds is always fun! You can also watch birds however you want. Relaxing with birds at our backyard feeders, searching out birds at a local wildlife refuge, or even taking birding tours to exciting destinations is always wonderful!

Wouldn’t it be nice to dedicate a whole day to birds? How about focusing on birds on the same date as thousands of other bird lovers, all around the world?

You can do that! All you have to do is participate in Global Big Day. What exactly is this event, and how can you sign up?


What is Global Big Day?

Global Big Day really is the biggest day in birding. Simply put, more people watch birds on this date than on any other day of the year!

Global Big Day 2024

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology created Global Big Day to promote birds, birding, and recording bird observations on the eBird platform.

Basically, on Global Big Day (in 2024, May 11th), birders of all levels are encouraged to watch birds and make bird lists on eBird.

Usually, there are two Global Big Days per year, one in May, and another in October. To double the birding fun, both Global Big Days typically coincide with World Migratory Bird Day.

Global Big Day is a global event because birders really do participate from all around the world. On May 13, 2023, people from 198 countries submitted bird lists!

The “Big Day” part comes from a birding challenge with the same name. In birding terms, a “Big Day” is when you identify as many birds as you can in one calendar day. This can take the form of a simple, easy-going day of birding, or, a much more extreme, 24 hour challenge.

Most Global Big Day birders go the relaxed birding route but some few determined birders do start at midnight and end well after night falls!


How To Participate?

Global Big Day is a wonderful celebration of birds, especially because anyone can participate! Yes, anyone. This day isn’t just for veteran birders trying to break some personal birding records. It’s also for folks who love to start the day with a hot cup of morning coffee and the deep red of Northern Cardinals.

Global Big Day is for folks who like to share birds on friendly walks or get happily lost with birds on their own. It’s for parents showing birds to their kids, for birding club outings, and folks looking to connect with nature.

Submitting a bird sighting on eBird

Image from eBird’s Submit tab

To participate, you don’t need to do much more than watch birds. However, you will need an eBird account. Fortunately, eBird is free and very easy to use. If you like taking pictures of birds, it also gives you a chance to showcase your shots!

To use eBird, just go to the main eBird site and sign up. Once you’ve made your account, you can make bird lists with a computer or with the eBird mobile app.

On Global Big Day, sign in to eBird, submit bird lists and you’ll automatically participate in this global birding event!


Previous Years In Numbers

The first Global Big Day took place on May 9th, 2015. More than 14,000 people from several countries recorded 6,000 plus species on more than 43,000 eBird checklists.

Peru was the country with the highest species total. Motivated local birders found more than 1,000 species! Second place went to another very birdy country, Brazil.

In subsequent Global Big Days, Colombia has taken the number one spot. No surprise there, more species live in this South American nation than anywhere else!

Each global day sees higher participation and more bird species. On May 5th, 2018, 28,000 people found 6,899 bird species in 170 countries! The following year saw similar numbers with even more people, 34,000 in total.

On that 2019 Global Big Day, Colombian birders found an impressive 1,590 species! While Colombia has more bird species than anywhere else, that’s still an incredible total.

On a personal note, 2019 was also a good Global Big Day for me and my partner. Boosted with a blend of caffeine and determination, we found 305 species in Costa Rica.

Since then, each Global Big Day has gotten bigger. On May 13th, 2023, 58,700 people in 199 countries found an incredible 7,636 bird species!


Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Global Big Day stand for?

The Global Big Day stands for a day when birders from around the world watch and count birds. They record those sightings on the eBird platform.

How many people participate in the Global Big Day?

Thousands of people participate in the Global Big Day. In 2023, more than 58,000 people participated in Global Big Day.

When is the next Global Big Day?

The next Global Big Day is in May, and there’s also one on October. In 2024, Global Big Day takes place on May 11.


But for the most important question – are you planning to participate? 

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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