Prior to the 2011 movie “The Big Year” featuring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, many people were unaware that competitive birdwatching existed. Commonly referred to as “big years,” birdwatchers around the globe partake in an informal competition to see who can observe the most bird species within a designated geographic area in one calendar year. This fun and unique activity has steadily grown in popularity over the years, serving as a life-long hobby for some.
This year the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will host its very own birding contest dubbed the “Kansas Birding Big Year.” Unlike other big year competitions that span the U.S. in a calendar year, participants in the Kansas Birding Big Year compete from April 20-Dec. 31 to observe as many species of birds as they can within the borders of Kansas.
“The real driving force behind this competition is getting folks into the Kansas outdoors to enjoy nature and the fun wildlife watching opportunities available,” said KDWPT wildlife education coordinator Mike Rader. “We also hope this competition will help show folks just how many different kinds of birds either migrate through or call Kansas home.”
Participants can log their data into the online service, eBird, available on the Cornell University web site, www.ebird.org.
“The data gathered from this competition will help researchers study a number of different bird-related issues, mainly dealing with abundance, time spent in the field and numbers of folks actually out watching birds,” said Rader.
Participants can compete in one of three categories: youth (16 and under), adult (17-64), and senior (65 and up).Winners of each category will receive prizes to be awarded next January.