Avian Expert Articles

Gang Gang Cockatoos Benefit From the Australian “Twitchathon” Race

birder, birding
Image by Ingela Skullman from Pixabay

In a time of bird counts, organized conservation efforts, and worldwide appreciation of the creatures in our spheres, we find a genuine interest in how we plan to end up in the long term. As a result of that care and interest, there are many ways for us to attempt that care. But care, as we all know, isn’t free. In a world imbued with the concept of exchanges, it takes money to support efforts to help our birds. As their populations decline throughout the world, a science of count and acquisition of monies are often combined in smartly organized efforts. One that takes place is referred to as the Twitchathon. With this, a challenging race to be the one with the most sightings help with a collection of funds and donations to further conservation efforts.

The National Twitchathon is an Australian annual event with a celebrated almost 30-year history. It’s an event where people gather in teams for a main 30-hour race to see and hear as many birds in the Australian bush as possible. In the past, the race was a full 24-hour event but due to “pushing to the brink” exhaustion, a recently instituted rule (2017) insists that a 6-hour resting period be implemented. This still provides for a full 24-hour period of bird-hunting for the participant teams in the race.

A Friendly Competition

Teams are formed and routes are meticulously planned with the hopes of gaining ground on sightings. The categories include Big Weekend (which houses the full 30-hour race), the Champagne Race, which is completed in a 12-hour setting, and a 3-hour Birdathon. For 2022, the highly anticipated race by sporting birders began on October 29th and concluded on October 30th. The 30-hour Big Weekend is referred to by one participant as “a mega-twitch for the crazy and dedicated”.

There are records to be broken, of course. For the previous 24-hour Big Weekend race, the record is 252 sightings. For the new 30-hour race, a prized increase with 264 species sits in the record books. The intense race involves driving to locations, and on-foot pursuits to probable sweet spots. The results are turned in on the honor system but to qualify for any sighting, more than 50% of a team must agree that a particular bird was actually sighted or heard.

Gang Gang Cockatoo

Each year, it is determined which species should get the acquired funding. For 2022, it is the rare Gang Gang cockatoo, which found its population decimated by the 2019/2020 bushfires. The tragedy of the fire took the beautiful black and red cockatoo from a category of least concern to one that is on the endangered list. The hope for 2022 is to raise $30,000 for the Gang Gang Cockatoo conservation effort.

The main event is preceded by an annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Started in 2014, this preceding event helps to fill in gaps in acquired data. Plus, it helps to build the excitement for the upcoming Twitchathon. Prizes are doled out for a variety of achievements that include highest count, and highest fundraising, giving prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place spots.

Keep your eye out for the 2023 event that occurs in October.


One thought on “Gang Gang Cockatoos Benefit From the Australian “Twitchathon” Race

  1. What a great idea and so wonderful that funding from this years’ event is going to the Gang Gang Cockatoo, a bird that I have been reading about, with the sad population losses of the bushfires. It’s the regular Aussie citizens who love their wildlife who are doing so much to help their animals. Would be nice if the government did more to help.

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