Avian Expert Articles

Online Birding Game Lets You Compete With Other Birders

black wild bird
A common grackle

In sports, one of the more fun ways to participate in a season is by way of online fantasy sports. You get together, choose real players from a professional sport, such as baseball or football, and then integrate their daily stats into your “virtual team.” At the end of the season, and without too many injuries, one hopes that their chosen players have accumulated a winning collection of stats. The end is celebrated, of course, by the best team. Season winds down, and it’s on to the next sport, and the next fantasy team. Now it appears that birding fans have a similar fantasy game.

Beginning Of The “Birding Games”

There are a wide variety of fantasy games available to players. The largest and simplest available “game” is known as The North American Big Year. It was loosely started back in 1939 by a salesman who, as an avid bird-watcher, timed his movements across the United States in order to maximize his viewings. By 1952, he had recorded a personal-best viewing of 497 species of birds. In just a year, a 30,000-mile trek by others across the United States turned up 572 species and was detailed in a book and documentary in 1955. The game was on.

By 1969, the American Birding Association had begun to create a set of rules keeping the contest restricted to the 49 continental states. By 2008, a Texas woman broke a species-spotted record by recording 723 species. In 2016, the current record holder had spotted 836 species, and broke his own record in 2019 with 839.

Today, this Big Year fantasy birding contest is at the top of its game with many new participants. Each one trying to top the best record. The  absolute goal? To spot as many species within the allowable new set borders, all inside the time span of a calendar year. The work is cut out for anyone game enough to tackle this extraordinary challenge. But as with sports, fantasy birding isn’t held under only one set of rules. What about the rest of us participants who can’t travel?

Game On!

Fortunately, there are database-driven fantasy scenarios that tag onto locations for spotting. In one particular game, the work is done for you. Essentially, assembled teams select landmark region spots at the beginning of the day’s game. They are then dependent on actual birders finding a species. When that happens, the remote player is credited with having found species as they are actually located. This established software was developed by Matt Smith, who uses the integrated database popularly referred to as Ebird, operated by Cornell Ornithology.

If this is something that sounds interesting to you, then pop over to the Fantasy Birding front, and begin your own profile and composite. Once you have that in working order, it then is up to you to check in every day to see your results. Unless you’re prepared to take on the BIG numbers in actual sightings, this fun online game can be a great way to learn and to help pack in a great slate of excitement for 2020.

Or…start your own league of fantasy bird-watchers using your own sets of rules.

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