Avian Expert Articles

The Bird-Watching Bracket — 64 Birds Whittled Down To One Winner

diagram of Bird Watching Magazine's bracket contest
Bird Watching Magazine created its own event with its bird-watching bracket to whittle 64 bird species down to one winner in terms of wanting to be seen most among birders.

One of the thrills of the sporting world is the time-honored ability for folks who enjoy the predictive to guess what the outcome will be. For football, there are the annual office pools. For the Vegas-minded gambler, there’s the pick between matchups. And for basketball, and especially college basketball, there is the bracket. The bracket takes a large grouping of achievers into a 64-team playoff series and attempts a broad scope of predictive skills selects right down to the ultimate winning team. The hope is that the board falls in line with the selections on any individual bracket. Now, that challenge has spread to the world of birding.

Birding’s Bracket

In early March (coinciding with the NCAA basketball tournaments) Bird Watching Magazine, a bimonthly publication that caters to bird-watchers and lovers of all ages and scope, created a bracket to discover which bird in the wilds of the United States and Canada is the most desired to be encountered. They gathered 64 birds within four categories of species. These birds are elusive and are not easily seen in the wild. The result determined which of the 64 birds is the one that most birders hope to see cross their path in 2022.

The four categories included Raptors and Owls; Songbirds; Seabirds and Waterbirds; and the all-inclusive Everyone Else category. The bracket ran in rounds, with readers asked to vote on Facebook and Instagram posts by clicking on birds. The bracket ran through several rounds with the most selected birds being included in each round. As birds “won,” they were moved into the next bracket for the next period.

Steller's sea-eagle bending forward on perch outside
The Steller’s Sea-Eagle won Bird Watching Magazine’s bracket contest, as the bird most birders wished to see.
Image by Kevinsphotos from Pixabay

By April 1, the bird most selected was the Steller’s Sea-Eagle. It won the overall placement with 58% of the vote, more than edging out the number two selection, the Blue-Footed Booby, who took second with a whopping 42% of the votes.

The Steller’s Sea-Eagle is a large raptor. Weighing in at around 15 to 20 pounds, it has a startling appearance. The Sea-Eagle is considered “Vulnerable” in the threat category, numbering at around only 5,000 remaining in the wild. Of course, this is a grave concern and work is being done to increase their numbers. The Sea-Eagle can be seen in the United States and Canada, but these locations are not the bird’s usual locations. Recent sightings include one certain Sea-Eagle in eastern Canada in 2021, then in Massachusetts, and Maine, also in 2021. The same bird was later seen in Maine in March of 2022, and then Nova Scotia in early April. However, its usual range includes Japan, South Korea, and eastern Russia.

Should Bird Watching Magazine do this fun-filled bracket again in 2023, and you want to participate, be sure to sign up for the magazine’s newsletter. The twice-weekly newsletter is not only informative and leads to all kinds of fun but is also designed to keep readers in touch with various co-operative events like the annual East Coast World Series of Birding, where teams of bird-watchers scramble to identify as many birds sighted as they can. As they enjoy this event, money is also being raised to help conservation efforts for the birds of that region.

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