What is a Big Year?

Shortly after the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's field guide to North American birds in the 1930s, an informal competition began among birders to see as many species as possible in a single year.

Throughout the 1950s, Big Year participants were listing upwards of 598 species of North American birds within a single year. While this number seemed staggering at the time, technologies continued to improve as did the ease of travel, now allowing individuals to access more remote regions of North America in search of new species.

This resulted in year after year of records being smashed as individuals became more willing to spend the money and time in pursuit of every species possible in North America. The current record, set by John Weigel in 2016 stands at 836 species!

The competition has now attained legendary status thanks to published books from previous Big Year competitors as well as the release of the popular movie "The Big Year".

Big Year in a Little State

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island is holding Big Year in a Little State in the spirit of the famous competition. Funds raised through the competition will be used to further Audubon's mission of protecting birds and their habitats through education, conservation and advocacy.

Participants in the Audubon's Big Year in a Little State will strive to find as many species of bird as they can during a one year period in the state of Rhode Island. Individuals are encouraged to partake in the competition regardless of their birding skills...there will be categories for first time birders as well as seasoned experts.

All are welcome and encouraged to participate! Families can use the competition as an opportunity to get outside together and young birders can begin honing their identification skills.

The amount of birding you do is up to you! Casually observe species throughout the year in your backyard and neighborhood, or devote every spare minute to tracking down the bird life in all corners of our small state.

Participants will have the chance to attend an exclusive guided bird walk and bird banding demonstration. Locations and times for these events will be sent to all participants once they have been scheduled.

Both events will be timed to maximize exposure to species. The walks will be led by an expert birder to aid with identification and build your list. Bird banding demonstrations will present an ideal chance to identify species that are moving through the state of Rhode Island on migration that may otherwise be missed.

Special thanks to Brooks Matthewson for his wonderful photos. See more of his photos at