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 in 2013  stands at 747 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".

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island is promoting a 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 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 for the BIG YEAR IN A LITTLE STATE will have exclusive invitations to attend three guided BIG YEAR bird walks that will be timed to maximize exposure to species.

Walk locations and times will be sent to all participants. If you choose to attend, an expert birder will lead a walk specifically designed to aid with identification and build your list!

Also, BIG YEAR IN A LITTLE STATE participants will have an exclusive opportunity to attend two bird banding events in the spring. This 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