American Kestrel. Photo by Don Enright

The Global Big Day is an annual celebration of the birds living around us. This event was first held in 2015 by Cornell University, a leader in wild bird science. Cornell manages the website and tracks the data to better study and conserve bird populations, and is also the developer of the popular birding identification app, “Merlin.”

Here on Mayne Island, 28 participants tallied a total of 86 species in a 24-hour period on May 14th, and while the weather was less than ideal, the diversity of birds seen was quite outstanding. Early to mid-May is a great time to observe birds and to get an appreciation of the seasonal transitions that happen among bird species. For example, this year we counted scoters, mergansers and loons, who a month from now will all be gone to breeding sites. Gulls also disappear during breeding season, except for the Glaucous-winged gull. May also marks the arrival of species that we only see in the spring and summer months. In this group, we counted most of the expected warblers, vireos, some additional sparrow species and flycatchers. Others include the Swainson’s Thrush (which replaces the wintering Hermit Thrush), the Rufous Hummingbird, the Osprey, the Western Tanager and the Bullock’s Oriole – all beautiful birds to observe and hear.

As with the Christmas bird count, this is only a snapshot of the species that were observed during a specific 24-hour period. It does not represent all the potential species that could be seen, and therein lies the challenge and the fun of this event. For example, this year some of very interesting and uncommon birds were sighted outside of our Big Day time frame. The week before, three Brown Pelicans were spotted off Georgina Point, while the week after the count a Western Wood Peewee, Willow Flycatcher and Black-throated Gray Warbler were all recorded. Maybe next year!

Globally, the 2022 Big Day welcomed 52,566 participants who counted a total of 7715 species; in North America 38,830 people took part and logged 1641 different birds. Colombia, Peru and Ecuador led with the greatest number of species, and Canada was second to the US in the number of checklists.

Download a list of the bird species recorded on the Big Day (PDF).


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