Bird-a-thon Guidelines, Rules, & Regulations

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Participating on a Team

You don't have to be a birder to participate in Bird-a-thon!

Everyone is welcome to join a team—whether you're into birding, love exploring nature, or just want a good reason to get outside on a spring day. During Bird-a-thon weekend, all teams will compete head-to-head by fundraising and by attempting to identify the greatest number of bird species in 24 hours.

→ Every participant is asked to fundraise for their team. ←


  • Must follow the Birding Code of Ethics.
  • Must bird within Massachusetts state lines.
  • May have as many non-competitive birders and fundraisers as they can recruit 


Teams may form a sub-group of birders in order to compete for the following birding awards: Brewster Cup, Forbush Award, and County Cup. Birders who wish to participate in a competitive birding sub-group:

  • Will alert their Team Captain(s) via the TeamRaiser registration process.
  • Will be capped at no more than 76 competitive subgroup members per team.
  • Must bird in groups of two or more and confirm species identification by sight or sound.
  • Must submit an Official Species Checklist to their Team Captain(s).
  • Team Captain(s) must submit list of subgroup members with official species checklists.

Applicable to Individuals
By signing up to participate in Bird-a-thon, all participants have certified that they understand and accept the rules and regulations described on this page.

Applicable to Teams
In order for teams to be eligible for any Bird-a-thon awards, all team members must adhere to the official event rules and regulations described on this page.

Prize Eligibility

  1. Meet All Deadlines: Team captain(s) must turn in the team's official roster, preliminary estimated fundraising total, and final fundraising estimate to the Bird-a-thon Coordinator by the stated deadline(s).
  2. One Team Per Participant: An individual cannot participate on more than one Bird-a-thon team.
  3. Use the Official Species Checklist: The Bird-a-thon 2022 Official Species Checklist is the only bird species checklist recognized in this event. Any additional or exceptional bird sightings must be confirmed by the Bird-a-thon's birding judge in order to be counted. Species marked with an asterisk ( * ) are considered to be rare and their observation exceptional. If observed, the birder is required to submit their name, phone number, e-mail address, and a brief description of their encounter with the bird to the Bird-a-thon coordinators. 
  4. Eligible Time Period: All species counted must be recorded during the official 24-hour period of Bird-a-thon 2022, which begins at 6:00pm ET on Friday, May 13, and ends at 6:00pm ET on Saturday, May 14.
  5. Submission of Final Species: The Team Captain(s) must submit their team's final species checklist via the official reporting method. More information will be given closer to the event.
  6. Birding Sub-Group Size Limit: Teams must limit their birding sub-group to a maximum of 76 people total. Birding sub-group members are the only birders whose bird sightings will count towards winning the Brewster Cup, Forbush Award, or County Cup.
  7. Checklists for Birding Awards: Team captains are responsible for identifying which members of their competitive birding sub-group will be competing for the statewide awards or the County Cup awards. A competitive birder may only participate in a single County Cup effort OR statewide award effort.

There are 5 species listed in BOLD on the Official Species Checklists for Bird-a-thon. These species are considered to be sensitive and we ask that they not be disturbed during Bird-a-thon. They will be considered “free birds” that everyone will receive points for. They are:

  • Northern Goshawk
  • King Rail
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Long-eared Owl

County Cup Rules

In order to be eligible for the County Cup, a Bird-a-thon team must limit a portion of their birding sub-group members to the boundaries that define one of the 14 counties in Massachusetts. Individual birders can only compete in one county.

A team may divide their competitive sub-group to compete for statewide birding awards and/or one or more County Cup awards. However, birds recorded by those birders competing for a County Cup may not be included in the statewide list or another county list and vice versa.

The winner of the Bird-a-thon County Cup will be the team whose competitive birders record the highest percentage of the Birding Par Value Number for any county in the state. See the explanation below.

  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is divided into 14 different counties.
  • Each county has been assigned a Birding Par Number. The Par Number represents a reasonable approximation of the number of possible species able to be recorded in each county during the Bird-a-thon. The number does not include rarities or species highly unlikely to be encountered, although such species are completely countable and may count toward the Par Number total.
  • The objective for a County Cup team (or sub-group) is to record as high a percentage of the County Par Number as possible for whatever county has been selected.
  • Teams may select any county or counties in Massachusetts that they wish to cover during Bird-a-thon.

Sitting Duck Rules

In order to be eligible for the Sitting Duck award, a Bird-a-thon team must observe the following rules:

  • Observations can only be made from within your pre-determined 25-foot (diameter) circle, and circles must be located within Massachusetts.
  • Each Team may have multiple circles and can place them throughout the state
    • Team members birding for the Sitting Duck Award CANNOT ALSO BE A MEMBER OF THE TEAM’S COMPETITIVE BIRDING SUB-GROUP
    • Team members wishing to establish they’re own 25-foot circle may do so after communicating with their Team Captain
  • Multiple people can contribute observations from one circle. For example, birders may choose to observe species within the circle on a pre-determined schedule (AM/PM shift, 2 hour shifts, etc.)
  • If a bird is seen or heard from within the circle but is too distant to identify, you can leave the circle to confirm the bird’s identity. However, the newly identified species CANNOT be counted as an observed species unless and until they are observed a second time after you have returned to your circle.
  • At the end of Bird-a-thon, Sitting Duck lists will be submitted to Team Captains for review. Team Captains will determine which circle had the highest species count for their Team. The winning list will then be submitted to the birding judge to compete in a head-to-head competition among all Bird-a-thon Teams to determine the overall Sitting Duck Award winner.

2022 County Birding Par Numbers

Barnstable County = 163
Berkshire County = 142
Bristol County = 169
Dukes County = 139
Essex County = 185
Franklin County = 136
Hampden County = 134
Hampshire County = 142
Middlesex County = 146
Nantucket County = 131
Norfolk County = 159
Plymouth County = 183
Suffolk County = 125
Worcester County = 146

County Species Lists

Teams (or sub-teams) opting to compete for the County Cup must also follow all of the regular Bird-a-thon rules and subscribe to birding ethics as noted by the Bird-a-thon ornithologist.