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Belted Kingfisher with water droplets
Belted Kingfisher © Tim Moors

Bird-a-thon 2024 in Review

May 25, 2024

by Wayne Peterson

This year marked the 41st year since Mass Audubon first initiated a statewide Bird-a-thon.

Teams across the state coordinated their birding efforts from 6 pm May 10 to 6 pm May 11. From the Bay to the Berkshires, dozens of sharp-eyed observers combed regional woodlands, fields, wetlands, and coastal waters in search of different species that represent the currency for this 24-hour birding extravaganza.

Youthful birders, new birders, and experienced experts alike sought as many different bird species as possible during the birding period. At the end of the day on Saturday, these enthusiastic volunteers tallied a whopping collective total of 270 species.

And the Winners Are…

Kudos go to the Metro West and Metro South Teams for each recording 240 total species, thereby tying as first place winners of the coveted Brewster Cup Award for finding the greatest number of species statewide.

The second place Forbush Award belongs to the Cape Cod Team with their total of 228 species.

The County Cup goes to the North Shore Team with 204 species, equivalent to 110% of the Essex County par value.

Finally, the Sitting Duck Award went to the Metro South Team with a total of 62 species recorded within a 25 foot-circle at a single location. 

Birding Highlights

Birding conditions during Bird-a-thon were somewhat variable. Friday evening was partly cloudy, quite cool, and relatively calm allowing teams to seek crepuscular and nocturnal species with varying success. 

Unlike last year, when some teams in the southeastern parts of the state had almost deafening numbers of breeding Gray Tree Frogs in some areas, this year a few groups were unable to even hear a Whip-poor-will on Friday evening.

By first light on Saturday however, windless conditions prevailed, allowing for notably easy woodland birding and plenty of birdsong. For birders along the coast there was a modest variety of warblers and other migrants in some of the outlying coastal thickets. Conditions inland found migrants less concentrated, yet the variety of species kept most birding teams generally pleased with their efforts.

Regardless of any paucity of migrants in some areas, there were enough fancy species tallied statewide to appeal to the taste of practically every team. A potpourri of some of the more spectacular discoveries found during the 24 hours included White-faced Ibis, Swallow-tailed Kite, Dovekie, Thick-billed Murre, Chuck-will’s-widow, Yellow-throated Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. The most unusual species recorded this year was Swallow-tailed Kite, a rare species that was also observed last year as well.

A final interesting rollcall includes species on the list of Massachusetts Threatened (T), Endangered (E) and Special Concern (SC) species: Pied-billed Grebe (E), Eastern Whip-poor-will (SC), Common Gallinule (SC), Piping Plover (T), Upland Sandpiper (E), Red Knot (T), Least Tern (E), Roseate Tern (E), Common Tern (SC), Common Loon (SC), American Bittern (E), Least Bittern (E), Northern Harrier (T), Bald Eagle (SC), Barn Owl (SC), Peregrine Falcon (SC), Mourning Warbler (SC), Northern Parula (T), and Blackpoll Warbler (SC).

It's Not Over Yet

Thank you to everyone who has already donated. If you haven't yet, there's still time to show your love for your favorite birder or team and help them reach their fundraising goals. The deadline to donate to this year's Bird-a-thon is May 31, 2024.


Looking to take your birding to the next level? Our in-depth Birder’s Certificate Program will give you the knowledge to take on next year’s Bird-a-thon with confidence.