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Two kids running in the snow. We all need nature—and nature needs you. Together, we can protect the wildlife and wild lands of Massachusetts for generations to come. Make a tax-deductible donation today.
Man and Woman birding, both with binoculars, marsh behind them.

Bird-a-thon Guidelines & Rules

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. Find everything you need to know about being part of Bird-a-thon.

Participating on a Team

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

All participants must:

  • Fundraise for their team.
  • Follow the Birding Code of Ethics.
  • Bird within Massachusetts (including offshore waters).

Team Size

Teams may have as many members as they can recruit for purposes of fundraising. However, no more than 76 team members can contribute to the bird count total for the Brewster Cup, Forbush Award, and County Cup competitions. If a team has more than 76 members, the Team Captain will identify a subset, who will be referred to as Competitive Birders, whose observations will count toward the award categories. 

Competitive Birding Sub-Set:

  • Will alert their Team Captain(s), via the TeamRaiser registration process, that they intend to bird competitively.
  • Will be constitute no more than 76 individuals within a team.
  • Must bird with at least one other member.
  • Must submit an Official Species Checklist to their Team Captain(s).
  • Team Captain(s) must include the names of all Competitive Birders when submitting the Official Species Checklist(s) to the Bird-a-thon Birding Judge.

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.

Official Species Checklists

Rules for Prize Eligibility

  1. All team members must adhere to the official event rules described on this page.
  2. Team Captain(s) must submit the team's official roster, preliminary estimated fundraising total, and final fundraising estimate to the Bird-a-thon Coordinator by the stated deadline(s).
  3. All species counted must be recorded during the official 24-hour period of Bird-a-thon 2023, which begins at 6:00pm ET on Friday, May 12, and ends at 6:00pm ET on Saturday, May 13. 
  4. One Team Per Participant: An individual cannot participate on more than one Bird-a-thon Team.
  5. The Bird-a-thon 2023 Official Species Checklist is the only bird species checklist recognized in this event. Species marked with an asterisk on that list are considered rare and their observation exceptional. Sightings of exceptional species or species not on this list must be confirmed by the Bird-a-thon Birding Judge in order to be counted. The Team Captain should submit the observing Team Member’s name, phone number, e-mail address, and a brief description of the encounter with the bird to the Bird-a-thon Birding Judge.
  6. Submission of Final Species: Team Captain(s) must submit their final species checklists via the official reporting method. More information will be given closer to the event.
  7. Competitive Birding Subset Size Limit: Teams must limit their Competitive Birding sub-set to a maximum of 76 people total. Competitive Birding sub-set members are the only birders whose bird sightings will count towards winning the Brewster Cup, Forbush Award, or County Cup.
  8. Checklists for Birding Awards: Team Captains are responsible for identifying which members of their competitive birding sub-set will be competing for the statewide awards or the County Cup award. A Competitive Birder can only participate in a single County Cup effort OR statewide award effort.

The Official Species Checklists for Bird-a-thon includes 5 species (listed in BOLD) that are particularly sensitive to disturbance--Northern Goshawk, King Rail, Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and Long-eared Owl. To avoid disturbing these species during Bird-a-thon, they will all be considered “free birds” that everyone will receive points for. Please do not seek these birds out during Bird-a-thon.

County Cup Rules

The County Cup is awarded to the team that counts the highest percentage of likely birds within a single Massachusetts county. Each county has been assigned a Par Number (listed below). The Par Number represents a count of all species that are considered possible to be observed in each county during Bird-a-thon. 

Each county Par Number does not include rarities or species highly unlikely to be encountered in that part of the state, however such species may count toward the team’s County total if observed. A team’s County Cup score equals County Total/County Par Number. The team with the highest County Cup Score wins the County Cup.

In order to be eligible for the County Cup, a Bird-a-thon team, or sub-set of Competitive Birders, must bird within only one of the 14 counties in Massachusetts. Individual Competitive can compete in one county only.

A team may establish multiple sub-sets to compete separately for the statewide birding awards and/or to focus on one or more counties for the County Cup awards. However, birds recorded by those Competitive Birders competing for a County Cup may not count towards the overall team’s statewide list, or another county list, and vice versa.

2023 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  

Sitting Duck Rules

The Sitting Duck Award goes to the team that counts the most bird species from a fixed location.  Observations can only be made from within your pre-determined 25-foot (diameter) circle, and circles must be located within Massachusetts.

  • Observations can only be made from within a fixed 25-foot (diameter) circle.
  • Multiple team members can contribute observations from each circle.  
  • If a bird is seen or heard from within the circle but is too distant to identify, a team member may leave the circle to confirm the bird’s identity. However, the newly identified species cannot be counted until it is observed again from within the circle.  
  • Each Team may have multiple Sitting Duck circles located throughout the state. Team Captains will determine which of their circles had the highest species count and will submit that top list to the Birding Judge to determine the overall Sitting Duck Award winner. 
  • Team members birding for the Sitting Duck Award cannot also be members of statewide or County Cup sub-sets.