16 Nov 2020

Two world records smashed in landmark birding event

The inaugural Global Bird Weekend inspired over 38,000 nature lovers from 169 countries to pool their bird spotting talents together, for the benefit of conservation.

A PAcific Golden Plover was the first bird spotted © Avinash Nanda / Shutterstock
A Pacific Golden Plover was the first bird spotted © Avinash Nanda / Shutterstock
By Alex Dale

Two world records were set over the weekend of 17th-18th October during the inaugural Global Bird Weekend – an event that brought together more than 38,000 passionate nature lovers from all over the world to participate in what was dubbed “The Biggest Birdwatching Event in History”.

In all, birdwatchers from 169 countries (and all seven continents!) pooled together to record an incredible 7,101 avian species on the eBird app (more than three quarters of the world’s total) on the Saturday, beating the previous one-day world record of 7,060 set in May 2018. The next day, a further 180 species were added to the total, bringing the final number to 7,281 and securing a second world record in as many days.

The event, the largest of its kind to focus on the Autumn migration, was organised by Tim Appleton MBE, co-founder of the British Birdwatching Fair. “I was amazed at the response considering we only launched Global Birding in August 2020”, says Appleton.  “Being able to unite a worldwide community for Global Bird Weekend by asking them to ‘Go Birding Together for Conservation’ went beyond my wildest dreams and has already produced significant scientific data and inspired new networks of communication”.

The numbers are all the more impressive considering they were achieved in the midst of a pandemic, with participants encouraged to minimise their global footprint and stay near home. The first sighting, if you are curious, was a Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva (alongside a Common Barn Owl Tyto alba), submitted by Dominik Maximilian Ramik in Vanuatu at 00:04am on the first day. Thanks to the magic of time zones, the day ended with nocturnally-calling Common White Terns Gygis alba and Tristam’s Storm-Petrels Hydrobates tristrami from Midway Atoll, considerably longer than 24 hours later. The most species were recorded in Colombia (1,289) ahead of Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Kenya and India.

Far from a mere frolic, the event had tangible conservation impact, with over £24,000 raised for BirdLife’s Stop Illegal Bird Trade appeal (so far). And just as importantly, an incredible 50,383 photographs and 1,101 audio recordings found their way onto eBird, making the event a tremendously successful citizen science project.


Global Bird Weekend is staged by Global Birding, in association with Swarovski Optik, powered by eBird and supporting BirdLife International. To find out more, visit: globalbirding.org

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