It’s a Birding Big Day

It’s a Birding Big Day: New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding ®

Lillian Armstrong

Remember maps? They were those unwieldy giant folding paper things that would never fold back to their original tidy containment. It wasn’t long ago that they were essential to any trip to a place we’d never been before. Who didn’t love their big old DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer for connecting the dots between towns and counties? I know I did! But now it’s all electronic – everything you need to know about getting around is at your fingertips.


41 years ago, a group of experienced New Jersey birders were trying to figure out how anyone could break the elusive record of identifying 200 species of birds within 24 hours within the state of New Jersey. Huddled over their beers at the C-View Inn in Cape May, an idea was hatching. They had paper maps and paper checklists and books like the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. They could pinpoint locations for some of the rarer species with pencil on their maps and trace out different routes to try to “get” those species in addition to the more common ones. They already knew the best approach would be starting in the north at midnight and working their way south to Cape May – for a full 24 hours of birding.


Then it hit them. What if we introduce the element of competition? There could be teams, and everyone goes out on the same day during peak migration, no matter the weather! That’s a level playing field and may the best team win!

What hatched was New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding, which will take place for the 41st time on May 11, 2024. What started with 13 teams of seasoned and highly competitive birders all doing a full-state, 24-hour non-stop trip. Now has expanded to 88 teams with over 457 participants last year. We had 40 Level I Teams, 37 Ambassador Teams, 11 Youth Teams, 56 youth participants, from 26 different US States and 11 different Countries. It’s a beloved tradition open to birders of all ages and experience.


Some teams still embark on 24-hour odysseys, most participants join in other ways, whether birding in one spot, covering their home counties, or going carbon-free, mainly dawn to dusk or even a little less. There are Youth Birding teams, too. It’s New Jersey Audubon’s largest fundraiser of the year and it’s also a major fundraising platform for any wildlife conservation organization willing to pay a small entry fee and conduct their own campaign.


And now when teams leave home to start their World Series of Birding adventures, all they need is a smartphone. Armed with apps for navigation, group chats for sharing sightings, online bird identification aids, and an official WSB checklist system housed on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird platform, there’s no need for pen and paper, much less paper maps. And, yes, teams do achieve totals of over 200 species!


But they do need snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. And coffee. And birds, of course. Learn more, participate and/or donate to your favorite team today by visiting World Series of Birding | New Jersey Audubon (


Lillian Armstrong is Special Events Director at New Jersey Audubon/Cape May Bird Observatory. A World Series of Birding veteran herself, she’ll be the first to tell you the World Series of Birding is the most special of all events! If you have any questions, please e-mail