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Global Big Day

May 17, 2019

Millions of people around the world like to spend their time birdwatching and identifying birds as they enjoy nature. As a result, many different birding activities have arisen, including one for even the most competitive of people: The Big Day. A Big Day consists of identifying as many bird species as possible, either by sound or sight, in the span of 24 hours. One of the most famous Big Days is the World Series of Birding, a 24-hour birdwatching marathon that pins groups of avid birders against each other in New Jersey, USA. These Big Days also have the added benefit of helping the scientific community and, in turn, the birds! By recording the birds that are seen (usually in a website like eBird) people can help biologists get a better idea of bird diversity and population changes. So, being competitive and aspiring biologists, we decided to join the Global Big Day on May 4th.

We started our day by waking up at 5:30am and heading up the Barbudos Trail exactly at 6:00am. Our goal was to bird the higher elevation trails of the reserve—Bosque & Tucanes—in hopes of finding some trogons, toucans, pigeons, etc. At 6:00am, there was very little light in the forest and visibility is limited, so we spent the first half hour identifying species almost exclusively by sound. And so, our first few identifications, by call only, were:

  • Brown Violetear (#1)
  • Andean Solitaire (#2)
  • Red-headed Barbet (#3)
  • Choco Toucan (#4)

Up on the Bosque trail the quiet of the early morning quickly became a cacophony of Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (#7), as over 15 males displayed loudly and colorfully at their usual lek. Despite the busy show, we were able to spot a Crimson-rumped toucanet (#10), Chestnut-capped Brushfinch (#11), and a couple of Crested Guans (#19). We left the Bosque trail happy to have identified over 20 species but bummed to have missed out on the Masked Trogon and Pale-mandibled Aracari.

Next, we headed back to the lodge for a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee, which we ate while counting the 12 regular species of hummingbirds that come to our feeders. To our surprise, we were visited by a Buff-tailed Coronet (#41), who has claimed a patch of flowers in front of the lodge ever since.

At 9:00am, as we head out on the entrance trail towards town, we had already identified over 40 species. Not a bad start, but we were missing many of the species we see every day!

Our entrance trail is one of our favorite trails, a beautiful winding path through the forest that connects the reserve to the famous via a las cascadas (the road to Mindo). We typically see dozens of species on the trail, most often in large mixed flocks. However, on this day, this Big Day, we could not find a single mixed flock! We had walked nearly half the trail without one, growing increasingly frustrated at what seemed to be an empty forest. But finally, as we neared the road, our perseverance paid off as we found ourselves in the middle of a huge mixed flock of over 20 species, some of which included:

  • Club-winged Manakin (#45)
  • Ornate Flycatcher (#46)
  • Tricolored Brushfinch (#47)
  • Flame-faced Tanager (#48)
  • Rufous-throated Tanager (#49)
  • Blue-necked Tanager (#50)
  • …and so many more!

Our next stop was Mindo, where we hoped—expected really—to see some “town birds” that are hard to see on the reserve. To our surprise and delight, we spotted an additional 22 species in town, including a Bronze-winged Parrot (#67), a Masked Water-Tyrant (#70), and a couple of Gray-breasted Martins (#74). The highlight, however, was undoubtedly the Hook-billed Kite (#75) that posed perfectly for a picture.


Hook-billed Kite

After a quick lunch, we hurried back to Las Tangaras to look for some of the species that had eluded us thus far. Undeterred by the daily afternoon rain (it is the rainy season, after all), we headed towards the river where we saw a Torrent Tyrannulets (#96), a couple of Fawn-breasted Tanagers (#97), and several White-collated Swifts (#98). We also got lucky and spotted a couple of Torrent Ducks (#103)¸which we could not help but admire as they deftly swam upstream against the strong current.

Every Big Day has that one common species that for some reason refuses to show up all day. For us, that was the Smoke-colored Peewee. We had been seeing this bird in the same tree every day for a month, and yet today, when we needed it most, it was nowhere to be seen. It was 6:00pm and getting dark, as we sat patiently in our “Pewee spot” waiting for species #104. Finally, when we could hardly see anything and were getting up to call it a day, the Smoke-colored Peewee (#104) flies in, lands in its usual spot, and brings an end to our Big Day.

That night, we excitedly counted and recalled what we had seen, checking off each species with glee. We were even able to identify 3 additional species whose calls we had heard but could not identify without comparing them to recordings. These last-minute identifications brought our grand total to 108 species, surpassing completely our goal of 90 that we had set the day before.

From celebrating seeing a Turkey Vulture to rolling our eyes at the ridiculous number of Yellow-throated Bush-tanagers, we had an amazing and fun day! We invite anyone (regardless of their skill level!) to discover the joys of a Big Day and help biologists worldwide.

Full list of birds seen on May 4th, 2019 (Global Big Day):

  1. Torrent Duck
  2. Crested Guan
  3. Dark-backed Wood-Quail
  4. Rock Pigeon
  5. Plumbeous Pigeon
  6. White-tipped Dove
  7. Smooth-billed Ani
  8. Squirrel Cuckoo
  9. White-collared Swift
  10. White-necked Jacobin
  11. White-whiskered Hermit
  12. Tawny-bellied Hermit
  13. White-throated Wedgebill
  14. Brown Violetear
  15. Purple-crowned Fairy
  16. Brown Inca
  17. Buff-tailed Coronet
  18. Booted Racket-tail
  19. Purple-bibbed Whitetip
  20. Fawn-breasted Brilliant
  21. Green-crowned Brilliant
  22. Empress Brilliant
  23. Purple-throated Woodstar
  24. Crowned Woodnymph
  25. Andean Emerald
  26. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  27. Black Vulture
  28. Turkey Vulture
  29. Hook-billed Kite
  30. Swallow-tailed Kite
  31. Red-headed Barbet
  32. Crimson-rumped Toucanet
  33. Yellow-throated Toucan
  34. Choco Toucan
  35. Smoky-brown Woodpecker
  36. Golden-olive Woodpecker
  37. Red-billed Parrot
  38. Bronze-winged Parrot
  39. Russet Antshrike
  40. Rufous-breasted Antthrush
  41. Montane Woodcreeper
  42. Pale-legged Hornero
  43. Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner
  44. Red-faced Spinetail
  45. Slaty Spinetail
  46. Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  47. Torrent Tyrannulet
  48. Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant
  49. Choco Tyrannulet
  50. Ornate Flycatcher
  51. Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
  52. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  53. Smoke-colored Pewee
  54. Black Phoebe
  55. Masked Water-Tyrant
  56. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  57. Social Flycatcher
  58. Golden-crowned Flycatcher
  59. Tropical Kingbird
  60. Andean Cock-of-the-rock
  61. Club-winged Manakin
  62. Cinnamon Becard
  63. Lesser Greenlet
  64. Blue-and-white Swallow
  65. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  66. Gray-breasted Martin
  67. Scaly-breasted Wren
  68. House Wren
  69. Bay Wren
  70. Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
  71. Andean Solitaire
  72. Thick-billed Euphonia
  73. Orange-bellied Euphonia
  74. Yellow-throated Chlorospingus
  75. Dusky Chlorospingus
  76. Orange-billed Sparrow
  77. Chestnut-capped Brushfinch
  78. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  79. Tricolored Brushfinch
  80. Shiny Cowbird
  81. Giant Cowbird
  82. Scrub Blackbird
  83. Tropical Parula
  84. Blackburnian Warbler
  85. Three-striped Warbler
  86. Slate-throated Redstart
  87. White-shouldered Tanager
  88. Flame-rumped Tanager
  89. Fawn-breasted Tanager
  90. Blue-gray Tanager
  91. Palm Tanager
  92. Rufous-throated Tanager
  93. Golden-naped Tanager
  94. Blue-necked Tanager
  95. Beryl-spangled Tanager
  96. Bay-headed Tanager
  97. Flame-faced Tanager
  98. Golden Tanager
  99. Silver-throated Tanager
  100. Purple Honeycreeper
  101. Saffron Finch
  102. Blue-black Grassquit
  103. Variable Seedeater
  104. Yellow-bellied Seedeater
  105. Bananaquit
  106. Buff-throated Saltator
  107. Black-winged Saltator
  108. Barred Becard


To see our latest sightings, check out our eBird Hotspot!





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