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LSU Birding Team Breaks World Big Day Record

The Oilbird, like the ones pictured here, was the last species recorded by the group.

Think of how many different bird species you’ve ever seen or heard in a single day. Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, you could probably get up to a few dozen species.

Now think about this: The Louisiana State University Birding Team recently identified 354 bird species in a single day.

Let that sink in. That’s 354 birds within a 24-hour timeframe. As you might guess, that Big Day number is a world record. (For comparison, the North American Big Day record, which was broken last year, is 294 species.)

On October 14, 2014, a birding team composed of students and researchers from the LSU Museum of Natural Science set out on a 24-hour whirlwind in Peru to break the previous world record (which was set by LSU ornithologist Ted Parker and then-Princeton graduate student Scott Robinson in 1982). Needless to say, they broke the record and then some.

Here’s a riveting excerpt from their account of the day over at the ABA blog, which is definitely a must-read:

We knew we were close to the ABA big day record of Parker and Robinson when we arrived at the cliff-ringed peak of Morro de Calzada. Their record was 331 species, and a rough tally had us somewhere around 310. We also knew we could get at least ten additional night birds after dark. The last 45 minutes of daylight became critical. We raced down the roads, nearly got our vehicle stuck in wet sand, and sprinted up two trails into forest and scrub. We ticked off species as quickly as possible, trying to get the whole team on each (we were near our limit, per ABA rules, of 5% of species that may be missed by one or more team members). Dusk arrived quickly, birds became silent, and we tallied our additions. 335 species! We had beaten the Parker and Robinson record!

So why would they set out to break the Big Day record? Not only is setting out to achieve a record-breaking Big Day a time-honored tradition at LSU but it’s also a great way to raise awareness about the importance of birds.

As we’ve stressed on this blog countless times, birds are the barometer of our environment, which is why it’s so important to study and monitor birds so closely.

Another reason for their go at the Big Day was to bring in donations. You can donate some money here to help them further their research.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.