A Big Day for North Carolina Birds

by Dr. Chris Moorman

North Carolina is celebrated for its bird diversity, from the brilliant warblers in the foothills and mountains, to the red-cockaded woodpeckers and Bachman’s sparrows of the Sandhills, to the flocks of shorebirds and wading birds along the coast.  In an attempt to highlight that diversity, 3 students and a faculty member in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program will set out to see and hear as many species of birds as possible, in a single day in early May.  The team is comprised of undergraduate students Lucas Bobay and Sam Jolly, PhD student Paul Taillie, and faculty member Chris Moorman.  The 24-hour birding marathon will start in the Piedmont region of the Triangle at midnight and finish at the Outer Banks, with strategic stops along the way to pick up rare birds such as grasshopper sparrow, Kentucky warbler, and blue-headed vireo.  With a little luck and a lot of coffee, the day will end at 11:59 pm with 185 or more species recorded.  Why 185?  The record of 184 was set by a 4-person team in 1987 and has stood the test of time.  However, improvements and expansion of the highway system in eastern NC and better data on the timing and location of bird species occurrence provide the modern big day birder many advantages over the past.  Rules of a big day state that teams cannot exceed 4 people, that at least 2 members of the team hear or see each species, and that all team members must remain in direct-voice contact at all time.  The team plans to share live updates on the FWCB Facebook page during the day, so others can experience the excitement vicariously along the way.