24 hours of high-stakes listening and watching
This weekend hundreds of birdwatchers will be frantically criss-crossing New Jersey looking for as many specimens as possible. The annual World Series of Birding turns the normally leisurely activity into a competitive sports with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake. The 24 hour contest starts at midnight sharp.
Many competitive watchers say the best time to spot birds is at midnight, crouched in a swamp. While it might seem unlikely to spy fowl in the dead of night, birders say this contest is not so much about bird watching as bird listening. Bill Reaume says it’s faster and more efficient to use his ears than his eyes.
“If you’ve been in a marsh in spring you’ve heard spring peepers – the frogs that go peep peep peep. Well if you hear a peeper go over your head, you’re probably hearing of Swainson thrush. You can pick up a lot of birds like that. Birds sound off at night.”
The contest relies on the honor system, which Reaume says is effective because reputations are at stake. There is no prize money for the winners, only bragging rights.
Teams sponsors donate money on a per-bird basis, and all funds are donated to bird conservation groups. In its 26 years, the World Series of Birding has raised over $8M.