Fourth Annual 4th of July Birding Challenge!

It’s a big year for the annual Nemesisbird 4th of July Birding Challenge: It’s an election year in the US (in case you have been under a rock for 9 months), it’s the Fourth year of the 4th of July birding challenge, Hamilton the musical swept the Tony Awards, and the sequel to Independence Day is in theaters. What more could you ask for? A Bill Pullman America-themed inspirational speech? Okay, if you insist.

But wait, there IS more. My new home state, Rhode Island, is undertaking its second breeding bird atlas (more info here), so the imperative to go out and census during the breeding season is even more dire! Also, my first field season in RI is in full swing, and as a part of my research on early-successional forest birds, I have been tracking American woodcock and Eastern towhees using good-ol’ fashioned radio telemetry. Both of these two species are near and dear to my heart, and both occur primarily in the U.S. throughout their life history, so what could be better for the 4th? Also, Rhode Island’s official state bird is a rooster, which is lame and can’t count, so think of the Eastern towhee as the new unofficial state bird of Rhode Island. Thomas Jefferson would have wanted it that way.

Eastern towhee ready to represent Rhode Island (photo by Steve Brenner, RI 2016)

Eastern towhee ready to represent Rhode Island (photo by Steve Brenner, RI 2016)

Once again, this competition has no reward other than the personal satisfaction knowing that you are a better patriot if you see more birds on the 4th. Here are the rules:


The rules of the challenge are simple: when you are out birding on the 4th of July, every species you see that begins with the word “American” counts. Also, any species that begins with the name of a U.S. state (e.g.. California Towhee) also counts. You can also collect bonus birds for each of the following winged-countrymen you spot: Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, and the official birds of each U.S. state. So, for example, let’s say I go out on Independence Day and see an American Robin, 5 American Crows, 3 American Redstarts, a Louisiana Waterthrush, a Bald Eagle, and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, then I would have a grand total of 6 countable species. So it’s fairly straight-forward and similar to other ‘big day’ type competitions.

BE SURE TO POST YOUR TOTALS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. Last year Centre County, PA, once again took home the gold as Carl Engstrom rocked 18 species! What will the magic number be this year?

Here is the list of the 58 eligible ’4th of July birds’ for counting in the ABA area, including the official birds of each state. Note: ‘state game birds’ have been omitted, as has Hawaiian Goose (not ABA), Blue Hen Chicken, and Rhode Island Red Chicken. 2016 Bonus: As mentioned above, Eastern Towhee is now a countable 4th of July Bird (number 59).

  1. American Avocet
  2. American Bittern
  3. American Black Duck
  4. American Coot
  5. American Crow
  6. American Dipper
  7. American Flamingo
  8. American Golden-Plover
  9. American Goldfinch (also state bird for IA, NJ, and WA)
  10. American Kestrel
  11. American Oystercatcher
  12. American Pipit
  13. American Redstart
  14. American Robin (also state bird for CT, MI, and WI)
  15. American Three-toed Woodpecker
  16. American Tree Sparrow
  17. American White Pelican
  18. American Wigeon
  19. American Woodcock
    Patriotic Female and Male Timberdoodles. (Photo by Steve Brenner, RI, 2016).

    Patriotic Female and Male Timberdoodles. (Photo by Steve Brenner, RI, 2016).

  20. Arizona Woodpecker
  21. California Condor
  22. California Gnatcatcher
  23. California Quail (also state bird for CA)
  24. California Thrasher
  25. California Towhee
  26. California Gull (also state bird for UT)
  27. Carolina Chickadee
  28. Carolina Wren (also state bird for SC)
  29. Connecticut Warbler
  30. Florida Scrub Jay
  31. Hawaiian Petrel
  32. Kentucky Warbler
  33. Louisiana Waterthrush
  34. Mississippi Kite
  35. Tennessee Warbler
  36. Virginia Rail
  37. Bald Eagle
  38. Wild Turkey
  39. Northern Flicker (AL)
  40. Willow Ptarmigan (AK)
  41. Cactus Wren (AZ)
  42. Northern Mockingbird (AR, FL, MS, TN, and TX)
  43. Lark Bunting (CO)
  44. Brown Thrasher (GA)
  45. Mountain Bluebird (ID, NV)
  46. Northern Cardinal (IL, IN, KY, NC, OH, VI, and WV)
  47. Western Meadowlark (KS, MT, NE, ND, OR, and WY)
  48. Brown Pelican (LA)
  49. Black-capped Chickadee (ME, MA)
  50. Baltimore Oriole (MD)
  51. Common Loon (MN)
  52. Eastern Bluebird (MO, NY)
  53. Purple Finch (NH)
  54. Greater Roadrunner (NM)
  55. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (OK)
  56. Ruffed Grouse (PA)
  57. Ring-necked Pheasant (SD)
  58. Hermit Thrush (VT)
  59. *2016 Bonus Bird* Eastern Towhee