4th of July Birding Challenge!

It’s that time of year again…..fireworks, patriotism, awkward outdoor barbecues with people you know from work.

But the real highlight of every 4th? The annual NemesisBird 4th of July Birding challenge. It’s really the highlight of America in general – I’d like to think that this prize-less birding contest is now included in some of our country’s most cherished traditions: such as dressing up like Uncle Sam to box a Russian super-villain. James Brown and Apollo Creed know what’s up:

Last year, I included Eastern Towhee as the 59th ‘bonus bird’ given its status as one of my study species, one of my favorites, and one of the most American birds I know.

Female towhee expressing her displeasure with being disqualified in 2017. (S. Brenner, RI 2016)

But we always keep things fresh here at Nemesis Bird. Sorry Towhee, but you can’t count this year. And enough with my east coast favoritism. This year’s random bonus bird is the ubiquitous, the awesome, the common and widely distributed Red-tailed Hawk. That’s right – the bird everyone ignores while driving on the highway counts for this year’s challenge.

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, Josh Fecteau from York County in Maine crushed it with 18 species – which still remains the highest total for this challenge. Can 18 be beat?

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, but Hawaii is now a part of the ABA – this adds a bunch of birds with “Hawaii” in the name that you will probably only find out there…but they will count if you see them! 2017 Bonus: As mentioned above, Red-tailed Hawk is now a countable 4th of July Bird (number 59).

  1. American Avocet

    Avocet feeling the freedom (S Brenner, Delaware 2012)

  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
  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)

    Cactus wren looking for some ketchup and mustard (S. Brenner, AZ 2016)

  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. *2017 Bonus Bird* Red-tailed Hawk