2016 Big Year – Summary

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Jan 5, 2017 | by Greg Miller
Lucifer Hummingbird hovering

Lucifer Hummingbird hovering – Arizona – August 2016 – photo by Greg Miller


The 2016 Big Year Tours with Wildside Nature Tours were a lot of fun and far more successful than I imagined. My original goal was for 500 species of birds, all in the Lower 48 States. But instead of doing an individual Big Year, I set out to do it with tour participants. And with everyone’s help, we pushed over the top with a final total of 545 species. And we helped raise a total of $27,000 for the American Birding Association’s Young Birder program!

I want to personally thank every one of our participants who helped each other in the field to see birds they’ve never seen before, lent a hand to those who needed help getting around, and were patient as individuals to promote the group welfare. It was a pleasure visiting so many of the place I birded during my own Big Year in 1998. And I want to thank Leica for the quality optics I used this year in support of our goals and the ABA Young Birders.

To those of you who missed a tour you wanted to go on or missed the year’s trips entirely, you have a second chance. We are doing this again this year! It’s not too late to sign up. Check out the upcoming Big Year Tours for 2017 here at And you can still read blog posts from 2016 at

This Big Year Tours plan was not a perfect one, but it was the best I could do with what times were available in my schedule in 2016. And really, isn’t this how everyone’s Big Years go? It’s all about being efficient and focused with the time you have.

Here is some winter reading for you—a summary of some interesting data for 2016. I certainly hope you can join us in 2017 for more cool birds, spectacular scenery, and tons of fun!

Only eight species were seen on every single one of our 11 one-week trips:

Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Greater Yellowlegs
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
House Finch
House Sparrow
(Did you expect Northern Harrier & Greater Yellowlegs on this list? And how could we have missed Mourning Dove on this list? Yep. Surprises for me)

More than half the number of species seen (52%–285 species) were encountered on only 1 or 2 trips. This means that the tours listed do an efficient job of picking up new species for the year total. And less than 100 species were seen on more than 50% of the tours.

Amazingly, about one third of the species seen (34%–184 species) were seen on one and only one tour of the 11 one-week tours. Following is a list by tour of one-tour-only sightings:

January – Southern California
Ross’s Goose
Greater Scaup
Mountain Quail
Brown Booby
Ridgway’s Rail
Yellow-footed Gull
Spotted Dove
Prairie Falcon
California Gnatcatcher
Townsend’s Solitaire
Bell’s Sparrow
Red Crossbill
Scaly-breasted Munia

January – Florida
Egyptian Goose
Muscovy Duck
American Flamingo
Snail Kite
Purple Swamphen
Whooping Crane
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Florida Scrub-Jay
Sedge Wren
Western Spindalis
Spot-breasted Oriole

April – Texas & Louisiana
Swallow-tailed Kite
Mississippi Kite
Clapper Rail
American Golden-Plover
White-rumped Sandpiper
Gull-billed Tern
Seaside Sparrow

May – Ohio & West Virginia
Trumpeter Swan
Ruffed Grouse
Rough-legged Hawk
American Woodcock
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Wood Thrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Henslow’s Sparrow

June – Maine & New Hampshire & Vermont
Common Eider
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
South Polar Skua
Black Guillemot
Atlantic Puffin
Roseate Tern
Arctic Tern
Black-backed Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Winter Wren
Canada Warbler

June – Montana
Gray Partridge
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Red-naped Sapsucker
Cassin’s Vireo
Pinyon Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Sage Thrasher
Chestnut-collared Longspur
McCown’s Longspur
Green-tailed Towhee
Brewer’s Sparrow
Baird’s Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird

August – Southeast Arizona
Scaled Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Zone-tailed Hawk
Baird’s Sandpiper
Western Screech-Owl
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Lesser Nighthawk
Common Poorwill
Magnificent Hummingbird
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Lucifer Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Elegant Trogon
Gila Woodpecker
Arizona Woodpecker
Gilded Flicker
Tufted Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Greater Pewee
Gray Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Buff-breasted Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Thick-billed Kingbird
Bell’s Vireo
Mexican Jay
Mexican Chickadee
Bridled Titmouse
Black-capped Gnatcatcher
Bendire’s Thrasher
Crissal Thrasher
Olive Warbler
Lucy’s Warbler
Virginia’s Warbler
Grace’s Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Red-faced Warbler
Painted Redstart
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Canyon Towhee
Rufous-winged Sparrow
Botteri’s Sparrow
Cassin’s Sparrow
Five-striped Sparrow
Yellow-eyed Junco
Hepatic Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Varied Bunting
Hooded Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

September – Bay Area California
Black-footed Albatross
Pink-footed Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwater
California Condor
Bar-tailed Godwit
Red Phalarope
Cassin’s Auklet
Elegant Tern
Vaux’s Swift
Yellow-billed Magpie
Lawrence’s Goldfinch

October – Washington
Cackling Goose
Harlequin Duck
Pacific Golden-Plover
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Mew Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northwestern Crow
Pacific Wren
American Dipper
Varied Thrush
Lapland Longspur
Fox Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

October – New Jersey & Pennsylvania & Delaware
Long-tailed Duck
Great Cormorant
Purple Sandpiper
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Rusty Blackbird

November – South Texas – Rio Grande Valley
Plain Chachalaca
Least Grebe
White-tailed Hawk
White-tipped Dove
Common Pauraque
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Aplomado Falcon
Green Parakeet
Great Kiskadee
Couch’s Kingbird
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Clay-colored Thrush
Long-billed Thrasher
Olive Sparrow
Altamira Oriole
Audubon’s Oriole

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