As a teen birder, you likely want to expand your skills and experience the excitement of birding events and competitions. Getting involved allows you to level up your expertise, contribute to science, have adventures with fellow youth birders, and gain recognition.
Major birding organizations now offer more participation opportunities targeted at teens than ever before. You can take part in annual bird counts, Big Day listing challenges, birding festivals, conventions, scholarships, photo contests, and more.
In this article, we’ll highlight some of the top nationwide events and competitions ideal for teen birders. We’ll also summarize the main benefits you can gain from these experiences.
Of course, it’s smart to weigh both the pros and potential drawbacks when deciding which activities to pursue as a young birder, as well as knowing how best to get ready for competitions.
By being an informed and prepared participant, you’ll be poised to thrive in birdwatching events as you connect with the larger birding community.
Birding events – Benefits of participating as a teenager
Here are some of the main benefits of teens participating in birdwatching events and competitions:
- Develop bird identification, observation, and listing skills
- Get mentoring and gain knowledge from experienced birders
- Meet other young birders who share your interests
- Contribute to citizen science and conservation initiatives
- Have fun competing and collaborating with peers
- Travel to new birding locations
- Gain confidence and leadership experience
- Earn recognition and potentially win prizes/scholarships
- Foster a lifelong appreciation of birds and nature
Top Events and Competitions for teenage birders
Let’s explore some amazing ways to share your passion for birds!
Christmas Bird Counts
One of the most renowned annual birdwatching events is the Christmas Bird Count organized by Audubon chapters nationwide. These annual censuses of winter bird populations provide vital data while bringing together bird enthusiasts of all ages.
Teens can join the count by contacting their local Audubon chapter and attending orientation meetings leading up to count day.
You’ll join an assigned team covering a specific area, helping scour locations and tally all birds seen on count day. It’s a great way to boost your bird identification skills, learn from seasoned birders, and contribute to an iconic citizen science effort.
The counts happen between December 14 – January 5 each year, so mark your calendars!
If you love making bird species lists, consider gathering a youth Big Day team. On these exciting competitions, teams challenge themselves to identify as many bird species as possible within a 24 hour period.
You can create a route to hit diverse hotspots in your home county or state. Or go further afield to new territories.
Pack snacks, energy drinks, and backup batteries for your optics and devices. Recruit friends with complementary birding strengths to make a well-rounded team.
Aim to beat your own totals each year while relishing a tiring but thrilling day celebrating birds with your peers. Big Days will quickly improve your birding abilities.
Bird festivals centered on migrations or particular regions are a blast to attend as a teen birder.
Major festivals now commonly incorporate youth field trips, workshops, and social activities into their programming. For example, New Jersey’s World Series of Birding has a youth division with scholarships available.
There are often special registration rates for young birders as well, so be sure to enquire about these.
These action-packed festivals let you expand your life list and bond with other youth who are stoked about birds. Learn from expert guides, gain photography tips, and compare notes on the day’s finds with new friends.
The camaraderie and excitement of these gatherings will propel your passion for birdwatching to new heights. Here are some tips on how to get ready for birding festivals.
ABA Young Birder Conventions
Every year, the American Birding Association hosts a Young Birder Convention alongside their main annual convention for adult birders. Teens can attend and be fully immersed in activities catered to youth birders.
Past conventions have been held in locations ranging from Philadelphia to Southeast Arizona.
You’ll get to go on field trips led by engaging guides who will boost your skills. Educational workshops allow you to dig deeper into topics like bird vocalizations, optics, photography tips, and conservation careers.
Gaining knowledge while surrounded by peers who “get it” is empowering. You’ll also make new friends from across the country.
Many birding and conservation organizations understand that costs can limit youth participation. To solve this issue offer scholarships to help teens attend major birding conventions, camps, and tours.
Groups like the ABA, Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and local birding clubs provide these opportunities.
Applications typically open in winter or early spring for opportunities taking place in summer and fall. By searching “birding scholarships for youth” you can find options to apply for.
Receiving a scholarship invests in your burgeoning birding future, so take advantage!
eBird’s youth-oriented Snapshot photo contest highlights teens’ creative bird pictures while providing friendly competition. Entries are judged in categories like composition, technical quality, and originality.
Prizes like binoculars and ABA Young Birder memberships are awarded to winners.
The contests also give you a chance to have your shots featured on the eBird blog for all to admire. This brings well-deserved recognition to youth photographers pursuing birding.
Check the eBird website for entry deadlines and requirements to submit your artistic avian shots.
Local Birding Club Events
Your hometown likely has one or more active birding clubs that welcome youth participation. These groups organize special events catered to young birders like birdathons, BioBlitzes to record biodiversity, hawk watches, and youth Christmas Bird Counts.
Connecting with your local birding community is hugely rewarding.
Check club websites for their junior birder or young bird naturalist programs. Let adult leaders know you want to help with any youth activities.
Volunteering at community education events like bird walks and festivals builds your leadership skills too.
Making birding an integral part of your life at a young age sets you up for a lifetime of meaningful nature engagement.
Search online for birding clubs in your county or city to see what youth events are coming up nearby. The friendships and mentors you’ll gain will undoubtedly shape your birding path in the best ways.
Top events + competitions for teenage birders – potential drawbacks
While the benefits are numerous, it’s natural to have some concerns about getting involved with birdwatching events as a teenager.
Participating may take you out of your comfort zone at first. Beginner birders may feel intimidated around seasoned experts too.
The time and costs involved also require consideration.
However, there are solutions to overcome each of these potential drawbacks. Being aware of challenges upfront allows you to adequately prepare.
With some guidance from mentors and accommodations like youth rates, the barriers to engaging with the birding community become quite manageable.
Don’t let drawbacks deter you from the growth experiences awaiting teen birders. Let’s cover some ideas of ways to solve any issues.
Birding events: drawbacks for teenagers
- Registration fees can be expensive for some events
– Look for discounted youth registration rates or scholarship opportunities
- Travel costs need to be considered
– For distant events, consider carpooling with other youth attendees
- Early wake-up times required for some activities
– Prepare by gradually adjusting sleep schedule in advance
- Can feel intimidating as a newcomer
– Attend with friends or introduce yourself to other teens and mentors
- Need to be prepared with proper gear and field skills
– Research required gear and read up on ID skills before attending
- Possible age restrictions for unaccompanied minors
– Check policies and attend with a parent or guardian if required
- Time commitment involved for competitions and surveys
– Set a reasonable goal that fits your schedule for competitions
- Data submission tasks for census events
– Attend orientation/training to learn protocols and use mobile apps
- Going with friends helps make any birdwatching event more enjoyable
– Coordinate with other youth birders interested in the same events
To mitigate the drawbacks, look for youth discounts, scholarships, mentorship opportunities, and introductory level activities when selecting events. Going with friends also helps make any birdwatching event more enjoyable for teens.
By being prepared and taking advantage of discounts and opportunities, you can readily overcome drawbacks and make the most of birdwatching events.
Top events + competitions for teenage birders – next steps
From Christmas Bird Counts to conventions to Big Days and beyond, many exciting birdwatching events and competitions now specifically welcome teen participants.
Taking part allows you to expand your bird identification abilities, gain wisdom from mentors, contribute to science, travel to new areas, and bond with fellow youth birders. Pursuing these events engages you more fully in the national birding community, raising your passion to new levels.
Be sure to look into youth rates, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities to make these experiences possible and rewarding.
Along the journey, you’ll form friendships and create memories centered around birds that will shape who you become.
As a teen birder, you have a world of enriching events available to help you achieve your birding dreams. Seek out these opportunities to grow your skills and ignite even more enthusiasm for the birds you love.
The time spent among kindred spirits who appreciate feathered friends as much as you will surely be transformative.
- 1 Birding events – Benefits of participating as a teenager
- 2 Top Events and Competitions for teenage birders
- 3 Top events + competitions for teenage birders – potential drawbacks
- 4 Birding events: drawbacks for teenagers
- 5 Top events + competitions for teenage birders – next steps