About The Biggest Day

The Biggest day Birding Tour/Workshop/Big Day/World Record Attempt

It is 30 years since legendary neotropical superbirder Ted Parker set the amazing record of 331 species in 24h at Cocha Cashu together with Scott Robinson. The year was 1982. Scott has later told me that they had around 300 species already by 11 AM, and that they from then on searched for more birds rather casually. They did not have access to terra firme and did not use motorized vehicles.

Ted Parker. The legendary birder with the best knowledge of South American bird calls in the world. In 1982 he set an incredible 24h world record of 331 species at one single site He died in plane crash in Ecuador in 1993.

The record was beaten in Kenya by John Fanshawe and Terry Stevenson who recorded 342 birds on a single day, but also using light aircraft.

The Biggest Day Tour and Workshop 2012

This is how it will be different in 2012, and because of this it is practically guaranteed that it both will happen and that we will break the old 331.

  • Amazonian Birding workshop Sep 16-29, 2012. Learn how to recognise over 300 bird species on call and short cuts in identifying Woodcreeper, Antwrens and Foliagegleaners. After the workshop, you’d be in position to lead groups in SE Peru lowlands in the future.
  • Place: Explorer’s Inn – 50 km of trails and highly diverse. Now with a new canopy tower.
  • 21 paying participants.
  • 7 leaders.
  • Big Day for the paying participants on Sep 25. Max three participants per leader, forming 8 teams. Thijs Big Day will be 100% carbon neutral.
  • Big Day competition USA vs Peru on Sep 27.  Likely will half the afternoon be spent at Cocha Tres Chimbadas area for Bamboo species and near Puerto Maldonado for Savanna species, ducks and shorebirds.

US team leaders

Scott Robinson

Scott set the bar at 331 with Ted Parker in 1982 at the Cocha Cashu research station in Manu National Park.  He is a researcher at University of Florida, Gainseville, who studies the ecology, behavior, and conservation of birds.  Current research projects include effects of forest and grassland conservation on birds in the American Midwest, effects of urbanization on birds communities, avian brood parasitism, and tropical forest bird community organization and conservation.

Rich Hoyer

Rich is senior birdguide with Wings and is leading birding and natural history tours to the western United States, Jamaica, and all throughout Latin America, specializing in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Rich is also very knowledgable about plants and critters of all sort and will try to put a name on any animal or plant he comes across. Rich blogs on his blog BirderNaturalist and on Birdingblogs.com.

Andrew Spencer

Andrew is a recording virtuoso who guides for Tropical Birding. His travels have take him throughout the neotropics and to New Guinea. More recently he has developed what some might call an unhealthy obsession for all things related to bird sounds. Chances are that you have come across Andrew’s name when scanning recordings from the neotropics on www.xeno-canto.org. He totally rules there.


Tayler Brooks

Tayler Brooks of Brier, Washington is an active young recordist who was one of the expert sound ID panelists at the recent Western Field Ornithologists conference  Ted Floyd writes about her legendary stunt on the ABA blog …the moderator played clips of Red Crossbill flight calls and hummingbird wingbeats. But panelist Brooks, the sole remaining “survivor,” got them all right—Type 6 vs. Type 9 Red Crossbill, Costa’s wingbeat vs. Black-chinned wingbeat, etc”.  She has traveled extensively in Peru and served as guide at Rio Cristalino Lodge in Brazil and Tandayapa Lodge in Ecuador.

Peru team leaders

Gunnar Engblom

Gunnar from Sweden first came to Peru in 1990 after correspondence with Ted Parker and Jon Fjeldså and did yearly trips to Peru until 1998 when he decided move to Peru for good. Gunnar runs Kolibri Expeditions and has been dreaming about a big day since 2001. To get into the spirit he participated in The Biggest Week in Ohio and World Series of Birding in New Jersey in May 2012. It is daunting to know that  the 147 species achieved during 24 hours at Cape May has to be doubled and more in September.

Alex Durand

Alex is leading guide for Kolibri Expeditions and a legendary birdspotter in Peru. He finds birds where no other birders can find one. Amazing hearing and knowledge of the tiniest call in the rain forest. Born in Puerto Maldonado he will be birding on his home turf.  Alex lives in Cusco with his wife Sara and son Meier.

Antonio Coral

Antonio  who guides in the SE rain forest and Central Peru  for  Kolibri Expeditions was also born in Puerto Maldonado where he started Tanbopata Bird Club with a couple of friends. He got married to Ant researcher Phd laureate Megan Frederickson a few years ago. He spends half the year in the Amazon and the other half in Canada.


Birding for conservation

Running around looking at birds for 24 hours may seem like a very pointless thing to do.  But if it could raise awareness and raise money for a good cause then it would be highly justifiable. This is exactly what we are doing here.

Gunnar was recently in the US, not to so much to promote the event in Peru as getting face time with people he already knows on the internet via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. One event was named The Biggest Week of American Birding and the other World Series of Birding, which coincidentally used to be called The Biggest Day (sic!). The former introduces a lot of new people to birding and the latter raise huge amounts of money to conservation causes through pledges.

During the latter we tried to raise funds for a conservation and eco tourism project in Central Peru called Colibri Cloudforest and managed by Rainforest Partnership. All is explained in this blogpost about the World Series of Birding on Birdingblogs.

Support Colibri Cloudforest

Here is an extract from the above blogpost. In the end Gunnar Engblom, Isaac Grant and Jason Kessler managed to get 147 species just in Cape May County. The world series of birding is a great fundraiser for bird conservation.  In total over the 29 years around 9 million dollars has been raised for bird conservation locally and internationally.  All the teams recruits pledges among friends and  businesses to donate to i.e. a dollar or a dime  for all birds recorded in 24h. The best teams can get around 230 birds in the state, although this year the winner got a more modest 207 species in the whole state of New Jersey.

Read about the Colibri Cloudforest project and consider to chip in to help. If you like to do it as a pledge reflecting our total at the World Series of Birding please:

  • Pledge 1 a dime for every bird we recorded.   $14.70
  • Pledge 2 a quarter for every bird we record. Roughly $36.75
  • Pledge 3. a dollar for every bird. Roughly $147

Better still however if you join a birding tour to Peru in which a part of the fee goes to Colibri Cloud Forest.
Particularly  The Biggest Day  tour/workshop Sep 16-29 has a scheme in which $331 of the cost goes to RainForest Partnership if you book before June 20.  There are mainly two tours that we promote for Colibri Cloudforest. It is likely that Birding Adventures TV will be filming from these two tours.

There is also a promotional tour to Central Peru which include Colibri Cloudforest and which runs Oct 2-9. $300 of the fee would go to the Colibri Cloudforest. There is no time limit for this support.

We are still looking for a specific page to make donations for Colibri CloudForest. Please contact Niyanta Spelman Niyanta@rainforestpartnership.org  or Gunnar kolibriexp@gmail.com for more details and if you’d like to donate.

It shall also be possible to make a pledge for the total number of species of The Biggest Day. Participants to the workshop are also advised to make pledges for how many species they get either for Colibri Cloudforest or a non-profit conservation cause of their choice

Documentary – The Biggest Day on television

We are negotiating with Birding Adventure TV with James Currie to film both The Biggest Day and the Colibri Cloudforest on the tour in Central Peru. Other TV and and film producers are advised to contact us. We can most likely through PromPeru (the Peruvian tourist board) and our sponsors supply a totally free stay and means to get to Peru.


Maybe it would be an idea to summarize the justification of this project. It is a great project in many aspects.

  • It is a tribute to the greatest birder on the planet. Ted Parker.  His legacy can not be underestimated. Many Neotropical ornithologists and birdwatchers have been inspired by Ted.
  • The eco-tourism possibilities of SE Peru become high lighted  Also birders should realize that lowland Amazonian birding in SE Peru is not only Manu, as there is a bunch of infrastructure available from Puerto Maldonado all year around accessible with jets from Lima and Cusco, as well as a modern tarmac highway from Cusco.
  • Central Peru’s cloud forests on the Satipo road and in Carpish gets a boost of promotion as they are target in the fundraising event.
  • Peru as destination in general gets yet another push.


We are grateful to Explorer’s Inn for hosting the event and to Vortex Optics and Inkaterra for giving additional discounts of their products and services to enable Gunnar to visit the US.

Thanks to Haroldo Castro for use of his Ted Parker picture. Check out his new book on www.facebook.com/LuzesDaAfrica

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat ODonnell May 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Hi Gunnat, happy to see that this exciting event will finally take place! Great idea, wish I could be there. Honestly, without elevational change, I will be a bit surprised if any one team can break the record but it could certainly happen. Rudy Gelis and I did a Big Day at TRC in 2001 just walking the trails and we got 222 species- mostly Terra Firme. It would have been higher if we could have made it to open and oxbow lake habitats. I hope it can be filmed on Birding Adventure TV!


gunnar May 24, 2012 at 4:02 am

Explorer’s Inn is more varied than TRC, and only an hour from Infierno and the road to Puerto Maldonado. So I think we can hit open habitat around Puerto Maldonado in the afternoon with both many shorebirds and ducks as well as savanna species. But we will see. I didn’t say it was going to be easy.


Pat ODonnell October 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

Oh, I agree that it makes more sense to use Explorers Inn as part of the Biggest Day than TRC for the reasons indicated, Was just mentioning our Big Day since it was also in the Tambopata region (albeit with fewer habitats than your Biggest Day). So sorry to hear that it didnt work out this year. It is a great idea and one I hope you can make happen. No, not easy to break the record but definitely possible with the right weather, team, timing, boats working well, etc. I wish I had the time to come down and do it!


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