Human powered Big Year

In 2022 I set out on a year long endeavour to set the benchmark species count for a fully human powered big year in the Province of Ontario.

What is a Big Year?

Some birders set a challenge for themselves to try to count as many species of birds as they can in a single year aka a big year. Interestingly it is all on an honour system and you don't technically have to see the bird to count it you can also count bird species you identify by ear. Typically people will set a geographical boundary for themselves to limit the scope and cost of a big year. Those are usually regional (state/province), national or global. Another type of "big" birding even is a big day which is exactly like it sounds as many species in a single day as possible. 

These are all conducted using standard transportation. Record attempts will result in a huge number of kilometres travelled. The current Ontario record holder is reported to have covered 90,000km during their year. I am not judging anyone for this approach but it isn't for me. 

What is a human powered big year?

A human powered big year is done using only ones own power. Hike, biking, skiing, skating, sailing whatever you desire as long as it's done under your own power. 

Traditional big years haven't been that appealing to a subset of birders for a long time as there are lots of people doing alternative big years. A few years ago I first heard of people doing Big Green Years. These are big years utilizing human power, car pooling and green/mass transit. 


I like a challenge. 😜 A HPBY also seemed like a good way to be more connected with the experience. Driving for hundreds of kilometres to try to find a bird, while I have done it in the past, just doesn't bring me that much joy. Being out on the bike does.

I also want to connect with you and share your stories about what birds, and more broadly nature, means to you. I am hoping to have people join me through out the whole year and share those stories/adventures.



Species Count


Kilometers traveled

Rough-legged Hawk
Bohemian Waxwing
Black Vulture
Glaucous Gull
Little Gull
Harlequin Duck
Golden Eagle
Tundra Swan
Purple Sandpiper
Black Scoter
Cackling Goose
Evening Grosbeak
Red-shouldered Hawk
Long-billed Dowitcher
Snow Goose
Fox Sparrow
Black-legged Kittiwake
Parasitic Jaeger
Orange-crowned Warbler
Hudsonian Godwit
American Pipit
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
American Golden-Plover
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Neotropic Cormorant
Baird's Sandpiper
Red Knot
Olive-sided Flycatcher
King Rail
American White Pelican
Wilson's Phalarope
Little Blue Heron
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Fish Crow
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Kirtland's Warbler
Piping Plover
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-necked Stilt
Bank Swallow
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Gallinule
Vesper Sparrow
Brewer's Blackbird
Wilson's Snipe
Upland Sandpiper
Grasshopper Sparrow
Alder Flycatcher
Red-throated Loon
American Bittern
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Eared Grebe
Forster's Tern
Tufted Titmouse
Semipalmated Plover
Cliff Swallow
Short-billed Dowitcher
Mourning Warbler
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Bell's Vireo
Least Bittern
Prairie Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Nighthawk
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruddy Turnstone
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-throated Vireo
Common Tern
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Golden-winged Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Red-eyed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Great Crested Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Canada Warbler
Wood Thrush
Magnolia Warbler

Cerulean Warbler
Cooper's Hawk
Sedge Wren
Surf Scoter
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Warbling Vireo
Eastern Kingbird
Least Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Great Black-backed Gull
Chimney Swift
White-rumped Sandpiper
Indigo Bunting
Blue-winged Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
American Redstart
Nashville Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Lincoln's Sparrow
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Black-bellied Plover
Blackburnian Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Snowy Egret
Least Sandpiper
Clay-colored Sparrow
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
White-eyed Vireo
Northern Parula
Cape May Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Marsh Wren
Black Tern
Bonaparte's Gull
Lesser Yellowlegs
White-faced Ibis
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Henslow's Sparrow
Swainson's Thrush
Baltimore Oriole
Solitary Sandpiper
Gray Catbird
Carolina Wren
Purple Martin
Great Egret
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-headed Woodpecker
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Black-throated Green Warbler
Green Heron
Yellow Warbler
Caspian Tern
Spotted Sandpiper
Brown Thrasher
House Wren
Savannah Sparrow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Greater Yellowlegs
Barn Swallow
Northern Harrier
Broad-winged Hawk
House Finch
Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Lesser Scaup
Chipping Sparrow
Tree Swallow
Rusty Blackbird
Virginia Rail
Brown-headed Cowbird
Double-crested Cormorant
Western Grebe
Barred Owl
Eastern Meadowlark
Northern Pintail
Ruddy Duck

Common Loon
Northern Flicker
Horned Lark
Pied-billed Grebe
Eastern Phoebe
Green-winged Teal
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
American Woodcock
Wood Duck
Horned Grebe
Iceland Gull
American Coot
Red-necked Grebe
Sandhill Crane
Ring-necked Duck
Greater White-fronted Goose
Hooded Merganser
European Starling
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-billed Gull
Red-breasted Merganser
White-winged Scoter
Greater Scaup
Northern Shoveler
Mute Swan
Boreal Owl
American Kestrel
Brown Creeper
Harris's Sparrow
Turkey Vulture
Hermit Thrush
Peregrine Falcon
Pine Siskin
Ruffed Grouse
Great Blue Heron
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Common Goldeneye
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Snowy Owl
Snow Bunting
American Black Duck
Herring Gull
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hairy Woodpecker
Purple Finch
Belted Kingfisher
Swamp Sparrow
Winter Wren
Northern Shrike
Golden-crowned Sparrow
House Sparrow
Pileated Woodpecker
Rock Pigeon
Eastern Screech-Owl
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Long-eared Owl
Common Merganser
Long-tailed Duck
Trumpeter Swan
Wild Turkey
Blue Jay
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
Northern Cardinal
Common Raven
Great Horned Owl
Canada Goose
Dark-eyed Junco
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
Mourning Dove
American Tree Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
American Robin
Mountain Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
American Crow
Downy Woodpecker

The Plan

I wish I could tell you that I have every minute of everyday planned out but that would be a big fat lie. There is only one place that "has" to happen and that is Point Pelee National Park in early May. Everything else on the map is likely to happen but a question mark as to when. 

The biggest unknown at the moment though is Rainy River. Close to the border of Manitoba it is a good spot to see western species and a few shorebirds that would be difficult to get in the south. This is an extreme ride consisting of 8 to 10 days of cycling 160km (100 miles) a day. I have been training for this but I still haven't committed to it yet.

I am hoping to find people to host me along/at some of the more distant locations (let me know if you can host). This is ideal as I am trying minimize the weight I carry on the bike.


I have been physically training for this adventure for over a year. Mostly out of fear of riding to Rainy River. For 2021 I did 355hrs and 9,234.4 km on the bike. This included a 200km ride in a single day, a series of seven 100km rides over ten days and riding in the winter. These were all simulations of some of the distances/challenges I figured I could face this year twitching birds.

While the physical training has been super important I have also started birding training. Specifically, I am training my bird call recognition using Larkwire. The goal is to be ready for places like Point Pelee where birding by ear can be a huge advantage to finding rare species.


Big Year

A big year is a personal challenge or an informal competition among birders who attempt to identify as many species of birds as possible by sight or sound, within a single calendar year and within a specific geographic area. - Wikipedia

Human Powered

Using transportation that is strictly human powered. No e-bikes, electric cars or mass transit allowed


Chasing after a rare bird sighting. Typically involves dropping everything and rushing to the sighting location.


To the best of my abilities I follow the OFO Code of Ethics while birding.


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