2021 Great American Arctic Birding Challenge!

Birds migrate from all 50 U.S. states to spend their summer in Alaska's Arctic. How many of these spring migrants can you find in your state?
Bar-tailed Godwit. Photo: Milo Burcham

During the spring, many birds travel from all over the United States and from all six continents in order to reach the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other ecologically rich areas of Alaska's Arctic. Birds rely on these pristine habitats for nesting, breeding, staging, and molting. 

Birdwatchers across the United States celebrate the importance of the Arctic by participating in our Great American Arctic Birding Challenge each spring! If this sounds like fun to you, recruit some fellow birders and try to find as many Arctic birds as you can in your state (from your own backyard or while practicing social distancing). The contest runs from March 15th through June 1st so that birders all over the country can spot birds as they migrate.


You must register your team online if you want to participate. If you don't register online, you won't get a checklist and your team won't be eligible for prizes! 

  1. Recruit your team (up to six people). Find a warbler expert, your friend with the top-of-the-line scope, or someone with supersonic hearing to identify those sparrow calls…or head out with your regular birding buddies.
  2. Register your team online anytime before May 10. The Great American Arctic Birding Challenge checklist will then be emailed to the contact person listed on the registration form.
  3. Record your birds. Identify a bird by sight or sound and mark the species on your checklist. This is not a bird count; you are not counting the number of birds from each species spotted. You are just looking for the total number of individual species and marking each species on the checklist as you identify it.
  4. Complete and submit your checklist. Submit your completed checklist using the online form sent to registered teams, by email by midnight (Alaska time!) on June 1 or have it postmarked by June 1. Mail to 431 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 205, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, attention: Kassandra Smith. 


There are two categories: Alaska and Lower 48. All sightings must be within the geographic boundaries of the categories. For the Lower 48, the states you bird in must be contiguous. We will award prizes to the two 1st place teams with the highest number of species spotted. Each member of the winning teams will receive a prize. 

The Prize! Audubon Alaska Bird of the Year ball cap featuring our to-be-announced 2021 Bird of the Year!

Arctic Refuge Bonus Prize! Since Audubon is celebrating the amazing Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, any teams that find 20 or more species that migrate to the Arctic Refuge (marked on checklist) will receive Audubon Alaska Bird of the Year stickers!


Alaska Division

1st Place: Water Ouzels 151 species, with 142 of the 151 species Arctic Refuge migrants
2nd Place: Kenai Kids127 species, with 121 of the 127 species Arctic Refuge migrants
3rd Place: Lame Ducks 66 species, with 60 of the 66 species Arctic Refuge migrants

Lower 48 Division

1st Place: Uno Dos TRES - 126 species, with 113 of the 126 species Arctic Refuge migrants
2nd Place: Team Hogan - 110 species, with 101 of the 110 species Arctic Refuge migrants 
3rd Place: Mixed Flock - 107 species, with 96 of the 107 species Arctic Refuge migrants

All the teams who participated achieved the Arctic Refuge Bonus Prize by finding 15 or more species that migrate to the Arctic Refuge. Congratulations to everyone who took part in this year's Great American Arctic Birding Challenge! 

For more information or if you have questions, email us at

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Photo: Dave Shaw

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