Big Bird Race 2023

To celebrate BTO’s 90th anniversary, our Youth Volunteers are inviting nature lovers across the UK to take part in our Big Bird Race.

This event is an opportunity for all generations to team up for a few hours of birdwatching, share knowledge and enthusiasm, and race to count the highest number of bird species.

  • Take part anywhere in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.
  • Join friends, family and fellow birders in a team of at least three people – all skill levels are welcome.
  • No running necessary: count bird species, make plenty of memories and have a chance to win our prizes!

The Big Bird Race 2023 has been completed!

News and updates about the winners will be published on this page.

Browse more BTO Youth events >

How it works

Choose a time to take part, a place to visit to count bird species, and a team to go birdwatching with.

Choose your time

The Race will take place between 00.00 a.m. and 11.59 p.m. on Saturday 23 September. You and your team are free to choose any 4-hour window between these times.

  • You have to do the race in four consecutive hours. 
  • You can only spend four hours doing the race.

Dawn or dusk, or sometime in between – what time of day will you choose? 

Choose your place

You can take part in the Race anywhere in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

There are two leagues: inland and coastal (within five miles of the coast). 

The BTO Big Bird Race is a green patch challenge:

  • Your team can travel to your patch by any means necessary.
  • Once you are on your patch, you can only travel around on foot or by bike. This doesn’t apply if any of your team have limited mobility.

Choose your team

Anyone and everyone can take part! We want to share the enthusiasm for birds across generations.

  • There will be prizes to encourage you to set up diverse teams, and all skill levels are welcome, from beginner to expert birders.

Teams must be made up of at least three people, but there is no upper limit on numbers.

To make sure that the Race is as fair as possible, we have set out some Race Rules – please read these before you form your team.

Prizes and results

There will be a range of prizes to celebrate the full range of skills, knowledge and experience in the Bird Race teams. Prizes will consist of a mixture of bird-related books, fantastic BTO Youth goodies, and a BTO Youth T-shirt!

Your team will score one point for every bird species you find. This means you’ll score equally well for a Blackbird as for a Rough-legged Buzzard! We’ll be awarding prizes for the coastal and inland leagues. 

  • The three teams with the highest bird scores, in each league.
  • The team with the score that’s closest to the median (middle) overall score, in each league.
  • The team with the second-to-lowest score, in each league.

Your team can enter a draw to win prizes by submitting your favourite highlight, anecdotes or photo(s) of the day. 

And to celebrate intergenerational birdwatching, we will be awarding prizes to the three teams with the biggest inter-generational gaps – we hope this will encourage you to set up diverse teams!

Signing up is quick and easy

Please note that sign-ups for the event are now closed and the 2023 race has been completed.

There’s a short form to fill in. Before you start, you will need the following information:

  • The names and ages of your team members, and your team name.
  • The location you will visit for the Race, using a location code from What3Words.
  • The 4-hour time slot you have chosen for the Race.
  • The mode of transport you will use to travel to your location.

Please read the Big Bird Race Rules and the Terms and Conditions before you begin.

If you are under 18, you will need a parent or carer to fill in the form for you.

Send us your list after the race

When your team has finished the Race, you will need to send us a list of your findings.

You can send us photographs of handwritten lists, a spreadsheet, or screenshots of a digital list or a recording app such as BirdTrack. 

You will also need the information that you collected when you signed up. 

  • You will be able to send us your list using a form emailed to you from 23 September. 
  • If you are under 18, you will need a parent or carer to fill in the form for you.

Questions and answers

What if I don’t have a team?

Sign-ups will be open until 11.59 p.m. on 21 September, so if you haven’t found a team yet, don’t worry!

We can share posters and social media slides with you, to help you find fellow birders in your area. Why not put a poster in your local community centre, supermarket or nature reserve to see if you can find new birdwatching friends to join you?

You can also contact us at youth [at] – we may be able to find a local group for you to join.

How far can I travel?

The Big Bird Race is a Green Patch Challenge, which means that we’re encouraging participants to reduce their Race carbon footprint as much as possible.

You can travel as far as you like to your chosen location – but we’d love it if you considered a patch closer to home. If you do need to use vehicles to get to your chosen site, public transport or car-sharing are the most environmentally friendly options. 

Once you have arrived at the location and started the challenge, you are only able to move around on foot or by bike (unless one of your team has limited mobility). 

Can children take part?

Absolutely! The Big Bird Race is a BTO Youth event, designed to bring all generations of nature lovers together, including children.

However, to keep everyone safe on the big day, we have some rules about parental or carer supervision.

If a team includes anyone under the age of 18, they must be accompanied by: 

  • At least one adult, if that adult is the parent or carer of all the people aged under 18; or
  • At least two adults, if the adults are not the parent or carer of all the people aged under 18. 

Parents or carers of young team members (aged under 18) need to be aware that the young person is signing up for the challenge, even if they are not taking part themselves. 

Teams will also need to submit the names and email addresses of the parent/carer of any team members aged under 18 (even if the parent/carer is not taking part themselves) when the teams sign up. 


You can read more about our commitment to safeguarding young people in BTO’s Safeguarding Policy. You can also contact us at youth [at] for more information.

Someone in my team has limited mobility; can we still take part in the challenge?

Absolutely! The Big Bird Race is a Green Patch Challenge, but the restrictions on transport around the patch don’t apply if someone in your team has limited mobility. If you have any questions about this, feel free to get in touch at youth [at]

Related content