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Birding Cup Rules and Regulations

The Birding Cup is Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center’s annual fundraising event to support educational programming and related research projects. Although there is no participation fee, in the spirit of the fundraiser and to help defer costs, teams are asked to solicit pledges and contributions of at least $100 to support bird-related programs and projects. In lieu of outside support, teams can make an in-kind donation.

While the Birding Cup is traditionally awarded to the team that counts the most bird species during the 24 hours of the event within a defined seven-county region in Central Pennsylvania, there are some adjustments to the event during the COVID-19 pandemic to extend the event to our Global Community. All participants will be working together across the Earth to tally as many species as possible, and everyone should, at the minimum, adhere to local COVID-19 safety protocols as well as maintain proper birding ethics.

The following set of rules are specific to those teams choosing to participate in the traditional Birding Boot and Micro Cup categories of friendly competition, and a Potter Mug version of the Birding Boot, which are the only three categories being offered this year to reduce the need for additional vehicle use and to maintain physical distancing. These standards and practices, under which participants must comply, are adapted from the Big Day Count rules established by the American Birding Association and the World Series of Birding. All Birding BootPotter Mug, and Micro Cup participants must be familiar with and willing to comply with all of the rules in order to compete.

I. Participants

  1. There are three categories for competition in 2021: the Micro Cup (see rule III.2 for more details) the Birding Boot (birding by non-motorized means), and a Potter Mug subcategory of the Birding Boot. Birding Boot teams may use a vehicle to transport themselves to and from their starting/ending point, but not during the event. Teams that participate in the Birding Boot and have two or fewer years of birding experience may also compete for the Potter Mug. In 2021, Potter Mug teams must adhere to all Birding Boot rules and guidelines.
  2. Birding Boot and Potter Mug teams must consist of a minimum of three individuals at all times. Micro Cup teams are made of exactly two individuals. Submit a list of members no later than four days prior to the start and include the category of competition (see above). Please call or email Doug Wentzel with questions at 814-865-4123 or To register your team, visit the Birding Cup Participant Registration page AFTER all individuals have registered themselves through the Mobile Cause site.
  3. Any number of non-birding participants may join a team, but these participants may not assist the team in any way in the location or identification of birds.
  4. Registered participants may join and/or leave the team throughout the day, as long as the birds sighted and recorded are in accordance with the counting rules IV.1 and IV.7 For example, if your Birding Boot team started with five people, you should be tallying birds that are seen/heard by at least four team members. If two additional members join you from noon–3:00 p.m., the total team members that you now have is seven. In order to count a bird during that time frame, it must be seen or heard by 3/4 of your team members, which would be at least six members. While Micro Cup teams are restricted to two individuals at any one time, team members may have substitutes throughout the count period, as long as they have also filled out the Mobile Cause registration. Members joining their team during the competition should not supply the team with information gathered after the start time.

II. Event Schedule

All counting must take place between 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 30 and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday May 1, 2021 — twenty-four hours. All teams must complete their digital checklist (provided ahead of time to team captains) by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 1 to be official.

Friday, April 30
Time Task
7:00 p.m. Start counting from anywhere within the seven-county area!
Saturday, May 1
Time Task
7:00 p.m. Stop counting.
11:59 p.m. Fill out digital checklist by this time.
Sunday, May 2
Time Task
4:00–6:00 p.m. Join us on Zoom to review the global checklist and hear what teams won the Birding Boot, Potter Mug, and Micro Cup!

III. Geographic Area

  1. Only bird species recorded in the following counties will count for the Birding Boot, Potter Mug, and Micro Cup: Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Juniata, and Mifflin.
  2. A team of two may compete for the Micro Cup by limiting their birding to a one-mile diameter circle within the greater count area. Teams should declare their intentions when they submit a list of team members at least four days prior to the start (see rule I.2).
  3. Teams may begin and end their route anywhere in the count area but must finish counting promptly at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

IV. Counting

  1. Teammates actively participating (in accordance with participants rule I.4) must be within earshot of each other for any species to be counted during the Cup.
  2. Count only full species as indicated by the current checklist. Species not found on the checklist are not typically found in our area in early May, and must be accompanied with proper documentation (e.g., photos and field notes) as outlined by the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee (PORC).
  3. Birds must be conclusively identified by sight or sound. A bird identified as one of a species or group (e.g., scaup either greater or lesser) may be counted as a species, if no other bird in that group appears on your list. FOR EXAMPLE: Scaup, spp. counts as one bird. Greater Scaup and scaup, spp. still counts as one bird.
  4. Introduced or reintroduced species may be counted providing they appear on the current checklist.
  5. Birds counted must be alive, wild, and unrestrained. Sick or injured birds may be counted. Birds in cages or eggs do not count.
  6. Electronic or recorded birdcalls may not be used to attract birds or entice them to vocalize during Birding Cup. Bird recordings may be used to help in the identification of birds and may be included among your gear, but you may only use the recordings as a reference.
  7. Any bird tallied must be seen and/or heard and identity agreed upon by at least 3/4 of the team members (all members of a 3-person team, and both members of a Micro Cup team!). So, if you have five members on your Birding Boot team, at least four people have to hear and/or see the bird and agree on the identification. It is not necessary for all team members to record the same individual bird. If three members of the team hear a Downy Woodpecker and a fourth person does not BUT manages to tally another Downy Woodpecker later in the day, then Downy Woodpecker has been recorded successfully.

V. Travel

  1. This year’s categories are being limited to those that are non-vehicle dependent to minimize shared confined spaces during the pandemic. Participants traveling to and from their birding site are encouraged to use separate vehicles.
  2. Team members must remain physically distant for COVID safety, but only at distances that permit direct, unamplified voice contact at all times. Voice contact is defined as shouting distance.
  3. Please travel safely and use good judgment. All teams must comply with Pennsylvania highway, biking, and boating laws. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.

VI. Conduct and Ethics

  1. Team members must remain within voice contact of all other members at all times.
  2. Team members must count only birds personally and unquestionably identified.
  3. Team members must be familiar with the rules of the competition before the event.
  4. Each participant must maintain proper birding ethics at all times and be good ambassadors. Please refer to the American Birding Association Code of Birding Ethics.
  5. All teams should enjoy themselves and keep the big picture in mind — the event is designed as a fun educational fundraiser rather than a strict competition. Your support and good conduct are greatly appreciated.

VII. Outside Information

  1. Any information received prior to the count period may be used. During the competition, teams must make every reasonable effort to avoid receiving bird-finding help from other sources, including eBird, rare bird alerts, etc. If a rare bird occurrence is discovered in this way during the event, teams are welcome to choose to seek the bird, but may not tally the species. Phone, radio contact, and prearranged field encounters (except encounters whose purpose is to gain access or entry to private or restricted areas) are not permitted. When other birders are encountered accidentally, participants may not solicit bird-finding information and should avoid receiving any information from them (unless the other team is in a good mood and feeling generous). If an accidental encounter occurs, despite all precautions and in the spirit of raising money, the team may use the information received.
  2. Exceptions: The bird sighting sheets at state parks and visitor centers may be used.

Congratulations, you made it through the rules. Good luck and good birding!