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LSU team breaks big day record (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
On 14 October 2014, a birding team from LSU (Dan Lane, Mike Harvey, Glenn Seeholzer) and Peru (Fernando Angulo) broke the all-time, big-day record with 354 species in 24 hours, using a route maximizing beta diversity in the northern Andes of Peru (Abra Patricia) down to the lowlands around Tarapoto.



Well-known member
Hot off the press. An abridged report of the Big Day [from LSU Big Day Facebook page].

At midnight, at the inception of 24 incredibly intense hours of birding, we were standing outside the eccentric Puerto Pumas hotel in Pomacochas, Peru waiting for a tiny brown bird called a Baron’s Spinetail to call. We were unable to rouse it, perhaps not surprisingly given the hour. So began our Peru Big Day and 400 tire-squealing kms later, we arrived at a new world Big Day record of 354 species!

We raced down to the lake below town, where calling Plumbeous Rails became the first bird of the day. After hearing a few more water birds and spotlighting some sleepy Mitred Parakeets, we wound our way from the dry valley around Pomacochas up into the humid mountains of Abra Patricia. Moonlight formed a ring in a thin veil of high clouds overhead.

At Abra Patricia, we checked off night birds one-by-one – the bizarre Long-whiskered Owlet, the elegantly plumed Lyre-tailed Nightjar, and other species of the high-elevation cloud forests. At dawn we were at the Owlet Lodge, where we listened to dawn-singing Trilling Tapaculos and Chestnut Antpittas while watching the hummingbirds making their first visits to the lodge’s feeders. Before the sun was even up, we were jogging down the road from Abra Patricia, picking up birds calling in the valley below and sorting through mixed-species flocks. Dan adeptly picked out Tangara tanagers by their flight calls as they moved between trees, and Glenn spotted a Variable Hawk flying over a distant peak, an unusual bird here away from its typical grassland habitat. Royal Sunangel, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant, and Bar-winged Wood-Wren were cooperative in the stunted forest around Alto Nieva, and we were feeling pretty good with our total of 91 species as we dropped out of the high elevations around the pass and into subtropical forest sloping down toward the Mayo Valley.

We began to exchange fearful murmurs, however, as the high clouds of the early morning began to dissipate with the rising sun. We managed to find the “mega-flock”, a huge mixed-species flock in the upper subtropical zone. This single flock added thirty-three species to our list! After that, however, the forest started to become quiet except for the increasing din of insect noise, and our backs started to drip with sweat as the heat became more intense. This was not good news for birding. We eked out a few more species in the subtropical zone, but arrived at the white sand forest of Aguas Verdes just before 11 am to find it completely dead. We missed almost every single target species here, excepting a distant Zimmer´s Antbird and some hummingbirds at the feeders. We did a quick tally and estimated we had about 190 species, but if this sun and heat continued through the afternoon in the Mayo Valley, we wouldn`t have a shot at the record. There was talk of calling off the big day.

These thoughts quickly dissipated after we refueled with bread, cheese, and Gatorade, however, and clouds began to roll in as we raced across the floor of the Mayo Valley. With the cooling shade from the clouds, activity was high when we arrived in the rice country surrounding Rioja. The open habitats here facilitated very fast and efficient birding, and we quickly racked up species, including the retiring Pale-eyed Blackbird, Black-billed Seed-Finch and localized Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch. The shorebird fields that we had scouted intensively in the week prior produced as well, with Stilt Sandpipers and Wilson´s Phalaropes among other northern migrant species. We found Masked Ducks in their preferred pool, but we were now nearly 20 minutes behind schedule and knew we would have to sacrifice time somewhere.

The last stage of the day involved searching a series of sites with more forested habitats. At Waqanki Lodge we racked up some hummingbirds at the feeders and then raced up into the forest. We found Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher, an uncommon species we had failed to locate during scouting, and resisted the urge to spend time trying to get good looks or photos. We found a Cerulean Warbler found during scouting, but decided not to go further into the forest for Fiery-throated Fruiteater and Spot-winged Antbird, which saved us ten minutes or so. We made a long, rough drive to a forest-fringed oxbow lake. We added some species from the near shore, but flooding from the recent rains prevented us from hiking a trail into the forest. This certainly cost us some species, but put us back on schedule time-wise for our visit to Morro de Calzada.

We knew we were close to the ABA big day record of Parker and Robinson when we arrived at the cliff-ringed peak of Morro de Calzada. Their record was 331 species, and a rough tally had us somewhere around 310. We also knew we could get at least ten additional night birds after dark. The last 45 minutes of daylight became critical. We raced down the roads, nearly got our vehicle stuck in wet sand, and sprinted up two trails into forest and scrub. We ticked off species as quickly as possible, trying to get the whole team on each (we were near our limit, per ABA rules, of 5% of species that may be missed by one or more team members). Dusk arrived quickly, birds became silent, and we tallied our additions. 335 species! We had beaten the Parker and Robinson record!

We knew, however, that another record existed, although it is not recognized by the ABA. In 1986, Terry Stevenson, John Fanshawe, and Andy Roberts had set a big day record in Kenya of 342 species. We thought we could beat that, too. We spotted Barn Owl and Blackish Nightjar around the cliffs of Morro de Calzada, and then tracked down a few more nightjars and owls and also found a few species we had accidentally left off the list. We got skunked by Ocellated Crake and Band-bellied Owl, but found both Stygian and Striped owls. At 9:30 pm, we finished the day with a trip to a slot canyon where Oilbirds nest. Struggling to keep our eyes open, we counted the peculiar Oilbird as our 354th and final species.

Statistics: 400 kms, minimum speed 40 km/hr, average speed 110 km/hr, maximum speed 150 km/hr
60 km of dirt roads


Well-known member
I was entertained by the thought of the team jogging ..and later sprinting! I'd have paid to see that.

I didn't realise Pale-eyed Blackbirds were in the Mayo Valley - very nice.

cheers, alan

Jim M.

Choose Civility
Glad to see the record back in the bird continent, where it belongs. ;) And will no longer have to add the "non-plane assisted" qualification to the South American record to distinguish it from the Kenya big day because it even beat that.

Interested to find out what "beta diversity" is though.;)


Well-known member
Definitely quite an achievement, although I would have preferred to have seen it done without driving 150 kmh (93 mph). While I've not birded Peru, I'd be surprised if you could legally or safely average 110 kmh over the course of a day, especially when the national speed limit on highways is only 100.

Yes, I know the limits are largely ignored, but going 30 mph over the speed limit is a bit much in my opinion.


Stop Brexit!
Yes, I know the limits are largely ignored, but going 30 mph over the speed limit is a bit much in my opinion.
Aye, they deserve disqualification for that :eek!:

What happens if the Peruvian police read the blog post, will they take that as an admission of guilt for a speeding offence? And fine them for more than the amount of money raised?


Well-known member
here's the list (it's long, duh!)
Our complete big day list (* = seen, ^ = only seen by 2-3 team members):

English Name
Cinereous Tinamou
Little Tinamou
Torrent Duck*
Masked Duck*
Speckled Chachalaca*
Sickle-winged Guan*
Least Grebe*
Cocoi Heron*
Great Egret*
Snowy Egret*
Little Blue Heron*
Cattle Egret*
Striated Heron*
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black Vulture*
Turkey Vulture*
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture*
Gray-headed Kite*
Swallow-tailed Kite*
Snail Kite*
Slender-billed Kite*
Plumbeous Kite*
Roadside Hawk*
Variable Hawk*
Rufous-sided Crake^
Gray-breasted Crake
Russet-crowned Crake
Blackish Rail
Plumbeous Rail
Spotted Rail
Purple Gallinule*
Common Gallinule*
Wattled Jacana*
Lesser Yellowlegs*
Solitary Sandpiper*
Pectoral Sandpiper*
Stilt Sandpiper*
Wilson's Phalarope*
Black-necked Stilt*
Rock Pigeon*
Pale-vented Pigeon*
Band-tailed Pigeon*
Plumbeous Pigeon*
Ruddy Pigeon*
Ruddy Ground-Dove*
Blue Ground-Dove*
White-tipped Dove*
Squirrel Cuckoo*
Smooth-billed Ani*
Barn Owl*
Tropical Screech-Owl
White-throated Screech-Owl*
Andean Pygmy-Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Long-whiskered Owlet
Rufous-banded Owl
Striped Owl*
Stygian Owl*
Burrowing Owl*
Rufous-bellied Nighthawk
Blackish Nightjar*
Common Pauraque^
Lyre-tailed Nightjar
Spot-tailed Nightjar*
Rufous Nightjar
Common Potoo
White-collared Swift*
Short-tailed Swift*
Gray-rumped Swift
White-tipped Swift*
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift*
White-necked Jacobin*
Rufous-breasted Hermit*
Green Hermit*
Great-billed Hermit*
Black-throated Hermit*
Reddish Hermit*
Gray-chinned Hermit
Blue-fronted Lancebill*
Green Violetear*
Sparkling Violetear*
Black-throated Mango*
Amethyst-throated Sunangel*
Royal Sunangel*
Rufous-crested Coquette*
Ecuadorian Piedtail
Speckled Hummingbird*
Long-tailed Sylph*
Emerald-bellied Puffleg*^
Bronzy Inca*
Collared Inca*
Chestnut-breasted Coronet*
Booted Racket-Tail*^
Fawn-breasted Brilliant*
White-bellied Woodstar*
Amethyst Woodstar*
Blue-tailed Emerald*
Gray-breasted Sabrewing*
Fork-tailed Woodnymph*
Sapphire-spangled Emerald*
Golden-tailed Sapphire*
White-chinned Sapphire*
Green-backed Trogon*
Blue-crowned Trogon
Masked Trogon
Broad-billed Motmot
Amazon Kingfisher*
Lanceolated Monklet*
Black-fronted Nunbird
Bluish-fronted Jacamar*
Gilded Barbet
Versicolored Barbet*
Emerald Toucanet*
Lettered Aracari*
Chestnut-eared Aracari*
Channel-billed Toucan*
Lafresnaye's Piculet*
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Little Woodpecker*
Red-stained Woodpecker*
Spot-breasted Woodpecker*
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker*
Lineated Woodpecker
Black Caracara*
Yellow-headed Caracara*
Laughing Falcon
Bat Falcon
Mitred Parakeet*
White-eyed Parakeet*
Cobalt-winged Parakeet*
Blue-headed Parrot*
Scaly-naped Parrot*
Great Antshrike
Lined Antshrike
Plain-winged Antshrike
Variable Antshrike
Plain Antvireo
Rusty-backed Antwren*
Peruvian Warbling-Antbird*
Blackish Antbird
Zimmer's Antbird^
Streak-headed Antbird
Silvered Antbird
Rusty-tinged Antpitta
Chestnut Antpitta
Ochre-fronted Antpitta
Rusty-breasted Antpitta
Trilling Tapaculo
Rufous-vented Tapaculo
White-crowned Tapaculo
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Tyrannine Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper*
Buff-throated Woodcreeper*
Olive-backed Woodcreeper*
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Montane Woodcreeper*
Streaked Xenops*
Pale-legged Hornero^
Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner
Montane Foliage-Gleaner*
Lineated Foliage-Gleaner*
Black-billed Treehunter
Striped Treehunter
Rufous-backed Treehunter
Spotted Barbtail
Pearled Treerunner*
Rufous-fronted Thornbird*
Ash-browed Spinetail*
Azara's Spinetail
Dark-breasted Spinetail
Rufous Spinetail
White-lored Tyrannulet
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet*
Yellow Tyrannulet
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet
Forest Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia*
Mottle-backed Elaenia*
Lesser Elaenia*
Highland Elaenia
Sierran Elaenia*
Streak-necked Flycatcher*
Olive-striped Flycatcher*
Sepia-capped Flycatcher^
Slaty-capped Flycatcher*
Inca Flycatcher
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant*
Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet
Ecuadorian Tyrannulet^
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet
Black-capped Tyrannulet*
Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet*
Rough-legged Tyrannulet
Mishana Tyrannulet
Peruvian Tyrannulet*
Ornate Flycatcher
Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant
White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant
Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant*
Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant^
Black-throated Tody-Tyrant
Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant
Johnson's Tody-Flycatcher
Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher
Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher
Common Tody-Flycatcher*
Yellow-olive Flycatcher^
Yellow-margined Flycatcher
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
Cinnamon Flycatcher*
Cliff Flycatcher*
Olive-chested Flycatcher
Euler's Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher*
Smoke-colored Pewee*
Wested Wood-Pewee*
Alder Flycatcher
Black Phoebe*
Rufous-tailed Tyrant*
Drab Water-tyrant*
Golden-browed Chat-Tyrant
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant
Long-tailed Tyrant*
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Short-crested Flycatcher*
Pale-edged Flycatcher*
Great Kiskadee*
Boat-billed Flycatcher*
Social Flycatcher*
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Lemon-browed Flycatcher
Golden-crowned Flycatcher*
Piratic Flycatcher*
Tropical Kingbird*
Eastern Kingbird*
Green-and-black Fruiteater*
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Golden-winged Manakin*
Striped Manakin
Fiery-capped Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
Barred Becard*
White-winged Becard*
Black-and-white Becard*
Brown-capped Vireo^
Red-eyed Vireo*
Olivaceous Greenlet*
Rufous-browed Peppershrike*
Green Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow*
Southern Rough-winged Swallow*
Bank Swallow*
Gray-breasted Martin*
Scaly-breasted Wren
Gray-mantled Wren
House Wren*
Mountain Wren
Thrush-like Wren*
Coraya Wren
Sharpe's Wren
Bar-winged Wood-Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Chestnut-breasted Wren^
Black-capped Donacobius*
Andean Solitaire
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush
Pale-breasted Thrush*
Hauxwell's Thrush
Black-billed Thrush*
Slaty Thrush
Great Thrush*
Glossy-black Thrush*
Cerulean Warbler*
Tropical Parula
Three-striped Warbler
Citrine Warbler*
Russet-crowned Warbler
Canada Warbler*
Slate-throated Whitestart*
Specatacled Whitestart*
Red-capped Cardinal*
Black-faced Tanager*
Magpie Tanager*^
White-capped Tanager
Oleagineus Hemispingus*
Drab Hemispingus*
Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager*
White-lined Tanager*
Black-bellied Tanager*
Vermilion Tanager*
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager*
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager*
Yellow-throated Tanager*
Yellow-scarfed Tanager*
Orange-eared Tanager*^
Blue-gray Tanager*
Palm Tanager*
Blue-capped Tanager*
Silvery Tanager*
Burnished-buff Tanager
Blue-necked Tanager*
Yellow-bellied Tanager*
Spotted Tanager*
Beryl-spangled Tanager*
Metallic-green Tanager*^
Paradise Tanager*
Bay-headed Tanager*
Golden-eared Tanager*
Saffron-crowned Tanager*
Flame-faced Tanager*
Green-and-gold Tanager*
Golden Tanager*
Swallow Tanager*
Black-faced Dacnis
Blue Dacnis*
Green Honeycreeper*
Golden-collared Honeycreeper*
Capped Conebill*
White-sided Flowerpiercer*
Deep-blue Flowerpiercer*
Bluish Flowerpiercer*
Masked Flowerpiercer*
Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch*
Blue-black Grassquit*
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater*
Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch*
Black-billed Seed-Finch*
Grayish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator*
Orange-billed Sparrow
Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch*
Yellow-browed Sparrow*
Rufous-collared Sparrow*
Common Chlorospingus*
Yellow-throated Chlorospingus*
Pale-eyed Blackbird*
Shiny Cowbird*
Giant Cowbird*
Orange-backed Troupial*
Oriole Blackbird
Yellow-rumped Cacique*
Russet-backed Oropendola*
Purple-throated Euphonia
Bronze-green Euphonia
Orange-bellied Euphonia*
Blue-naped Chlorophonia*
Oliveaceous Siskin*

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Aye, they deserve disqualification for that :eek!:

What happens if the Peruvian police read the blog post, will they take that as an admission of guilt for a speeding offence? And fine them for more than the amount of money raised?

Who authenticates such a record? Since they are claiming an ABA record, then I presume it should be approved by the ABA. The ABA has a set of regulations that cover Big Day attempts, Rule 5 of which is that the teams must abide by the ABA Code of Birding Ethics. This code expressly states in point 2b "Follow all laws, rules and regulations governing roads and public areas, both at home and abroad."

By their own admission, this US team has clearly violated the rules, the record is null and void.
Last edited:

Jim M.

Choose Civility
By their own admission, this US team has clearly violated the rules, the record is null and void.

Unless they were driving on a road with no speed limit, or there is a typo in the report, or....

P.S.: Not sure the Peruvian on the team would appreciate your calling it "this US team."

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Unless they were driving on a road with no speed limit, or there is a typo in the report, or....

P.S.: Not sure the Peruvian on the team would appreciate your calling it "this US team."

They state they averaged 110 km/hour ...this is above the Peruvian legal limit, and add a boast of driving a maximum of 150 km/hour. Two typos? If the ABA accept this, then no point in setting any rules. Record is void.

Apologies to the Peruvian on the team, we can change to 'US university team' :t:
- but either way, subject to ABA rules for such record attempts.

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
The short of it is, if the ABA allows teams to pick and choose which rules to follow, then the next team could equally decide to add an hour to the allowed period to get a few more species, or let the team split up to cover more ground, etc, etc.

Speeding throughout the day gave them a time advantage which basically meant more species than if they followed the rules ...this is basically cheating. The record cannot be considered valid.

Richard Klim

Sod the ABA rules. ;)

Surely most birders/listers will respect the LSU team's achievement. Many (most?) listing totals submitted to ABA would probably be considerably reduced if all ticks involving speeding offences were removed...

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Sod the ABA rules. ;)

Surely most birders/listers will respect the LSU team's achievement. ..

Sure can respect the total, but if it is going to stand as the world record, it surely must comply to rules. Would you respect the record if they admitted they had actually done 25 hours, not 24? Effectively the same in terms of 'creating' additional time to get species.

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