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Relational Birding Challenge

Experience birding like never before! Expand your understanding of birds and their habitats while having fun and working towards a goal. Choose from more than ten exciting Relational Birding Challenges! Complete a challenge. Submit your list. Get a Relational Birding Challenge Certificate.

Relational birding focuses on connections. A connection is an observation of a relationship between a bird and its environment. A bird’s environment includes all living and non-living things it shares a habitat with.

Relational Birding Challenge Rules

1) Every observed connection counts for one point.

2) Every observed connection can only be counted once for each relational birding challenge. For example, a chickadee eating a spider counts for one point, even if observed multiple times. However, each additional species observed eating a spider would also count for one point.

3) Connections that count include physical connections (for example, a bird perched on a tree counts as a physical connection between the bird species and the tree species), food connections (for example, a bird eating a food item), vocal connections (for example, companion calls exchanged between chickadees in a flock), behavioral connections (for example, a robin in sentinel posture in response to a marauding hawk), as well as any other kinds of connections noticed by the observer.

4) Any bird connection counts, even if a species ID cannot be made. However, species specific observations will add up to more points. For example, a bird perched on a tree counts for one point. But, a chickadee on a balsam fir tree and a chickadee on a maple tree each count for one point.

Here's how it works:

1) Choose a Relational Birding Challenge Certificate Level from the following (Points): 20, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000.

2) Choose one of the following Relational Birding Challenges: Basic Relational Birding, One Species, Big Day, Big Year, Sit Spot, Bird-Bird Connections, Human Connections, Arthropod Connections, Animal Connections, Tree Connections, Plant Connections, Fungi Connections, Nature's Elements.

3) Keep a list while doing the challenge. The only time and location limitations are those you set for yourself. Have fun. Be creative.

4) Submit your list using the form below and you'll receive a certificate which recognizes your achievement.

Relational Birding Challenge: About

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Relational Birding Challenges

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Basic Relational Birding

The basic relational birding challenge is about getting out there and having fun while noticing as many bird connections as you can, even if you only have an hour to spare. If you feel like you need some direction, see the Sample Relational Birding List at the bottom of this page. Have fun!

One Species

This challenge is great if there is a one species of bird that you’d like to get to know really well. Choose one species of bird. Observe all you can about its connections with the living and non-living parts of its environment (birds, other animals, trees, plants, non-living elements, etc.).

Big Day

Try Relational Birding for a fun adaptation of The Big Day. How many bird connections can you observe in 24 hours?

Big Year

This is the kind of Big Year that will have you watching birds as common as blue jays and as rare as great gray owls with the same level of curiosity up to the last day of the challenge. Add just three new bird connections to your list each day and by the end of the year you’ll be over 1000! 

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Sit Spot

Choose a spot to observe birds from where you’ll remain stationary. This challenge can be a one-day thing or a Sit Spot you return to regularly. Your Sit Spot can be as distant as a far-off mountaintop or as close as your own back yard.

Bird-Bird Connections

This challenge is all about noticing how birds interact with other birds. Notice the connections that are revealed between birds via body language, vocalizations, and other bird to bird behavior.

Human Connections

Sometimes it’s difficult to get close to birds because birds tend to keep a close watch on the people who enter their habitats. This challenge is all about noticing how birds respond to human activities in their environment, including you.

Arthropod Connections

From sallying flycatchers to excavating woodpeckers to gleaning chickadees, birds are connected with the world of arthropods. That's right; insects, spiders, crustaceans and more! This challenge is about noticing those bird-arthropod connections.

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Animal Connections

This challenge is for those who enjoy noticing how birds are connected with other animal groups such as reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and fish.

Tree Connections

Many birds spend a lot of time in trees. Birds are connected with trees for food, for nesting, for resting, and more. This challenge is about noticing bird’s connections with trees.

Plant Connections

This is a challenge about noticing the connections between birds and plants. Included in this challenge is everything from wildflowers to ferns, mosses, and liverworts.

Fungi Connections

This is a challenge that any fungi or fungal will take a lichen to. It’s about noticing bird’s connections with fungi, a kingdom which is present in the forest in a variety of ways including mushrooms and lichens.


Nature's Elements

Challenge yourself to notice bird’s connections with nature’s non-living elements; rocks, earth, fire, water, and wind.

Sample Relational Birding List

Name: Rich Hanlon

Relational Birding Challenge: Basic Relational Birding (20)

Location(s) and Date(s): Home 12/15/2023, Duane Community Trails 12/17/2023

Numbered List of Bird Connections:

1) Hairy woodpecker eating suet at feeding station

2)Hairy woodpecker foraging on white pine snag

3) Hairy woodpecker eating wood-boring beetle larva

4) Hairy woodpecker perched on white birch tree

5) Hairy woodpecker aggressive interaction with blue jay

6) Black-capped chickadee foraging on lichen

7) Black-capped chickadee eating spider

8) Black-capped chickadee companion calls between flock members

9) Black-capped chickadee alarm call in response to me

10) Pine siskins eating tamarack seeds

11) Pine siskins perched on balsam fir

12) Pine siskin companion calls within the flock

13) Red crossbills extracting seeds from white pine cones

14) Black-backed woodpecker foraging on balsam snag

15) black-backed woodpecker eating beetle larva

16) Blue jays perched on ground

17) Blue jays chased away from feeding station by red squirrel

18) Red-breasted nuthatch foraging on trunk of white pine

19) Red-breasted nuthatch foraging on trunk of balsam fir

20) Golden-crowned kinglets following black-capped chickadees to form mixed species flock 

Relational Birding Challenge: Text
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