Binoculars, Enthusiasm All That’s Required for Texas Birding Event

AUSTIN, March 10, 2015 - Hundreds of avid and backyard birders alike will head to the coast, forests, prairies and mountains next month to compete in the nation’s biggest, longest and wildest bird watching tournament. The registration deadline for the 19th annual Great Texas Birding Classic, which runs from April 15 to May 15, is April 1.

Last year, more than 400 competitors – individuals and teams – competed in the Birding Classic, documenting a record 425 species out of Texas’ 639 documented avian species. The 2014 event attracted a record-breaking 81 teams that competed from the Texas Panhandle to the Golden Triangle in southeast Texas in a host of regional and statewide daylong and weeklong tournaments.

“The Birding Classic is a wonderful opportunity for bird watching enthusiasts and all nature lovers to gather with family and friends to see how many bird species they can spot in a few hours, a full day, or even a few days in a row,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “I want everyone to know that this is a fun event that anyone, regardless of their age or ability, will enjoy.”

One of last year’s participants, teen birder Hannah Franklin of San Antonio, joined a team sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society that competed in an age group competition in Central Texas.

“I enjoyed birding with my friends, as well as knowing that we were raising money for Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center so that other kids like me can have the same chance to be out in nature in the future,” Franklin says.

A number of competitors, such as Rick Laughlin and Elizabeth Eddins, blogged about their Birding Classic experience. You can read what Eddins posted while competing in Beaumont’s first ever Big Sit! Team: http://www.beaumontcvb.com/blog/index.cfm/2014/4/24/The-Big-Sit/.

Overall last year, the tournament raised $18,000 through registration fees and sponsorships for conservation grants awarded to help preserve critical bird habitat and support nature tourism in Texas. Since its inception in 1997, the Great Texas Birding Classic has awarded conservation grants totaling $819,500.

Competitors can choose from more than 40 tournament categories to test their birding skills, participating from as little as half a day to as long as a week in a statewide tourney. Some participants form a team and compete in such categories as the Big Sit!, in which birders must remain within a 17-foot diameter circle to count their birds. Others choose to enter one of the other categories, including a sunrise-to-noon event, youth-only tournaments, a human-powered contest and one tournament held entirely within Texas state parks.

To register online and learn the rules and tournament details, visit: www.BirdingClassic.org. This event is made possible by donations from event sponsor Toyota, Awards Ceremony sponsor Audubon Texas, and individual team sponsorship and registration fees. All registration fees and sponsorship dollars go toward conservation grants benefiting birding, nature tourism, and habitat restoration and enhancement projects throughout Texas. Some winning teams even help select which projects will be funded.

For more information about the Birding Classic, call (512) 389-4500.

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