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Break-a-Hundred Q&A

Canada Warbler, photo by Steve Davis
Canada Warbler, photo by Steve Davis

Every year in mid-May, zealous birders everywhere hold contests to see how many birds they can find. Some bird clubs call it their “Big Day,” but Sullivan County Audubon calls it “Break-a-100.” Here are some Q & A about this event.

Q: What is the point of “Break-a-100?”
A: It is a fun contest where participants see how many species of birds they can find in the county in a 24-hour period, hoping to find more than 100 species. It is a challenge that birders take in order to improve their birding skills, and they do it because it is fun.

Q: Why is it held in mid-May?
A: Because the peak of spring migration occurs near that time. The winter birds are mostly gone, though a few may linger, and the spring birds have mostly arrived. Therefore there are more different kinds of birds present in the county than at any other time of the year. (Of course weather factors may make the migration early or late, and we just make our best guess by selecting a weekend near mid-May.)

Q: Why is it held on Mother’s Day?
A: There is nothing here that is anti-Mother. We simply pick the weekend closest to mid-May, and unfortunately that means that in some years we have picked Mother’s Day. (Actually, some Mothers think that looking for birds is a great thing to do on their day.)

Q: Is this a national event sponsored by the Audubon Society or some other group?
A: No, this is a local event held by individual bird clubs. The information gathered is kept locally and is published in our newsletter.

Q: How many kinds of birds were found on “Break-a-100” in 2002?
A: Four teams participated, and Scott Graber’s team led the pack with 126 species, closely followed by Renee Davis and John Haas with 124 species.  Check out the results of all our past “Break-a-100” contests!

Q: Is it essential to do this with a team?
A: Yes. It helps a great deal to have more eyes looking, and you will see and hear many more kinds if you are with another birder. And it’s more fun! Also, if you find a rarity (as seems to happen almost every year) it is essential to make sure that someone else sees it to confirm the identification. For these reasons, we require participants in our “Break-a-100” to have at least one partner. (Of course, anyone can count birds for practice, to see how many they can find, without having a partner or a team.)

Q: Do you have to see the bird to put it on your list, or does hearing it count?
A: You can list both heard birds and birds seen. (You should get a CD or tape of bird songs to help with this!)

Q: How can I participate?
A: If you are a member of Sullivan County Audubon Society, contact for details.