There are a total of five modules included in the Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program to accommodate a broad range of interests in young birders. Participants may do as many or as few of the modules as they choose. Finalists are selected for each of the five modules in two age categories: 10–13 years and 14–18 years. In addition, we will award the title of 2022 Young Birder of the Year in each age division. You do not have to be in the running for the Young Birder of the Year to participate in the program.

To qualify for the overall award of the title Young Birder of the Year:

1. Complete BOTH of the Major Modules –

Field Notebook AND Conservation/Community Leadership

OR

2. Complete ONE of the Major Modules AND TWO of the Supporting Modules –

Illustration Writing Photography

Click on the tabs below for detailed INSTRUCTIONS and ENTRY SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for each module.

Field Notebook – Major Module

Talk to any birder above a certain age, and that person will tell you it’s utterly essential to keep a field notebook. Rachel Carson and Roger Tory Peterson kept field notebooks. Keeping a record of your sightings is a fun and rewarding way of sharpening your skills as a birder. For birders today, that means both written and digital record-keeping! 

We at the ABA believe that the wisest approach to the Field Notebook Module is to chronicle your birding experiences in a manner that is well suited to your own inclinations and aspirations as a birder. To be sure, you owe it to yourself to experiment in diverse mediums of note taking. The Field Notebook Module is intended to provide practice and application of three key field skills. 

Field Skill #1: Record your Observations in the Field 

Write them down or use a voice recorder app on your smartphone. Sketch what you see.

Field Skill #2: Use Technology 

You don’t have to have a fancy camera; simply holding your binoculars up to your phone (“digibinning”) can yield impressive results. So can pointing your phone at a singing bird and pressing the red “record” button.

Field Skill #3: Share with Others! 

Of course, you’re already sharing your observations with the YBY Mentors, and that’s great. But we also want to encourage you to share your observations more broadly, via eBird, social media, and more.

INSTRUCTIONS for Field Notebook Module: 

1- Create a record of one excursion afield. Basically, go birding—and write your notes down, while you are in the field. Once complete, the entry in your physical notebook should be at least three to five (3-5) notebook pages long. 

Once you are home, you may add content to your field journaling. Transcribe recorded notes, cite some highlights (perhaps a rare dragonfly), make technical annotations or add color to your sketch, go online and find some references putting that put a cool behavior you observed in context.

Whatever you do add, make note of it for the YBY Mentors so that they understand your process! For example, “I pencil-sketched this molting Turkey Vulture based on my observations in the field. When I got back home, I numbered the remiges and added color.” “In the field, I wrote down the number of times the wren sang, plus how many times it visited the nest box. When I got back home, I consulted BotW Online and Bent, and added some notes on how my observations relate to those references.”

Records should include all of the following:

• A written description of the visual appearance of one bird species that you saw. Example: Describe the facial pattern of one of the Killdeers. The Killdeer is a distinctive bird, but try describing the pattern on its face. It’s not easy!

• A written description of some aspect of a bird other than its visual appearance—basically, what it was doing. Example: Describe the complex social interactions among the Cliff Swallows—direct interactions between individuals, as well as the general behavior of the flock.

• A written description of the song or other vocalization of one bird species that you heard. Example: Describe the song of the Sora, perhaps by including a field sketch of the spectrogram of the bird’s simple, endlessly repeated song.

• A sketch of at least one bird species that you saw in the field. Example: Sketch the male Hooded Merganser, emphasizing “female-like” characters and pointing to evidence of molt. 

• Notes on your surroundings. Example: Report the basic coverage—start time, finish time, mileage, weather, habitat notes, etc.

• At least one new thing you learned. Example: Muse on the size differences between the Black-capped Chickadee and the Bushtit, something you may not have fully appreciated beforehand.

• At least one question you asked while in the field—and whose answer you may still not know. Example: You may ask yourself—Just how fast do Mallards molt at this time of the year and is there variation between males and females?

2- Submit an annotated eBird checklist from your time afield. Be sure to use the “comments” section—both in the “Date and Effort” section and for the individual species. Try to upload at least one photo, one sound recording, and one link to an external site. (See Ted Floyd’s eBird checklist example below)

3- Submit media to some source other than eBird. Possibilities include but are not limited to: Xeno-Canto, Flickr, and iNaturalist. Share your experience via social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. If you and your family are uncomfortable with social media, consider sharing via your state, provincial, or other regional listservs.

4- REPEAT STEPS #1 – 3 on three field excursions over the course of the contest period.

5- Write an introspective essay, no more than 3 pages typed and single spaced, that more formally describes what you learned from the excursions that you documented in your field notes and your use of technology as it relates to birding. Proofread and spellcheck your essay. 


Ted Floyd’s eBird Annotated Checklist Example:

ebird.org/view/checklist/S46776303

Your checklist does not need to include rare birds or exceptional photos and audio. Share what you observed! Note that Ted includes brief notes for each species, including, in some instances, photos and audio. Ted wasn’t certain of everything, and you’ll see a few of the questions he asked himself (age of the Blue Jay, relationships among the Canada Geese, type of call given by a Red-winged Blackbird, etc.).

Ted also posted a photo to Facebook, audio to Xeno-Canto, and a video short to Facebook. Actually, the video was made by his son, Andrew Floyd, which is fine—as long as credit is given.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Field Notebook Module:                       

Your entry is to be uploaded in TWO formats:

  1. Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  2. The same Powerpoint or Keynote presentation as #1 exported into a PDF.

Directions for combining all the module elements into a single Powerpoint or Keynote:

  1. Create a set of slides with scans of your field notebook excursion–these are your notes done in the official notebook, while in the field. This series of slides should be a scan of the 4-6 notebook pages of observations and sketches. Each notebook page gets its own slide. A page = 1 page.
    Label these slides {In The Field Observations}. 
  2. Create a slide that contains a screenshot(s) of your annotated eBird checklist for the same field excursion. Include a note about any other media submission you made in addition to eBird. Example: iNaturalist, Xeno-Canto, Flickr, etc.
    Label this slide {Annotated eBird Checklist – Field Observation}.
  3. REPEAT THE STEPS #1-2 for each of your three birding excursions.
  4. Create a slide for your introspective essay; add your essay to the slide as a word document. Submit a summary overview, no more than three pages in length (3 pages typed and single-spaced), which more formally describes what you learned from the field excursions that you documented.
    Label this slide {Formal Essay – Field Observation}.
  5. The final step is to export the completed Powerpoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF document.

File label for the Field Notebook Module entry format:
YourName-Age-FieldNotebook (example: ChrisBirder-16-FieldNotebook)

Field Notebook Submission Checklist

  1. Submit your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  2. Submit the PDF of your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  3. Submit one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.) 
  4. Upload your files to the ABA Dropbox by March 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Conservation and Community Leadership – Major Module 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Submit a brief description of what you intend to do for your project no later than November 30, 2022 by direct message to Laura Guerard in the YBY Slack Workspace. ABA staff must approve Conservation and Community Leadership projects before you proceed. Approval and/or suggested changes will be given within a week of a proposal being acknowledged as submitted. 

Pick a project that will involve time in the field and will either a) further the conservation of a bird species or community and/or their habitat, or b) a project that will improve birding opportunities, or educate and inspire other birders.

Here are a few possibilities, just to spark your imagination:

  • Create and monitor a nest box trail and give a talk about your findings to a local bird club or garden club.
  • Create and monitor a bird-friendly habitat on public property, a public park, or schoolyard or a community area. Give a presentation to the maintenance workers to make sure it is maintained properly in the future.
  • Create a printed or online site guide or similar materials for a birding area and show it being used.
  • Offer field trips or fun classes designed to inspire and educate birders or inspire non-birders to enjoy birds.
  • Participate in a leadership capacity in a young birders’ group, developing the program in a meaningful way.
  • Participate in an ongoing conservation or community action project, documenting your experiences and contribution.
  • Set up and maintain an online bird club or similar group.
  • Start a YouTube channel and produce videos or start a podcast with the goal of inspiring enjoyment and/or protection of wild birds in others.
  • Write a curriculum on birds and submit to a local school to teach as an online course.
  • Write, illustrate, and submit a publishing plan for a book on birds or bird conservation.
  • Illustrate a graphic novel featuring the ABA’s Code of Birding Ethics.

You should expect to spend about 40 hours on your project, not counting the time involved in putting together the presentation. The presentation of your project should include writing and imagery that captures what you aimed to do, your experiences during the project, notable successes or failures, and what you learned or skills you developed along the way. Tell the story of your journey and how you feel you impacted the greater community.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Conservation and Community Leadership Module:

The Conservation and Community Leadership Module is to be submitted in TWO formats.

1. Powerpoint or Keynote presentation detailing step by step your project and how and what you did and what you accomplished. Your presentations may include photographs, video, audio, charts, graphs, text, reference to a website, graphics, and media. The goal is to tell us the story or stories of your project: how you planned or imagined it would go, how that matched the reality, what you learned, who or what was impacted, challenges you faced, people you met along the way and helped you out, and so on.

Note: We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with a sentence or two letting us know if you had adult help on this module.

2. Export the PowerPoint or Keynote presentation complete with all the text slides to a PDF document.

File label for the Conservation and Community Leadership Module entry format:
YourName-Age-Conservation (example: RachelCarson-16-Conservation)

*A special note about the text in your PowerPoint and Keynote presentations: Presentations are not designed to present large amounts of text. A good rule of thumb is not to use any font sizes smaller than 30 points, unless absolutely necessary. If you have supporting or explanatory text that needs to be included, you can either put it in the Presenter Notes or just include a “text slide” or two where needed. Please, even for a text slide, do not use fonts smaller than 18 points.

Sample Community & Conservation presentation >>

Conservation & Community Leadership Submission Checklist

  1. Submit your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  2. Submit the PDF of your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  3. Submit a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to submit multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  4. Upload your files to the ABA Dropbox by March 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Illustration – Supporting Module

The Illustration module involves rendering birds that you see. You should be regularly sketching birds, at least every other week, and completing a detailed drawing or painting of a bird at least once a month. Any illustrative medium is acceptable and may include ink, pencil, colored pencil, paint, scratchboard, or another medium of your choice. Try to do a few drawings while you’re watching a cooperative bird in the field or at bird feeders. You may also include illustrations of captive zoo or pet birds, but your submission should include at least 75% wild, free-living birds. All submitted illustrations must be your own original work. Though you may refer to works of others as inspiration and research material, you must not violate copyright law. Minimum entry is six illustrations, paintings, etc. with a maximum of 10.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Illustration Module:

The Illustration Module is to be submitted in THREE formats.

1. Mail the 6–10 originals to the ABA Headquarters. We suggest you use Priority Mail, FedEx, or UPS and get a tracking number. Your submission must be postmarked by February 15, 2022 to arrive before March 1, 2022.

Mail to: ABA-YBYMP
93 Clinton Street #744
Delaware City, DE 19706

2. Scan or photograph the originals and create a single PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. The illustrations must be scanned or photographed as hi-res jpegs and inserted into a PowerPoint or Keynote program. One piece of artwork per slide. Please include a single slide as an introductory slide to tell the medium used and title of each piece before each artwork slide.

Note: We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with a sentence or two letting us know if you had adult help if any, and how much on this module.

3. Export the PowerPoint or Keynote presentation complete with all the text slides to a PDF document.

File label for the Illustration Module entry format:
YourName-Age-Illustration (example: RachelCarson-16-Illustration)

Sample Illustration module presentation >>

Please submit all entries in the Illustration module on artboards or paper within the size range of 4” x 6” up to 14”x 18”. Please make sure your name and age are on the back of each piece.

If you would like to submit sculpture or some other medium or size please call ABA HQ (800) 850-2473 for special permissions and instructions. We are happy to accept other sizes and mediums, as long as we consider the shipping and handling of these items as they may require extra return shipping costs to submit.

Illustration Module Submission Checklist

  1. Submit your 6–10 originals by mail to the ABA office. Please, get a tracking number. Mail no later than February 15, 2022. Your artwork must arrive before March 1, 2022.
  2. Submit your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  3. Submit the PDF of your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  4. Submit one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to submit multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  5. Upload your files to the ABA Dropbox by March 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Writing – Supporting Module

Write about birds, birders, birding, and your personal experiences as a birder. Your writing can take the forms of poetry, short story, essay, or other prose. You should write at least once a week, completing an essay, story, or poem at least once a month. Essays should be relatively short, no more than three pages. Write about your favorite birds, a special or significant birding experience, an unexpected encounter or insight, or your thoughts on birding. Use your powers of observation and description to their fullest! Be creative in your word use and make your writing reflect your own thoughts. Read a variety of literary styles on birding and other subjects for examples and inspiration, but strive to develop your own voice and style. Nonfiction, fiction, and poetry are acceptable, so feel free to stretch out and experiment. Minimum entry is six pages of writing samples and a maximum of 10 pages.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Writing Module:

The Writing Module is to be submitted in TWO formats.

Minimum entry is six pages of writing and a maximum of 10 pages. Each piece should have a title page and word count. The page count does not include the cover pages. The Writing Module pieces should be combined and submitted as a single PDF document. 

Each entry should include a cover page with:

  1. Your name
  2. Title of the piece
  3. Word count

This cover page does not count as one of your 6–10 pages of writing.

1. Scan or photograph the originals and submit them as a single PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. The illustrations must be scanned or photographed as hi-res jpegs and inserted into a PowerPoint or Keynote program. One piece of artwork per slide. Please include a single slide as an introductory slide to tell the medium used and title of each piece before each artwork slide.

Note: We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with a sentence or two letting us know if you had adult help on this module.

2. Export the PowerPoint or Keynote presentation complete with all the text slides to a PDF document.

File label for the Writing Module entry format: YourName-Age-Writing (example: RachelCarson-16-Writing)

Writing Module Submission Checklist

  1. Submit your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  2. Submit the PDF of your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.
  3. Submit a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to submit multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  4. Upload your files to the ABA Dropbox by March 1, 2022.

Click here for some expert advice offered by Birding magazine’s Editor, Ted Floyd, on writing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Photography – Supporting Module

Your photographs for this module must be digital. All of the photographs you submit should be of wild birds, though they may be interacting with people or manmade structures. For example, backyard and feeder birds are allowed. Photos will be judged on overall artistic merit, creativity, and technical skill as well as labeling. Minimum entry is six photographs, with a maximum of 10.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Photography Module:

The Photography Module is to be submitted in TWO formats.

1. Create a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation of all 6–10 high-resolution photos that you are submitting for the judges to review. After each photo slide, please include a single slide as a summary slide. Make sure to include on that title slide:

    1. The title of the piece.
    2. The name(s) of the bird(s).
    3. The camera and settings used to take the photo.
    4. A short two-to-five sentence commentary for each photo. Please, do not use fonts smaller than 18 points.

Note: We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with a sentence or two letting us know if you had adult help on this module.

2. Export your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF.

File label for the Photography Module entry format:
YourName-Age-Photography (example: RachelCarson-16-Photography)

Sample Photography Module presentation >>

Photography Module Submission Checklist

1. Submit your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, which includes a summary slide with each photo.

2. Submit your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF.

3. Submit a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the contest, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to submit multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)

4. Upload your files to the ABA Dropbox by March 1, 2022.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.