Do you never leave the house without your binoculars?  Even indoors, are birds always on your mind? How would you like to stretch and grow your birding skills under the guidance of some of the most respected birders in North America and have a lot of fun in the process? If you are age 10 to 18 years old and enjoy any or all aspects of birding, then the ABA Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program is for you!

The ABA YBY Mentoring Program is designed to appeal to a broad range of interests and talents. Do you enjoy taking detailed field notes on birds and their behaviors, and habitats? Do you draw or photograph birds? Write about birds? Do you dream of being involved in bird conservation or bird-related community action?  If so, then you should enter!

Contestants can choose from the five modules to customize the contest to fit their own talents and interests. Below, you will find the important details:

The field work portion of the mentoring program runs from April 15 through October 1, 2020. Any and all works submitted for the program must be started and completed between those dates. Submitted materials must be postmarked by October 1, 2020. With the exception of the Illustration modules, all other entries will be submitted on a thumb drive and mailed to the ABA headquarters. Participants in the Illustration module must mail the originals to the ABA office, and submit digital files of their portfolio, as stated in the module requirements. Please refer to the submission details for more information on the individual modules.

There are two age groups eligible for module entry and overall Young Birder of the Year 10 to 13 and 14 to 18

Your age group is determined by your age on October 1, 2020. If you are not yet 10 on that day, or if you are 19 or over on that day, we sadly have to say, you are not eligible.

There are five modules you may choose to enter in the mentoring program.

Two are major modules – Field Notebook and the Conservation/Community Leadership modules, the other three are supporting modules – Illustration, Writing, and Photography.

  • Field Notebook: 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! Participants in this module will submit the field notes and writeups of a day in the field; this includes a 3 samples of hand-written notes/sketches done in the field, a formal write up of the day spent birding, and an annotated eBird checklist complete with sound recording and photo documentation.. Participants will be evaluated on the thoroughness of their documentation in the field and the follow up formal report, and eBird checklist, as well as their ability to ask questions and discover new things all while enjoying fieldcraft.
  • Conservation/Community Leadership:  Here’s your chance to make a difference and change something you care about for the better. The American Birding Association’s mission is to inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds. You are never too young or too old to further this mission. Birds are the great equalizer, they can bring people of all types together and allow you to engage others into enjoying and taking care of birds too.  Begin this module by picking a project involving a conservation project, an educational endeavor, or inspiring the enjoyment and/or protection of wild birds in others in your local community or an online community. Then submit your idea for approval. Once it  is approved; carry on with your goal, documenting your progress along the way and telling the story with photographs and video or your favorite medium.
  • Illustration: Involves rendering wild birds via drawing or painting birds that you study or come across in your yard and that interest you.
  • Writing: Write about your experience with birds, birders, birding, and your experiences with any or all of them, whether it be a short story, essay or even text for a graphic novel. Or be creative and write from a creative standpoint, or a journalistic style.
  • Photography: Photographing wild birds can tell a story, highlight their beauty, or illustrate behavior, identification, or emotional impact.

Module Goals

There will be a Gold, Silver and Bronze placement awarded in each age category, in each of the five modules. The top 3 finishers in each module per age group will be listed on the ABA YBY Mentoring Program results webpage. The mentors will be giving you feedback on how to fine tune your skills to refine your work going forward.

The ABA’s Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program

In order to work toward for the overall award of the title Young Birder of the Year, you may either:

1. Complete BOTH of the major modules – Field Notebook and Conservation/Community Leadership this qualifies you to be considered for the Young Birder of the year 2021


2.  Complete ONE of the major modules – Field Notebook or Conservation/Community Leadership – and TWO of the three supporting modules – Illustration, Writing, and Photography. In this case your overall score will be 50% of your score on the major module plus 25% of your score on each of the two supporting modules.

We will be awarding a special title of the Young Birder of the Year 2021 in each of the two age divisions. Finalists will be announced during the month of February 2021.

Previous Young Birder of the Year finalists may compete in individual modules provided they meet the age requirements, but they are NOT eligible to have the title bestowed upon them  more than one time in a given age division. It is possible to win the title in the 10 – 13 Division, and then again in the 14 -18 Division, provided you meet the age requirements.

You are not required to try for the title of  the Young Birder of the Year to participate in the program. You may choose to participate in only one module in order to hone those particular skills.

2022 Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program
April 20, 2021

Dear Young Birders & Families,

Thank you for your interest in the 2022 Young Birder of the Year (YBY) Mentoring Program! We at the ABA are excited that we are in the final stages of hiring a permanent Coordinator for our celebrated and successful young birder programs, including the 2022 YBY Mentoring Program. As soon as that person is hired, we will announce the 2022 guidelines.

Although you are of course welcome to review recent program guidelines, we also note that the 2022 guidelines will be different. In particular, we expect substantial changes to the Field Notebook module, as well as smaller changes to the other modules. Please do not enter the 2022 contest until you have received a green light from the ABA to do so!

On another front, we regret that we are not yet able to email 2021 entrants the judges’/mentors’ comments on entrants’ modules. When we have all comments in hand at ABA headquarters, we will quickly turn them around to 2021 entrants.

Thanks again for your interest. All of us at the ABA were tremendously impressed by the portfolios of the 2021 YBY Mentoring Program entrants—especially in such a challenging year. And we can’t wait to hear from many of you, returning entrants and new entrants alike, in the year ahead.If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].

Sincerely Yours,

Jeffrey A. Gordon, President

Jennie Duberstein, Young Birder Liaison


Each module entry will be accessed by a panel of three highly regarded birding professionals with expertise in that particular field. Mentor feedback and comments will be based on quality, accuracy, creativity, mechanics, techniques, and adherence to contest rules and the submission guidelines. Use your creativity – so be sure to follow instructions. Each participant will receive a written evaluation from each mentor with helpful remarks and advice for building your birding skills. Repeating year after year is encouraged to gain feedback that will help you to improve your skills and submissions the following year.

Why Are We Doing This?

The ABA is committed to inspire, encourage, and develop thoughtful all-around birding skills in young, aspiring birders by providing them with the opportunity to receive personal advice and guidance from the pillars of our birding community.  By providing a goal oriented, age-appropriate and challenging mentoring program, the ABA believes the young birders will discover new skills and enhance their talents, benefitting our entire community and the world.

Thank You to Our Mentoring Program Supporters

The YBY Mentoring Program has been blessed with some very loyal and dedicated supporters who show their support of nurturing young birders by generously donating prizes, services, and financial support. Please visit our supporter page and click onto their  links and show your gratitude for their kindness by patronizing them.

If you would like to become a mentor or would like to donate birding related rewards or otherwise support the ABA YBY Mentoring Program, please contact [email protected].

There are a total of five modules that make up the areas of mentorship designed to accommodate a full spectrum of interests in young birders. The five modules are Field Notebook, Conservation/Community Leadership, Illustration, Writing, and Photography. 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 to 18 years. In addition, we will award  the title of Young Birder of the Year 2021 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. If your desire is to represent the ABA with the title of the Young Birder of the Year 2021, you have two choices in which to  participate either submit your work in both major modules (“major modules” being Field Notebook and Conservation/Community Leadership), OR one major module and two supporting modules (“supporting modules” being Illustration, Writing, and Photography).

Every participant must also submit a one page PDF that includes a personal bio which includes a photo, brief history of how you came to be a birder and your goals and dreams around your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. Credit anyone and everyone who has helped you, including adults. You will not be penalized for admitting that adults mentored you. In fact, we encourage you to ask for help, and to acknowledge those who assisted you. This helps the mentors to get to know you and understand you and meet you where you are instead of assuming.

This is the second year we will be using a communication program called SLACK. Slack workspaces increase communication and collaboration between the YBYMP’s participants, mentors, parents, and organizers.

SLACK is a requirement for entering the mentoring program as ALL communications and questions will be answered in the workspace.

Don’t worry parents have their own workspace which will allow them to get to know each other, brag about their young birder, and/or ask questions privately to the YBYMP Staff. SLACK also  smooths the way for when you make new birding friends your parents can communicate with your new friend’s parents to ensure everyone feels safe.

If you have not used Slack before, it is a business messaging app, like iMessage or Skype.

ABA’s Slack Workspace contains various channels which will allow current contestants to message each other, the judges, YBY organizers, and previous contestants/YBYMP alumni in a safe and protected manner. This is the perfect way to ask questions such as:

  • What is the best way to organize my photos in a Powerpoint?
  • Can someone proofread my essays for the Writing module?
  • I don’t get what I should include in my Field Notebook, what are you including in yours?
  • I’m going birding in Florida and would like to take pictures somewhere cool, does anyone have any recommendations of where to go?

And any other questions that you may have.

(The ABA staff and board uses Slack everyday as so many of us live and work remotely.)

After you are registered you will be given details on how to access our private YBYMP Slack workspace.   Until then, you can email us with any questions at [email protected] or call the ABA-HQ at 1-800-850-BIRD (2473).

ENTRY SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: The following group of instructions, requirements and guidelines have been established to best serve both the participants and judges. Due to the ever-increasing popularity and increases in enrollment for the program, any module entry deviating from the submission requirement instructions will be eligible for disqualification. Slack is your friend to ask questions to avoid problems.

Click here for more detailed instructions for each module.