Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Considering Birds Together: Global Big Day with A Rocha

by Autumn Ayers, SoCal A Rocha


“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26 ESV)

When Jesus perceives anxiety in the hearts of His followers, He encourages them to consider the birds. Paying attention to these familiar creatures reminds the listeners that God is providing for creation constantly. Given His deep care for the smallest forms of life, how much more will God provide good things for humans made in His image?

Have you noticed the birds have seemed especially talkative in the last several months? Perhaps they’re reclaiming the space humans have withdrawn from; perhaps we’re more attentive to the songs they have been singing all along; or, perhaps the sheer number of birds is greater during the May migration. Regardless, Jesus’ words remind us that when we interrupt anxious thoughts, we can perceive the order and beauty of life more clearly.

Mindful of this and witnessing the uncertainty, fear, frustration, and restlessness caused by the pandemic, SoCal A Rocha Director Mark McReynolds organized an A Rocha initiative for participation in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day. This annual one-day project celebrates the birds around us through observations in backyards or nearby nature spots and recordings collected from around the world.

Our A Rocha team included both seasoned and novice birders from five U.S. states and three countries who contributed findings toward the global team effort. Together, we observed* 86 unique species and 348 individual birds. While keeping social distancing rules in physical isolation, we gathered remotely as a community to enjoy a multitude of beautiful birds together.  Outside of A Rocha’s group, the Global Big Day 2020 was the largest in history! 50,000 people worldwide submitted 120,000 checklists from their observations: a new world record for number of participants and the most information collected in a single day of birding. All of the observations were submitted to eBird, a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders. Not only does this give participants a platform to encourage future birding, but the data will be available for scientific research, education, and conservation.

It’s easy to appreciate the beauty of birds: their plumage, their songs, and their flight. McReynolds explains, “Birds are attractive to people. We connect to them.”  At A Rocha, we understand that considering birds is also important conservation work. Oftentimes, birds are umbrella species; when we save them, we save many species beneath them. We have a long history of staff members who take an interest in birding, professionally and recreationally; including one of our founders, Peter Harris. His conservation efforts in Portugal began with bird work; so, in a way, bird conservation is core to what we do.

SoCal A Rocha hopes that participation in Global Big Day will grow throughout the larger A Rocha community in years to come, increasing attentiveness to and care of avian creatures.  As we obey Jesus’ instruction to consider them, may God grant us more peaceful and faithful hearts.

*See the full report of our observations here.

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