Big Sit Birding

By Sharon Stiteler

White-throated Sparrow

The Big Sit is a fun and casual way to watch birds. The basic idea is that you sit in one spot for 24 hours and tally up how many different species are observed either by sight or sound.

This October 12 national park rangers Sharon Stiteler and Gordon Dietzman will host a Big Sit at Coldwater Spring from 7:30 AM – 6:30 PM using a 17-foot diameter count circle.

People are welcome to join them to help count birds or to learn more about bird identification, bird photography or birding apps. This is a low-key affair that happens to involve a little citizen science. If you want to stick out the whole day with the rangers and see every possible bird, you can be there the whole day. If you prefer to stop by for only an hour or two to see what this whole birding thing is about, that’s ok.

Snacks will be on hand, but if you plan to join the rangers all day, bring a lunch and something to drink. At the end of the day, participants are welcome to head over to Axel’s in Mendota for a Birds and Beers, an informal gathering of birders in the Twin Cities.

Here are the official Big Sit rules (which are slightly modified from the official Big Sit hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest). If you wish to hotlink:


Bird observations can only be made from within a pre-determined 17-foot (diameter) circle.

Birds can be counted if they are seen or heard.

There's no limit to how many people can occupy one circle (other than the obvious spatial limitations). Bring a chair if you think you will be there all day.

If a bird is seen or heard from within the circle but is too distant to identify, the circle can be left to get a closer look/listen to confirm the bird's identity. However, any new bird species seen or heard while confirming the original can't be counted unless it's seen or heard from an "anchor" who stayed behind in the count circle, or is seen by you when you return to your circle.

Tally the number of species that you observe. We will submit our final totals to eBird.

Big Sit participants can work in shifts. No one person needs to be there throughout the whole Big Sit, however one park ranger will be present throughout the day of our sit. The area can be left and returned to as frequently as desired, but you must be sure to return to the exact 17-foot diameter circle each time to count the birds.

The same circle must be used for the entire Big Sit!