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Birmingham Zoo is excited to announce the top placing teams of the first annual Alabama Bird Search – Youth Challenge (ABS) and T-shirt Art Contest. During this state-wide, twenty-four-hour “Big Day” competitive birding event, youth teams ranging from prekindergarten through high school compete against other teams in their age division for most species identified, among other categories, for prizes and recognition. The competition ended in a recognition and awards picnic at the zoo on April 20, 2024.

High School team, Bama Kingbirds, identified 171 species in twenty-four hours, setting a Big Day record for the ABS and for an exclusively youth-led team in Alabama. For comparison, the American Birding Association’s (ABA) Big Day record for an adult-led team in Alabama, is 202 species, set in 1983 by Dwight Cooley and Mark Brown. Until now, no records have been kept for exclusively youth-led teams. According to the ABA, the Bama Kingbirds tied their 5th place Big Day record of 171 species set in 1983. As the overall winning team, Bama Kingbirds received their choice of $100 gift cards or new binoculars.

Sixty-four participants, comprising 17 teams from across Alabama, vied for the top spots in Alabama’s first birding competition for youth. Teams placing first in their age division received a set of binoculars for each teammate. Second and third place teams also received prizes.

The top placing teams are the following:

Overall Winners – Mason Currier, Ellis Halgren, Clara Halgren and Ava Lyerly of high school team Bama Kingbirds found 171 species. The team members are from Mobile, Decatur, and Tuscaloosa.

Ellis and Clara Halgren are pictured below with Jess Searcy, education programs curriculum specialist at the Birmingham Zoo.


AnyBody Can Bird Award – Nate Bird Nerds


High School Division

First Place with 81 species – Trojan Birders

Second Place with 37 species – Rockin’ Robins


Middle School Division

First Place with 27 species – Bluebird and Cormorant are Friends

Second Place with 20 species – The Little Stitches


Elementary (3rd-5th grade) Division

First Place with 43 species – Nate Bird Nerds

Second Place with 39 species – Eagle Eyes

Third Place with 23 species – Blue Jays


Primary (preK-2nd grade) Division

Tie for First Place with 26 species – The “Peep”les and Hines Bird Nerds

Second Place with 19 species – Bald Eagles

Third Place with 16 species – Auburn Birders


The T-shirt Art Contest collected thirty-six submissions from youth across the state. The grand prize-winning art, a Prothonotary Warbler by Brooklyn Burdine, a 7th grader from Albertville, Al, will be featured on the event’s T-shirt next year.

Brooklyn Burdine show here winning art to Jess Searcy, education programs curriculum specialist at the Birmingham Zoo.


The remaining winners of the T-shirt Art Contest are the following:

Winner Primary Division (PreK-2nd) – Nehara Bakshi, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Winner Elementary Division (3rd-5th) – Winsley Woods, Northern Cardinal

Overall Winner and Winner Middles School Division – Brooklyn Burdine, Prothonotary Warbler

Winner High School Division – Magy Dearman, American Robin

Honorable mention – Annabelle Williamson, “It’s a great day for birding!”


The mentor award, recognizing volunteer mentors for their time and efforts coaching teams for the competition went to Henry Veldman. Veldman, who lives in Michigan, flew to Alabama to coach the Twin Swallows and Bluebird and Cormorant are Friends teams. Mary Middleton, who organized and coached three teams from Auburn, was also recognized.


Birmingham Zoo is deeply grateful to its partners Alabama Audubon, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB), and Jefferson County Parks and Preserves: Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain and Turkey Creek, for the successful organization of the inaugural Alabama Bird Search Youth Challenge and the zoo looks forward to partnering for the event again next year. Birmingham Zoo would also like to thank BassPro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for contributing $2000 to the ABS prize fund. Wild Birds Unlimited in Hoover also donated prizes.

To learn more about the ABS and T-shirt art competition, please visit the Birmingham Zoo’s Education Events page at and follow hashtag #AlabamaBirdSearch on social media.

The ABS Youth Challenge is directly modeled after the highly successful Youth Birding Competition hosted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since 2006, collaborating with the Georgia Ornithological Society (GOS) and several local Audubon Chapters in that state. Through the influence of this competition, many Georgia youth have been introduced to birding and encouraged to grow into active members of the birding community and become dedicated conservationists. Birmingham Zoo hopes that a state-wide competition will give Alabama’s youth the same opportunity to learn about the great biodiversity of native birds, get outside enjoying a new sport and will “inspire passion to conserve the natural world,” which is the zoo’s mission.

Additional media can be found using hashtag #AlabamaBirdSearch on social media.

Alabama Audubon link:

AIDB link:

Ruffner Mountain:

Turkey Creek:

Red Mountain:




Bill Lang, Director of Marketing and Events,; 205.218.3561 I 2630 Cahaba Road I Birmingham, AL 35223


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