Fly beyond your binoculars in 2024 with Indiana Audubon for a fun challenge where virtual reality and citizen science collide!

What is Fantasy Birding?

Like a real Birding Big Year, the goal is to find as many species as possible within the boundaries of Indiana. When playing Fantasy Birding, you are the player who is the fantasy birder, and your chosen location anywhere in Indiana determines the birds you may or may not see, as the birds you log are based on real-time eBird sightings at your fantasy location. Thus, the basic strategy centers on on when and where a player chooses their locations each day. Calendars in each game allow players to pre-select their location, or they may “chase” real rarities via the Fantasy Birding. You can read more in this Audubon article. The time and effort involved is truly up to you.

What do I Win?

Aside from being the Champion of all things Indiana Fantasy Birding, we want you to explore and try it out for many benefits. For starters, just learning where rarities are and their timing gives us a better perspective on the amazing migration that greets us twice a year. But if that’s not enough for ya’ we have some prizes too.

  • Find 100 Species anywhere in the state and receive an IAS Fantasy Birding Sticker with this form, and you’ll go into a drawing for one year family membership to Indiana Audubon, (or renewal at current level).
  • Find 200 Species fantasy birding anywhere in the state and go into a drawing for Audubon t-shirts and other merch, private guided birding tours, and other gear. Multiple prize winners!
  • Find 300 Species and go into a drawing for the 2025 Indiana Dunes Birding Festival full-ride, including a pair of registration tickets, including Birds & Brews and the Saturday night Keynote dinner. Two winners!
  • Make the Fantasy Birding Top 10 and you’ll go into a drawing for all of the above prizes, and enter to win a pair of Kowa 8×30 YF II. You’ll likely bugged by us to lead a real field trip!
  • Compete in special monthly challenges to win other prizes! Each month’s challenge will be announced at the start of each month below.
MonthChallengePrize DrawingWinner
January ChallengeFind 100 Species in the month Drawing for 1 Year IAS Membership and 2024 Indiana Birding Trail GuideSusie Marvel
February ChallengeFantasy bird from an Indiana Birding Trail Site a minimum of 15 days in February. Drawing for a 2024/2025 Indiana Birding Trail Guide and One Basic 4-Day Registration to the 2024 Indiana Dunes Birding Festival.Christopher Bowen
March ChallengeIt’s March Madness! Target and find all 15 these early March migrants for the year:
American Woodcock
Greater Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
Turkey Vulture
Eastern Phoebe
Brown Thrasher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Tree Swallow
Smith’s Longspur
Fox Sparrow
Rusty Blackbird
Louisiana Waterthrush
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Family Pass Registration for the IAS Spring Gathering at Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary, Saturday, May 4, 2024 and printed copy of the 2024 Indiana Birding Trail Guide.Elizabeth Pearson
April ChallengeSpend a spring fantasy birding day at each week’s featured site.*
Week 1 (April 1-6): Lye Creek Burn
Week 2 (April 7-13): Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary
Week 3 (April 14-20): Patoka NWR
Week 4 (April 21-27): IN Dunes Longshore Tower

*You do not need to find a new species, merely select the site one day during that week.
The winner takes home the IAS 6 Sticker Set and a printed copy of the 2024 Indiana Birding Trail Guide.

Kirk Roth
May ChallengeFantasy Warbler Mania! Virtually log 25 species of warblers (Parulidae) for the year by the end of the month.One random eligible winner gets one of the new IAS Prothonotary Warbler Shirts.Amanda Barnett
June-JulySummer Break: No ChallengeWe’ll see you in the fall!

The Big Year starts January 1, 2024 and ends on December 31st at midnight. You can join the online discussion and strategy 24/7 on the Fantasy Birding Big Year Discord Channel. Winners will be notified after January 10, 2025.

We hope you join us for Indiana Audubon’s Fantasy Big Year 2024. Ready to dive in before January 1st, practice in our December Tutorial Game. You can learn more and access the 2024 game Here.



Frequently Asked Questions

Can locations be changed once they have been set?
Yes. However, if either the local time at the desired new location or the local time at the already chosen location are later than 6:00 AM on the day you plan to bird there, you will not be allowed to make the change. This is to prevent players from taking advantage of time-zone differences. Each player will automatically get credit for all sightings within a 5-kilometer radius of the specified location, as long as they are made within the corresponding 24-hour period and reported to eBird within 48 hours. (Thus, birds seen at your Wednesday location may not show up on your list until Friday.)

What species are considered “countable”?
The list of birds that count toward your year list essentially corresponds to the American Birding Association’s latest Checklist. Sensitive species per Indiana eBird filters are automatically assigned to you at the start.

If a bird isn’t reported within 48 hours, is it gone forever?
The 48-hour mark is the cutoff beyond which the game will no longer automatically check for birds on your behalf. However, you have two tools you can use to check past locations for late-reported birds. For each past date on your calendar, you will see a Check Hotspots button — this will fetch all checklists submitted from hotspots within your circle on that date, and add any new birds found to your list. Alternatively, if you know of a particular eBird checklist (from a hotspot or a personal location) for which you haven’t gotten credit, you can put that checklist’s ID into the text box on the corresponding calendar date and submit it for consideration. (The checklist ID will be an “S” followed by a sequence of numbers, and is clearly displayed on the eBird page for that list.)

What happens to birds that are still under review when the game ends?
eBird reviewers have a lot on their plate, and many observations – some valid, some invalid – inevitably remain provisional at the end of the year. To help ensure that you aren’t unfairly denied any of these, the game will run an automatic process at the end of the year for assessing lingering provisional observations. The rule used is this: if any observation of species X has been confirmed this year in the same county as your observation of species X, then your observation will be confirmed.

I’m still having issues. Who can I contact?
Message us at [email protected] or any of our social media channels and we’ll try to get your issues solved ASAP.

Copyright © 2024 Indiana Audubon Society, Inc.

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