Youth Identifies 225 Bird Species in Kansas

Youth Identifies 225 Bird Species in Kansas

PRATT – Cardinals, sparrows, bluejays and doves might be the extent of your bird identification knowledge, and that’s okay, but wouldn’t it be neat to know what kind of bird is plucking those bugs off your bumper? Or what kind of bird is building a nest in your favorite tree out back? For birders, keeping a running tally of the species they identify is an ongoing challenge. And for Sam Schermerhorn, Wamego, who competed in the youth category of the 2015 Kansas Birding Big Year contest, that tally was 225 species observed during the year. Schermerhorn won his category, comparing respectably to the overall winner, Andrew Burnett, who observed 317 species, an outstanding total for the state.

For three years running, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has hosted a Birding Big Year contest where participants join in a friendly competition to see who can identify the most bird species in a calendar year. The competition is divided into three age categories: youth (17 and under), adult (18-64), and senior (65+), with the adult category being broken down into three skill levels.

The results for 2015 were spectacular:



1st – Matt Gearheart, 288

2nd – Pete Janzen, 262

3rd – E.J. Raynor, 259

4th – Brett Sandercock, 256

5th – Carol Morgan, 231


1st – Andrew Burnett, 317

2nd – Sue Newland, 283

3rd – Malcom Gold, 277

4th – Nick Varvel, 275

5th – Tom Ewert, 245


1st – Don Merz, 287

2nd – Jennifer Hammett, 252

3rd – Todd Becker, 172


1st – Sam Schermerhorn, 225

2nd – Ella Burnett, 194

3rd – Joshua Keating, 142

4th – Jacob Keating, 137

5th – Emma Littich, 91


1st – Mick McHugh, 267

2nd – Dan Larson, 241

3rd – John Row, 208


1st – Andrew Burnett (Erie) - Adult, Intermediate, 317 species

2nd – Matt Gearheart (Lenexa) - Adult, Advanced, 288 species

3rd – Don Merz (Horton) - Adult, Novice, 287 species

4th – Sue Newland (Wakarusa) - Adult, Intermediate, 283 species

5th – Malcom Gold (Overland Park) - Adult, Intermediate, 277 species

Apart from bragging rights, winners of the 2015 contest will receive prizes donated from several sponsors, including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, The Coleman Company, Acorn Naturalists of Tustin, Calif., and the KDWPT Education Section.

The winners of each category will also each receive matted and framed original ink drawings of native Kansas bird species, drawn and donated by Dr. Robert Penner of Ellinwood, as well as a signed copy of Penner’ book, Birds of Cheyenne Bottoms. Dr. Penner is the land steward and avian projects coordinator for the Nature Conservancy at Cheyenne Bottoms.

If you’re interested in participating in the 2016 competition, visit for details.

Whether it’s time spent outdoors, or time spent with the ones you love that will get you out the front door, consider making birding an item on your to-do list this year. And take a kid with you.