Friday, October 2, 2015

Noah Strycker's Global Year: World Record, Broken

This post is by no means breaking news, but Noah Strycker broke the Global Big Year world birding record on September 16. His record-breaking bird, bird number 4342, was Sri Lanka Frogmouth.

To me, the writing was on the wall very early in the year (see earlier posts); the record would easily be beaten given the pace Noah had set for himself. Perhaps, however, the most impressive element of breaking the record is the actual date in which he broke it...leaving a full 106 days in 2015 to widen the gap, making it increasingly difficult for a potential record challenger to be successful.

Noah set a personal goal for himself to see 5,000 species in 2015. Since I've been tracking his progress, the data has consistently indicated that he is very likely to break 6,000 species. The updated stats below still support this prediction, even though there has been a gradual (but hardly significant) decline in return over time.

Up to the end of September, the updated predicted date of when Noah will achieve seeing 5,000 species is Oct 19. On average, this depends on Noah seeing 22.8 new species per day, every day. On October 1 he added none; on October 2 he added 14. Birding is not without its surprises and challenges.  

I love this next graph...the sheer magnitude of the difference between previous global record holders and Noah's tally. On September 29th, Noah was 1,330 species ahead of previous-record holders at that same time of year. That is an impressive gap!

In this figure, each dot represents the number of new species Noah has added every day to his year total. There sure is a lot of variation in these data, and if this data says anything about predicting the future, it is that it will be difficult. The amount of variation in the daily tallies is very poorly explained by time, as R-square is only 3%. This is not terribly surprising, as the biggest factor contributing to the variation in number of new species is likely related to geography and the amount of time spent in an area (see my first post on this topic).

With all of this new data, the updated predicted year-end total for Noah is now 6,196 species.


  1. Ah, so some else is doing projections on this. Funny though. I have him currently averaging 16.7 new birds a day. So I have him hitting 5000 around Oct. 26th. But I'm assuming the daily intake may increase once in dives further into SE Asia and Indonesia. I hadn't added the full year til you mentioned it. So I just added that at have him reaching 6084. But again thats at the current rate of 16.7. But I'm an amateur stats freak and might have miscalculated somewhere. I loved the article. And yes his pace may take awhile to match. But someday Noah may try it again.

    1. You are correct that Noah is adding 16.7 new species per day on average. However, the regression analysis takes into account a 'constant', which results from not forcing the regression through 0. In regression analysis, it is rare to force the y-intercept through zero. The constant, albeit an important term in the regression analysis, is rarely useful from a practical standpoint...even in Noah's data it suggests he should have seen 232 species before he even started! The constant terms helps account for variation in the data itself (e.g., one day he saw 108 new species, and on three days he had zero), but also includes potential variation in model predictors that are not included in the model (e.g., fluctuations in weather; number of hours invested in birding each day). The regression analysis serves to predict what he will see by the end of the year, considering: a) only the data he collected so far, and b) some unexplained variation. Indeed, we have no idea what future variation will look like...we can only assume that it will look somewhat like the past. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Hi Michael,
    Would be great if you could do an update on your stats. Noah is closing in on 6000 but it feels like he may be running out of days - it's going to be close!

    1. I have updated the stats, just for you! Located here:

  3. Always nice to see your stats. I had predicted 6088 back on July 1st. It will be tight. Noah has had a colossal start to December, heading possibly toward his best month this year.

    I know it's never a given, but he only needs 8.8 birds/day to break 6000, an amazing feat.

    Now, will he shorten Australia by a day or so, move on to New Zealand, then try to add "an extra" by a jump over the international date line to Hawaii.