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16-Year-Old Aaron Gyllenhaal Sets New Birding Record

More than 276 species in a single year!

Aaron Gyllenhaal is only 16 years old, but he can identify more than 1,000 species of birds! In October 2013, Aaron set a new record, having observed more than 276 species in a single year in Cook County, Illinois. Such an accomplishment requires perseverance. Finding a Lapland Longspur, like this one, was a challenge. “For whatever reason, it took me about 30 tries to get one,” says Aaron. “So that was my nemesis bird for the year."
Aaron finished 2013 with a total of 281 species. Yeah! Good going, Aaron!

Full Transcript



Sixteen-Year-Old Sets New Birding Record

With Aaron Gyllenhaal

Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Song of Yellow-rumped Warbler]

At 16, he can already identify more than 1,000 species of birds on sight. And in October 2013, Aaron Gyllenhaal [JILL-en-hall] of Oak Park, Illinois, broke the old record by seeing more than 276 species in a single year in Cook County. 

“I personally love birds because not only are they like beautiful and…like nature, which is something that is vastly unappreciated these days…there's just so much to be learned about them, and I just really want to be there when it’s learned.” 

[Song of Baltimore Oriole, then Nashville Warbler in background]

A favorite birding spot for Aaron is a park near Chicago* that juts out into Lake Michigan.

“It’s just crazy there! Like a good day in May, I’ve had 28 warbler species there in one day…And the diversity is extremely good…birds everywhere! Warblers, vireos, flycatchers, cuckoos, orioles, the list goes on and on. It’s really awesome.” 

[Song of Lapland Longspur]

But setting the record requires perseverance and encouragement. Take for instance, finding a Lapland Longspur. 

“For whatever reason it took me about 30 tries to get one of them finally. So that was my nemesis bird for the year.”

The encouragement? That’s where Aaron’s dad comes in. 

“Yah, if he wasn’t there to like drive me around and all that, and just be enthusiastic with me, I would not enjoy it as much as I do.”

Did somebody help you get interested in nature? Share your story at And see a few of Aaron’s awesome photos. 


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Yellow-rumped Warbler [104566] recorded by G.F. Budney; song of Baltimore Oriole [12483] by A.A. Allen; song of Nashville Warbler [22836] by Fish and Budney; song of Lapland Longspur [132125] by Gerrit Vyn. 

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to January 2014 Narrator: Mary McCann Marantz V Tracks 414, 410, 411

ID#     gyllenhaala-01-2014-01-03 gyllenhaala-01 *Montrose Park

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