Bob Billings Big Year Award

The Bob Billings Big Year is a regional big year birding competition open to members of the DVOC.

Committee Members

2023 Winner

DVOC congratulates Ethan Kang, the winner of the 2023 Bob Billings Big Year Award. Ethan saw 280 species of birds in the DVOC program area in 2023, including two species new to the count: Sabine’s Gull and Red-flanked Bluetail. The award was presented to Ethan at the April 18 2024 DVOC meeting, with members of Bob Billings’s family present, and Ethan gave us a brief talk about his big year effort.

2023 award winner Ethan Kang (holding award plaque) with his parents, Tep Kang and Marian Quan; and to the right: Liz Billings (Bob Billings’ widow) and their daughter, Karen Walter. Photo by Barb Bassett.

Past Winners


John R. (“Bob”) Billings was a member of DVOC for 44 years, from 1965 until his death in 2009. In his will, he left the club $2,000 to be invested, with the interest being used to give an annual award of $200 “to the person who recorded the largest number of birds in the calendar year.” He left it up to the club to determine the rules for the competition. The club has raised additional funds, aided by a $1,000 matching challenge from Hart Rufe and Jewel Rufe, to add to the investment, so that the award can be given annually in perpetuity.


The full rules and various resources are given below. Everyone who wishes to enter the competition is encouraged to familiarize themselves with them. The person who identifies, by sight or sound, the largest number of bird species in the calendar year will be the winner, and will be awarded a $200 prize. The competition area is restricted to the DVOC program area (southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware), as further specified below.

Competition Rules

These rules are the result of the work of the Billings Award Committee in consultation with the Trustees, with input from many other club members.

The award shall be named the “Bob Billings Big Year Award.”

The competition will be held each calendar year, and the award given each year, in perpetuity.

a. The winner will be awarded $200.00, as specified in Bob Billings’ will.
b. If there is a tie, the $200.00 prize will be split equally between the winners.
c. The $200 award will come from the earnings of the invested funds earmarked for this award; and the investment will be managed, and each year’s earnings will be determined, by the Trustees.
d. If the earnings from the investment in any given year are less than $200, the Billings Award Committee will fund-raise to make up the difference. If the earnings from the investment in any given year exceed $200, the excess will be re-invested.

a. All DVOC members are eligible to compete for the prize, so long as they are members in good standing for the entire year in which they are competing.
b. The previous year’s winner can compete, but no one can win 2 years in a row. This includes ties.

All birds must be identified, by sight or sound, in the DVOC program area, as defined in the Competition Area List and Competition Area Map provided below, including the pelagic waters of New Jersey and Delaware as defined by the NJ and DE state records committees.

a. Except as detailed in rule 6b below, all birds on the official bird list of the state in which the bird is seen, as established by the official state records committee for that state, are eligible; full species only (subspecies will not count as separate birds). Persons competing for the award should carry an appropriate checklist in the field and record the date and the location (county and state) of each sighting. A Composite Checklist of the 3 states’ official lists is provided below.
b. Species that are not on the official bird list of the state in which they are seen, or that are on the official review list of that state (also called “documentation required” or “under review”) will be accepted at the discretion of the judges, if accompanied by adequate documentation as detailed on the Rare Bird Report Form provided below. State review lists are included in the Composite Checklist provided below.
c. Any changes (due to lumps or splits, newly-accepted species, etc.) will follow the most recent revision of each state’s official checklist, in force as of December 31 of the year of the competition.
d. Listing will follow current ABA rules: each bird recorded must be seen and positively identified, or heard and positively identified, by the person competing. In addition, the ABA Code of Ethics must be followed during the competition (no trespassing, etc.).

a. Everyone competing should hand in their checklists and any supporting documentation to the Billings Award Committee within 1 month of the end of the year in which they are competing. On the back of the checklist they should list their name, species total, write that they have adhered to all the rules of the competition, and sign and date the checklist.
b. The person recording the largest number of bird species, according to the above rules, will be declared the winner. If two or more people have the same total, the winner will be a tie.
c. Judging will be done by the Billings Award Committee. The committee will review the submitted checklists, accept or reject reported rare species based on the supporting documentation, verify the species total, and make a judgment on whether all rules were complied with.
d. No member of the Billings Award Committee who is competing will participate in the judging during the year in which they are competing. If this results in fewer than 3 committee members being eligible to judge, the DVOC President will appoint one or more ad hoc judges for that year, to bring the number of judges up to three. Ad hoc judges appointed by the President may or may not be DVOC members.
e. (Revised 4/4/2016) Judging will be completed before the end of February; and as a condition of the award, the winner will accept the award at a regularly-scheduled DVOC meeting soon thereafter, with the Billings family in attendance at their convenience.

These rules can be amended at any time by majority vote of the Billings Award Committee, so long as the rules continue to comply with the terms of Bob Billings’ will and the financial implications are acceptable to the Trustees. Changes will not apply until the following year’s competition.