Regional field guides & checklists: 1964-2009

Thomas R. Dunlap’s excellent In the Field, among the Feathered: a History of Birders and Their Guides (Oxford University Press, 2011) describes how bird guides gradually improved over time. One important innovation was the development of place- or region-specific guides and checklists.

In this post, I note 7 such guides and checklists with an eye on the California condor.

This first booklet does not include the California condor among its 255 listed bird species:

01 Ruth 1964 - front cover

Even the sub-list of species “not to be expected normally” does not include the condor.

The next booklet was published in 1966 by the Golden Gate Audubon Society:

02 McCaskie & De Benedictis 1966 - front cover

Here, the California condor is classified as “rare” and some range details are provided:

Still regularly seen along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley north to southeastern San Benito County and along the east side north to Fresno County, occasionally farther north.

Another booklet is for a region to the south:

03a Metcalf 1967 - front cover

The text here indicates that California condors will be seen less than 25% of the time on visits “to the right place”. Some of those right places are described and shown in a fine map credited to Richard J. Smith:

03b Metcalf 1967 - map

Next is a checklist in the form of a single, folded sheet of paper:

04a Jehl & McCaskie 1967 - front cover

The relevant text is to the point:

04b Jehl & McCaskie 1967 - text

This single, folded page is dated 1972:

05a Anon 1972 - a

Codes indicate that California condors are seen in the winter, albeit rarely, in the city and foothills of Palo Alto (near Stanford University):

05b Anon 1972 - b

Another single, folded page describes the California condor as “extirpated from county”:

06 Garrett & Kimball 1989 - front cover

In fact, there were no California condors in the wild anywhere in the world when this Los Angeles County checklist was published.

A decade-old booklet describes itself as “the official checklist of birds recorded in California, as maintained by the Western Field Ornithologists’ California Bird Records Committee”:

07a - Anon 2009 - front cover

Here is the relevant text:

07b - Anon 2009 - text

That code E indicates a species “extirpated as naturally occurring in California”.

Finally, I note a different sort of list:

08 Anon 1984 - front cover

Published in 1984, this single sheet measures just 4 × 7 inches when folded but 4 × 50 inches when unfolded. When I first unfolded this document, I was surprised by its size. No doubt the creators wanted to make an impression.

The list includes animals and plants. The California condor is the 1st species listed under the Falconiformes (birds of prey).

Two posts related to this one are Place-specific check lists from the 19th century and Field guides: 1904-1950.

I plan a future post about the many checklists published by the American Birding Association.