Additional Important Information

This section discusses various aspects of the species accounts and is essential for readers wishing to properly understand the information presented in this book.

Abbreviations. Most of the records addressed herein were originally published in North American Birds or its forerunners, abbreviated as follows: Audubon Field Notes = AFN; American Birds = AB; National Audubon Society Field Notes = FN; North American Birds = NAB. The defunct Canadian Birders Journal is abbreviated BJ. Birding World = BW. Western Birds, the journal of Western Field Ornithologists, is abbreviated WB.

Other standard abbreviations: American Birding Association = ABA; American Ornithologists’ Union = AOU; British Ornithologists’ Union = BOU; California Bird Records Committee = CBRC; National Park = NP; National Wildlife Refuge = NWR; standard deviation = SD.

Geographic regions. In the narrative, references to the Southwest, Southeast, Northwest, and Northeast refer to the United States. More generalized references—such as to the East, the West, the Atlantic coast, and the Pacific coast—refer to North America. Please refer to the maps in Appendix G, which identify many of the political entities and geographic regions cited in this book. Note that we employ the broadest definition of “Siberia,” including areas near the Pacific Ocean that are commonly regarded as the “Russian Far East.”

Sources of range information. This book’s range descriptions attempt to summarize the current range of each species treated, including instances of vagrancy outside of California, as of 31 May 2006 (selected later records are included, when known). These descriptions primarily summarize information from the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Check-list of North American Birds, seventh edition (AOU 1998), as supplemented in the following ways. Range information from British Columbia was provided by Rick Toochin, as supplemented by The Birds of British Columbia (Campbell et al. 1990a, 1990b, 1997, 2001). Birds of Washington (Wahl et al. 2005) provides recent information from that state, and Steven G. Mlodinow provided further updates. Range information for Oregon was derived from Birds of Oregon: A General Reference (Marshall et al. 2003) and the Oregon Bird Records Committee web page ( Arizona breeding ranges were recently detailed in the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas (Corman and Wise-Gervais 2005). Information on numerous vagrant records from the Baja California Peninsula during the period 1991–2000 comes from “New information on migrant birds in northern and central portions of the Baja California Peninsula, including species new to Mexico” (Erickson et al. 2001). Our final basic sources were accurate range maps in The Sibley Field Guides (Sibley 2003a, 2003b), which show instances of extralimital occurrence for each mapped species. To improve this book’s readability, we do not routinely cite range information obtained from the above-named references. We generally cite references for information that supplements or contradicts these primary sources.

For species considered to be casual or accidental in North America, we also referred to the American Birding Association’s ABA Checklist: Birds of the Continental United States and Canada, sixth edition (ABA 2002). Other useful sources of information, each of which is cited when used, included the published reports of state checklist committees, recent journal articles, the regional reports published in North American Birds and Birders Journal, and books on avian status and distribution.

Sources of information for accounts of briefly reviewed species. This book includes accounts for all species that the CBRC has ever reviewed, even if the review period was cut short after only a few years because the species was found to occur regularly in the state. In cases where the body of CBRC-vetted records is inadequate to serve this book’s purposes, our summaries of species’ occurrence in California reflect gleanings from the literature. Inescapably, these accounts are less authoritative than those built upon a foundation of records subjected to Committee review. The fairly arduous process of assembling these species accounts from disparate sources has highlighted the organizational value of maintaining a database of records (one of the best arguments for reviewing records of some of the more routine vagrants for longer instead of shorter periods). Having acknowledged the likelihood of increased rates of error with briefly reviewed species, we affirm having made a sincere effort to summarize their status by employing all of the useful materials at hand.

Comparable to the approach described above for geographic range information, this book’s accounts of various briefly reviewed species build upon a small number of standard references that are supplemented by other sources. For southern California, the main reference is Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution (Garrett and Dunn 1981), and for northern California it is Birds of Northern California: An Annotated Field List, 2nd ed. Reprinted with Supplement (McCaskie et al. 1988). For warblers, we build upon the many helpful summaries of the California status provided in A Field Guide to Warblers of North America (Dunn and Garrett 1997). Finally, “The occurrence and seasonal distribution of migratory birds on Southeast Farallon Island, 1968–1999” (Richardson et al. 2003) provides an excellent source of information for this important location, particularly in specifying early and late dates of occurrence as well as high daily counts. To improve readability, we do not routinely cite information obtained from the above-named references (except, e.g., when citing individual records or other very specific information).

We have made some use of California Birds: Their Status and Distribution (Small 1994) but, for reasons enunciated by Patten (1995) and expanded upon by Cicero and Johnson (1996), we have not relied upon it uncritically, and it is cited wherever it forms an important part of our treatment of a particular species.

Dates and date spans. Authors of the CBRC’s annual reports have long been encouraged to update the database with date spans published elsewhere, but compliance has been sporadic. Preparations for this book included a thorough review of the literature—including books and all past issues of North American Birds and its predecessors—in part to verify the dates of records. Through this process we identified many erroneous dates in the CBRC database, information corrected here without reference to other dates that may have been published in the annual reports. Most such discrepancies arise from the CBRC receiving reports that cover only part of a bird’s known stay. The CBRC’s policy is to accept the widest published date span unless there is reason to question certain dates. Similarly, in cases where another bird records committee has accepted a date span narrower than that given elsewhere, this book specifies the wider published date span.

In the table of records, the symbol “#” placed before the number of individuals denotes that some of the birds treated on that line of the table remained longer than others. This symbol should be read as “up to” the specified number of birds. For example, a record involving “#4” individuals during the period 1 January–28 February might have involved three birds recorded through 31 January and only one that stayed until 28 February. Similarly, the symbol “$” should be read as “at least.” Readers requiring a greater level of detail for such records should refer to the original CBRC report, which is specified on the same line of the table, and possibly the applicable seasonal report in North American Birds or its predecessors.

Asterisk records. A limited number of accepted records were not reviewed in the usual fashion because of a lack of extant documentation. These records can be recognized by an asterisk (*) in the column of the record table normally used to denote the bird’s age or sex, and they fall into three categories. First are lost specimens of six species (Emperor Goose, Yellow Rail, Upland Sandpiper, Parakeet Auklet, Snowy Owl, Yellow-green Vireo) dating from 1883 to 1933. All were examined by prominent ornithologists, were published in the ornithological literature, and have been widely accepted ever since. Second are four records of Yellow Rail nests from Mono County, and additional birds heard, in 1922 and 1939. The final category, which includes records from 1969 to 2001, involves individual birds that were judged to be resident in the state over a long period of time (see, for example, the Barred Owl account) or that returned to one location during a particular season over several years (see, for example, the Thick-billed Kingbird account). In all cases the individuals were adequately documented during one or more periods, and additional periods of occurrence were accepted for completeness. More information on these “asterisk records” appeared in the 30th CBRC report (Cole et al. 2006).

Returning birds. Birds are treated as returning for multiple years if this is the CBRC’s majority opinion. Unless a bird is distinctively and permanently marked, its returning status can only be presumed, and readers should bear this in mind when reading the tables and narratives. In rare cases where a bird is believed to have returned to multiple locations in different years, the record table specifies a location only for the first occurrence at each new site. Thus all occurrences of the same individual in subsequent years refer back to the last location specified in the record table.

Determinations of age and sex. In all but the most obvious or well-studied cases, age and sex information for non-specimen records contains an element of speculation. In order to reduce this inherent uncertainty, and to make the CBRC’s database more consistent, the editors and expert reviewers undertook fairly extensive efforts to re-evaluate age and sex for accepted records. Where included, this information takes into account (a) the consensus judgment of the voting members who commented, (b) the published record, and (c) the judgment of experts who reviewed draft species accounts. Ultimately, it reflects the judgment of the editors and Peter Pyle, who reviewed the entire manuscript and who served as the final arbiter in these matters. Age and sex information is not specified in cases where we have concluded that existing documentation is inadequate to support a determination, or where the record has not been reviewed critically for the purpose of making a determination. Thus the age and sex information reported here supersedes that published in previous CBRC reports. In a few cases, age and/or sex information is listed for records that have not been submitted for CBRC review (i.e., records listed under “Not submitted”) in order to help distinguish one record from another. We hope that the Committee can eventually review all historical records for age and sex determinations and that our efforts here will set an example for the presentation of such information in future CBRC reports.

Age-coding system. Age coding in the tables of accepted records follows the calendar-based terminology devised by the United States Geologic Survey Bird Banding Laboratory and detailed by Pyle (1997b). We prefer a calendar-based system because other age-coding systems, including those based on plumage terminologies set forth by Humphrey and Parkes (1959), become imprecise during periods of transition or molt, most frequently in the summer and early fall in North America. Under the present system, a bird in the calendar year of hatching is in its “hatching year” and is termed “HY.” The bird is in its second calendar year (SY) during the ensuing year (1 January–31 December), followed by its third year (TY), fourth year (4Y), and so on. Birds that are in definitive (“adult”) plumage, known to be older than a certain age, may be termed “after-hatching-year” (AHY), after-second-year (ASY), after-third-year (ATY), and so on. More advanced age-codes such as “4Y” and “A4Y” can be assigned in the field only to species with delayed plumage maturity, such as certain loons, albatrosses, boobies, frigatebirds, and gulls. In this book, codes pertain to the date of discovery; for example, a bird discovered in its hatching year that remained past 1 January is listed as “HY” (an alternative format would term such a bird “HY/SY”; Pyle 1997b). Certain individuals with delayed plumage maturation can be identified as being, for example, in their third or fourth calendar year, but uncertainty may exist due to overlap in plumage maturation and molt rates between advanced and retarded individuals. In such cases we use codes such as “S-TY” or “T-4Y” to indicate that we can specify the age within a two-year span but not within a one-year span. We have generally taken a conservative approach to the assignment of age codes.

In the descriptive accounts we use a less-technical age terminology so as to maintain the flow of the text. Here, we use such terms as “juvenile” (restricted to a bird in complete juvenal plumage), “first-fall” (HY in fall), “first-spring” (SY in spring), “first-winter” (HY in December or SY in January–February), “second-fall” (SY in fall), and “second-spring” (TY in spring). The term “adult” refers to a bird in definitive plumage; such a bird could be aged as AHY, ASY, ATY, or older depending on the species. For birds observed between June and August we use the terms “year-old,” “two-year-old,” and so forth, to avoid the ambiguity of the analogous “first-summer” and “second-summer.” We also use the terms “first-year,” “second-year,” and so forth, to indicate a bird that remained through several seasons (e.g., its first fall through its first spring). In cases where additional clarity is desired, this information can be cross-checked against the age code specified in the table of records.

Molt terminology. Molt is characterized using the terminology of Humphrey and Parkes (1959), as modified by Howell et al. (2003) for the first cycle (e.g., “first prebasic molt” is now considered “preformative molt”). We use such terms only occasionally, in cases where the bird’s age and plumage state are known.

Selection and reconciliation of place names. In compiling and analyzing records, and in preparing the book’s gazetteer, we came to see the standardization and consolidation of place names as a critical organizational effort. One aspect of this task involves situations where two different names refer to the same place, and in such cases we have chosen long-standing geographical names over political ones that are more likely to change over time. For example, we have assigned all reports from near the mouth of the Big Sur River to the “Big Sur River mouth” even though previous publications, including some annual reports of the California Bird Records Committee, have placed some of them at Andrew Molera State Park or Big Sur Ornithology Lab.

Determining the appropriate geographic scale for naming locations, and then choosing a single name for large areas containing multiple birding spots, represented a more difficult and subjective task. “Think global, bird local” is an approach taken by many serious birders, and we understand and share the affinity that most readers of this book are likely to have for their own well-worked patches. For example, those who regularly scour expansive Pt. Reyes on the Marin County coast may care deeply and with good reason that a vagrant was found at the “Fish Docks” versus “Mendoza Ranch.” Such fine-scale distinctions would, however, make little sense in a book that seeks to clarify large-scale patterns of occurrence across California; thus, we list sightings from these and other well-known birding spots in the area under the more generic and inclusive appellation of “Pt. Reyes.” Similarly, records from city parks and private property are listed by the name of the city, not by the name of the park or the address of the private land. Our rule of thumb has been to subsume the smaller location(s) within the larger one. In another variation, the Marin County birding spot known to locals as “Pine Gulch Creek” actually pertains only to the mouth of this creek, where it empties into Bolinas Lagoon, and so reports from this location are listed under “Bolinas Lagoon.”

Exceptions apply for truly vast regions such as the Salton Sea, which covers hundreds of square miles. For decades in his North American Birds regional reports, Guy McCaskie has employed the shorthand of “N.E.S.S.” for the north end of the Salton Sea and “S.E.S.S.” for the south end, but we deemed these descriptions to be inadequate for our purposes. We therefore described more specific regions around the sea’s shore, and did so with an awareness that others would have accomplished this task using different descriptors. We gave comparable treatment to other large bodies of water, such as Humboldt Bay and Lake Havasu.

We settled on a location name only if it appeared on widely available maps, whether a United States Geological Survey 7.5’ quadrangle, a DeLorme atlas, or a common street map. In this way, more colloquial names were eschewed in favor of more established ones, even if used less commonly among birders. Thus, for example, “Galileo Hill Park” became “Galileo Hill” and “Lake Tamarisk” became “Desert Center.” Once place names were chosen, we went through every record in this compendium to determine if a change was needed. Thankfully, in most cases, none was necessary; in others it was usually a simple case of assigning a more inclusive name. Only in a few instances did the place-name change from what might have been published previously in a report of the California Bird Records Committee, in North American Birds or its predecessors, in a regional work, or elsewhere. Some of the more “radical” changes are called out in the gazetteer.

As final steps we obtained latitude and longitude coordinates and tallied the number of records reviewed for each locale. For records at sea and at unnamed locations on land, we generally excluded coordinates unless recorded by observers or published in a Committee report. We also corrected the reported locations for a number of pelagic records to specify distances to the nearest point of land, which in some cases changed the county assignation. Results of these important efforts appear in Appendix F. We anticipate that some place names used in this book will eventually change or fade from use, but because the gazetteer gives geographic coordinates for each named locale, the data for any given bird record need not become murky with the passage of time.

CBRC reports. The CBRC’s annual reports—listed in chronological order in Appendix B—often provide more information about individual records than could be furnished in this book. Readers seeking more detailed information about a given record should first review the relevant annual report(s), as specified in the table of records.

Notes on documentation. For records that have been submitted for CBRC review, the rightmost column of the record table is primarily concerned with the form(s) of documentation supporting the record. The right column may specify “Fig. __” if a photograph or sketch of the bird is published herein; “ph.” for archived photographs; “ph.” for archived photographs of specimens; “audio” for archived voice recordings; “video” for archived video documentation; or a standard collection abbreviation and number for all specimen records (Appendix D lists the institutional abbreviations). All CBRC documentation is archived at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo.

For accepted records, citations listed in the right column pertain to published photographs unless otherwise noted. We have attempted to cite all published photographs for every record listed in this book. Page numbers are provided in citations only in cases where the photo may be troublesome to locate in the cited document (e.g., page numbers are not specified for photos published in the CBRC’s brief annual reports). Relevant citations that do not provide a photo are so indicated—for example, “discussed by Traylor (1950).” If the right-hand column is empty, then the record is documented only by written description.

For records not accepted, and those that have not been submitted for CBRC review, citations in the right column refer to the place where the record was published, with or without a photograph. Most records listed as “not submitted” appeared in North American Birds or its predecessors (Audubon Field Notes, American Birds, and National Audubon Society Field Notes). Published reports must have appeared in a book or a peer-reviewed national or local journal. Bird sightings reported in local newsletters or newspapers, on the internet, or in other informal settings generally are not regarded as published reports for the CBRC’s purposes. Age and sex information generally is not provided for records that the Committee has not reviewed, although exceptions are made where the published information helps in distinguishing between similar records listed in the same table.

Photographs and artwork. All photos and artwork in this book show birds as they appeared in California, and all but one (a Whooper Swan photographed just across the Oregon border) were obtained in California. Since people often read captions more readily than they do large blocks of text, we tended to focus on employing this small-but-important space as a jumping-off point to touch upon some aspect of the species’ occurrence in California. Some captions provide complete date spans for the bird depicted, but most do not; please see the tables of records. The CBRC record number (if any) and the photographer/artist are specified in parentheses at the end of each caption.

Information on captives. The International Species Information System (ISIS) maintains a searchable online database that covers roughly two million animals held in more than 600 institutions on six continents. We have provided brief summaries from the ISIS database—focusing on holdings in California and elsewhere in the West—for 13 species: the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis), Falcated Duck, Baikal Teal, Common Pochard, Smew, Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens), Black Vulture, Harris’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, Demoiselle Crane, Oriental Turtle-Dove, and Oriental Greenfinch. This information is provided only as a rough gauge of these species’ recent popularity in zoos and other comparable institutions, and it should not be read as “the last word” on the status of these or other species in captivity. For example, the Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis), Whooper Swan, Harris’s Hawk, and Painted Bunting are known to be kept by many individuals and institutions that do not report to ISIS (see those accounts for further information).

Consider also that a species’ popularity may change over time and that current data may not reflect its former prevalence in captivity. The Falcated Duck, for example, was once so abundant an import as to be almost completely disregarded as a potentially acceptable natural vagrant to California (Swarth 1932, Grinnell and Miller 1944). And only a decade ago, San Diego County exotic waterfowl collections held many more Falcated Ducks than ISIS now reports (fide M. A. Patten). To the extent they are known, shifts such as these may affect the calculus of those who evaluate the acceptability of current and historical records of the species involved.

Despite these caveats, we believe that ISIS data—negative data for certain species—provide useful insight into the captive status and distribution of the 13 species listed above. We encourage readers seeking current ISIS data on these or other species to access the information directly at Although the site is directed toward its institutional membership, public access to the database was still allowed as of April 2007.

Charts. Charts of seasonal occurrence include all dates of occurrence, not just the dates of discovery. For example, in a chart showing occurrences by two-week periods, a bird found on 1 September that stayed through 1 October would register in the first and second halves of September and in the first half of October (three charted periods of occurrence). Thus readers should not expect the total charted “occurrences” to equal the number of individual birds recorded in the state.

The book also includes charts that depict the frequency of records by year or decade. In such charts, the number of charted occurrences should equal the total number of individuals recorded.