In the mid 1960s a group of San Diego birders, including Alan and Jean Craig, Pierre Devillers, Ginger Johnson, Cliff Lyons and Guy McCaskie, met regularly to discuss birds. Validating reports of casual and accidental vagrants seen in California was often a topic of discussion at these meetings. At that time, reports of birds far from their expected ranges frequently lacked substantiating documentation and so were discounted by most ornithologists and excluded from such journals as The Condor, which at that time routinely published papers on bird distribution. However, the San Diego group believed that sight records were a potentially valuable source of distributional data, but only if documented and validated, with the documentation archived.

Pierre Devillers had been involved with a rarities committee in Europe, and Guy McCaskie was familiar with the functioning of the British Birds Rarities Committee from reading British Birds, so the idea of a California rarities committee became a subject of discussion at the San Diego group’s meetings. However, decisions made by this committee would require publication to become available to researchers and other interested parties. Because no existing journal seemed appropriate for this purpose, the idea of a new journal came into the discussions.

On 7 October 1967, Alan Baldridge hosted in Monterey a meeting of some of California’s most active birders (see Table A). Formation of a new organization, California Field Ornithologists, with the publication of a journal devoted to California field ornithology, was the main topic of discussion. An editorial committee was chosen, and California Birds was born. Committees were also chosen to solicit members, to solicit papers for publication, and to review the validity of sight records of rarities submitted for publication. This last group would evolve into the California Bird Records Committee.

The first issue of California Birds contained an editorial about the functioning of a Rare Bird Committee (McCaskie 1970a). It suggested that the Committee include a nonvoting secretary and five to ten voting members. The suggested review and validation procedures were similar to those of today, but with unanimous acceptance required for Committee endorsement and records circulating through the committee only twice before being brought to a meeting for discussion. The first Committee was recruited in late 1970 from active birders from throughout California, and it was made up of Laurence C. Binford, Eugene A. Cardiff, Theodore Chandik, Alan M. Craig, David F. DeSante, Clifford R. Lyons, Guy McCaskie, and G. Shumway Suffel, with Jon Winter as a voting secretary.

This new deliberative body, then called the California Field Ornithologists Records Committee, soon chose to review not only sight records of rare birds submitted for publication in California Birds, but also to solicit documentation for all sight records of rarities in California. Its members anticipated reviewing and validating that documentation, and publishing reports similar to those of the British Birds Rarities Committee. The second volume of California Birds contains an editorial outlining procedures for properly documenting sight records (Winter 1971), and the Committee’s first printed field list of California birds (McCaskie 1972) identified those species for which the Committee solicited documentation.

California Field Ornithologists became Western Field Ornithologists (and California Birds became Western Birds) in 1973. The Committee operated as outlined in the first issue of California Birds and soon published its first official report, covering records during the period 1970–1972 (Winter 1973), although the Checklist of the Birds of California (McCaskie et al. 1970) had offered judgment on many records and so essentially served as the initial report. Rich Stallcup joined the Committee in 1974, and the voting membership remained at ten from that time until 2006, when the Committee voted to reduce its number back to nine. As presented in Table B (see page 10), 49 individuals have served as of 2006. Formal bylaws were adopted on 14 January 1978 and published in Western Birds 8:161–165. At that time the name “Western Field Ornithologists’ California Bird Records Committee” was shortened to “California Bird Records Committee.” The bylaws were first amended in 1986, and additional amendments since that time have produced the present version (Appendix A). A web site created in 1998 ( provides information on the Committee’s purposes, the California bird list, rare bird photos, and the Committee’s bylaws.