An Introduction to the CBRC and to this Book

The California Bird Records Committee (hereafter the CBRC or Committee) was established in 1970 to help bridge the gap between scientific ornithology and recreational birding. Operating under the auspices of the California Field Ornithologists (later to become Western Field Ornithologists), it was the first committee formed in the Americas for the purpose of vetting records of vagrant and similarly rare bird species.

Over the course of many years, the CBRC and its members have published numerous scholarly papers on avian status, distribution, and identification. The primary output of the Committee itself consists of reports published annually in Western Birds, the Western Field Ornithologists’ journal (see Appendix B). Although these reports have effectively disseminated to birders and to the scientific community useful summaries of the Committee’s decisions, their format is ill-suited to the task of explicating patterns of occurrence that have emerged with the passage of time. The idea of putting together a book that would do this was first broached at the CBRC’s January 1992 meeting. Fifteen years later—and 37 years after the Committee’s inception—we are pleased to present Rare Birds of California, the first comprehensive overview of the CBRC and its collected decisions. This introductory section describes the book’s organizing principles.

Turning this page, the reader finds a brief description of the CBRC’s purpose and operation. This is followed by Table A, “Meetings of the California Bird Records Committee, 1970–2007,” and Table B, “Membership of the California Bird Records Committee, 1970–2007.” In addition to reviewing reports of rare birds, the CBRC is charged with maintaining the California Bird List. Table C provides the state list as of 30 April 2007, comprising a Main List and a Supplemental List. Table D lists additional naturalized species present in California that have not yet been evaluated by the CBRC for potential addition to the California Bird List. Table E shows how the Main List developed, species by species, between 1900 and 2006.

Next comes a series of three essays written by the editors. The first of these, “Trends in the California Bird List: Jehl (1980) Revisited,” builds on Table E and is the first analysis of this topic in nearly three decades; Marshall J. Iliff is a co-author. The second essay, “Birding in California, 1960–2007,” examines this subject through the CBRC’s lens. The final essay, “Documenting and Reporting Records,” offers guidance to those seeking to contribute to the scientific record by submitting records for Committee review.

Readers seeking to understand the nuts and bolts of the species accounts should study the Explanation of Species Accounts. In this final introductory section, diagrams that show how to read the species account headings and record tables are followed by an overview of the species accounts and other important information (e.g., abbreviations used in the book, information on the geographic ranges described herein, and the approach taken to determining age and sex).

The ensuing species accounts treat all native and non-native bird species with at least one record formally reviewed by the Committee. The accounts are divided into three sections: (1) Species on the Main List (includes introduced species considered to be well established in the state); (2) Species on the Supplemental List (a subset of the California Bird List consisting of native species for which the CBRC has determined that all records of birds of established identity are of uncertain natural occurrence); and (3) Species of hypothetical occurrence or origin, which are not accepted to the California Bird List.

Last are eight lettered appendices: (A) Bylaws of the Western Field Ornithologists’ California Bird Records Committee; (B) Reports of the California Bird Records Committee; (C) Standard abbreviations for counties in California; (D) Abbreviations for institutions holding cited specimens; (E) Master list of contributors; (F) Gazetteer for records reviewed through 31 December 2003; (G) Maps; and (H) Noteworthy Records, 1 January 2004–31 December 2006.