How to Research Status and Distribution of Arizona
A question often asked is: "How do you know how many records
of a species there have been in Arizona?"
Unfortunately, there is no one place to go to get the
answer, but with a little work, it is not too hard to
find out. There are both Printed and Online
Resources you can consult. These are listed below.
"Records" are defined as documented records
of Review Species accepted by the
Arizona Bird Committee (established in 1971) and
published in Western Birds or of Sketch Details Species
published in North American Birds. Other observations are
referred to as "Sightings" or "Reports".
There are books and periodicals to help you research historical
records. These are the main ones:
1) The most essential book to start with is the one
below. It covers all records in the state up to
1981. It also has detailed information about the
status and distribution of subspecies in the state.
It is back in print and is available from the University
of Arizona Press or at used book stores.
Annotated Checklist of the
Birds of Arizona. 1981. G. Monson and A.R. Phillips. University of Arizona Press. [Not
to be missed is Phillips essay on the merits of
collecting rare birds. He had a dim view of sight
records in the era before digital photography.]
2) More general coverage is provided by this
out-of-print classic that would have to be found in a
library or purchased through used book stores:
The Birds of Arizona. A.R. Phillips, J. Marshal and
G. Monson. 1964. Tucson: University of
3) For breeding birds in the state, the definitive
source of detailed information on status and
distribution through 2000 is:
Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas. 2004. T. Corman and C. Wise-Gervais. University of New
4) General information on status and distribution at
a more local level is also included in (especially in
the seasonal bar charts):
a) A Birder's Guide to Southeastern Arizona.
2005. R.C. Taylor. American Birding Association.
b) Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona.
2007. Tucson Audubon Society.
c) Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County Arizona.
1997. J. Witzeman, S. Demaree and E. Radke.
Maricopa Audubon Society.
d) Birding the Flagstaff Area. 2001.
F. Brandt and L. Brandt, Northern Arizona Audubon
e) Birding Sedona and the Verde Valley.
2003. V. Gilmore. Northern Arizona Audubon
f) Birding on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations.
1986. B. Jacobs, Jacobs Publishing Company (available
5) The most detailed resource on status and
distribution of Arizona birds is past issues of North
American Birds (and its predecessors Field
Notes/Audubon Field Notes/etc). These contain all "official"
records for the state of both Review and Sketch Details
species as well as other significant observations.
Unfortunately, to date these are not available online or
in any searchable form. The only way to extract
the information is to go through back issues by hand
looking for particular species. There continues to
be discussion, but little action, about getting NAB
reports online which would be the ultimate resource.
Back issues of NAB are available in most university
libraries and in the Tucson Audubon library.
A complete bibliography of books on Arizona birds is
available on this
There are several online resources that can be used
to get more recent information:
1) The most essential resource for establishing how
many "records" there are for particular rare
birds (Review Species) is the reports of the
Arizona Bird Committee found on this
On the ABC website you can find a
searchable database of submitted records of review
species. These are updated with the ABC's decisions as
soon as voting is completed. This is the best way to
find numbers of records since the last published report.
3) You can search the AZFO
taxonomic list for previous photos of the species
that have been posted. The accompanying write-ups
often contain status information that was current at
4) A popular tool is eBird.
Although not exhaustive, this resource can quickly
provide a lot of information on status and distribution,
especially for less rare species.