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
2) On the AZFO web site, Steve Ganley has compiled a searchable
database of historical Arizona rare bird
records, sightings and reports through 1996. This is very convenient to
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) To get information on sightings and reports after
the last ABC report (2004), the best
place to go is the archives of the AZNM listserv.
There is a search tool there that will allow you to
search all posts for mention of any species for any date
range back to the start of the listserv in 1995. These of course are not accepted "records"
but is the best place to get an idea how often a species has been
5) Another interesting developing resource is the eBird website.
Although this tool is still evolving, it has great
promise. Collected on this web site are a great
number of bird checklists submitted by birders.
These data can be searched in a tremendous variety of
ways and even mapped or displayed as a seasonal bar
chart. Want to see the location of
all Sage Sparrows reported to eBird in Maricopa County
in the winter in the last five years? You can do
this easily with eBird. This tool is of course
only as good as the data that have been entered in to
it, but so far thousands of checklists have been entered
and the amount of information is impressive and growing
all the time. Import tools have been developed and
people are now entering historical data as well.
Although not exhaustive, this resource can quickly
provide a lot of information on status and distribution,
especially for less rare species.