RARE BIRD ALERTS
BirdBoxes: (Daily Rare Bird Alerts, or RBAs, for the
When visiting the following websites, look for NCal BirdBox.
It is a frequently updated transcript of messages left on
the NCal BirdBox voice message system. If you want even more
current information, don't wait for the messages to be transcribed
(a process that sometimes takes a few days), call the NCal
BirdBox 415-681-7422 for up-to-the-moment Northern
California messages. The voices you will hear are those of
other birders reporting rare birds.
As the name suggests, all the rare bird reports for Northern California should
be made to the NCal Birdbox, after which it will appear an on-line transcript.
On occasion however, significant reports are directed through more local channels
and are never heard by many birders who are unaware of these smaller, local
BirdBoxes. Monterey Bay Area BirdBox 831-626-6605
is one such channel. Monterey is an especially birdy county and for that reason,
birders often call in their reports without reporting to the broader NCal
BirdBox. Eventually, all reports are available on the link below so perhaps
it doesn't matter. But for simplicity sake, I suggest making all reports to
NCal Birdbox before notifying the smaller local BirdBoxes. All messages will
be organized by county so be sure to include that information in any reports
Note: For our area, Northern California, choose BIRDWEST
and look for the current transcription of the Northern California
Rare Bird Alert (NCal BirdBox). The other url's are for BirdBoxes
covering the rest of the country:
Hall of Giants: (Archive of Ultra Rare North American Birds)
SBB: The South Bay Birds List Service:
Some of you may be interested in subscribing to the "South
Bay Birds" list service. This link should probably be listed
under "Discussions" along with CALBIRDS and SIALIA, but
I put it here so readers would see it more quickly. The
list is a group of several thousand people in the South
Bay that post bird sitings for other subscribers to read.
I've belonged for several years and post regularly with
bird news like the items I mention in class. You don't have
to post to the list if you would rather just "listen", but
part of the fun is adding to the conversation and occasioanlly
having someone ask you a direct question about one of your
contributions. It's a great resource and I've learned about
many good birding spots as well as gotten a lot of "lifers".
There are a few suggestions on what news is worthy of posting,
but a week or two of observing content will help you understand
what the list is about. The list is private, meaning your
email address will not given to other lists servers or vendors,
but it will be visible to other birders. I typically get
between 5 and 10 emails a day and they are usually brief.
Some people post often and you will become very familiar
with their names and it's quite fun when you finally meet
them out in the field. Belonging to the list is not for
everyone, but for those interested in being more connected
with the bird community this is a great way. Many such lists
exist for areas all over the country and it is typical for
birders to subscribe to more than one. I belong to SBB (Santa
Clara County), NBB (North Bay, Marin County), EBB (East
Bay Counties), MBB (Monteray County) and PenBird (San Mateo
County) To subscribe to SBB, go to: http://www.plaidworks.com/mailman/listinfo/south-bay-birds
and follow the directions outlined there. It may take a
day or two before you begin to receive messages. Have fun!
CALBIRD is a single discussion thread
contained in the above index, but obviously covers a narrower
SIALIA is a state-wide compilation
of local discussion threads such as SBB, PenBird, EBB, MBB
etc. as well as all the ongoing CALBIRD topics. It is a
great way to see all the discussions at one time organized
Frontiers in Identification is another listserv that addresses current issues surrounding the field identification of birds. Topics covered range widely and contributors include some of the most respected authorities on bird identification in the world.
National Audubon Society
Valley Audubon Society, Santa Clara County:
Society, San Mateo County:
Audubon Society, San Francisco County:
Society: Marin County
Ohlone Audubon Society: Alameda County
Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society: Monterey County
Write to Congress:
There is no better way to convince politicians that the
environment matters than telling them it matters to you.
If they know you care about environmental issues, such as
clean air and water, habitat preservation and renewable
resources, they also know you pay attention to the decisions
they make. Let them know how crucial their decisions are
by telling them you won't support officials that ignore
the environment. Don't assume nature can take care of itself.
It needs your help and politicians need your
Tell Congress you care about the environment. While you're
at it, tell the President too!
Birding on the Web
is an enormous hub
with MANY links to local checklists, image banks and organizations
all over the world. If your planning a trip, you can get
information on birds on your vacation route:
DATABASES AND CHECKLISTS
ABA Checklist of North American Birds
The official list of bird species for the ABA Checklist
area is now available on line. This new edition reflects
the recent changes to the taxanomic order of families.
Anserformes and Galliformes are now placed at the very
beginning of the list, in response to recent findings
that suggest they evolved before Pelicaniformes or Procellariiformes,
birds that previously been considered the most ancient:
Banding Codes Here's a good site to help you decifer
those pesky 4-letter banding codes I keep using in class.
Keep in mind that many species are not found locally because
this covers the entire ABA checklist area plus Hawaii:
I-Bird offers a great way of finding the bird you
want, where you want. Visit the U.S. section http://i-bird.com/USDirectory.htm
for links to checklists of numerous U.S. wildlife areas.
The site goes to lengths to describe status of species
within each area which is often hard to find on other
checlist sites. If you really want to locate a specific
bird, such as Great Gray Owl, visit the family section
select your desired bird family, locate the species within
the family and click. Voila! A list of wildlife areas
withing the lower 48 states will appear with the most
likely spot for your bird at the top. Wow!
Avibase: The World Bird Database, is an interesting
idea. The home page gives a long list of world bird families
(using their proper Latin titles). Clicking on any of
these reveals a list of species (not all, but many) in
that family. Another click reveals choices (in a bar on
the top edge of the page) such as map, history or image.
The website combines the strength of a large database
and the abilities of Google to help you locate information
on the web that isn't necessarily included on the site
The Ornithological Web Library, another hub with
access to many technical resources like checklists, images
and wildlife jobs:
The USGS database for checklists of the United
States. This is the first place I go when planning a trip
in or out of state!:
The USGS winter/summer range site is a project
in progress. It shows the winter and summer ranges of
birds across the entire continent. Some species are still
missing and not areas have been surveyed, but it promises
to be a useful resource when it's done:
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, this site seems
to have replaced the previous site (which appears to be
inactive now) and contains the same information if not
more. It is also somehow connected to the USGS.
Watchable Wildlife in National Parks is another
great site to look at before making a trip. The linked
checklists are mostly for birds but there are also links
to butterfly, reptile, and mammal lists as well.
Vertibrate Zoology, University of Florida: Class Aves This information exists in many places I suppose. This, however, is an especially nicely formatted list of bird orders and families if you're really trying to get a grasp on how various species are related to oneother. Keep in mind that classification is a developing study that is constantly adjusted to include the newest research both in the field and in the lab, so resources such as this often disagree on the exact relationships between species.
Classification of Recent Birds: This is another resource for material similar to the above link, but it makes an effort to describe some of the anatomical and behavioral adaptations of each family. What is lacking here is a nice visual reference but together they may answer many questions about classification. I think what I would like to see sometime is a diagram that shows the relationships, close and distant, represented in the branches of a tree. If anyone stumbles upon one, please let me know.
Chapman and Chapman
Birds of North America
An enourmous effort on the part of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to provide online information for all North American Birds. A subscription of $40/yr is required to gain access to the whole database, but frequently updated previews are free to read and enjoy. Who knows... Santa Claus might give me a subscription some day.
Features a great database
of images and bird vocalizations. The link below takes you
to a generalized index, but there is also a search by bird
name feature. You can get a quick summary of almost all
North American bird species here. They also have resources
for identifying Reptiles, Mammals, Insects etc.
Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
by USGS) Althought the photography is not as good as the
resource listed above, this site is refereshingly non-commercial
Peter LaTourette's Bird Images
Peter is an accomplished
photographer and birder, combining these skills to create
a fantastic collection of top-quality bird images, many
of which were shot locally at Jasper Ridge:
Birding on the Web
This site is mentioned above,
but deserves another mention here. Access the image library
by clicking on the blue "Bird Databases" link in central
frame. From there, click on "Bird Pictures North America"
or any other database that interests you:
eNature has got a page dedicated to North American bird song that can be heard on line:
features year-round pelagic trips enabling you to experience the seabirds of the Monterey Bay in their respective seasons. Just offshore of Monterey, California lies a 6000-foot deep submarine canyon running right down the middle of the Monterey Bay. Similar in size to the Grand Canyon of the American Southwest, this geologic feature creates cold-water upwellings, rich in nutrients that foster a remarkable diversity of seabirds and cetaceans. The combination of these elements within a semi-protected bay makes Monterey a worldwide destination for pelagic birding. Just a few miles from shore one can observe pelagic seabirds that travel across both the hemisphere and the ocean to feed in these bountiful waters. In the interest of having a reasonably sized group conducive to pelagic birding and photography space is limited.
is also a good way to see some of the wonderful seabirds in our area.
Jaegers, Shearwaters, Fulmars, Storm Petrels and Albatross
are all difficult if not impossible to see from land, but
get on one of Debby's day trips out of Monterey, Santa Cruz
or Bodega Head and you'll start seeing lots of them. Check her website to learn about what birds to expect during the season you want
WEATHER AND OTHER NATURAL EVENTS
High and Low tide information by area
( tides are important when you're searching for shorebirds or rails):
The Weather (obviously important if you're making
an all day trip out in the elements:
West Nile Virus (WNV) is now firmly established in many parts of the United States. This mosquito bourne virus affects birds and humans and while human casualties are rare, they do occur. Please review the safety tips included on this site listed below. Up-to-date California information can be found at the following address
and a list of birds affected by this condition at:
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) has taken the lives of many thousands of domestic birds, predominantly Ducks and Chickens, in Southeast Asia and infected the humans who come in contact with them. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are gearing up for a possible pandemic as the virus makes the anticipated jump into the human population. This situation is not unlike the Mad Cow Disease scare of recent years, and could potentially effect global food supply as well as the lives of millions of people. Evidence links the global pandemic of Influenza in 1918, which took the lives of more than 5 million people, to a similar bird-borne virus.
Bird Center is a store in Walnut Creek that sells books, optics and feeders:
Birder is a fun site with skill-building virtual tours of different "hot
spots" in the U.S. Some retail banners:
Optics is a good source of information about binoculars and telescopes.
Recommendations on what to consider when buying and consumer reports on various
Gull Flowcharts For those who like to
think in a rational, logical way, these charts may help
to bring order to the chaos that is our local Gull population.
For the rest of us, there are unfortunately years of frustrating
confusion perhaps followed by a sudden flash of understanding:
The Cooper Ornithological Club maintains an online
archive of their out of print editions. Valuable resources
such as the famous The Distribution of the Birds
of California by Grinnell and Miller (1944) are
available here (in pdf format), as well as other seminal
editions that will interest the research-birder. All of
these were published by the Cooper Ornitholigical Club
and printed by the University Press in Berkeley, CA. Once
considered essential, now they are almost impossible to
find. Simply scroll down the list to find the titles and
download options, but beware, these are large files! The
Directory to the Bird-Life of the San Francisco Bay Region
by Grinnell and Wythe (1927) and A Distributional
List of the Birds of California by Grinnell (1915)
are also of great interest to local birders.
Fun Facts: Bird Records Generally I don't care for trivia because so often it's oversimplified and misleading, (see news item dated 06-14-04 for an actual example), but this particular list appears pretty well researched. Fastest flying, deepest diving, longest lived etc. There are plenty of interesting bits here to bring up at any cocktail party. It's not organized very well, but it's fun. Enjoy!
Warbler Quiz I came across this site quite by accident and in light of the fact that it features what appears to be unauthorized Sibley illustrations, I don't know how long it will remain on line. While it lasts, however, it's a good way to brush up on Warbler identification.
Warblers of Canada Is a fantastic effort on the part of the Provincial Museum of Alberta to provide information about the many Warbler species north of the border. Innumerable photographs, identification tips and range-maps are included as well as a quiz which begins easily enough...