Important new book for bird watchers available after a decade in the making
Aug 9, 2005

Volunteers across the state helped with research

Elf owl
PHOENIX -  After more than a decade of work and help from hundreds of volunteers across the state, a must-have reference book for Arizona bird watchers is finally available. Forty-six million Americans are birders, and the new "Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas," sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, offers them the first book of its kind about this state.

"The creation of this book has been a labor of love," says Troy Corman, one of the book's editors and a bird biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department for 15 years. "We've been wanting to make a reference like this available for a very long time."

Cathryn Wise-Gervais, a former Game and Fish bird biologist, is Corman's co-editor of the new atlas. It's the first book focusing on all of Arizona's hundreds of breeding bird species. The creative process for the new book began in 1993, when Corman started asking Audubon Societies across the state for help with the research. Both Corman and Wise-Gervais wrote newsletter articles and made presentations at bird club meetings, where they asked for volunteers to go out and help gather data. Hundreds of people answered the call, carrying out bird survey missions in 10-square-mile blocks in more than 1,800 areas of the state. The volunteers looked high and low in a variety of habitats, from deserts to mountains.

Costa's hummingbird
"Without the help of those volunteers, this book never would have made it onto shelves," says Wise-Gervais. "We want to take this opportunity to thank them."

A total of more than 700 surveyors, including some hired crews, did research for the book over eight years. They found 376 bird species in our state. Of those, 283 were confirmed as breeding in Arizona.

One of the most amazing discoveries from the book's research was actually Corman's own find of a nesting pair of streak-backed orioles. The 1993 discovery along the lower San Pedro River marked the first nesting record for this bird in the United States. Over the next several years, many people traveled to Arizona to see the orioles.

This book is particularly special for birders, educators and biologists because it contains more comprehensive and current information than any Arizona bird reference book published in the past. It also has more maps and serves as an easy reference guide for those who want to learn more about the range and natural history of different bird species in Arizona. The book contains more than 300 color photos and 280 maps.

Part of the book's funding came from the voter-created Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, which is money from Arizona Lottery ticket sales. The fund pays for conservation efforts like protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents coexist with wildlife, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.

"If we hadn't received the Heritage money, this book would never have been published," says Corman. "The Heritage funding gave us the opportunity to successfully apply for the rest of the money for the project."

"The Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas" was published by the University of New Mexico Press with assistance from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The 656-page high-quality hardcover book costs $45. It can be purchased at any Arizona Game and Fish Department office, through the department's Web site at azgfd.gov, at amazon.com, at various bookstores in Arizona, and through some Arizona Audubon Societies.