Review of Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas

In 1993 the The Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas (ABBA) was launched with the ambitious goal to complete, for the first time, a survey of the breeding birds across the entire state of Arizona. This great project was completed and published in 2005 by the University of New Mexico Press.

Edited by Troy E. Corman and Cathryn Wise-Gervais, the ABBA (not to be confused with the musical group) provides an unbelievable resource for bird conservationists as well as birders. This information can also prove essential when policy makers are put up to the challenge of choosing what areas are more valuable to protect. This data will provide the baseline for future surveys and studies.

Much of this survey was done by volunteers; “regular” birders like you that wished to put their skills to a worthwhile project. Some of the surveying was done by paid field crews as well, but it was the complete effort and devotion of all those involved that completed the project.

The Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas covers the process involved as well as a Arizona’s history of ornithology. Also included are complete descriptions of all the habitat types in Arizona (40 specific types in all) which are broken down into seven distinct categories.

270 species of birds are covered with two page spreads which includes photos, maps, and detailed information about nesting habitat, breeding phenology, and migratory status. The diversity of nesting birds in Arizona is astounding but undeniable.

Inside of the atlas

Breeding birds are the epitomy of bird sightings for conservationists and many birders. A confirmed breeder means a high propensity for an increase in bird populations. Compare that to the excitement of finding a rare vagrant that doesn’t add as much to the overall importance of bird conservation (although it of course is still good for birding).

As printing costs continue to rise (this book will set you back $40 or $50 and was printed in China), it is likely that these types of productions will make their way to the internet shortly. While we love printed materials, it makes sense to make use of technology that is searchable, cross-functional, and would make the information available to many more people at a much lower cost overall.

Regardless, every resident birder of Arizona and any birder planning a trip to the Grand Canyon State would benefit greatly from adding this book to their library. A quick look at the graph and breeding bird map of a particular species can help a birder find great places to look for particular birds.

And as a point of interest: the two top counties as far as number of breeding birds (207) are Cochise and Cococino. Cochise is found in the famously bird-rich area of southeast Arizona, but Cococino is way north and undoubtedly birded much less.

Rating: 10 of 10 feathers

2 thoughts on “Review of Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas

  1. This book really is amazing. Although, to be fair, it is the only bird atlas that I own. And I still haven’t been able to put it to use, since I haven’t been to AZ since I got it. Someday…

    The San Diego Atlas has been ported over to Google Earth, and is available online for free. I have used it a little bit, and that format has tremendous potential.

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