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1 May 2006 Birds of Washington: Status and Distribution
David L. Swanson
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Birds of Washington: Status and Distribution.—Terence R. Wahl, Bill Tweit, and Steven G. Mlodinow [editors]. 2005. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon. 448 pp. ISBN 0-87071-049-4. $65.00 (cloth)

This book represents the first comprehensive treatment of the birds of Washington State since the 1953 publication of Jewett et al. Birds of Washington State (University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington). Its subtitle aptly describes the content of the book, which provides a current summary of the status and distribution of birds in the state. The book is limited to this focus for the most part; it is not a handbook to the birds of Washington State, like the recent Marshall et al. (eds., 2003) Birds of Oregon: A General Reference (Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon) is for the avifauna of the state's neighbor to the south. Like Oregon, however, Washington has an abundance of habitats ranging from marine and coastal environments to high desert, and also including temperate rain forests and mountains with Cascade and Rocky Mountain influences. This variety of habitats results in a large list of bird species documented for the state, and 483 accepted species are included in the book.

The contents of the book include seven introductory chapters, the species accounts, which comprise the bulk of the book, and some accessory materials following the species accounts. The first chapter describes the species account template and provides definitions for abundance and status classifications. Abundance and status are given separate classifications in this book, with abundance for regular species categorized as abundant to rare, and status categorized as resident, summer, winter, migrant, visitor, or vagrant. Irregular species are classified as very rare or casual, with the definition of casual being “not expected to occur again.” There is no accidental status category, as there is in most books of this type, which may lead to some confusion within the casual category. Chapter 2 provides an extensive classification of habitat types and a detailed comparison of previous attempts to classify wildlife habitats within the state. Chapter 3 describes the creation of the excellent range maps included in the species accounts and Chapter 4 contains an overview of conservation issues for Washington birds. The conservation issues are treated by habitat types, and problems faced by Washington birds parallel those in the Pacific Northwest and Great Basin region in general, with some of the most pressing issues including clear-cutting of old-growth forests, fire suppression effects, loss of riparian habitats, and loss of coastal wetlands. The conservation chapter closes with a review of state and national conservation efforts related to birds, but does not include an explicit plea for amateur ornithologists to become involved in these conservation efforts. Chapters 5–7 deal with a brief history of ornithology in the state, a description of data collection methods and sources of data for the book, and changes in the status and distribution of birds in the state since 1950, roughly the date of the last comprehensive treatment of the birds of Washington (Jewett et al. 1953), focusing on well-documented changes in populations. This latter chapter concludes that the species accounts “indicate or suggest that over one-half of the species currently known in Washington have changed in status or populations over the past 50 years” (p. 26).

These chapters are followed by the species accounts, which are split into “accepted species” and “other species,” the latter of which includes escapees and unsuccessful introductions, along with hypothetical species of uncertain origin. Species accounts for accepted species include status and distribution, habitat, remarks (e.g., taxonomy, identification, conservation concerns, need for future studies), and noteworthy records (e.g., early or late dates, out-of-range occurrences). Also included are distribution maps and a bar graph of seasonal timing within the state. Closing materials include an extensive bibliography, an appendix outlining habitats and habitat associations for regular species, short biographies of contributing authors, and an index of birds treated in the text. The book is effective in updating the status and distribution of birds in Washington State and will serve as an invaluable reference to both academic ornithologists and birders interested in the avifauna, and in avifaunal changes, of the Pacific Northwest.

David L. Swanson "Birds of Washington: Status and Distribution," The Condor 108(2), 487-488, (1 May 2006).[487:BOWSAD]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 May 2006

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