The 2009 edition of the Checklist of the Birds of the Sacramento Area, shows the likelihood of finding each of the 256 Sacramento Area species by month.The 4 pages of the Checklist can downloaded from these links: Checklist P1, Checklist P2, Checklist P3, Checklist P4.
Older checklists (back to 1951) may be viewed here.
The checklist will also be available at general meetings of the Sacramento Audubon Society, and at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Wild Bird & Gardens at Madison & Fair Oaks, Wild Birds Unlimited at Loehman's Plaza, and The Naturalist in Davis. The rough boundary of the Sacramento Checklist Area is Hwy 20 to the north, Hwy 12 to the south, and the 1,000 foot contour on either side of the Valley. Field checklists, showing just the species names, and useful for recording birds seen on a date or a trip, can be downloaded and printed from links below: 1. Complete list of 256 species:Page 1 , Page 2 2. List of 157 common species:Common 3. List of 91 urban/suburban species:Urban
County Checklists and Additional Resources: Most California’s 58 counties have a NAB editor or other individual or group keeping track of the birds found within their boundaries.Since the Sacramento Checklist Area covers portions of 10 counties, we found it unworkable to include every species found within the area.Some counties, such as Yolo, have a carefully vetted and up-to-date county list. Others, such as Sacramento, are still a work in progress.There are, however, excellent resources available at the county level, which can be accessed through the California County Birding Pages (http://fog.ccsf.cc.ca.us/~jmorlan/county.htm).Checklists, birding guides, and other information can be found by clicking on an interactive map of the state.
What to do if you find a rare bird:report it so that others may see it. The most active rare bird reporting site for the Sacramento Area is the Central Valley Bird Club listserv (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/central_valley_birds/).Rare birds and seasonal movements of migrant birds are the usual topics.
Report it to the North American Birds editors: Well-documented birds become part of the scientific record, and are published quarterly in North American Birds (NAB).The understanding of the status and distribution of rare birds as well as many common species has largely been the work of committed amateurs.Please submit reports of rare and uncommon species, species found out of season, and rare or previously undocumented nesting species to the appropriate NAB county editor.
Consider subscribing to North American Birds (http://www.aba.org/nab/). You may also send reports of birds within the Sacramento Area to Chris Conard (firstname.lastname@example.org) for inclusion in the “Seasonal Observations” column in the Sacramento Audubon Society’s Observer.The column is posted on the SAS website here.
Document what you see:
Uncommon species:report species like Ferruginous Hawks, Brown Creepers, and White-throated Sparrows to NAB and consider reporting them to the Central Valley Birds listserv.
Rare species in the Sacramento Area such as Tufted Ducks, Red-naped Sapsuckers, American Redstarts, and Black-throated Sparrows should be reported to Central Valley Birds listserv, and documented with a photo or written details and submitted to NAB.Contact the appropriate NAB editor if you have any questions. Very rare birds, such as those on the California Bird Records Committee Review List (http://www.californiabirds.org/) and birds that are first county records or only have a few Central Valley records must be carefully documented, with photos if possible, and full written details.
Careful observation of the bird's field marks, calls, and behavior are key to documenting it.Note the relative shape and size of the bird compared to common species.Write down as much detail as possible regarding bill shape, the facial pattern, relative proportions and length of wings and tail, coloration of bare parts as well as feather patterns.Vocalizations can be extremely helpful.Rule out common species and hybrids.For example, if you find a suspected Red-naped Sapsucker, make sure it does not show characteristics of hybridization with a Red-breasted Sapsucker.Experience will tell you that these hybrids are more common than pure Red-naped Sapsuckers in the Sacramento Area.
A good description of a rare bird explains why it is not one of the more common species or another rarity with a similar appearance.Much of documenting a rarity is ruling out other possibilities.Photographs can be very helpful.Many birders never go out without a camera.A small digital camera used with a spotting scope can provide definitive documentation of a rare species.The video features on digital cameras are improving rapidly and can record songs and calls.But photography can also distract you from careful observation of a bird that you may only have in view for a few minutes (or seconds).It is better to have a tentative identification than to jump to conclusions.
How to find rarities: One of the exciting aspects of birding is finding rare birds.The best way to do that is to get out in the field as often as you can and to learn the status, distribution, field marks, and calls of the regular species. Because birds fly, each visit to a familiar site is never quite the same, and just about anything can turn up. Certain patterns have been recognized over time, and some birds are far rarer than others.For example, some eastern songbirds, such as Blackpoll Warblers and American Redstarts, show up in fair numbers each fall at coastal sites like Point Reyes, and they are not completely unexpected for the Sacramento Area.Indigo Buntings, as another example, have nested several times in the Sacramento Area.Others, like Blackburnian Warblers and Bay-breasted Warblers, account for only a few records each, despite decades of observations.Some species that were long considered very rare, like Semipalmated Sandpipers, are now known to occur annually in low numbers (there may be a combination of factors at work, including people knowing what to look for and making a concerted effort to find them, improved habitat and birder access to locations such as the Davis Wetlands, and a greater number of birders with high quality spotting scopes).
Rare birds can turn up at any time, but knowing when to look can improve your odds.Many rare songbirds have been found in late May and June, when the bulk of the common western migrants already have passed.September and October are also very productive.Occasionally, rare species spend the winter in our area.With many eyes and ears in the field during the Christmas Bird Counts, rarities are found each year.Shorebirding is often most productive in July through October, while unusual gulls and waterfowl are typically found in winter.