By Walter Thurber
Some 100 ornithologists and birders from across the state gathered in Yuma on 21-23 October 2016 for our 11th annual meeting. Among them were five youth scholarship recipients. The weekend kicked off with field expeditions to Dateland, Quigley Wildlife Area and Riverside Park; Betty’s Kitchen, Mittry Lake and Hidden Shores; Cibola National Wildlife Refuge; and West Wetlands and Agricultural Lands. A report on the Dateland-to-Yuma trip, one of our first full day mini-expeditions at an annual meeting, can be found below.
AZFO Birders on Mittry Lake Expedition
21 October 2016 – Mittry Lake WA, Yuma Co.
Photo/Doug Jenness
The Saturday sessions were held at the Best Western InnSuites. The morning presentations focused on the evolution of hummingbird coloration and courtship, Gray Hawk expansion in the San Pedro River Valley, the revised Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan, and seabirds that have made their way to Arizona. The AZFO seasonal reports will be discontinued due to the abundance of data on eBird and other websites; more information is provided in a separate article. Walt Anderson and Matt VanWallene were elected to board positions, replacing Doug Jenness and Anne Pellegrini. Doug will continue to serve AZFO as interim editor for our journal Arizona Birds, replacing Pierre Deviche. Jennie MacFarland and Walter Thurber were re-elected to two-year terms on the board. The elections are covered in greater detail in the next article below.
The afternoon session addressed the California Condor recovery effort in the Southwest, bird monitoring of restoration sites along the Lower Colorado River, and the spatial ecology of the Lower Colorado River Valley population of “Greater” Sandhill Cranes. Poster presentations dealt with fire effects on American Three-toed Woodpecker habitat, population and density estimates of breeding birds in the Sonoran Desert and riparian habitats, Golden Eagle nesting phenology, and breeding habitat selection of Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Important Bird Areas. Future AZFO expeditions are planned for Piute Canyon in Apache County, the Virgin Valley and Mountains in Mohave County, and Sycamore Creek in Yavapai County.
Audubon Arizona Poster at Annual Meeting
22 October 2016 - Yuma
Photo/Fran Thurber
During the meeting, attendees had an opportunity to test their skills in photo and audio quizzes. AZFO logo items and used books were for sale, a raffle was held, and the Yuma Audubon Society hosted a table. A social hour was followed by a catered dinner. The keynote address was given by Osvel Hinojosa Huerta of Pronatura Noroeste, the largest conservation organization in Northwestern Mexico. His talk was titled “Bringing Back the Colorado River Delta for People and Birds”.
Sunday morning expeditions took place at Interstate 8 Oases; Imperial National Wildlife Refuge and Martinez Lake; Salton Sea; and Yuma East Wetlands. The Salton Sea group had great looks at a Yellow-footed Gull. The annual meeting was coordinated by Anne Pellegrini. A full report on the meeting will be available at: Our next annual meeting will be held in the Verde Valley in early October 2017.
Yellow-footed Gull
23 October 2016 – Salton Sea, California
Photo/Ryan P. O’Donnell
By Chrissy Kondrat-Smith
Elections were held for opening officer and board positions at AZFO’s 10th annual meeting on 22 October 2016. Thank you to all of our members for your participation.
Turning first to the officers, Jennie MacFarland was nominated and voted in for a second two-year term as Vice-President. Doug Jenness was not eligible to continue as Treasurer. A big thank you to Doug for taking on this task for the past 11 years—not to mention his other contributions such as coordinator for our seasonal reports and annual Santa Cruz Flats Raptor Count. Your time and energies have been invaluable to AZFO. Matt VanWallene was nominated and voted in as AZFO’s new Treasurer. Matt is a Certified Public Accountant by profession and served as Treasurer for the Maricopa Audubon Society. The skills Matt will bring to this organization are priceless. Matt emigrated from Holland and grew up in the Midwest. He majored in quantitative systems and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Arizona State University. He is an Eagle Scout and was an adult leader with the Boy Scouts of America for the past 10 years. He and his wife of 40 years have two sons and one beautiful grandson. Sadly for birding, he is colorblind but has contributed much of his spare time and energy with organizations working toward bird conservation in Arizona.  
The board positions held by Walter Thurber and Anne Pellegrini were open this year. Walter Thurber was nominated and voted in for his second term as a board member. Anne decided it was time to step out of the rotation for a second term. Anne’s service has been much appreciated with her efforts over the past two years. Walt Anderson has been nominated and voted in as AZFO’s new board member. Walt is a naturalist, artist, photographer, and Professor of Environmental Studies at innovative Prescott College. He has taught and advised at the college for 25 years, where he promotes experiential education through fostering “informed imagination.” Formerly a refuge biologist, he has led nature-based and photography expeditions around the world. His writings, artwork (especially bird portraits), and photographs all are ways of sharing his passion for the natural world. He is an expert in field identification of birds on many continents. Appointed board member Pierre Deviche is stepping down after 9 years as editor of our journal Arizona Birds Online and editor of this newsletter. His expertise and enthusiasm will be sorely missed. While we attempt to fill his shoes, Doug Jenness will serve as interim editor of the journal.
To all the past and present officers and board members, THANK YOU for your dedication and service to our members and organization, the Arizona Field Ornithologists! If you or someone you know is interested in serving as an AZFO officer, board member or on a committee in the coming year, please contact Chrissy Kondrat-Smith at
By Chrissy Kondrat-Smith
Eight mini-expeditions were organized as part of the AZFO annual meeting in Yuma. One of these expeditions covered several birding hotspots between the San Cristobal and Gila valleys. The spots chosen are visited occasionally by birders as they venture down to the southwest part of the state. The numbers of species were low as expected at this time of year, but the stops illustrated the diversity of birding locations available east of Yuma.
The morning began at the well-known Dateland gas station and date shake shop.  As workers were bagging dates, we worked our way along the edge of the date field and oleander line paralleling the trailer park. It was a quiet start, but we did find a total of 23 species—including Chipping Sparrow, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Le Conte’s Thrasher. The complete list is available at:
While scanning the agricultural fields on the way to the Tacna migrant trap, we spotted a few American Pipits, a Northern Harrier and American Kestrels. The migrant trap was quiet for this time of year, yielding the group seven species total, among them a Cooper’s Hawk and desert birds such as Phainopepla and Verdin.
The Quigley Wildlife Area near Tacna yielded 33 species. We were welcomed by a Belted Kingfisher, Tree and Barn swallows, and an Osprey carrying fish across the outlying fields. The fire that took place in the cottonwood patch and mesquite bosque has taken a toll, but signs of green were still visible in the cottonwood grove that held two Great Horned Owls, a Common Ground-Dove, and Lesser Goldfinches.  
A quick stop at the Coyote Wash Golf Course in Wellton brought us six species, including 42 American Coots and two Eared Grebes.

We wrapped up the afternoon at Riverside Park in Yuma. A total of 22 species was spotted there in the warm afternoon. This final stop was a treat, as we viewed birds such as Spotted Sandpiper, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and kayakers moving down the river.   
September-October 2016

By Troy Corman
This has been an exceptional fall season for far reaching vagrants making their way to Arizona. Well documented potential first state records were noted for an amazing five species! Three of these were brought to the state in early September by Hurricane Newton that was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it crossed into Arizona. A good summary of the avian discoveries in the wake of Newton can be found at:
As Hurricane Newton moved into southeastern Arizona, it brought with it five species of tubenoses which included LEAST, BLACK, and WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS. The latter was not only a first state record, but individuals were documented in five counties! The other first state records were photographed WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER and JUAN FERNANDEZ PETREL, with the petrel also a first U.S. record if accepted by various review committees.
Juan Fernandez Petrel
7 September 2016 – Tucson, Pima Co.
Photo/Brian Gibbons
Potential first state records also included the unexpected discovery of a CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY visiting a feeder in Yuma, Yuma Co. from late August into October. Given that this is primarily a resident species and seldom known to wander much even into the adjacent Mohave Desert in California, provenance could be questioned. Then in early October, another unexpected find was a LESSER SAND-PLOVER (previously Mongolian Plover) east of Flagstaff, Coconino Co. This obliging, Asian shorebird lingered and was enjoyed by many people.
Lesser Sand-Plover
3 October 2016 – Round Cedar Lake, Coconino Co.
Photo/Gordon Karre
Even without the above species, fall migration is an exciting time to be in the field. You just never know what vagrant warbler, vireo or other surprises will brighten your outing or even your yard. A very brief encounter with a ROSEATE SPOONBILL in Gilbert, Maricopa Co. was the only one reported so far this year in the state. The last half of September and first week of October appears to be the peak time for BROAD-WINGED HAWKS to migrate through, with a one-day high of six at Yaki Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino Co. and several in east Tucson, Pima Co. Rarer shorebirds included a RED KNOT near Gila Bend, Maricopa Co. The second Maricopa Co. ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD record was carefully photo documented in the same Chandler yard as the first!
As expected, there were many notable passerines. With very few state records, the best flycatcher was a YELLOW-BELLIED north of Sonoita in Pima Co. Vireos were highlighted by a WHITE-EYED near Flagstaff, Coconino Co. and another north of Springerville, Apache Co., both possibly first county records. Even rarer was a PHILADELPHIA VIREO at Paige Creek, Pima Co. Another first county record was a WOOD THRUSH near Meteor Crater, Coconino Co., and exceptional was a STREAK-BACKED ORIOLE at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Pima Co.       
In the birding world, fall migration and warblers are practically synonymous. Thirty species were reported in Arizona in September and October, including many fun vagrants. Likely a first record for Navajo Co., a WORM-EATING WARBLER was a great yard bird. A TENNESSEE WARBLER in the Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise Co. and another at Morgan City Wash near Lake Pleasant, Maricopa Co. were noteworthy, particularly the latter as it was the 30th warbler species for that location! The only BLACKPOLL WARBLER report came from Chandler, Maricopa Co., while the only BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER was in Dateland, Yuma Co.
For more details about these and other noteworthy photo-documented observations, please visit:
By Doug Jenness
The AZFO Board of Directors, acting on a proposal from the regional coordinators of the seasonal reports, has decided to end the seasonal reports with the Winter 2015-16 report. This project, launched at AZFO's first state meeting in 2007, created 33 reports over a period of eight years. This was a gigantic undertaking, involving over 22 volunteers and many hundreds of hours of work—more than any other AZFO activity. Their hard work is much appreciated.
The main reason for closing down the reports is that very few people were reading or using them, making the great amount of labor involved in preparing them seem unwarranted. For many years, seasonal reports were a major project of state ornithological societies and the backbone of their quarterly journals. At one time, birders followed the reports closely to learn about rare birds in their areas. However, with the advent of the Internet, listserves, Facebook, and especially eBird, birders are getting more rapid information about unusual sightings. Our four-times-a-year reports seemed like yesterday's news, even though they offered more context about late departures and early arrivals, unusually large or small numbers, first and second state records, county records, etc. We also included annual data on such matters as the status of nesting Bald Eagles in the state.
The seasonal reports will remain on the website as a resource and we have enhanced the ability to search them. Many sightings from our seasonal reports that were not on eBird have been added by volunteers, and the rest will be added soon.
We hope to capture some of the aspects of our reports that are unavailable on eBird or other sites by creating regularly updated, annotated county lists and a state list on the AZFO website. This is a huge project which cannot be accomplished all at once. The first step is to assemble accurate county checklists for all 15 counties, and currently we have volunteers working on this for several counties.
By Kurt Radamaker
Each July, the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) publishes a supplement to its Checklist of North and Middle American Birds; the 57th supplement was issued in 2016. The biggest and most-likely-to-be-talked-about change this year is a major “reshuffling of families and species”. The sequences of non-passerine orders and oscine passerine families have changed significantly. The new taxonomic order is going to take some getting used to, for example, seeing the loons after the tropicbirds and the family passer no longer at the end of the list.
This article summarizes the impacts of the AOU checklist changes on the Arizona State Checklist. An updated version of the Arizona checklist is available on the AZFO website here:
New Sequence for Non-Passerine Orders
The sequence of non–passerine orders between Galliformes (“chickens”) and Trogoniformes (trogons) is now as follows:
Podicipediformes (grebes)
Columbiformes (pigeons)
Cuculiformes (cuckoos)
Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers and nighthawks)
Apodiformes (swifts and hummingbirds)
Gruiformes (cranes and rails)
Charadriiformes (shorebirds, gulls, terns, auks)
Phaethontiformes (tropicbirds)
Gaviiformes (loons)
Procellariiformes (tubenoses)
Ciconiiformes (storks)
Suliformes (gannets and boobies)
Pelecaniformes (pelicans, herons, ibises)
Cathartiformes (New World vultures)
Accipitriformes (hawks)
Strigiformes (owls)
New Sequence for Some Old World Passerine Families
A group of mostly Old World passerine families move in sequence to immediately follow Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler) and precede Calcariidae (longspurs). They are, in sequence:
Passeridae (Old World sparrows)
Motacillidae (pipits and wagtails)
Fringillidae (true finches)
The long-anticipated split of the scrub-jays has finally happened. Unexpectedly, Arizona recently had an occurrence of California Scrub-Jay in Yuma. If accepted by the Arizona Bird Committee (ABC), the California Scrub-Jay would be a first state record--although the provenance of the jay is being questioned by some people.
Split of Western Scrub-Jay
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
California Scrub-Jay
27 August 2016 – Yuma feeder, Yuma Co.
Photo/Mike Margolis
Arizona has a record of “Leach’s Storm-Petrel”, and now with the split of the “Leach’s” complex the Arizona record is listed as Leach’s/Townsend’s/Ainley’s Storm-Petrel on the official checklist. With the recent occurrence of several white-rumped storm-petrels identified as Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel in Arizona, the single sight record of Leach’s may be revisited by the ABC. Identification of these forms is complicated by the fact that all of them have variable rump patterns. Even leucorhoa can have a totally dark rump, as has been observed on breeders from the Farallones, but light-rumped leucorhoa usually have a dark mark down the center of the rump—something not seen in many white-rumped Ainley’s and Townsend’s Storm-Petrels. Field identification should be approached cautiously, to say the least.
Split of Leach’s Storm-Petrel
Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)
Townsend’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma socorroensis)
Ainley’s Storm-Petrel* (Oceanodroma cheimomnestes)
New Sequence for New World Quail
The new sequence for the family Odontophoridae is as follows:
Northern Bobwhite
Scaled Quail
California Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Montezuma Quail
New Sequence for Vireos
Our understanding of relationships among the vireos has increased substantially over the past few years. New information didn’t yield a split of the genus Vireo, as some were anticipating, but it did yield a change in sequence:
Black-capped Vireo
White-eyed Vireo
Bell’s Vireo
Gray Vireo
Hutton’s Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Cassin’s Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Shorebird Subfamily Reshuffle
Relationships among the shorebirds are also now better understood. Below is the new classification scheme, including a change in subfamilies and in sequence. Within each genus, there is no change in sequence of the species: 
Numeniinae (curlews)
Bartramia (Upland Sandpiper)
Numenius (traditional curlews) 
Limosinae (godwits) 
Arenariinae (turnstones and Calidrine sandpipers)
Arenaria (turnstones)
Calidris (sandpipers, including peeps)
Scolopacinae (dowitchers, snipes, and woodcocks)
Limnodromus (dowitchers)
Gallinago (other snipe)
Tringinae (tringines)
Actitis (Spotted and Common sandpipers)
Tringa (“legs”, “shanks”, tattlers, Willet, and Solitary, Green, Wood, and Marsh sandpipers)
Phalaropus (phalaropes)
*Data indicating proper placement on the list are not yet available.
26-27 November 2016
The Agua Fria National Monument in southeastern Yavapai County sits at the heart of a vast expanse of semidesert grassland, one of the largest in central Arizona. An AZFO expedition in January 2016 surveyed these grasslands and adjacent riparian forests for wintering birds, yielding such highlights as Prairie Falcon, Sage Thrasher and Grasshopper Sparrow. The outcome of this expedition called for a continuing effort to monitor the area at various times of the year. This month we will return to the Agua Fria National Monument to gain further insight into the birds of this seldom explored ecosystem. Leaders: Micah Riegner and Felipe Guerrero at
3-4 December 2016
Piute Canyon, straddling the Arizona-Utah border in extreme northwestern Navajo County, offers some of the most remote and underexplored country in northern Arizona. The avifauna of the area are known only from a few brief visits for the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas Project in the 1990s, and it has virtually never been surveyed in winter. Our expedition aims to explore this area as thoroughly as possible and increase our understanding of its wintering birds. Leaders: Chuck LaRue and Felipe Guerrero at

By Troy Corman

It is time to begin planning again for the upcoming Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) in Arizona. The first counts are scheduled for 14 December 2016 and the last will be on 5 January 2017. The dates and compiler contacts for the 35 counts across the state can be found at A CBC video created by the Arizona Game and Fish Department provides useful information about CBC protocol and participation.

In preparation for the CBC season, AZFO has scheduled FREE, pre-CBC workshops on Saturday morning, 10 December 2016 in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff. The workshops are designed for new and seasoned CBC participants and area leaders. Tips and techniques will be provided for making your annual CBC experience even better. The topics will include how to find more birds within your assigned areas, coordinating teams, and how to better estimate the number of birds in large flocks. Many of these tips can also be used to enhance your general birding skills and make outings more enjoyable. The workshops include an hour-long, classroom-based presentation followed by a nearby field experience. For workshop locations and to register, please visit:

By Walter Thurber
A regular feature at our annual meetings is a sales table where short- and long-sleeved T-shirts, polo shirts, caps, mugs and lens cleaning cloths are available. Each item carries our famous Red-faced Warbler logo. Maybe you have wished you could purchase one of these items at other times. Now there is a solution. Simply contact me at with any questions or to place an order. We can arrange to meet someplace and complete the transaction.
26-27 Nov 2016
Agua Fria Grasslands Expedition
Agua Fria National Monument
Contact: Felipe Guerrero
3-4 Dec 2016
Piute Canyon-Page Expedition
Contact: Felipe Guerrero
10 Dec 2016
Christmas Bird Count Workshops
Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff
Contact: Troy Corman
14 Dec 2016 –
5 Jan 2017

Christmas Bird Counts
(see website for details)
21 Jan 2017
Greater Phoenix Area Waterbird Survey
Contact: Troy Corman
21 Jan 2017
Santa Cruz Flats Raptor Count
Contact: Doug Jenness
     Kurt Radamaker
     Cave Creek AZ
Vice President
     Jennifer MacFarland
     Tucson AZ
Membership Secretary
     Kurt Licence
     Phoenix AZ
Recording Secretary
     Carol Beardmore
     Phoenix AZ
     Matt VanWallene
     Chandler AZ
Board Members
     Walt Anderson    
     Prescott AZ
     Andy Bridges
     Petrified Forest Natl Park AZ
     Walter Thurber
     Scottsdale AZ
Arizona Birds
     Doug Jenness, Interim Editor
     Catalina AZ
     Sabine Deviche, Design
     Liège BE
     Walter Thurber, Editor
     Scottsdale AZ
     Andy Bridges, Design
     Petrified Forest Natl Park AZ
Field Expeditions
     Felipe Guerrero, Chair
     Prescott AZ
Photo Documentation
     Lauren Harter, Co-Editor
     Lake Havasu City AZ
     David Vander Pluym, Co-Editor
     Lake Havasu City AZ
     Kurt Radamaker, Developer
     Cave Creek AZ
     Edwin Juarez, Support
     Phoenix AZ
Copyright © 2016 Arizona Field Ornithologists. All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp