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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2001

SUN 7-15 books Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas

July 15, 2001

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Published by the University Press of Kansas, the atlas offers a thorough look at the 203 species -- from the common mourning dove to the rare Cerulean warbler -- found or heard within the state during the summers of 1992 through 1997.

Generally, if a bird is in Kansas in the summertime, it's probably nesting here. That distinguishes them from those seen or heard during the spring and fall migrations, and gives ornithologists a better idea of which birds tend to be where.

"Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas" is based on fieldwork funded by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' Chickadee Checkoff fund and administered by the Kansas Biological Survey. Authors William Busby and John Zimmerman were able to coax 188 of the state's best birders into spending 11,728 hours looking and listening for birds in nearly 750 9-square-mile tracts throughout the state.

Plans call for taking another survey in 25 years to see whether ranges are expanding, contracting or both.

Among the latest survey's discoveries:

l Western grebes, piping plovers, Inca doves, vesper sparrows and lesser goldfinches were found nesting in Kansas for the first time.

l The first summer sightings of a rufus-crowned sparrow, a least flycatcher and a Swainson's warbler in Comanche, Brown and Montgomery counties, respectively, were recorded.

The rufus-crowned sparrow and the least flycatcher were listed as "probable category breeders." The Swainson's warbler was only "present," which means the bird didn't lead the surveyors to its nest.

Surprisingly, a little-publicized woodland tract within Weston Bend, near Fort Leavenworth, consistently produced the most summertime species.

"Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas" is not a field guide. Its illustrations are black-and-white drawings rather than color graphics. And its text doesn't deal with how to tell one wren from another.

Instead, Busby and Zimmerman set aside two pages for each of the 203 species. The text and illustration are on the left; a Kansas map showing where the species was found is on the right.

Busby and Zimmerman wisely avoid using scientific jargon, ensuring accessibility to casual birders. At the end of each description, Busby and Zimmerman cite the page numbers in Max Thompson and Charles Ely's classic "Birds in Kansas" volumes, telling readers where to look for more.

That's appropriate. "Kansas Breeding Bird Atlas," too, is destined to be a classic.

-- Staff writer Dave Ranney can be reached at 832-7222.

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