Using Status and Distribution Charts to Find Uncommon Birds

Another post in the series of helping birder find uncommon birds in their area.  The series started here:

Before you go look for uncommon birds you must know what an uncommon bird is for your area.  If you haven’t been birding for years and have the experience, then checking the status and distribution charts for your area will help.

When I started birding I purchased the book Birding Illinois by Sheryl DeVore.  In the back of the book was a Status and Distribution chart for Illinois.  The chart laid out birds by Common (thick dark line), Fairly Common (thin dark line), Uncommon (thin light line), and Rare(line).  And it also gave the time of the year to expect species in Illinois.  Even though it is now slightly out of date, I continue to use it even though I live in Indiana.  I like the layout and ease of use.


Wren Section from Birding Illinois

In addition to Birding Illinois I also use the Bar Charts in eBird.  As stated on their web page “Find out what birds to expect throughout the year in a region or location”.  I usually use the state level since their haven’t been enough birders in my area to make an accurate chart.


Wren section - eBird Bar Chart - State of Indiana

Selecting the bird’s name will then bring up an even more detailed chart of when to expect a given species in an area.

Winter Wren Chart - eBird - State of Indiana


So by using the two sources I can get a pretty good idea of which birds are uncommon for my area.  I have found on the Birding Illinois chart if a bird is not represented by the thicker Common line for a length of time, it is probably uncommon and difficult to find.  Same on the eBird charts.  If a species isn’t represented by a thick green line then it is probably going to be harder to find.

In the charts I presented you can see the House Wren and Carolina Wren (In Southern Illinois) should be easy to find, but the Winter, Sedge, and Marsh will be hard.  And they are!





2 Replies to “Using Status and Distribution Charts to Find Uncommon Birds”

    1. I haven’t seen any recent publications. All I am aware of is the CD “Brock’s Birds of Indiana” available from the Indiana Audubon Society. I don’t have a copy, yet, but it looks very good on status and distribution.

      I also use Sibley’s with a little National Geographic and Stokes thrown in. I’ll be posting about field guides in a later post.


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