Mapping by Latilong
The Distribution section of Idaho Birds is an on-line extension of the 1998 book Idaho Bird Distribution, Mapping by Latilong by Dan A. Stephens and Shirley H. Sturts, published by the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Program of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The book presented seasonal distribution maps for all bird species that were known to have occurred in the state, divided into geographical sections called Latilongs.
Latilongs are rectangular areas drawn by lines of latitude and longitude. They are used in biogeographic studies, like the Breeding Bird Survey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to give researchers consistent, unchanging units for long-term studies.
Mapping Idaho bird distribution by Latilong began with the 1980-1983 Idaho Bird Distribution Latilong Study by Robert Kuntz and John Doremus (Bureau of Land Management, Boise District). Records they collected, data from Thomas D. Burleigh’s 1972 Birds of Idaho, many records from government reports and publications, ornithological collections of various museums, and thousands of reports sent in from birders around the state, formed the basis for the maps in the 1991, first edition of Idaho Bird Distribution.
These records are contained in a database maintained by Shirley and Keith Sturts that has been continuously updated with Idaho sightings and reports, including IBRC rare bird records, status change submissions, NAB reports, and more recently, validated eBird records. The database has grown from about 38,000 individual bird records when the 1998 edition of the book was published, to over 180,000 records.
You can read more about historical records and history of the Latilong study in the excerpts from the book.
Species Distribution Maps
In 2006 Shirley collaborated with Stacy Peterson and the late Harry Kreuger to create an on-line version of Idaho Bird Distribution that appeared on the original Idaho Birds website. The species distribution maps were converted to digital form for the first time, presenting this vast amount of data to the wider birding community in a more accessible, and dynamically updated format. The current maps are designed by Darren Clark, and Shirley keeps the species’ Latilong status up to date.
Birders’ Role in Documenting Idaho Bird Distribution
Reports of sightings from birders are a critical component of the always on-going process of documenting Idaho’s bird distribution and population trends. The maps are a product of decades of dedicated effort, but there is more to be done.
- One person can make a significant contribution! Compare your sightings with the species’ Latilong status on the maps and report any that will update the records.
- Status change reports are particularly needed to document breeding and overwintering. eBird checklists fill in some of the gaps, however certain Latilongs are still under-birded and under-covered in the records, in some cases even for the presence of common species.
- Report species on the List of Idaho Review Species with the Rare Bird Report Form.
- Report all other species using the Latilong Status Change Form.
With continuing help and participation from birders throughout the state, this exceptional, and unique to Idaho, resource will represent a more and more complete picture of Idaho’s avifauna.