Volume 5: Birds of Inyo County, California, Including Death Valley National Park


by Thomas S. Heindel and Jo Ann Heindel

This volume is a comprehensive study of the avifauna of Inyo County, California, a county that includes portions of the Sierra Nevada, White Mountains, Owens Lake, and Death Valley National Park. The Heindels summarize over 30 years of comprehensive data as well as historical and museum records dating to the earliest exploration of the region. The volume is richly illustrated with color photographs, bar graphs for each species, and maps.

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Inyo County comprises a vast region of desert and mountain ranges in central-eastern California, along the border with Nevada. It hosts a surprising diversity of habitats, largely because it contains the greatest elevational range in the contiguous United States (Mt. Whitney, the highest, and Bad Water, Death Valley, the lowest). Most of it consists of mountain ranges, the majestic Sierra Nevada along its western boundary, and numerous “dry” ranges to the east, including the White Mountains, home to the ancient bristlecone pines. Death Valley National Park is almost entirely within its borders. The great variety of habitats is reflected in the fact that 441 species of birds have been recorded in the county. This book presents a meticulously detailed account of the status, distribution, and seasonal occurrence of each.

Following introductory chapters on habitats and a history of ornithological exploration of the county from the pioneering expeditions of the late 19th century to the present, each species has an account beginning with a bar graph showing seasonal abundance. This is followed by a description of its distribution in the county, seasonal occurrence with extreme dates and maximal numbers observed in each season, a detailed summary of breeding data, and a comments section where first documented occurrence, population trends and other changes in occurrence, and subspecies are discussed. A separate section within each account provides the same information for Death Valley National Park. A gazetteer, extensive literature cited, and a list of observers of individual records follow.

This remarkable book is the culmination of more than three decades of dedication by the Heindels. They compiled every known record from the first explorations of the region to the end of 2020, the resulting database containing more than 455,000 records. A concerted effort was made to find all Inyo specimens residing in museums. These data were carefully vetted and synthesized in what is certainly one of the most comprehensive books on avian status and distribution ever published. The volume is liberally illustrated with a map of the county and more than 200 color photos of habitats and birds recorded in the county, including many documenting unusual records.

The book will be an invaluable reference for scholars, resource managers, and anyone interested in the birds of this remarkable region.