Dunn was (and remains today) a major force in California birding, particularly
in southern California and for his impacts on the California Bird Records
Committee (CBRC). Born in Los Angeles County and birding by the age of
ten, Dunn was an early protégé of Guy McCaskie and learned
extensively from birding with him in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He
and fellow Los Angelino Kimball Garrett emerged as leading experts in southern
California by the early 1970s. He began serving of the CBRC in 1977 and
remained a constant presence there throughout the period, except for enforced
absences (11 years during our period of review).
By the 1980s he was considered one of the primary experts on field identification in North America, an expertise that would eventually earn him positions on both the American Birding Association (ABA) and American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) Checklist Committees. Perhaps his most notable achievement was as the "chief consultant" of the widely popular National Geographic Field Guide (1983), a revolutionary volume at the time of its publication and now available several editions later. It entirely changed the way observers looked at birds and birding.
Dunn joined the WINGS tour group in the 1980s and has been a professional bird tour leader ever since. He moved to Ohio for a time in the 1990s but has now returned to California and resides near Bishop, Inyo County. Throughout the period under consideration here, he was at the forefront in learning about and disseminating knowledge about the status and distribution of southern California birds. The Birds of Southern California, co-authored with Kimball Garrett (1981), is now an out-of-print classic. Earlier, in the 1970s, he authored a series of identification papers in the Western Tanager, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Audubon Society, that were widely read and influential. His Field Guide to Warblers of North America, co-authored with Kimball Garrett and published in the Peterson series in 1997 (after the close of our period), is considered the definitive work on that identification topic.
photo (right or above): 20 Sep 1974 on a trip to Santa Barbara I. © D. Roberson
was a very active California birder in the 1970s, rising quickly on the
State list until he reached #2, behind Guy McCaskie, by 1977, a position
he held through the late 1980s when he finally was away so much on bird
tours that he began to miss crucial State birds. By then, however, Dunn
was a professional tour leader and no longer formally submitted bird lists.
In the '70s, however, he participated in several impressive Big Day efforts,
including the still current non-airplane State record on 29 Apr 1978: 231
species [with K.L. Garrett, J.V. Remsen, and R.E. Webster].
His career as a bird tour leader has sent him throughout North America and across much of the globe, with an emphasis on southeast Asia. Dunn has led many tours to Malaysia and Thailand, and his experiences with Asian migrants have been invaluable in evaluating North American claims of Siberian vagrants. His expertise on bird identification has led to many projects, including a two-volume video set on gull identification.
Dunn was among those who pioneered the potential of vagrant traps in Kern County and discovered the importance of wetlands in the Antelope Valley of Los Angeles County. Since moving to Bishop, east of the Sierran divide, he has birded Mono and Inyo counties more extensively, and today has the top list in Mono County.
photo (right) 15 Jan 1975 Hog Lake TEH © Van
Official Bird Name: White-necked Puffbird
Selected publications 1963-1989:
All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.
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