JOE MORLAN  [Joseph Morlan]
Joe Morlan has long been one of the premier birders in California. Joe grew up in the East but has been in the San Francisco Bay area since the late 1960s. He has lived on both sides of the Bay and has taught birdwatching classes through the San Francisco adult school system since the 1970s. He first appears in American Birds in winter 1972-73 (he is cited for a half-dozen records) and rapidly became one of the best birders in the Bay area as a protégé of Van Remsen. He was among those who met weekly to work out identification as they reviewed specimens at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley, where Van had evening access. He quickly gained stature as one of the Bay Area's leading bird experts.

Joe was the voice of the Bay Area rare bird alert for many years, and the machine was actually in his home long past the end of our period of review. As he taught more and more classes on birds, at differing levels of expertise, he became a mentor to an entire generation of new observers. No other California birder has taught adult-level birding classes for so long and so extensively. The classes include field trips, taking Joe and his students throughout the Bay Area incessantly, and his knowledge of Bay Area birds is perhaps unmatched. He is particularly active on Pt. Reyes, but over the years has seriously birded the entire State. He served as a Regional Editor for American Birds for 4 seasons in the 1970s.

Joe was first elected to the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC) in 1981 and has been a constant presence on the Committee ever since, excepting bylaw enforced absences after every two terms. In our period of review, he served for 8 years. He has consistently been one of the most influential CBRC members. 

photo 20 June 1992 on a boat just off S.E. Farallon I. © D. Roberson

Joe has long been interested in the details of bird identification, and he authored several papers on difficult topics. His discussion of White Wagtail identification and its forms is a classic (Morlan 1981). Joe (with Dick Erickson) undertook the problem of convincingly documenting the Pt. Reyes skylark in a peer-reviewed journal (Morlan & Erickson 1983). Additional i.d. papers are cited below. In the late 1980s he (along with Don Roberson) took a series of CBRC submissions that proved to be first state records, and turned them into publications available to all. Joe wrote the identification portions of these papers (e.g., Stallcup et al. 1988, Trochet et al. 1988, Daniels et al. 1989). He was invited to the 1986 international bird identification meeting in Eilat, Israel, where he attended and presented a paper (see Dunn et al. 1987).

His acknowledged expertise extends to the status and distribution of birds in northern California. Joe and Dick Erickson revised the classic.bar graph booklet on northern California in the late 1970s (McCaskie et al. 1979) and updated it again in the late '80s (McCaskie et al. 1988). The latter remains in print and is still an excellent source of information on the timing of occurrences and bird migration in the northern half of the State.

Joe was one of the first to recognize the value of the internet in disseminating bird information. His website on California Birding is consistently considered the best website for Statewide birding information, rarity details and photos, and many other features. This latter achievement, though, obviously occurred long after the close of our period of review.

photo 18 Dec 1978 at Spaletta Ranch, Pt. Reyes MRN © D. Roberson

Official Bird Name: Wood Stork
Ticky Token: Yes
Significant bird records during our period of review: Many birds of local interests and vagrants; those of statewide importance include
  • Streaked Shearwater  9 Oct 1977  Monterey Bay MTY 2nd CA record [co-finder]
  • Streaked Shearwater  26 Sep 1982  Monterey Bay MTY 4th CA record [co-finder]
  • Wood Thrush  21 Dec 1983  Golden Gate Park S.F. 7th CA record, first to winter in the State
  • Common Grackle  22 May 1979  Scotty's Castle INY 8th CA record
  • Scarlet Tanager  20 June 1982  Pt. Reyes MRN 10th n. CA record, one of very few alternate males

Selected publications 1981-1989:

  • Morlan, J. 1978. Finding rarities at Point Reyes, California. Birding 10: 9-12.
  • Morlan, J. 1981. Status and identification of forms of White Wagtail in western North America. Continental Birdlife 2: 37-50.
  • Morlan, J. 1983. Identification quiz. West. Birds 14: 55-56.
  • Morlan, J., and Erickson, R. A. 1983. A Eurasian Skylark at Point Reyes, California, with notes on skylark identification and systematics. West. Birds 14:113-126.
  • Morlan, J. 1985. Eighth report of the California Bird Records Committee. West. Birds 16:105-122.
  • Morlan, J. 1986a. ID Point: Sage and Bendire's thrashers. Birding 18:328-329.
  • Morlan, J. 1986b. The 86th Christmas Bird Count: Regional summaries California. Amer. Birds 40:1061-1067. 
Selected publications 1981-1990 as co-author:
  • Roberson, D., Morlan, J., and Small, A. 1977. A Streaked Shearwater in California. Amer. Birds 31: 1097-1098.
  • McCaskie, G., DeBenedictis, P., Erickson, R., and Morlan, J. 1979. Birds of Northern California: An Annotated Field List, 2d ed. Golden Gate Audubon Soc., San Francisco.
  • McCaskie, G., DeBenedictis, P., Erickson, R., and Morlan, J. 1988. Birds of Northern California: An Annotated Field List, 2d ed., reprinted with Supplement. Golden Gate Audubon Soc., San Francisco.
  • Lehman, P. and Morlan, J. 1987. The 88th Christmas Bird Count: Regional summaries California. Amer. Birds 42: 559-562.
  • Dunn, J.L., Morlan, J. and Wilds, C.P. 1987. Field identification of forms of Lesser Golden-Plover. Proc. 4th Intern. Identification Meeting Eilat 1st-8th November 1986.
  • Stallcup, R., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1988. First record of the Wedge-tailed Shearwater in California. West. Birds 19:61-68.
  • Trochet, J., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1988. First record of the Three-toed Woodpecker in California. West. Birds 19:109-115.
  • Daniels, B. E., Hays, L., Hays, D., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1989. First record of the Common Black-Hawk for California. West. Birds 20:11-18.
  • Erickson, R. A., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1989. First record of the White-collared Swift in California. West. Birds 20:25-31.
  • Gordon, P., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1989. First record of the White-winged Crossbill in California. West. Birds 20:81-87.
  • McLaren, I. A., Morlan, J., Smith, P.W., Gosselin, M., and Bailey, S.F. 1989. Eurasian Siskins in North America - distinguishing females from green morph Pine Siskins. Amer. Birds 43:1268-1274.
Selected publications since 1989:
  • Morlan, J. 1991. Identification of female Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks. Birding 23: 220-223.
  • Morlan, J. 1994. Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) over Cordell Bank, Marin County, California. Australian Seabird Group Newsletter 27:5-8.
  • Morlan, J. 1996. In praise of listing. Birding 28: 362.
  • Morlan, J., Dakin, R.E., and Rosso, J. 2004. Featured Photo: Apparent hybrids between the American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt in California. West. Birds 35:57-59.
  • Webster, R. E., Morlan, J., and Roberson, D. 1990. First record of the Sooty Tern in California. West. Birds 21:25-32.
  • Fisher, C.C., and Morlan, J. 1996. Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Lone Pine Publ., Renton, WA.
  • Patten, M. A., G. McCaskie, and J. Morlan. 1999. First record of the American Woodcock for California, with a summary of its status in Western North America. West. Birds 30:156-166.
  • Rottenborn, S. C. and Morlan, J. 2000. Report of the California Bird Records Committee: 1977 Records. West. Birds 31:1-37.

All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights reserved.
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.







Page created 23 Mar 2005