Steve Bailey is an active northern California birder best known for his interest and expertise in seabirds, and his long association with museum collections. Steve grew up in New Jersey, and attended college in Wisconsin, before coming to U.C. Berkeley for graduate school in the early 1970s. He first appears in the California literature in the winter 1971-72 issue of American Birds (Rock Sandpiper at Alameda naval air station). Working at his PhD at Berkeley, he had ready access to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; he and fellow grad student Van Remsen arranged weekly evening sessions with local birders, going through field i.d. problems and checking them against skins at MVZ, a year-long invaluable learning experience. In the 1980s, Steve would become the collections manager for birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences. In 1992, just after the close of our period of review in 1989, he would become Director of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, a position he held until his retirement just over a decade later.
Perhaps his foremost interest was seabirds. Steve was often a leader on Shearwater Journeys boat trips during our period of review, and after moving to the Monterey Peninsula, he regularly led Monterey Bay boat trips for Jim Booker's patrons and, later, for Monterey Bay Seabirds. He participated in numerous governmental pelagic surveys in the 1980s and 1990s, many of which took him on large research vessels into very choppy seas. His research interests took him as far distant as the Revillagigedo Islands in the eastern tropical Pacific, and the north coast of New Guinea, where he studied the ecology of pelagic terns. Steve, along with Peter Pyle and David Yee, led a California survey expedition a hundred miles offshore from Marin to Mendocino counties in April 1989, and the results were impressive: 98 Murphy's Petrels (one collected), 113 Cook's Petrels, and 136 Horned Puffins. Steve translated his oceanic expertise into several important published papers (e.g., Bailey et al. 1989, Roberson & Bailey 1991).
Steve served as northern California's Region Editor for seabirds for American Birds for 21 seasons during our period of review (second only to Dick Erickson in the years 1965-1989) but he continued to serve well into the late 1990s, a span of 13 years overall.
Photo (above) aboard a boat on Monterey Bay, 23 Nov 1971
© Van Remsen
his younger days, Steve was an active State birder in the 1970s, including
the long distance drives to visit desert oases in migration. The "Bailey
box" — a meticulously arranged set of i.d. guides and papers in a convenient
travel box — was a standard feature of those car trips. He would learn
much of California well, and in the late 1980s would undertake various
avian population research projects in the extreme northeast. He served
two terms on the California Bird Records Committee, including the last
four years of our period of review (1986-1989). Steve was also an author
of several species accounts in the 3 volume Audubon Society Master Guide
to Birding (1983), including the western species of Empidonax
flycatcher. His i.d. summaries were the best available at the time.
After the close of our period of review, Steve would lead a wide variety of natural history tours for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. He also began to enjoy world birding, including cruises to the Antarctic with visits of subAntarctic islands, and visited such remote locales as Irian Jaya (western New Guinea) and Madagascar. Upon retirement, he moved to Arcata and began a new career as a naturalist and field guide. Currently (2005) he is working as a naturalist guide in Costa Rica.
Photo (right) has Steve Bailey (left) with Kimball Garrett
and Guy McCaskie on the National Park Service dock on Santa Barbara I.,
20 Sep 1974 © D. Roberson
Official Bird Name: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Selected publications 1989:
Selected publications after 1989:
All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.
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