Bluebird champion dies at 94
Although a birdwatcher most of my life, I didn’t really appreciate the amazing abilities and charming peculiarities of birds until I learnt about many of them from André Dion, the ornithologist, prolific author, and environmentalist who died on Sunday at the age of 94. Once he had retired from his first career, he
wrote endlessly on the subject, authoring twenty-three books, some with his partner France Dumas Dion, and he could talk endlessly about the antics of the birds, there were hundreds of them, who found refuge on his small property, in Magog. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be on the listening end.
Mr. Dion’s love of nature and, in particular, birds, began with his early education by priests. But it wasn’t until his retirement, after inventing the important educational game Auto-Correct-Art with his wife France, that he began dedicating his time to the study and preservation of birds, beginning with the threatened Eastern Bluebird. He and France, his partner of the last 44 years, went on to found the Societé des Amis du Merlebleu de l’Est and with the help of its members, installed more than 10,000 bluebird birdhouses across Quebec, leading to the bird’s comeback.
An adventurer even in his senior years, while gathering information for his book about the Barrow’s Goldeneye, Mr. Dion travelled to Iceland to meet with ornithologist and Goldeneye expert Arni Arneisson. After the founding of the Fondation France et André Dion, whose mission is to protect cavity-nesting ducks such as the Barrow’s Goldeneye, the couple spearheaded the building and installation of five hundred nesting boxes in northern Quebec. Mr. Dion received several awards for his work, including the Quebec National Assembly Medal, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, and he was named to France’s Ordre de la Pleiade de la francophonie.
Through his actions and his books, he has left a legacy of knowledge, caring and appreciation for our feathered friends. Besides by his large family, his passion, enthusiasm and humour will be sorely missed by countless friends and admirers. As Canadian Research Scientist Dr. Jean-Pierre Savard wrote in the preface of André Dion’s book L’Odyssée du Garrot d’Islande en Amerique, “André Dion was as colorful as the feathers on his birds.”
Donations in honour of Mr. Dion can be made to the Fondation France et André Dion to help with the publication of his memoire.
Ornithologist and author André Dion, seen here in his gazebo, died on Sunday at the age of 94.
André and France Dumas Dion in their bird sanctuary garden in Magog.
Painting by Anthony Hobbs