Bird­watcher loved avian world

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

Among fel­low bird­watch­ers, Chan­dler Robbins, who died March 20 at 98, was revered as a fa­ther of mod­ern or­nithol­ogy. He was the prin­ci­pal au­thor of “Birds of North Amer­ica: A Guide to Field Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion,” a bi­ble for mil­lions of en­thu­si­asts who spend their hap­pi­est hours scan­ning the skies for winged crea­tures.

Robbins doc­u­mented avian life around the world, in­clud­ing on the Pa­cific is­land of Mid­way, where in 1956 he tagged a young Laysan al­ba­tross who came to be known as Wis­dom. She is the old­est known wild bird, a ma­tri­arch who laid an egg as re­cently as De­cem­ber.

But for more than six decades, he worked pri­mar­ily in the en­vi­rons of Wash­ing­ton, as an or­nithol­o­gist at the Patux­ent Re­search Refuge in Lau­rel, Md. In the 1950s, he doc­u­mented the dam­age wrought by the pes­ti­cide DDT, in­clud­ing its thin­ning ef­fect on os­prey and ea­gle eggshells. Rachel Car­son, a col­league at the time, re­lied on his re­search for her 1962 en­vi­ron­men­tal man­i­festo “Silent Spring.”

Robbins said that his first con­scious mem­ory was of a dis­play of mounted birds at the li­brary in Bel­mont, Mass., where he was born Chan­dler Sey­mour Robbins on July 17, 1918. His fa­ther was a birder, and Chan­dler’s brother Sa­muel also grew up to be a noted or­nithol­o­gist.

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