Birdwatcher loved avian world
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.