April 2024

Vol. 52, No. 2

Thank you, William E. (Ted) Davis, Jr.—Bird Observer’s Most Prolific Author

Wayne R. Petersen and John Kricher

From left to right: John Kricher, Ted Davis, and Wayne Petersen. Photograph by Betsy Davis.
From left to right: John Kricher, Ted Davis, and Wayne Petersen. Photograph by Betsy Davis.

For long-time readers of Bird Observer, the name Ted Davis will hardly be unfamiliar. Accordingly, at the sunset of his long and distinguished career as an ornithologist, historian, author, and educator—along with being a warm and valued friend to both authors through the years—it is a privilege and a pleasure to wish our esteemed friend and colleague nothing but the best as he retires from Bird Observer.

Both of us came to know Ted at about the same time in the early 1970s. Following a childhood interest in birds fostered by his father, and a newly minted Ph.D. from Boston University, Ted was teaching at Boston University when he and John first crossed paths at the Stony Brook Bird Club in Norfolk, Massachusetts. From then on, they developed the enduring friendship that continues to this day. Wayne was fortunate to get to know both Ted and John through contacts at the Nuttall Ornithological Club. In 1979, Ted joined Paul Donahue and Wayne on a lengthy trip to Peru that will forever be remembered as life-changing for both Ted and Wayne. In the years that followed, Ted became a member of the staff of Bird Observer where our association and friendship flourished. In 1983, Wayne was privileged to join Ted and John as a co-investigator on a bird banding EarthWatch project in Belize.


Ted’s wide-ranging influence on Bird Observer gradually escalated, and from 1990–1997 he was president of Bird Observer of Eastern Massachusetts, Inc. In 1989, he began selecting the cover species illustrations and artfully writing the corresponding natural history narratives for nearly 200 issues between 1989 and 2023. At the same time, he contributed more than 60 personal field notes covering a host of wide-ranging topics such as “Human ‘Psh-Psh-Psh’ Calls Mimic Avian Distress Call” (1987), “The Nantucket Oldsquaw [now Long-tailed Duck] Flight: New England’s Greatest Bird Show?” (1997), and “Purple Gallinules Attempt to Kleptoparasitize an Anhinga” (2019). He also pulled together extensive and valuable biographical sketches of prominent Massachusetts ornithologists such as William Brewster, Charles J. Maynard, Outram Bangs, and Ludlow Griscom, in addition to crafting notes on avian foraging behavior in species as varied as herons and egrets, shorebirds, Downy Woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatches.

Between 1977 and 1996, Ted also successfully conducted and annually published 14 Winter Bird Population Studies and 7 Breeding Bird Censuses in the journals American Birds and the Journal of Field Ornithology. Besides these projects, Ted found the time to travel extensively in addition to authoring or co-authoring 14 books and memoirs, many of which were published by the Nuttall Ornithological Club, along with biographies of Ludlow Griscom and Alexander Wilson. Ted Davis can rightfully be called a force of Nature.

Perhaps Ted’s final and arguably most significant contribution to Bird Observer was a carefully annotated and chronological history of the journal covering the 50-year period between 1973–2023. With Volume 51, Number 6, Ted Davis has left an indelible mark on the ever successful and highly acclaimed Bird Observer journal. His jovial smile and quick wit will surely be missed by all who have been privileged to know and work with him. Good luck and all the best for whatever comes next, good friend!

Literature Cited

  • Davis, W. E., Jr. 1987. Human “Psh-Psh-Psh” Calls Mimic Avian Distress Call. Bird Observer 15 (2):61–66.
  • Davis, W. E., Jr. 1997. Nantucket’s Oldsquaw Flight: New England’s Greatest Bird Show? Bird Observer 25 (1):16–22.
  • Davis, W. E., Jr. 2019. Purple Gallinules Attempt to Kleptoparasitize an Anhinga. Bird Observer 47 (4):250–251.


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