Today is the day to celebrate the father of modern field guides – Roger Tory Peterson. Born Aug. 28, 1908, this influential man published his Guide to the Birds in 1934 at the age of 25, his first step in developing what is a standard today for great field guides. His unique system of crisply clear illustrations and markers to highlight key identification characteristics has introduced thousands of individuals to the joy of birding and the satisfaction of properly identifying the birds they see, and even today Peterson's updated field guides are some of the most popular choices for birders of all experience levels.
But Peterson was more than just a birder, or an illustrator or a writer. He was passionate about birds and all wildlife and natural ecology, and worked tirelessly toward effective conservation through education. He was an artist, naturalist, and despite no formal ornithological training, one of the most influential and renowned bird experts of the 20th century.
Peterson passed away on July 28, 1996, but his legacy lives on in every field guide and every birder who uses them. Celebrate his birthday today by…
- Reading a detailed biography, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, to learn more about the man as well as his myriad of influences across different fields.
- Going birding (opt for the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America or the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America depending on your home range).
- Promoting his conservation efforts by donating to a bird rescue organization or supporting wildlife refuges where you can use his field guides.
- Visit the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in his birthplace, Jamestown, N.Y., and enjoy the original archives of Peterson's work and collections of his art and bird skins.
- Continue his legacy by learning how to draw a bird, teaching someone about birding or just enjoying every part of nature you see.