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Today is an important day for birders, and without today, birding and bird identification might be very different. Happy birthday, Roger Tory Peterson, father of the modern field guide!
Roger Tory Peterson was born August 28, 1908, and despite no ornithological training, he published his first field guide in 1934. That initial guide, in modern revised versions, is still part of many birders’ libraries, field bags, and resources today, and the diagnostic way that Peterson approached bird identification – noting field marks, size, and plumage differences – has become the standard for all field guides.
Peterson was about more than just his field guides, however. He was an accomplished artist, avid conservationist, and passionate naturalist far beyond birds. He wrote and contributed to guides not only for birds, but also for wildflowers, rocks and minerals, reptiles, fish, and other wildlife, and he was always willing to share his enthusiasm with others not only through his writing and artwork, but through teaching, speaking, and other venues. His approach to naturalism and field guides has inspired generations of naturalists and led to an extensive series of field guides covering nearly every aspect of the natural world, from moths and butterflies to shells, animal tracks, stars and planets, mammals, ferns, mushrooms, trees, and much more.
The world may have lost Peterson upon his death in 1996, but his legacy will never be lost so long as his field guides are treasured resources for all birders.
Learn more about Roger Tory Peterson by clicking on any of the book images in this post to read a thorough, pleasant biography of his life or to expand your field guide collection!