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Ornithologist, conservationist Robert Ridgely receives 2013 Allen Award

2013 Allen Award recipient Robert Ridgely, center, with two past recipients, Linda Macaulay and Victor Emanuel. P
2013 Allen Award recipient Robert Ridgely, center, with two past recipients, Linda Macaulay and Victor Emanuel. Photo courtesy John W. Fitzpatrick.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology bestowed its prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award for 2013 to Dr. Robert Ridgely, at a ceremony May 14 at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. The award, named for Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen, was established in 1967 to honor those who have made significant contributions to ornithology by making it accessible to the general public.

“No individual alive today has contributed more to the understanding and widespread public appreciation of South American birds than Bob Ridgely,” said Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick. “Through his own pioneering explorations in the Andean wilderness, his meticulously researched books and articles, and his relentless pursuit of conservation milestones in Ecuador and beyond, Bob embodies everything that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology strives to achieve and support. ”

“As founder of the Cornell Lab, Arthur Allen broke important ground by blurring the lines between amateur naturalists and professional scientists,” Fitzpatrick said. “Today we honor Allen’s vision by recognizing other leaders who help build this vital bridge, and nobody does this better than Robert Ridgely.”

Dr. Ridgely is an expert on Neotropical birds and coauthor of The Birds of PanamaThe Birds of Ecuador, and The Birds of South America. Ridgely and fellow birder John Moore discovered a new species of antpitta in Ecuador in 1997.  Subsequently named the Jocotoco Antpitta, it has gangly blue legs, a white cheek patch, and vocalizations that range from a soft hooting to a sharp bark. The endangered bird was given the scientific name Grallaria ridgelyi to honor Dr. Ridgely.

Jocotoco Antpitta
Jocotoco Antpitta by Patty McGann via Wikipedia.

Listen to the bird’s call and song, recorded by Dr. Ridgely in 1997. The recording is archived in the Lab’s Macaulay Library collection.

Ridgely is the cofounder and president of Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco, which runs 10 nature reserves in Ecuador. He has worked tirelessly to promote bird conservation during his tenure at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the American Bird Conservancy, continuing to the present in his role as Honorary President of the World Land Trust-US.

“Dr. Robert Ridgely is a trailblazer in conservation as well as one the world’s foremost field ornithologists and tropical researchers,” says Dr. Paul Salaman, Chief Executive Officer of World Land Trust-US. “His no-nonsense approach to conservation has resulted in the purchase of private lands for the protection of birds and their environment, producing real world results.”

Ridgely has been awarded the Eisenmann Medal by the Linnaean Society of New York (2001); the Chandler Robbins Award from the American Birding Association (2006); and the Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award by the American Ornithologists’ Union (2011).

Past Winners of the Arthur A. Allen Award include Roger Tory Peterson, Alexander Wetmore, Sir Peter Scott, Alexander Skutch, Tom Cade, Victor Emanuel, and Linda Macaulay.


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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library