Robert B. Berry: 2021 Recipient of the Raptor Research Foundation’s and The Peregrine Fund’s Partners for Raptors Lifetime Achievement Award
Robert B. Berry, a falconer with few peers in our time, has dedicated his life to conserving, monitoring, and studying threatened raptors, and to building a network of people and resources to ensure the future of raptor conservation.
Bob was on the forefront of the early efforts to stem the DDT-induced decline of Peregrine Falcons in North America. He was one of the founders of The Peregrine Fund and was the founding president of the North American Raptor Breeder’s Association, where he served as president for 28 years. His pioneering work with captive breeding, especially artificial insemination and reintroduction techniques, was instrumental in the remarkably successful recovery of the Peregrine, culminating in the species being taken off the U.S. Endangered Species List—an event that happens far too rarely. The techniques he helped refine have been crucial to the success of reintroduction programs for a wide variety of raptors around the world.
Not all of Bob’s research time devoted to raptors has been in the breeding barns. He was instrumental in developing radio-telemetry for use in falconry and field research, ran a long-term banding program with Scott Ward monitoring the southbound Peregrine migration along the east coast of the U.S., and spent considerable time in Central America in search of the exciting and elusive Orange-breasted Falcon, the subject of much of his research over the past few decades. More than 40 researchers associated with the Orange-breasted Falcon recovery program have received support from Bob (https://www.peregrinefund.org/projects/orange-breasted-falcon).
Bob has published the results of his research in the Condor, the Journal of Wildlife Management, the Journal of the Raptor Research (of course), the Living Bird, and Cornell’s Birds of the World database, as well as several popular magazines and edited volumes.
Bob’s interest, influence, and generous financial support extend beyond birds of prey. He has provided leadership and guidance to several ornithological and conservation organizations, including the Midwest Peregrine Society, Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology, and the Wyoming chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Bob has supported and guided the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and especially its citizen science project, eBird. His vision for and support of eBird have helped enable that project to take off globally, becoming a game-changing global database on bird distribution and abundance, and empowering birders around the work to make their observations count for science and conservation.
Bob and his wife Carol S. Berry have directed much of their philanthropy to ensure the future of raptor researchers, raptor conservationists, and the raptors he so cherishes, but they have also given generously to higher education, including their establishment of an endowed position in Ecology at the University of Wyoming and providing research funds which contributed to the training and success of more than 50 ecology graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Wyoming.
Finally and fittingly, I will end this necessarily incomplete catalog of Bob Berry’s accomplishments with one I know he is proud of—the establishment of the Archives of American Falconry in honor of his mentor, James N. Rice.
29 June 2021
Additional information about the Partners for Raptors Lifetime Achievement Award can be found on the award’s website.