Born in 1953 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Theodore A. Parker III started young as a naturalist. Ted’s obsession for birds grew strongly as a teenager and he became known as a “birding phenom” at this young age.
Ted’s enthusiasm, charisma, and dedication to birds quickly earned him national recognition among the birding community. His obsession and desire to travel to Mexico and the Neotropics made his college career unconventional. But this devotion, discipline, and desire to learn all about birds quickly moved Ted through the ranks of ornithology.
With Ted’s nearly un-human ability to learn and retain avian sounds, he established the “Parker Inventory”. In species-rich places like the Neotropics, recording and analyzing sounds collected in the field yielded much more efficient results of the actual bird life present.
Ted’s unbelievable number of hours in the field helped him amass over 15,000 recordings for Cornell’s Library of Natural Sounds.
Amidst all of Ted’s knowledge and birding skills was an even more important ability: to share information and ideas in a welcoming and convincing way that invited people into what was often reserved for only the “inner circle” of birding.
Ted was a devoted conservationist, always promoting the urgent need to protect the world’s fauna. He pioneered the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) which was designed to quickly and effectively assess a region’s diversity and publish results for fast conservation action.
Ted was also working on the Birds of Peru, a volume that would cover over 1,700 species.
Sadly, on August 3rd, 1993 Ted died in a plane crash while surveying vanishing forests in Ecuador.
Ted Parker’s legacy was cut short. Imagine what major innovations to the conservation community he could have made. His leadership and communication skills coupled with today’s tools for spreading information would have surely been an unstoppable force for the conservation movement.
It is up to us birders to follow in Ted Parker’s footsteps and to always be passionate about promoting bird conservation. We need more leaders to step up and guide all birders through a new era where conservation is the norm.
Facts collected from: Ornithological Monographs Volume 48 (1997) pp. 1-5