Remembering Ted Parker


FOR RELEASE:  Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013

Contact: Joe Schwartz
Phone:  (607) 254-6235

Remembering Ted Parker

The legacy of this legendary field biologist lives on

ITHACA, N.Y. — Saturday, Aug. 3, marks the 20th anniversary of the death of renowned ornithologist and conservationist Theodore A. Parker III. Parker’s death at age 40 in a plane crash in Ecuador in 1993 stunned the conservation community. Parker had strong ties to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where he served on the administrative board and shaped the lab’s conservation vision.

“He was one of the greatest field experts on South American birds who ever lived,” says Cornell lab director John  Fitzpatrick. “Besides having superb technical and physical skills, he was always sharing and synthesizing his immense knowledge for others. There will never be another one like him.”

Parker was a specialist in the birds of South America and had a phenomenal ability to remember wildlife sounds. He could identify more than 4,000 bird species by their songs alone. He made high-quality sound recordings and was a vital contributor to the Cornell lab’s Macaulay Library (then called the Library of Natural Sounds), where some 10,000 of his recordings are archived, representing more than 2,000 species of birds, mammals, and amphibians.

Parker was a senior scientist at Conservation International and pioneered the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), which took a small team of scientists to remote areas in the tropics that had never been biologically surveyed to determine their level of biodiversity and potential for conservation. Thanks to Parker’s efforts, Bolivia established Madidi National Park, setting aside 4.5 million acres of tropical wilderness—an area the size of New Jersey.

To this day, Parker’s work and his passion remain a source of inspiration to a new generation of scientists. In his honor, the Cornell lab is offering for the first time a free digital download of Parker’s recordings from the “Voices of the Peruvian Rainforest” first produced as a cassette in 1985. You can access the download at Read more about Parker’s life and work on the Lab’s All About Birds blog.

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