Obituary: Theodore Parker III

Theodore Parker, ornithologist: born 1 April 1953; twice married (both marriages dissolved); died near Guayaquil, Ecuador 3 August 1993.

THEODORE PARKER, the conservationist and biologist, was widely regarded as the leading authority on the bird life of South America. He died in a plane crash in Ecuador in which the botanist Alwyn Gentry was also killed.

Parker's powers of observation were unsurpassed. He was familiar with the details of posture, behaviour, and habitat of thousands of species of bird and was known for his ability to identify over 4,000 species by call or song alone. He possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the distribution of birds and habitats across Latin America, and was able to bring this knowledge to bear on a wide range of questions concerning bird biology and conservation in the tropics. No experiences were as exhilarating to me, nor as humbling, as time spent with Parker in the field.

Parker was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1953. His interest in birds, which was strongly encouraged by his parents, developed when he was young. Having already travelled extensively in the United States on birding expeditions during his teenage years, he went to the University of Arizona, largely because it provided the opportunity to explore Mexico. Parker's skills came to the attention of specialists in tropical birds, and he was recruited by Louisiana State University in 1973 to join an expedition to Peru. Parker left Arizona with a degree in 1977, but his association with LSU continued until his death.

For over 20 years Parker studied birds in almost all parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. His concerns about tropical conservation and his talents in the field found a home in 1989 when he joined Conservation International, a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC. On behalf of CI, Parker established the pioneering Rapid Assessment Program, which used a select team of biologists (including Al Gentry) with experience in the tropics to survey the conservation potential of remote areas. The RAP team often used light aircraft for aerial reconnaissance, and it was during such a flight that the fatal crash occurred. The Ecuadorean ecologist Eduardo Aspiazu was also killed. Parker's fiancee, Jacqueline Goerck, was among the survivors.

Many aspects of Parker's charisma were captured by the writer Don Stap in his book Parrot Without a Name. With his impish smile and a well- phrased wisecrack, Parker was always able to charm his way out of any situation that hinted of disagreement.

Parker was author or co-author of over 60 scientific papers and monographs, primarily on birds. He was also a co-author of the recently published Threatened Birds of the Americas, one of the 'Red Data Books' and which was published by the International Council for Bird Preservation. At the time of his death a number of other works were nearing completion, the most important of which is a volume on bird ecology in the American tropics and its implications for conservation, to be published by the University of Chicago Press as a project of CI. Among his publications were the first papers describing and giving names to two species and one sub-species of bird, all from Peru. Two previously unknown birds in turn were named after Parker: a sub-species of the Coppery Metaltail (a hummingbird), and a species of antbird, the Ash-throated Antwren, Herpsilochmus parkeri.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence