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Remembering Jeri McMahon

All of us at the American Birding Association are saddened to learn of the death of Jeri McMahon this past Sunday. ABA’s Membership Experience Coordinator, Nancy Hawley, worked with Jeri’s friends and family to put together this biographic sketch and the special memorial that accompanies it.

Farewell, Jeri. Thanks for your many contributions to the birding community. May the sights and sounds of birds, and the thrill of young eyes being opened to them, keep your memory alive in all our hearts.

—Jeffrey Gordon 

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Jeri McMahon, birder

Jeri started birding at 12 years old in northern Iowa. Her first bird guide book was by Chester A. Reed. Two teachers (the Hagarty sisters) lived on her block, and Jeri would spend hours at their house, studying birds at their feeders or bird bath, or reading all their bird books. She birded all 7 continents and when asked about her bird list, she would say she had about 7000 birds on it.

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Jeri in Brazil

Jeri belonged to the American Birding Association, Indian Nations Audubon Society of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Ornithological Society, The Bluebird Association, and the Arkansas Birding Association. She had served as president and bird recorder for Indian Nations Audubon and as President and awards chair for the OOS.

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At the OOS fall meeting, Stillwater


She banded birds with MAPS at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge as well as Fort Gibson Wildlife Management Area and also banded bluebirds in Muskogee County. Jeri was a map consultant for Oklahoma in the Sibley Guide to Birds and also made contributions to the Peterson Field Guide to Birds.

She headed up the Christmas Bird Count for the Fort Gibson area, lead many field trips for birding, and headed up Eagle Days in Fort Gibson for years and introduced her grandson, Donnie, and several other children to the fun of birding.


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Jeri’s grandson, Donnie


Jeri has sent one child per year to birding camp, which she found to be one of the best and most meaningful ways to share the joy of birding.

In Jeri’s final weeks, another long-time ABA member, Kathy Roach, approached the ABA about setting up a special memorial to Jeri that would help fund other young birders attendence at birding camps. As one of Jeri’s closest friends, Kathy says, “We feel Jeri is certainly worthy of being honored for her life-long love of birds as well as her patience and mentoring to all of us her knew her. In addition, Jeri provided both physical and financial support over the years, to many of our Young Birders. Her outstanding dedication has helped many of our youth to expand their knowledge and gain confidence, as well as allowing many of them to attend our ABA birding camps”.

Kathy adds, “The ABA’s new “Jeri McMahon Memorial” will help maintain and expand all future Young Birder programs and camps. We feel this is a very special honor for a very special lady.”

Jeri lived a life of giving back to birding that all of us would do well to emulate.

To make your donation to Jeri’s memorial now, please go to or call Nancy Hawley at 800-850-2473 or 719-578-9703.


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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
  • Ann Gordon

    I met Jeri when I started helping with MAPS at Sequoyah NWR. Although I was already a senior citizen I was just a fledgling birder and remember her patience with my mislabeled bird bags. She taught me so much!
    Folks sometimes teased Jeri about trying to make rarities out of commonly sighted birds. But I think she had it right – if you expect only the mundane you might miss out on the extraordinary! So now when I look to the skies I’ll try to do so with her eyes and maybe, sometime, somewhere that large dark bird I see riding the thermals will not be a turkey vulture but a harpy eagle. And wouldn’t she smile at that!

  • Shannon Andregg

    To Nancy Hawley, and all at ABA,
    Thank you for such a wonderful and special tribute to my Mom, Jeri McMahon. That was so very thoughtful, and I appreciate your kindness. She will be the “okiebirder” forever! (-:

  • Nancy Hawley

    Much of the history gathering was done by Kathy Roach who, knowing I knew Jeri as well, nudged me to find a way to honor such a wonderful birder and dear friend. Hence, the above link. I personally will always remember Jeri as on of the “Lady Birds” attending almost every ABA event possible!

  • Nancy Hawley

    Funeral: Foster-Petering Funeral Home, in Muskogee, OK.

    Tuesday, Sept. 25th, at 10:00 am, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Muskogee, OK.

    The family has suggested donations in lieu of flowers be made to the ABA’s Young Birder Program in Jeri’s honor at

  • Liz Deluna Gordon

    Such lovely sentiment. Thanks.

  • Thanks so much for this lovely tribute to a classy lady and a top-notch birder.

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