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Watch Bill Thompson III receive the ABA’s Roger Tory Peterson Award for Promoting the Cause of Birding

ABA President Jeffrey Gordon (l) and Vice-Chair Julie Davis (r) present Bill Thompson III (c) with the ABA Roger Tory Peterson Award

Earlier this year, Bill Thompson III was presented with the ABA’s Roger Tory Peterson Award for Promoting the Cause of Birding in recognition of his lifetime of service and contributions. The actual presentation of the award took place on March 25, 2019, barely twelve hours prior to his far-too-young death from pancreatic cancer.

Bill had been aware of the honor and in discussions about how best to receive the award since January. Despite being in considerable physical distress and taking a variety of medications, Bill rose to the occasion, regaling the small group of friends and loved ones present with one story and joke after another.

In sharing these videos, we are trying to give the birding community a glimpse of the character and commitment and humor Bill brought even to his final hours. This material is somewhat personal and raw and there is a bit of mild profanity. But it’s also very real and shot through with deep love and affection for birds, birders, and birding—and that is what the ABA is all about.

We have two cuts of this video, a short version that runs about 8 minutes and a longer one that runs just over 20 minutes. You’ll find both versions here.

Our thanks to Video Editor Brandon Richardson for weaving together handheld cell phone video shot by Geoff Heeter, Julie Zickefoose, and Wendy Clark into what you see here. One of the things that ABA President Jeffrey Gordon and ABA Vice-Chair Julie Davis discussed with Bill that day were his plans for a youth scholarship fund. If you would like to help honor Bill’s memory and keep his legacy of welcoming and inspiring new birders going, please make a contribution to the Bill Thompson, III, Young Birders Fund. The ABA’s Young Birder programs are one of the beneficiaries of this fund.

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Nomination for ABA Roger Tory Peterson Award for Promoting the Cause of Birding

Bill Thompson III, Whipple, Ohio

by Jeffrey Gordon, ABA President

Bill Thompson III has been among the most visible, creative, vital, and effective advocates for birding, birders, and bird conservation for more than 30 years. His charismatic, engaging, humorous, and open- hearted approach to birding and to people in general has made him a favorite leader, ambassador, and spokesperson for our community and its values. He has been particularly devoted to and successful at recruiting, teaching, and inspiring newer birders of all ages.

Bill was honored by the American Birding Association in 2008 with the ABA Robert Ridgway Award in recognition of his many publications, including his role as publisher and editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, which continues to this day, and his numerous books on birds and nature, including The New Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America, Bird Watching For Dummies,18 different state bird watching books, the Bird Watching: A Year-Round Guide series, and All Things Reconsidered: My Birding Adventures by Roger Tory Peterson, which he edited.

All of Bill’s written work, whether as author or editor, in books, magazines, or online has sought to convey the excitement, joy, and meaning to be found in time spent birding and in the fellowship of birdwatchers and other appreciators and students of nature.

Bill has been a consistent pioneer and trail blazer in bringing birding and birders to digital media and the World Wide Web. He writes the Bill of the Birds blog and created the popular podcasts This Birding Life as well as Out There with the Birds. He is active on social media as well, consistently championing and modeling positive behaviors towards birds, conservation, and people around the world.

In 2008 Bill was awarded a Service Citizen Award from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for his contributions in making the National Wildlife Refuge system more bird and birder-friendly.

Bill has also shown that birding and its associated industries are an important economic force and can be a force for conservation and social good, as well. He founded the American Birding Expo in 2015 and is a popular and sought after speaker, field trip leader, and consultant at birding festivals, ecotourism events, and publishing industry conferences.

Most of all, Bill Thompson III has shown us all that a life spent birding, getting out there with the birds in the company of birders, and with ample measures of laughter and music along the way, is a very good life indeed, and one that can allow us all to leave this world better than we found it.

For all his many contributions to promoting the cause of birding, the American Birding Association is proud to present its highest award to Bill Thompson III.

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The ABA Blog's Open Mics offer an opportunity for members of the birding community to share their voice with the ABA audience. We accept all and any submissions. If you have something you'd like to share, please contact blog editor Nate Swick at [email protected]