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Farewell to Bill Thompson III, a Great Friend of RTPI

Posted on Mar 27, 2019

March 2019     #35stories     #rtpi35

Stories come in all shapes and sizes, and this one is beautiful and poignant, a story of life and loss.

Bill Thompson III, 1962-2019

Our great friend Bill Thompson, III has passed away at his home in southeastern Ohio after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Bill was the publisher and editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, the magazine launched by his parents Elsa and Bill, Jr. in 1978 “from our living room in Marietta, Ohio”, and was the author of numerous books on birds and nature. He created the “Bill of the Birds” blog and podcasts for bird watchers called “This Birding Life”, among so many other things. Bill was a musician, playing with his band the Rain Crows, and traveled extensively, speaking, leading field trips, and consulting on ecotourism for birding festivals and nature events around the world.

Andy, Bill Jr., Elsa and Bill Thompson, III

Bill was also the author of “Bird Watching for Dummies”, and 18 different state bird watching books in the “Bird Watching: A Year-Round Guide Series” from Cool Springs Press (2005). He was the lead author for “Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges” published by Houghton Mifflin (2005). He was the editor of “All Things Reconsidered: My Birding Adventures” by Roger Tory Peterson (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), as well as “The New Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America” (2014, Houghton Mifflin Company). If you get the chance, read the story in the introduction about Bill and Julie’s trip to Belize, where he says “I ruined our honeymoon because I lacked the proper footwear.” Bill’s sense of humor was the best.

Bill at RTPI in 2016, with RTPI staff members Jane Johnson and Twan Leenders.

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. He was also awarded the Robert Ridgway Award for Excellence in Ornithological Publications from the American Birding Association. In 2009 he was nominated for a “Heart of Green” award by thedailygreen.com for his work in fighting Nature Deficit Disorder by helping introduce kids to bird watching.

Like his mother Elsa before him, Bill served as a board member of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute; indeed, RTPI could not have made it to this 35th year without the Thompson family’s constant advice and support. We’ve lost a dear friend and member of the RTPI family, but today we celebrate Bill’s birding life – he is flying free now.

35 Stories, which commemorates the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s 35th anniversary in 2019, is a collection of ideas, memories, experiences and more, which make our journey together special…some from the past, some happening right now, and some yet to come. Story #3 is Bill Thompson’s story – one that we celebrate, and one that will continue always.