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Noel Cutright, scientist, conservationist, friend

Wisconsin ornithologist Noel J. Cutright.
Wisconsin ornithologist Noel J. Cutright.

One of this magazine’s best friends, and certainly one of the birds’ best friends, has died. Noel Jefferson Cutright passed away Sunday, November 10, 2013, here in southeastern Wisconsin.

Cutright was a well-known and beloved Wisconsin ornithologist who was passionate about bird conservation and citizen science. His many accomplishments stand as reminders to birders everywhere of the dramatic, beneficial impact one person can have on the world we share.

Cutright served twice as president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. He was a co-author and senior editor of the ambitious first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. He was a leader in establishing the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. In 2004, he ran 33 consecutive Breeding Bird Survey routes in 33 days to raise money for the state’s Important Bird Areas program. He founded both a thriving bird club and an important scientific observatory whose mission is to advance knowledge of bird and bat populations in the western Great Lakes region. He was also instrumental in the creation of the innovative and successful Bird City Wisconsin program.

Our most vivid memories of Cutright will be those of an avid birder who loved introducing newcomers to the wonders of birding. He gave programs about bird and environmental issues to clubs around the state. He participated in hundreds of Christmas Bird Counts and federal Breeding Bird Surveys, and he served as Wisconsin coordinator of the Great Backyard Bird Count. He both delighted and educated while answering questions about birds on Wisconsin Public Radio’s holiday call-in shows.

In presenting a recent award to Cutright, DNR Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede honored his “outstanding service, leadership, and passion for conserving Wisconsin’s bird populations and their habitats.”


Added WPR co-host Bill Volkert: “The people of Wisconsin are certainly so much better informed about birds because of the work that Noel has done. And I have to say that I believe that the birds of Wisconsin are better off because of his contributions to both education of our wildlife resources and certainly the conservation of birds and their habitats in the state. He’s really made a mark on this state, and for that, all the bird watchers, the bird lovers, and the birds themselves are thankful for all Noel has done for us.”

We at BirdWatching are honored to have known Noel, grateful for all he taught us, and deeply saddened by his passing. — Chuck Hagner, Editor

Cutright asked that any memorials go to the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, made out to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.


Updated on Nov. 11, 2013, to include Sunday’s date.

Originally Published

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