Where Birds Live:
Habitats in the Middle Atlantic States
Edited by Shirley A. Briggs and Chandler S. Robbins
The classic booklet Where Birds Live: Habitats in the Middle Atlantic States, edited by Shirley A. Briggs and Chandler S. Robbins, was published in 1951 by the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS – see endnote). MOS has been given permission by ANS to digitize and make Where Birds Live available here as a downloadable and printable PDF. We are grateful to ANS for their spirit of generosity that again makes this publication available to birders and students of birdlife.
This 62-page booklet has long been out of print and no other digitized version can be found on the web. Yet Where Birds Live arguably still provides the best explanation in layman’s terms of the inexorable link between birds and their habitats. If you know the habitat that is present at a particular place, then you will be able to predict the birds that can be found there; and vice versa, if you know what birds are present at a given location, you will know what habitat to expect. Knowing the link between birds and their habitats is part of the essential knowledge base for any serious birder, and is especially relevant for citizen-science projects such as the breeding bird atlas. This is also crucial knowledge for appropriate preservation and management of land resources, and can be helpful with small-scale landscaping projects.
The PDF version presented here provides an exact replica of Where Birds Live: Habitats in the Middle Atlantic States. Given the printing technology of the day, the original printed copy has some features that would be considered flaws today, such as wavy lines of text and misshapen letters. This appearance is preserved in the PDF version.
Although some of the bird species names have changed since the booklet’s publication in 1951, and some birds are not as common as they once were, the essential wisdom in Where Birds Live remains relevant today. Providing the publication online is a way to preserve the knowledge of the eminent birders, scientists, and conservationists who went before us.
Where Birds Live was edited by Shirley Ann Briggs (1918-2004) and Chandler S. Robbins (1918-2017). Ms. Briggs was the first editor of ANS’s journal Wood Thrush, later renamed The Atlantic Naturalist, and held that post for 21 years, from 1948 to 1969. She was a close friend of Rachel Carson and was, in her own right, an influential conservationist of the day.
Chan Robbins, our most eminent member of MOS and an ornithologist of worldwide influence, was of course the long-time editor of Maryland Birdlife. Thus Where Birds Live was a joint project by the editors of the two ornithology journals devoted to our area.
The booklet is organized into separate chapters for each habitat type, each written by a different author. The chapters had originally appeared as articles in the ANS journal Wood Thrush/The Atlantic Naturalist. The chapters of Where Birds Live were written by an all-star cast that included the most prominent of local ornithologists, some professional, some amateur:
- Importance of Habitat in the Lives of Birds by John W. Aldrich
- Suburban Areas and Orchards by Ruth Strosnider
- Woodland Margins and Hedgerows by Irston R. Barnes
- Upland Deciduous Woods by Irston R. Barnes
- Pine Woods by Irston R. Barnes
- Bottomland Woods by Irston R. Barnes
- Swamps by Brooke Meanley
- Open Areas: Fields, Meadows and Pastures by Eleanor C. Robbins
- Marshes by Robert E. Stewart
- Ponds and Rivers by Seth H. Low
- Bays and Estuaries by Robert E. Stewart
- Tidal Flats by Richard and Ruth Tousey
- Ocean, Ocean Beaches, Jetties and Tidal Rocks by Edwin G. Davis
All of the authors are now deceased. Although the authors are no longer with us, their knowledge lives on and can help us understand the kinds of places where we may find birds in present-day Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The printed copy that we have digitized is itself a significant historical artifact. It was the personal property of the late Dr. Francis Uhler, a biologist at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and the cover bears his name in his handwriting. Dr. Matthew Perry, Scientist Emeritus of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, who was mentored by Dr. Uhler, inherited Uhler’s copy of the booklet upon his death and kindly loaned it to us to be digitized.
Dr. Uhler, who died in 1990, was known for his research on food habits of North American wildlife and for his work on waterfowl. Dr. Uhler is memorialized by the Fran Uhler Natural Area in Prince George’s County; Dr. Uhler donated the funds that allowed for the purchase and preservation of this property on the Patuxent River.
In the longer term, we will be producing an annotated online version of Where Birds Live that will provide mouseovers with brief notes on the current status of birds that may have declined in their previous range, as well as notes with updated species names. Look for the annotated version of Where Birds Live on the Birder’s Guide website toward the latter part of 2020.
Endnote: At the time that Where Birds Live was published, ANS was known as the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia, and changed its name to Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States in 1959. The organization currently known as the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia (DC Audubon) was established in 1999. In 2022, the Audubon Naturalist Society again changed its name, and is now known as Nature Forward.