Bud Tordoff helped save peregrine falcons
- Article by: BEN COHEN
- Star Tribune
- July 26, 2008 - 6:41 PM
Harrison (Bud) Tordoff, an ornithologist and former head of the Bell Museum of Natural History whose efforts to establish peregrines in downtown Minneapolis was admired by office tower workers for years, died on July 23 in St. Paul.
He suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
The World War II ace fighter pilot was 85.
"He was the heart and soul" of the peregrine recovery project, said Pat Redig, founder and former director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.
"He had the vision, and made the community connections to make it go," said Redig. "That, with his unbounded love for the peregrine itself, is what really carried the project."
By 1982, the project was firmly established by Tordoff, Redig and others when funds became available from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Nongame Program.
Over time, the Midwest Peregrine Society of the University of Minnesota's Bell Natural History Museum would work on recovery in nine states, including Minnesota.
After the peregrine was removed from the endangered species list in 1999, Tordoff continued to help in the regular monitoring of their condition.
Releasing birds raised by others were happy occasions, but the recovery workers had plenty of bad news over the years, such as the loss of chicks to falls or a black fly infestation.
In the 1970s, Tordoff got the idea for the recovery program after one was established in the eastern United States by biologists from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
In an all-volunteer effort, Tordoff raised funds, convinced building owners to install nest boxes, and continued to learn as much as he could about the birds.
And he gave credit for the success of the program to falconers and those who worked in the recovery effort, said Jackie Fallon, who now is responsible for monitoring the birds in Minnesota and North Dakota.
"He was such a mentor to me," said Fallon. "He taught me more about peregrines than I could have ever learned from a book."
He strove daily to see at least one of the swift, small birds of prey. "He felt he had a good day in his life, if he got to see a peregrine falcon," said Fallon.
Tordoff grew up in Mechanicville, N.Y. He earned a bachelor's degree from Cornell in 1946 and, in 1950, a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
After teaching in Kansas and Michigan, he joined the University of Minnesota faculty, where he directed the James Ford Bell Museum from 1970 to 1983.
He was also "passionate" about grouse hunting with his English setters, said Fallon.
"He was crazy about birds when he was kid," said his son, Jeff of Lino Lakes. "He was amazed to find he could pursue it academically."
During World War II, he flew a P-51 Mustang in support of ground forces, and shot down five enemy aircraft.
Tordoff once said that "his fighter was as close as a human could get to being a peregrine," said his son.
He retired from the university in 1991, but continued his work for the peregrine falcon.
His daughter Judy died in 1970.
In addition to Jeff, he is survived by his wife, Jean, of North Oaks; his other son, Jim of Minneapolis; sisters, Caryl Doe of Westernport, Md., and Dona Maddern of Cortland, N. Y., and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned.
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