The writer Gore Vidal once noted, “To a man, ornithologists are tall, slender, and bearded so that they can stand motionless for hours, imitating kindly trees, as they watch for birds.” (Armageddon? Essays 1983–1987). This is, of course, an exaggeration—remember that Alexander Wilson looked like a 12-year old boy well into his 40s—but there have been far too many spectacular beards among American ornithologists, that we ought not to judge (the beardless) Vidal too harshly for this stereotype, because it seems likely that he was suffering from beard envy, and beard transplants were as yet, a distant dream.
These days, American Ornithologists come in many shapes and sizes, and there are a number of beardless varieties. In the modern world, a bearded ornithologist has become an uncommon sight; and waiting around for one to move is probably not the best strategy of getting that ‘tick’ for your list. But do not fret—it is just a matter of time until “peak beard” comes back around for ornithologists. Until that glorious day, feast your eyes on some exceptional beards from the annals of American ornithology, past and present: