Kentucky Ornithological Society

History of the Kentucky Ornithological Society

The history of the Kentucky Ornithological Society (KOS) is a record of people who are, and have been, dedicated to the observation and recording of birds in Kentucky and, hopefully, will be an inspiration for others, young and old, to continue to do the same.

The Kentucky Ornithological Society was organized in Louisville, Kentucky, in April, 1923, by Dr. Gordon Wilson (an English teacher from Bowling Green), Dr. Otley Pindar (a physician from Versailles), and Mr. B.C. Bacon (a civil service man from Madisonville). Their first meeting was held at the Seelbach Hotel during the same week as the Kentucky Education Association was in session. Mr. Bacon wrote most of the first constitution, which remained in effect until it was revised in 1940 (and again in 1991 and 2000). Dr. Pindar was elected the first President; Mr. Bacon was elected the first Vice-President, and Dr. Wilson the first Secretary-Treasurer.

Albert F. Ganier
Albert F. Ganier

With the formation of KOS, the number of state ornithological societies in the South increased to two. The other was the Tennessee Ornithological Society. One of the founders, Albert F. Ganier, encouraged the formation of KOS after first meeting Dr. Wilson in 1919. The first member of KOS was Miss Emily Yunker, school garden and nature study director of the Louisville schools and her dues were fifty cents!

The Society continued to grow, increasing its membership and its commitment to the study of ornithology in Kentucky. Among the achievements since its founding:

  • Twice yearly meetings since 1924 (except 3 years during WWII) allowing members to hone their birding skills and learning about conservation and environmental protection updates.
  • Initiated publication of a quarterly journal, The Kentucky Warbler, now nearing 100 years of publication.
  • Participation by KOS members in the Christmas Bird Counts since the Society's beginning.
  • KOS members in Louisville and Murray assisted in counting migrating birds in nocturnal flight across the full moon using telescopes (1948 - 1952). The results of these observations across the country was published in A Quantitative Study of the Nocturnal Migration of Birds by Dr. George R. Lowery of Louisiana State University.
  • KOS members have participated in the mid-winter Bald Eagle counts since 1961, part of a nation-wide survey.
  • KOS members have participated in the Nest Card Program in cooperation with the Laboratory of Ornithology, Cornell University since 1965.
  • KOS members have participated in the nationwide Breeding Bird Survey sponsored by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1966.
  • KOS has sponsored publication of three editions of The Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Kentucky (1988, 2003, 2019), a comprehensive summary of the birds of Kentucky.
  • Creation of the Kentucky Bird Records Committee to give fair and expert consideration to the recording of unusual birds in the state.
  • KOS has four invested funds and a recently established scholarship fund.
    • The Endowment Fund was initiated with a bequest from Dr. Pindar and is supplemented with monies from life memberships, gifts and bequests specifically directed to the endowment. Investment proceeds from this fund are transferred annually to the society's general fund.
    • The Gordon Wilson Fund for Ornithology honors Dr. Gordon Wilson for his devoted service to the Society. Its funds are used to assist in the publication of The Kentucky Warbler, to finance and publish ornithological research in Kentucky, and to provide fellowships and scholarships for the study of ornithology.
    • The Burt L. Monroe Jr. Avian Research Fund was established to honor Dr. Burt Monroe, Jr. who was an international authority on bird taxonomy and an active member of the society. It has been supported by contributions from the society's members and from the Beckham Bird Club. Funds are used for grants to assist students conducting research on birds within Kentucky.
    • The Anne L. Stamm Avian Education Fund honors Mrs. Anne Stamm, a distinguished member of the society until her death in 1999. Monies are raised from designated gifts and expended for projects that educate children and create a deeper appreciation of birds and ornithology.
    • The most recently established fund is the Virginia and Wendell Kingsolver Scholarship Fund. This fund was established in 2013 to honor the Kingsolvers, both of whom served as president of the society and had a particular interest in encouraging a love of nature in young people. Funds are raised through contributions and expended to pay tuition for a Kentuckian between the ages of 13 and 18 to attend an American Birding Association Young Birder Summer Camp.
Tree Swallows - Ronan O'Carra
Tree Swallows - Ronan O'Carra

Our members are devoted to the preservation of bird habitat in our state, but our contribution is more in the way of identifying what is there, including important nesting and migratory stop-over territory, and leaving it to organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, and others to purchase and preserve this land. However, we have consistently supported environmental causes by letters and contact with state and federal policy makers.

KOS is a healthy organization, with many energetic and very knowledgeable birders as members. We are fortunate indeed to have members of all ages and levels of experience in KOS, all bound by a common desire to enhance our knowledge of birds in Kentucky. The fun that we have birding together is a joyous byproduct of belonging. KOS has always had an excellent mix of professional ornithologists and amateurs. The trained eyes of all of us throughout the state provide invaluable observations of and information about the birds of Kentucky.