Bird expert known worldwide
Robert L. Pyle / 1923-2007
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Robert L. Pyle, a world-renowned bird expert, died Sunday after a five-month-long illness. He was 83.
Pyle compiled and kept the definitive database of birds that are seen in the islands, both rare and native, said family members and friends. And he was working on a large scientific work to relate rare-bird sightings with weather patterns in the Pacific.
Pyle had been involved with bird-watching, the Bishop Museum and the Hawaii Audubon Society for decades, and leaves a legacy of service and science with his three children.
"He will be sorely missed by his friends on Bishop Museum and around the world," said Allen Allison, vice president for science for the Hawaii Biological Survey at the Bishop Museum. "He was a first-class scientist and a first-rate guy."
Pyle had the unique ability to connect Hawaii's bird-watching and scientific communities, Allison added. He used the sightings of all bird-watchers from around the state to compile a database of native, migratory and rare birds that reach the islands.
"If someone makes an important sighting and no one writes it down," the information can be lost, Allison added.
Pyle, through his contacts, made sure that would not happen. With an eye for detail, he made frequent trips to the sighting spots to view the birds that made it to the islands, whether on purpose or by accident.
Pyle, who grew up in Wilmington, Del., was a meteorologist by trade.
His first job in the islands, in 1953, was for the Smithsonian Institution, as part of its Pacific Ocean Biological Program. However, he eventually moved to Seattle to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, said Leilani, his wife of 53 years.
After spending a decade on the mainland, Pyle moved back to Hawaii in 1975 to run the first weather satellite office in the state. He retired in 1984.
But his lifelong passion was for birds, his son Richard Pyle, a biologist at the Bishop Museum, said yesterday.
The elder Pyle instilled his love for nature in his children, Leilani Pyle said yesterday. He began taking his eldest son, Peter, on bird hikes before he was a year old.
It rubbed off: Peter Pyle is another world-renowned bird expert, a wildlife biologist at Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California; Richard Pyle is an ichthyologist at the Bishop Museum; and daughter Ellen is a plant expert and also volunteers at the Bishop Museum, Leilani Pyle said yesterday. She has also volunteered at the museum for decades.
All four will combine their talents, with the help of volunteers, to finish Robert Pyle's monograph: a comprehensive look and analysis of all the data, both of birds and meteorology, he had compiled over the years.
The family has yet not set memorial plans.
They ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be given to help complete the project. Checks can be sent to the Bishop Museum, with a notation that they are for the "Pyle Fund."
The address is care of the Hawaii Biological Survey, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817.