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Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

Birdwatcher can never be replicated. Re-released in June 2015 in paperback and e-book formats, it is the definitive biography of Roger Tory Peterson. Elizabeth J. Rosenthal conducted in-depth interviews with many individuals important to Peterson’s life who have since passed on. She spoke to people who had never before been approached about Peterson and provided unique perspectives and anecdotes that fill the pages of Birdwatcher.

Here is what some of the foremost naturalists in America have said about Birdwatcher:

"A wonderful biography, bold and surprising and lively, crackling with the adventures of the man who did more than anyone else to create the modern popularity of birdwatching."

–Kenn Kaufman, author of The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America

"Birdwatcher is biographical alchemy, blending well researched detail, rich and varied anecdotes, and Roger in the first person with a writer's insight into the man who was, and remains, first among 'students of birds.'"

–Pete Dunne, Vice President, New Jersey Audubon Society

"Birdwatcher brings laughter, tears, profound admiration, and warm memories. To read it was to have Roger once again sitting in our kitchen, telling great tales, and every reader will feel that way too."

–Clay and Pat Sutton, authors of Birds and Birding at Cape May

"A brilliant, definitive biography of the man who made birdwatching the leading outdoor recreation in America."

–George H. Harrison, nature journalist, author, PBS producer

"Birdwatcher is more than a window into the life and creative process of one of the world's great ornithologists and artists–it's an exploration, through the words and memories of dozens of people who knew Roger Tory Peterson best, of how this remarkable man changed the conservation landscape for the better, and for good."

–Scott Weidensaul, author of Return to Wild America

"Through interviews with more than a hundred of Peterson's colleagues and protégés, Rosenthal weaves an entertaining biography that helps us understand why Peterson ranks among the world's most celebrated naturalists."

–Stephen W. Kress, Director, Audubon Seabird Restoration Program

"With verve and elegance Elizabeth Rosenthal paints the life of our most important naturalist with all the field marks filled in and life ways fleshed out."

–Robert Michael Pyle, author of Sky Time in Gray's River

Here is a sampling of what some other reviewers have said about Birdwatcher:

"Elizabeth J. Rosenthal has provided the most detailed account of his three marriages, driven work habits, and strenuous activities as explorer, author, photographer, conservationist, and public figure."

New York Review of Books

“Combining a literary and journalistic style, Rosenthal’s in-depth portrait of the complex man is further complemented by an array of never-before-seen-photographs.”

The Peterson Journal (a publication of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History)

"The mark of a good biography is that, after reading the book, you feel that you really have met the subject... Those who began birding since the early 1990s generally seem not to know why Peterson was significant. If they read this book they will understand why, for many people, he was a trailblazer who set the path that we still follow today."

Birding World (UK publication)

“Elizabeth Rosenthal interviewed over 100 people and consulted hundreds of documents to give her readers insight into the life of this extraordinary man. Only by reading the anecdotes shared by family, friends and colleagues from around the globe do we get to really know his personality, motivations and the depth of his contributions to the study of nature and environment.”

Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine

“The delights of Rosenthal’s book are its frequent recollections and insightful anecdotes from the letters and journals of Peterson himself, his correspondents and associates, old and young, many of whom were interviewed by the author... She describes his warm public presence and his love of sharing his vast and detailed knowledge of birds with others... Rosenthal has written a wonderfully readable and superbly interesting biography that should be read by all who watch birds and use field guides.”

Journal of Field Ornithology

“Read this book and you will discover Roger Tory Peterson.”


“The time and effort that Rosenthal put into researching and writing the book is clear through the innumerable quotes and excerpts that she uses from friends and family, colleagues, acquaintances, and chance encounters. The commentary is seamlessly melded into the story of Roger’s life, providing an intimate look at a man who most of us know only by name. The book is an interesting and enlightening read for anyone who wants to learn more about the father of the modern birding and conservation movement.”

OFO News: Newsletter of the Ontario Field Ornithologists

“This fine book tells it all: many readers, brought up on Peterson’s books, will find it fascinating.”

Birds (publication of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

“The book is an interesting insight on a man who was undoubtedly an enormous influence on the development of birdwatching and conservation in many parts of the globe.”

British Birds

Birdwatcher is a comprehensive, entertaining, and informative biography of the man who, if he didn’t invent birding, might as well have... Elizabeth Rosenthal seems to have interviewed everyone with deep ties to Peterson... This will be the definitive work on and celebration of Roger Tory Peterson’s life and career... ”

Living Bird

“Author Elizabeth J. Rosenthal explores the life of this icon of ornithology... On the 75th anniversary of the publication of Peterson’s first field guide, his message of conservation and consideration for the natural world has never been more important.”

Nature Conservancy

“Rosenthal’s biography is written in a highly readable journalistic style with extensive interviews of friends, colleagues and family members... We live through Peterson’s frustrations, fears, pride and compulsion to excel as we turn each page. It is a story that will hold the reader’s attention from beginning to end.”

Nature Alberta

"Peterson had to rethink what kind of book was needed to broaden the audience that enjoyed the identification and study of birds. Elizabeth Rosenthal's biography Birdwatcher: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson places that accomplishment in the context of Peterson's life and in its historical context... Peterson's concern for the osprey near his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, is presented in the context of the DDT controversy."

Mountain Home

“Interviews and quotations from correspondence relevant to major topics present important historical insight of value far beyond the life of Peterson... A slice of history of the growth of birding, scientific ornithology, and conservation during the 20th century... A gold mine of information and insight on Peterson as well as his contemporaries in birding, conservation, and ornithology... A fresh perspective on the very full and complex life of Roger Tory Peterson... ”

The Auk

“A nicely done, thorough biography of the father of American birding, an appropriate tribute in the 100th year of his birth.”

Rocky Mountain News