Robert F. Deed (Feb. 2, 1913–July 9, 2001) was one of seven original founders of Rockland Audubon Society, served as president, and was a meticulous chronicler of the county’s avian records. His seminal work, “Birds of Rockland County, NY and the Hudson Highlands 1844-1976,” is still the standard when it comes to documenting Rockland’s birds.
Bob started serious birding studies in 1927 at the age of 14. By his early twenties, he had birded with such ornithological luminaries of the Bronx County Bird Club (BCBC) as Allan Cruickshank, Roger Tory Peterson, Ludlow Griscom, John Bull, and Ernst Mayr.
Bob retained his passion for birds and nature throughout his life. After high school, he worked for the Nyack Journal News, first as a stringer in sports, feature stories and columns and then as a reporter/columnist. In 1942 he joined Young America Magazines, becoming editor and editor-in-chief by 1950. In 1952 he joined McGraw-Hill where he worked as a senior editor/copy editor until his retirement in 1978. Bob also served 17 years on the Nyack Board of Education, including several as president of the board, and was president of the Rockland County School Boards Association.
Bob's love of birds and his professional writing and organizational skills complimented the fledgling RAS perfectly. In 1949, as editor, Bob released RAS’s first compilation on the birds of Rockland County: “Birds of Rockland County, New York.” This small pamphlet was updated in 1959 by the RAS special publications committee chaired by Bob. In 1979, Bob authored the “Birds of Rockland County NY and the Hudson Highlands 1844-1976.” His 1983 addenda to the 1979 Birds of Rockland County added 12 new species to the county list and new sightings to many of the rarer species.
Overall, “Birds of Rockland County” summarizes the occurrence of more than 300 bird species, incorporating Mr. Deed's personal observations made from the late 1920's through 1983. This document chronicles the tremendous changes that have taken place within the avian community of Rockland and the Hudson Highlands. It also includes his personal experiences such as the account of his first sighting of the then rare Mute Swan. Bob recalls that on the BCBC field trip to Piermont Marsh in 1934, it was Roger Peterson who first identified the bird as a Mute Swan, almost before the rest of the group even realized it was there.
Only a few copies of the hand-typed, mimeographed “Birds of Rockland County” were ever distributed. Recognizing the importance of this work and to expand access to it, RAS has recently reset all of the original text and has reissued the document in an e-book format. In an effort to increase the aesthetic appeal of the work, we have also included photographs of as many of the 317 species as possible.