Mead, Chris(topher John) 1940-2003

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MEAD, Chris(topher John) 1940-2003


Born May 1, 1940, in Hove, East Sussex, England; died of a heart attack, January 16, 2003, in Thetford, Norfolk, England; married; wife's name, Verity; children: three daughters. Education: Attended Cambridge University. Hobbies and other interests: Birdwatching, listening to jazz.


Ornithologist. British Trust for Ornithology, Tring, Hertfordshire, then Thetford, Norfolk, England, staff member, 1961-94, press officer, 1994-2003. Expert guest on radio and television programs; cofounder of Bird On! Web site.


Union Medal, British Ornithologists Union, 1996; Bernard Tucker Medal, British Trust for Ornithology, 1997; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal, 1999.


Bird Ringing, British Trust for Ornithology (Tring, Hertfordshire, England), 1974.

(Compiler, with Ken Smith) Hertfordshire Breeding Bird Atlas, illustrated by Kevin Baker, H.B.B.A. (Tring, Hertfordshire, England), 1982.

Bird Migration, Country Life (Feltham, England), 1983.

Robins, illustrated by Kevin Baker, Whittet Books (London, England), 1984.

Sparrows in the Wild, (bound with A Bird in the Hand, by Lorraine Hodgkinson), Whittet Books (London, England), 1987.

Owls, illustrated by Guy Troughton, Whittet Books (London, England), 1987.

The State of the Nation's Birds, illustrated by Kevin Baker, Whittet Books (Stowmarket, England), 2000.

Contributor to periodicals and to works by others, including Birdwatcher's Yearbook (annual), Buckingham Press; Bird Families of the World, edited by C. J. O. Harrison and Colin James Oliver, Peerage (London, England), 1978; Collins Atlas of Bird Migration, edited by Jonathan Elphick, HarperCollins (London, England), 1995; and The Migration Atlas: Movements of Birds of Britain and Ireland, edited by Chris Wernham and others, British Trust for Ornithology, A. D. Poyser (London, England), 2002.


Chris Mead spent his entire career as an ornithologist with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and much of this time ringing, or banding, birds. During the late 1960s, he was involved in developing the first computerized system for tracking ringing information, and Mead personally ringed approximately 250,000 birds in twenty countries, including the United States, most of Europe, Belize, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, and Senegal.

It was Mead's belief that scientific information about birds should be freely disseminated to all those who have an interest in birds, rather than restricting it to the scientific community. The BTO used a large number of volunteers that Mead trained in ringing and other investigative procedures that documented migrations and populations of birds.

Bird Migration is Mead's study of the migration patterns of birds worldwide, as well as the causes of changes in these patterns. Mead examined how migration is affected by population changes, breeding and molting, evolution, and even tectonic plate movement, and how it is studied using banding and radar. The book contains more than 200 maps and photographs. Library Journal contributor Henry T. Armistead wrote that "the authoritative yet readable style makes these complex phenomena vivid and easy to grasp."

Mead wrote books that focus on individual birds, including robins, sparrows, and owls. The State of the Nation's Birds, his last work, is a study of 250 species of breeding birds in England and Ireland and an examination of those that are in decline or whose populations are increasing. Included is a prediction of the futures of the various species, from the common wren (nearly ten million pairs) to those that rarely breed, such as the Black-winged Stilt and the Bluethroat. A reviewer for the Bird On! Web site noted that much of the data contained in The State of the Nation's Birds comes from the work of Mead's volunteers, but added that he had access to a wide range of information from many different organizations and was "uniquely placed to review and summarize the situation of our breeding birds in this easily understood, but scientifically accurate, volume." Mead was a cofounder of the Bird On! Web site, which contains complete species descriptions of all the birds studied in his The State of the Nation's Birds.

Mead received many awards for his work and was a guest on British television and radio programs. After a stroke in 1994, he cut back on his fieldwork, becoming a spokesperson for the BTO and continuing to speak out on the environmental dangers to birds. In addition to birdwatching, he was a life-long fan of jazz and particularly enjoyed Duke Ellington. Mead died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-two.



Choice, February, 1984, review of Bird Migration, p. 846.

Library Journal, November 1, 1983, Henry T. Armistead, review of Bird Migration, p. 2092.

School Librarian, August, 1988, R. S. George, review of Owls, p. 115; November, 1988, R. S. George, review of Robins, p. 150.

Science Books and Films, March, 1984, Edward I. Saiff, review of Bird Migration, p. 204.


Bird On! Web site, (June 25, 2003).



Bird On! Web site, (November 6, 2003).

Times Online, (January 18, 2003).*