Kear was born in London, and was educated at Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks, Caspar Junior College, Wyoming, King's College London and then Girton College, Cambridge where she obtained her Ph.D. on the feeding ecology of finches in 1959.
In 1959 Kear joined the staff of Peter Scott's Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. In the late 1970s she became curator of the trust's new regional centre at Martin Mere, Lancashire.
Kear was the first woman to become vice-president (1989–91), then president (1991–95) of the British Ornithologists' Union, and edited their Ibis magazine from 1980 to 1988. Her books included The Mute Swan (1989), Man And Wildfowl (1990) and Ducks Of The World (1991). She was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1993.
She was married to Geoffrey Matthews, and then to John Turner.
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