Sewall Pettingill

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O. Sewall Pettingill, Jr.
Sewall and Eleanor Pettingill.gif
Sewall Pettingill and wife Eleanor
Born (1907-10-30)October 30, 1907
Belgrade, Maine
Died December 11, 2001(2001-12-11) (aged 94)
Bedford, Texas
Citizenship American
Fields Biology
Institutions Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Cornell University
University of Michigan
Known for Ornithology
Notable awards Ludlow Griscom Award, Eisenmann Medal

Olin Sewall Pettingill, Jr., (October 30, 1907 – December 11, 2001), better known as Sewall Pettingill, was an American naturalist, author and filmmaker, president of the Wilson Ornithological Society from 1948 to 1950,[1] a member of the Board of Directors of the National Audubon Society from 1955 to 1974,[2] and a Life Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born October 30, 1907 in Belgrade, Maine, Pettingill attended Bowdoin College, where he developed an interest in ornithology.[2] Studying under the zoologist Alfred O. Gross, Pettingill conducted studies of the last three heath hens on Martha's Vineyard in 1927 with Gross and Thornton Burgess.[2] In 1928, Pettingill enrolled in the University of Michigan, then attended graduate school at Cornell University starting in 1930 – joining the AOU in the same year – where he conducted a PhD dissertation on the American woodcock.[2]


Appointed a delegate to the 12th and 14th International Ornithological Congresses,[2] Pettingill was appointed Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in 1960, a position he held until his retirement in 1973,[2] and provided footage for four Walt Disney nature films, including the Academy Award-winning The Vanishing Prairie,[2] in addition to making several ornithological films of his own, including works on albatrosses, penguins, and the wildlife of island nations, which often aired as part of Audubon Screen Tours.[3]

Tenured at Carleton College for 17 years,[2] Pettingill taught at the University of Michigan Biological Station for 35 years.[2] Pettingill was awarded birding's highest honor, the Ludlow Griscom Award, in 1982,[2] and also received Cornell's Arthur A. Allen Medal in 1974, and the Eisenmann Medal in 1985.[2] Holding three honorary doctorates in science,[2] Pettingill appeared on both The Today Show and To Tell the Truth.[2]

Pettingill died December 11, 2001, in Bedford, Texas.[2]


  • Ornithology in Laboratory and Field, 1939 (5th edition, 1985)
  • A Guide to Finding Birds East of the Mississippi, 1951
  • A Guide to Finding Birds West of the Mississippi, 1953
  • Enjoying Maine Birds, 1960
  • Enjoying Birds in Upstate New York, 1963
  • Enjoying Birds around New York City, 1966
  • The Audubon Illustrated handbook of American Birds, editor-in-chief, 1968.
  • The Bird Watcher's America, 1974
  • Another Penguin Summer, 1975
  • My Way to Ornithology, 1992
  • Nature's Half Acre, 1951
  • Water Birds, 1952
  • The Vanishing Prairie, 1954
  • Islands of the Sea, 1960


  1. ^ "Past Presidents of the WOS". Wilson Ornithological Society. Accessed 2010-05-12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Losito, Michael P. In memoriam: Olin Sewall Pettingill, Jr., 1907-2001'. The Auk, October 2002. American ornithologists' Union. Accessed 2010-05-12.
  3. ^ "Historical Highlights: The Heroes". Archived 2009-07-11 at the Wayback Machine. Audubon Centinnial: 100 Years of Conservation. National Audubon Society. Accessed 13 May 2010.

External links[edit]