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Iowa History Daily: July 19 - Gladys Bowry Black, Iowa's Beloved Bird Lady

Iowa History Daily: On July 19, 1998, Gladys Bowry Black passed away. Known as “the dean of Iowa ornithologists,” Bowry Black left a humble legacy of helping to preserve and protect Iowa’s natural heritage.

Born near Pleasantville in January of 1909, Gladys Bowry attended Mercy in Des Moines for nursing before furthering her studies at the University of Minnesota. Married in 1941 to a military man only to be widowed in 1956, Bowry Black moved back to Pleasantville and poured her energy into observing and protecting Iowa’s birds.

Joining the Iowa Ornithologists Union in 1956, while also starting to provide guided birding field trips for area schoolchildren, collecting data on Iowa’s avian populations, and networking with naturalists around the state. Bowry Black also rallied against pesticide use after Great Blue Herons struggled to reproduce along the shores of Lake Red Rock during the 1970s.

After discovering embryos in overly thin Great Blue Heron eggs during the spring of 1970, Bowry Black started to write a recurring column for the Des Moines Register. With an accessible writing style, pure enthusiasm, and deeply seeded drive to protect Iowa’s birds, Bowry Black became the voice of Iowa birdwatchers. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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