Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



"Review of 'My Way to Ornithology' by Olin Pettingill, Jr." in Nebraska Bird Review (June 1992) 60(2): 72–73.


Copyright 1992, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


Most Nebraskans who recognize this author's name probably will remember him as a cinematographer and lecturer in the Audubon Screen Tour series. The series was a regular part of live entertainment in Lincoln and Omaha until the early 1960s.

Other bird-oriented people will know that Pettingill wrote two of the first and still best regional bird-finding books (detailed guidebooks to bird-finding localities in the states east and west of the Mississippi, respectively). Perhaps still others will remember him as a one-time teacher of ornithology at Carleton College and the University of Michigan Biological Station, or as a director of the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University.

Pettingill, now retired, has written a detailed and generally interesting autobiographical account of how he literally found his way into becoming a professional ornithologist when this field scarcely existed as such.

He maintained a personal journal from an early age; thus he was able to provide a wealth of detail on his activities from childhood. This well-documented book covers only the period from the time of his birth in 1907 until 1934, when he left for Carleton to begin his first major college-teaching job.