Inspiring others, encouraging greatness
The Richard G. Levad Award honors the memory and work of Rich Levad who, after retiring from teaching, turned his lifelong love of birds into a second career with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (then Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory/RMBO). Each year, the award is presented to a person who, like Rich, has provided distinguished service to the ornithological community, made scholarly contributions to the field of ornithology and/or has enthused others about conserving birds and their habitats through sharing his or her personal knowledge and experience..
After retiring and beginning his second career with RMBO to Monitor Colorado Birds, Rich’s assignment was to monitor special species, which gave him the opportunity to develop approaches for birds not always under a researcher’s watchful eye. Rich was a thinker, a teacher and a collaborator and he had a way of engaging all kinds of folks in his efforts to learn more about the birds that he loved.
Some of Rich’s accomplishments included:
- Establishing Project Colony Watch, a citizen science driven effort to gather data on 16 of Colorado’s colonial water birds (including Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, and Western Grebe). It was designed to provide efficient, economical monitoring of these water birds by incorporating existing local monitoring efforts and recruiting volunteers to monitor as many of these colonies as possible. In its first year, more than 50 Colony Watchers were recruited. As a result of this project, we now know virtually every breeding location for all of these species in Colorado.
- Developing a Black Swift monitoring program which included identifying Colorado waterfalls that could provide necessary nesting requirements and training a pool of staff and volunteers to do the needed exploration. Over a period of nine years, 448 historical and potential nesting sites in Colorado (427) and northern New Mexico (21) were catalogued; a preliminary evaluation was conducted at 386 of those sites. Further research determined occupancy at 291 of the 386 sites evaluated; 102 were occupied and 189 were vacant.
- Assisting with the discovery of the first breeding confirmation of Purple Martins in Wyoming and increasing the known breeding sites in Colorado from 22 to 136.
- Placing over 200 Western Screech Owl next boxes in Mesa County and engaging citizens of the Grand Junction, Colorado area about these “little owls in their yard.” He also located a remarkable number of natural cavities in which the species bred in the area. In addition, he found an impressive number of Long-eared Owl nest sites. In 1998, Rich and friends banded over 100 nestlings during that banner breeding year for the species in Colorado. Further, he compiled the most comprehensive list of Flammulated Owl detections that exists for Colorado and, in 2005, was the first to confirm breeding activity of the species in Wyoming.
- Co-authoring “Birds of Western Colorado Plateau and Mesa Country”, contributing to the 1998 “Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas”, and authoring “The Coolest Bird: A Natural History of the Black Swift and Those Who Have Pursued It.”
The Rich Levad award was initiated to honor these and other contributions to science and especially Rich’s unique way of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm to engage others.
Rich died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in February 2008. In his final days, Rich and his family worked to establish the Richard G. Levad Memorial Fund at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (then Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory). This fund is dedicated to continuing special species research efforts initiated by Rich. For more information about how to contribute to this fund, visit our Chip In! page to make a donation. Be sure to indicate your donation is dedicated to the Richard G. Levad Memorial Fund in the appropriate box.