Edward S. Brinkley Finch Research Grant

By Matt Young

Ned Brinkley Finch Research Grant:

Ned and I very briefly overlapped in the Ithaca area in the 1990s where he made his lake watches a regular event, and it was then when I first met Ned. And it was within just a few years afterwards that Ned settled into his Cape Charles, VA home around 2000. He “was a long-time Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory (CVWO) advisor and friend” says CVWO President Brian Taber. He lived just a few minutes from Kiptopeke State Park where he was a regular at the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch as well. It was there that he helped document the epic 2012 finch flight with Stephen Kolbe, which resulted in the 2012-2013 Irruption of Finches (Fringillidae) as monitored at Kiptopeke State Park, Northhampton County, Virginia for The Raven, the journal of the Virginia Society of Ornithology.

But there is more….so much more! As many have mentioned around the time of Ned’s far too young passing, he had an encyclopedic mind and he liked to keep up with who was interested in this species or that species… or who was researching topics or a particular species or species group in the field of ornithology. And he would form relationships with just about everyone of us, and I could count on hearing from Ned a handful or two times a year whenever he would bump into crossbills or had a noteworthy encounter with finches. Ned also had a kind way about him, as he helped dozens if not 100s of us budding ornithologists early on in our careers. And I was no different, as it was during a discussion with Ned, around 2008 when I started work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that on a field excursion with Greg Budney in Chenango County NY 2006 that I had encountered a couple Type 5 Red Crossbills. I explained the event to Ned, and how these were the first Type 5s ever documented east of the Rockies….and of course as any good editor would do, Ned suggested I write it up for the ornithological journal, North American Birds (NAB).

For almost 20 years, he was the editor of North American Birds, the journal of ornithological record published by the American Birding Association, and for many years, he wrote its always-informative “Changing Seasons” column. It was my relationship with Ned that really kickstarted my publishing career with crossbills and finches. He would within a few years go on to edit three crossbill papers I wrote or co-wrote for NAB between 2010-2012.

I won’t go on too much to report all of Ned’s many amazing gifts, but he ran a Bed and Breakfast, was a leading authority on pelagic birds, was a guide for Field Guides for 15 years, was the editor of NAB for almost 20 years, he authored the National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, and he held a Ph.D. in comparative literature and film from Cornell University and was formerly a professor of literature and film at the University of Virginia.

The Finch Research Network (FiRN) and Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory have been in discussion for a while about ways to collaborate, and in a recent discussion with Brian Taber, I suggested how about we just start a joint Ned Brinkley Finch Research grant as a way of acknowledging the luminary he was, but also as a way of paying things forward!

As so many were, I was fortunate to have crossed paths with Ned, and I was stoked when he asked me to review the 2012 Finch Flight paper — it’s now official though, the grant is now a thing, and hopefully we’ll be able to help college students, even if only in a small way for now, become ornithologists.

Photo taken during the Evening Grosbeak Road to Recovery Project Sax Zim Bog Minnesota February 2023. Photo Credit Matt Young

In a memorial here, George Armistead wrote, “Smooth sailing amigo. Send some seabirds our way. I’ll make one expected edit as a finchguy, “Smooth sailing amigo, Send some finches our way….

The Finch Research Network and Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory will be making the initial donations, and we plan to continue this into the future, and if you want to contribute to the joint Ned Brinkley Finch Research grant fund, please consider donating here: https://finchnetwork.org/donate

Brian Taber contributed to the above article announcing this partnership.

Here is another nice memorial about Ned!


FiRN is committed to researching and protecting threatened finch species like the finches of Hawaii, the Evening Grosbeak, the Rosy-Finches, and more.