WHO WAS WHO IN CALIFORNIA BIRDING
1965-1989
ELIZABETH COPPER
Elizabeth Copper is an active San Diego birder who first came onto the birding scene in the mid 1970s. Her husband, Robert, was also interested in birds and was a fine local observer, but of the two of them, only Elizabeth pushed herself to become one of the top observers in the State. Throughout the halcyon days of the late '70s, she birded heavily throughout the State, often traveling with Guy McCaskie, Richard Webster, Jon Dunn, and other accomplished birders. Although quiet and generally preferring to remain in the background, Elizabeth soon established a reputation as an exceptional observer: careful, deliberate, honest and skilled. Intelligent and well read, she was also a valuable role model and mentor to many young hotshots just coming out of college. A number of others in our 'whos who' credit her with making them better birders and better people, including Webster, Louis Bevier, and Don Roberson

The combined impact of Elizabeth (in southern California) and Donna Dittmann (in northern California) changed the role and broke all the boundaries for women in the hardcore birding world. Female birders might be wives, companions, and homemakers, but since Elizabeth and Donna, they could also be considered top-shelf, self-made, hot-shot birders, known for their own accomplishments and skill and not just because they were associated with any particular guy. This change in the status of women in birding, coincident with changing views of women's roles in society, expanded and enriched the entire California birding world. Elizabeth and Donna were not particularly close to each other, and they really didn't do anything but be themselves, but they changed the face of the birding world forever. Had she been so inclined, I suspect that Elizabeth could have been the first female member of the California Bird Records Committee. But Elizabeth was not interested in doing paperwork, and that honor fell to Shawneen Finnegan in the 1990s.

Photo 6 Oct 1981 Pt. Loma. Elizabeth carries not only oversized binoculars but her characteristic Diet Coke. © D. Roberson
 


Elizabeth was among the dozen or so active birders who seriously worked on a California Big Year in 1977. She would end the year with 441 species breaking all prior records but in this extraordinary year that total would tie her for third place. Ironically enough, she was tied with Donna Dittmann.

Elizabeth's days of actively birding the entire State slowed considerably by the mid-1980s. Elizabeth took on a variety of environmental survey projects dealing with birds, including work on the endangered Least Terns that nest around San Diego Bay. She also took on the role as the county compiler for San Diego County for American Birds, and continues in that important position today.

Photo (right) 9 Oct 1982 at Moss Landing MTY. Elizabeth, Richard Webster, and Guy McCaskie study a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper © Brad Schram
 


Official Bird Name: Brown Creeper
 
Significant bird records: many birds of local interest and vagrants throughout southern California, and of particular note
  • Painted Redstart  21 Nov-25 Dec 1976  Coronado 2nd S.D. winter record, frequenting her own back yard!

All photos © to photographers identified on this page; all rights reserved.
All text © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.

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Page created 27 Mar 2005