H. Douglas Pratt (Doug) is an independent ornithologist, illustrator, author, musician, birding tour leader, and expert on the avifauna of the Pacific islands, currently lives in Cary (a Raleigh suburb), North Carolina. Born in 1944 in Charlotte NC, he attended Davidson College (where he was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2001) and Louisiana State University, where he earned a Ph. D. in zoology in 1979. From 1980-2005 he was a Staff Research Associate of the LSU Museum of Natural Science. He was elected a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1993. In 2005, he was appointed Research Curator of Birds at the NC State Museum of Natural Sciences, a position he held until July 2011. He is now Curator Emeritus at the museum, and maintains an office there. His scientific papers have appeared in such journals as Condor
, Wilson Journal of Ornithology
, Journal of Field Ornithology
, Studies in Avian Biology
, and The Living Bird
, and he wrote several species accounts for The Birds of North America
(American Ornithologists’ Union). He is both senior author and illustrator of A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific
(Princeton University Press 1987) and author/illustrator of The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae
(Oxford University Press 2005). His other major publications include Voices of Hawaii's Birds
(2009), Pocket Guide to Hawaii's Birds
(1996), Pocket Guide to Hawai‘i’s Trees and Shrubs
(1999), Enjoying Birds and Other Wildlife in Hawaii
(2002), and Birds and Bats of Palau
(with Mandy Etpison 2008).
Because he has no formal art training, Dr. Pratt considers his illustrative work to be “a hobby that got out of hand.” His first illustrated book was G. H. Lowery's The Mammals of Louisiana and its Adjacent Waters
(1974), soon followed by illustrations of birds and mammals for Encyclopedia Britannica
(1975). He painted about a quarter of the illustrations in the National Geographic Society's Field Guide to the Birds of North America
(1983-2002), which has become one of America’s best-selling field guides. His paintings have appeared in numerous periodicals including National Geographic, Audubon
, Natural History
, National Wildlife
, Science, Evolution, The Auk, North American Birds
(Germany), The Living Bird
, Terre Sauvage
(France), Te Manu
(Tahiti), and Western Birds.
He has illustrated or co-illustrated many other full-length books and contributed to numerous others, including Ernst Mayr and Jared Diamond's Birds of Northern Melanesia
(2001) and Phoebe Snetsinger’s memoir Birding on Borrowed Time
(2003), and was chosen to complete the final plate for the posthumously published fifth edition of Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America
. Beginning with Volume 5, Dr. Pratt was a contributing artist and author for the encyclopedic Handbook of Birds of the World
. He organized the exhibit “Art in Science: Zoological Illustration at LSU” at the LSU Museum of Natural Science (1997), and was co-chair of “The Ornithologist as Artist” at the North American Ornithological Congress in New Orleans (2002). His original artworks have been displayed in museums and galleries from Honolulu to New York, most recently (2008) in an exhibit shared with colleague John Sill at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.
For a change of pace, Doug is an amateur musician who plays dobro and autoharp in local bluegrass/folk jams. He learned autoharp from his paternal grandmother, Julia Foy Pratt, and in 2006, he won the International Autoharp Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield KS, and placed third at the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering in Newport PA in 2007 and 2009. He is a founding member of the Triangle Autoharp Circle, who have performed at numerous events in the local community. In June 2011, Doug became the first recipient of the Cohen-Grappel Recording Endowment at the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering. The endowment financed the production of Pratt’s first CD, “You Can’t Play THAT on the Autoharp!
” (see Music
section for details). Doug is co-host of a public bluegrass jam sponsored by the Piedmont Council on Traditional Music (PineCone) at the Busy Bee Café in downtown Raleigh every second and fourth Monday.
Following the sudden unexpected loss of his museum position as a result of state budget cuts, Dr. Pratt went through a period of introspection and reorganization of his life, and decided to “officially” retire as of May 2012. He has returned to his earlier life of freelancing, including private art commissions, leading birding and natural history ecotours, and most importantly, completing work on a replacement for A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific
(see New Book
), as well as new editions for several other books in need of updates. In fact, he is busier than ever and enjoying some newfound productivity!
Click this thumbnail to view a segment featuring Doug on the Travel Channel program, "Designs on Travel"
2007, Spring, Davidson Journal
2005, May, LSU Museum Quarterly
2002, Baton Rouge Advocate
2000, October, LSU Today
1994, December/January, Making an Art of Science, National Wildlife
1990, May, Greenwich News
1983, August, STAMPS
1967, August 28th, Charlotte Observer