Chamberlain Raptor Center

The Raptor Center is honored to be named for the late Dwight R. Chamberlain. One of the most recognized conservationist and a local resident, he was considered one of the nation's leading authorities on crows and ravens. Please read this brief history of his life before continuing to the Center's website.

Dwight R. Chamberlain studied the language of crows and ravens and helped to explain the intricate vocal cues they use in fighting, feeding and social interactions. In the 1960s, Mr. Chamberlain did early research on common crows, recording them so the could classify and understand the functions of their calls. He found at least 11 distinct calls, known as vocalizations, and described some of them in a thesis for his master’s degree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1967.

Among the calls, he identified signals for assembly, dispersal and hunger and a plaintive call made by crows that are dying. Mr. Chamberlain reported that the birds made a squalling call as an emergency signal for help, intended to summon other crows quickly. More elusive were the sounds of courtship, which he said were extremely difficult to record because of the crow’s secretive nature.

With another researcher, George W. Cornwell, Mr. Chamberlain published the findings as part of an influential paper, “Selected Vocalizations of the Common Crow,” in The Auk, a journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union, in 1971.

The classifications listed in the paper remain important in the field, said Kevin J. McGowan, an ornithologist who studies the social behavior of American crows, also called the common crow, and fish crows at the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University.

Rather than continuing his graduate studies to become an academic ornithologist, Mr. Chamberlain, who began his career as a banker, changed course again and became a public educator, speaking about bird species and the need for conservation. He tamed and raised a common raven and appeared with it at schools and nature centers, to enlighten the public about the complexity of ravens, owls and other species.

In 1968, he was featured on the children’s television program “Captain Kangaroo” accompanied by his raven, named Rolf, who had a minor speaking part. In the 1970s, Mr. Chamberlain made a television appearance on “To Tell the Truth,” as an authority on crows and ravens.

He was also a consultant to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other environmental agencies and worked as a naturalist at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, near his home in Leota Indiana.

Dwight Chamberlain passed away on March 10, 2007. He is missed by all of us and we could not have a better namesake for the center. Our appreciation goes  to Marilyn Chamberlain for permission to tell his story.