Posted by: Kathy Krywicki
On June 24, 2015, Ottawa City Council approved the proposal to name a new park at 130 Woodbine Place “Percy Taverner Park”.
Here’s a short biography the park’s namesake courtesy of The Beechwood Cemetery Foundation. Percy Algernon Taverner is buried in Section 50, Lot 63 NE of Beechwood Cemetery.
Percy Algernon Taverner was a Canadian ornithologist and architect. He was born Percy Algernon Fowler in Guelph, Ontario, on June 10, 1875 to stage actress Ida Van Cortland, and when his parents separated and his mother remarried, he took on his stepfather’s surname.
Taverner was keenly interested in birds from an early age. He first earned a living as an architectural draughtsman, later designing buildings in Chicago, Detroit and Ottawa, including homes on Rosedale and Leonard Avenues in Ottawa. Taverner studied birds in his spare time, and eventually became such an authority on Canadian birds that, in 1910, he was appointed as an ornithologist to the staff of the National Museum, now the Canadian Museum of Nature, in Ottawa. In that position, Taverner developed a unique system of distributional maps linked to card indexes on individual species containing up-to-date information on bird distribution in Canada. In 1917, he was elected a fellow of the American Ornithologists Union, and in 1935 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. On his retirement from the Museum in 1942, Taverner was made honorary curator of birds.
Taverner played an important part in Canadian ornithology and wildlife conservation. He helped establish Point Pelee National Park in 1918 and a number of bird sanctuaries across Canada, including the Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock at Percé, Quebec, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1919. His ornithological writings saw the publishing of Birds of Eastern Canada (1919), Birds of Western Canada (1926) and culminated with Birds of Canada (1934). Comprehensive and readable, with colour illustrations, they did much to develop a better understanding of ornithology and make bird watching a popular recreation.
Taverner, in the early years of his service as ornithologist to the Museum of the Geological Survey of Canada, worked with the botanist John Macoun (1831-1920) until his retirement in 1912, and with his son James M. Macoun (1862-1920), until his death in 1920. James Melville Macoun was well known as one of the best informed botanists, not only throughout Canada but also in other countries. Relations with the latter, Taverner wrote, were “always intimate, cordial and helpful.” Both Macouns produced the Catalogue of Canadian Birds in 1909.
The Society of Canadian Ornithologists (SCO-SOC) administers the Taverner Awards offered to honour P. A. Taverner and to further his accomplishments in increasing the knowledge of Canadian birds through research, conservation, and public education. The Taverner Cup, a 24-hour bird-a-thon held in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, is named after him. The Timberline Sparrow, currently considered a sub-species of the Brewer’s Sparrow, and a sub-species of the Canada Goose were given the name “taverneri” in his honour. Taverner also designed a unique birdhouse for Purple Martins which is still built by amateur ornithologists today.
Taverner died in Ottawa on May 9, 1947 and is buried in Beechwood near his mother, Canadian stage actress Ida Van Cortland (1855-1924).
For more information on Percy Taverner, see this 1948 entry from ‘The Auk’, found on SORA, the Searchable Ornithological Research Archives.