The Avicultural World Suffers Some Heavy Losses Naether, Wilson and Greenwell


When Carl Naether, professor of English at the University of Southern California, a recognized author of business texts, set out to write a book on pigeons, he was thusly cautioned by an Ohio fancier, "Dear sir, let me forewarn you, there is no market for such a book, so you'd better stop now while you're at at. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble!" When The Book of the Pigeon and of Wild Foreign Doves appeared in 1939, it was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times. It was subsequently republished in five editions, and remains a standard reference. Even more important to aviculturists working with wild pigeons and doves, is an enormous body of articles, in the Avicultural Magazine, Auiculture, and Gazette, and many other journals, spanning more than fifty years, recording his captive observations of a diverse assortment of species, ranging from Himalayan Snow Pigeons to Marquesa Ground Doves and Squatter Pigeons.

 It may surprise many people to know that Professor Naether was also a prolific pioneering writer on softbills, his 1955 book on that subject,

now hard to find, being one of the first. His many softbill articles discuss such species as the Canyon Wren, the European Bluethroat, the Japanese Bush Warbler, the Clarino and the Daurian Redstart. While he was very successful at breeding pigeons and doves (his pair of Jamaican Mountain Witches being especially famous) the only softbills he bred were Shamas. His softbill aviculture was, instead, geared towards community aviaries, with which he was remarkably successful.

Carl Naether 's articles and books, written with enthusiasm and good humor, are all the more remarkable in that English was his second language. Born in Tergau, Saxony, he arrived, at the age of 18, at his brother's parsonage in Iowa, knowing three words of English: "yes", "no", and "telephone". From this, he progressed through a series of teaching positions in Iowa, Utah, South Dakota, Oregon and San Francisco, to his appointment at the University of Southern California, in 1924. He lived the rest of his life in the San Fernando Valley, first in Sherman Oaks, then Encino, where, with the assistance of Dorothy, his wife of more than 50 years, he commenced foreign bird breeding ( complimenting a life-long fascination with domestic pigeons).

Professor Naether maintained his aviaries into the 1980s, only giving them up due to deteriorating eyesight. He led a vigorous retirement, speaking at the 1981 AFA National Convention at San Diego, and contributing an article, "Cultivating Wild Foreign Doves and Pigeons" to the Oct/Nov '82 Watchbird. At my last visit in July, 1989, he was actively planning to revisit his native Saxony (now in East Germany), intending, as he detested airplanes, to go to New York by train, and Europe by ship! His last published article in English appeared in 1988, in the Avicultural Magazine's "Jean Delacour Memorial Issue'', a tribute to his closest friend who, as director of Los Angeles County's museums from 1951 to '61, worked across the street from USC at the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park. As far as I know, Carl Naether's last article was published in German, in Die Gefiederte Welt. He had, not long ago, clambered up some palm trees in Santa Monica to look at feral pigeon nests and sent his observations to Germany. He was enormously amused when the editor sent him the Deutschmark equivalent of $67.00. In 1989, he was quite proud of a brand new electric typewriter, for which he had great....