I grew up in Milwaukee where my family has roots for several generations. My father died when I was very young and my mother remarried a very good man with whom I always had a close and affectionate relationship. He was the person who pointed me in the direction of Yale, where I majored in English literature, with a special interest in 19th Century novels. On graduation I moved to New York where I worked as the science editor for Dover Publications but left to pursue a long-time interest in birds. I got a Ph.D. from Cornell, based on my field work in the Central Andes of Colombia. In recent years I worked for American Bird Conservancy, a small but exceptionally effective organization which specializes in conservation of habitat for rare birds in Latin America and the Caribbean, to which I traveled many times. I left the organization to pursue my writing but have kept up close contact with it. My wife is from the Washington area and have two daughters.