Dec. 3, 2015

William Dilger, ornithologist, died in September

William C. Dilger ‘46, M.S. ’51, Ph.D. ’55, professor of neurobiology and behavior, died at his home in Freeville, New York, on Sept. 17 at the age of 92.

Born in White Plains, New York, in 1923, he was called to active duty while a freshman at Cornell in 1943 and was a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran of World War II in the India-Burma Theater. Upon returning to Ithaca and completing his doctorate, he joined the Cornell faculty and also served as an administrator, rising to become director of research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

At Cornell, Dilger studied lovebirds – a group of small short-tailed parrots of the genus Agapornis, endemic to Africa and Madagascar – and the evolution of breeding and social behaviors, with attention on understanding which behaviors are learned versus inherited.

Among his many books, he was the author and illustrator of “Finding Out About Birds” (1963).

His interests spanned stewarding his land, Civil War history, art illustration, woodworking and gardening.