To support the conservation and study of birds through bird banding

Vern Kleen was born in Nebraska in 1942 and lived there through 8th grade. With encouragement from his father, Vern began birding at age 7 and has continued ever since.  He attended high school and university in Maryland (B.S. in Zoology – Univ. of Maryland, 1965) then attended Southern Illinois University--Carbondale (M.A. in Zoology, 1973; thesis: a study of Prothonotary Warblers).   Vern spent two years in the Army in the mid-1960’s (primarily in Japan, with birding excursions to the Philippines and Hong Kong).  He has been married to Betty since July 1973.

Vern obtained a bird banding license in 1960 and banded his 100,000th bird (a Ruby-throated Hummingbird) in June 2012.   Vern was given the opportunity to go “professional” by Chandler Robbins and staff of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Laurel, MD), and, the University of Maryland while in college by gaining experience in a variety of research and banding projects in several eastern states.  On return from military duty, he volunteered for bird banding operations on Maryland’s Atlantic Coast, participated on a National Institute of Health bird banding project in Panama for 3 months and spent 18 months as a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bird Research Team off of Baja California and on several north Pacific Islands.

Vern came to Illinois for Graduate School in 1969.  His time in Illinois has been marked by many honors and great experiences:
  • Appointed editor of the “Middlewestern Prairie Region” for the National Audubon Society’s publication American Birds in 1971
  • Initiated Illinois’ statewide Spring Bird Count (through the Illinois Audubon Society) in 1972 and authored various publications to centralize data pertaining to Illinois’ birds.  
  • Took a position Department of Conservation in 1972 as the DOC’s Nongame and Endangered Species Section Manager, and later became the agency’s Avian Program Manager until retirement from the Department in 2001.
  • Coordinated Illinois’ Breeding Bird Atlas Project and was the senior author of the resulting publication The Illinois Breeding Bird Atlas, published by the Illinois Natural History in 2004.

Vern has enjoyed leading field trips and helping others find and learn about birds since a teenager.  He has the privilege of working with and leading workshops for numerous constituent groups, such as providing programs for a variety of groups, leading field trips to almost every continent in the world, coordinating Illinois’ hummingbird festivals and managing a Bird Banding Station in Springfield.  He greatly enjoys helping others see and/or learn about birds and working on projects that help preserve wildlife habitat.

Board Member, Past President

Vernon Kleen, 2nd Term