The birding community lost a legend this past week with the passing of long-time Indiana Audubon member, Charles E. Keller, 92, formerly of Indianapolis, on Christmas Day. He was preceded in death by his loving wife Shirley (Golding) Keller.
Although ornithology was only an avocation, his contributions were manifold. Following a 1951-53 stint in the U.S. Army, Charles spent most of his professional career as an associate pharmacologist with Eli Lilly & Company. Charles’ educational achievements included an associate in Arts from the University of Indianapolis in 1971 and an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Indianapolis in 2000. He was quite active in the Indiana Audubon, where he served as editor of the Indiana Audubon Quarterly from 1986 through 2005.
Charles’ contributions to Indiana ornithology were focused on avian research and a prolific publication of articles related to birds. His first publication, “bacon swamp notes” appeared in the 1946 Indiana Audubon Yearbook and was followed by more than 600 articles, notes, papers, and book reviews. Most noteworthy among these were statewide treatises on shorebirds and herons, which were published as multiple-part series in the Indiana Audubon Quarterly. Having a penchant for shorebirds, Charles employed the use of call notes in studies at the Indianapolis sewage ponds to resolve the vexing “dowitcher problem.”
In 1979 he teamed with wife Shirley and son Timothy to publish Indiana Birds and their Haunts, a combination bird finding guide and summary of Indiana ornithology. This work included assessing the status of avian species in each of the three tiers of Indiana counties. In 1993 Charles and his son Timothy published the Birds of Indianapolis, a guide to birds in the eight counties around that city. Charles Keller’s most important work was his co-authoring of the 1984 The Birds of Indiana, in which he was the second author. Over the ensuing two decades “Mumford and Keller,” became the standard reference to Indiana birdlife.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Indiana Audubon or The Michael J Fox Parkinson’s Foundation. Memorial donations can be made online at indianaaudubon.org/donate.