Welcome to the Hoffmann Bird Club.

p1140786The Hoffmann Bird Club was established in 1940 with a mission of promoting the study of birds in Berkshire County. The club was founded under the auspices of the Berkshire Museum and named in honor of Ralph Hoffmann a naturalist who was born in Berkshire County.

Meetings are held from September thru May and are open at no charge to anyone interested in birds and birding.

Field trips are led by experienced birders and beginners are always welcome.

Ralph Hoffmann

No, Ralph Hoffmann was not the founder of the Hoffmann Bird Club. He was, however the author of the first true field guide to birds. In 1904 Ralph Hoffmann, a young schoolmaster and Latin scholar, published A Guide to the Birds of New England and Eastern New York. The text was unprecedented in that it focused on field marks, behavior, habitat, call notes and songs, even going so far as to provide a refined phonetic system to help identify songs. He provided comments following the description of each bird which included comparisons to similar species. Everything in the book was geared to bird identification in the field.

Hoffmann was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1870. He graduated from Harvard at age twenty and married at age twenty-three. In 1919, Hoffmann accepted a position at the Cate School for Boys in Santa Barbara. He began, almost immediately, his research into the birds of the area. In 1927 Hoffmann published Birds of the Pacific States which went to even greater extents than his first guide to refine the phonetics of bird song.

Hoffmann retained his amateur status, and not until the last decade of his life did he leave teaching, and then to assume the directorship of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Hoffmann is remembered today in Santa Barbara, particularly in connection with the museum. A plaque there memorializes Hoffmann as “a student of flowers and birds who welcomed the children and made the museum a center of inspiration for all lovers of life and beauty”. Hoffmann is also honored at Berkshire Community College where the Environmental Center has been named after him.