The 2012 Elliott Coues Award is presented to Dr. F. Gary Stiles for his outstanding contributions to ornithology through his very prolific work on hummingbirds and their interactions with the plants they visit, often as pollinators. Gary received a B.A. in Biology (Phi Beta Kappa) from Amherst College and an M.S. from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). His under-graduate honors thesis was entitled “Bird behavior and the evolution of Mullerian mimicry.” He continued his education at UCLA, receiving a Ph.D. in Zoology and the Otto Scherbaum award for distinguished work by a graduate student. Following his Ph.D., he moved on to a Chapman-Naumberg postdoctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He then served for 16 years on the faculty of the Universidad de Costa Rica and later moved to a faculty position with the Universidad Javeriana before settling into his current position as associate professor and curator of ornithology at the Instituto de Ciencias Naturals, Universidad Nacional de Columbia.
Gary began his publishing career with his dissertation research, published in 1973 in Science. He has since continued a very active research program on hummingbirds, including a fruitful collaboration with Larry Wolf on lek behavior of the Western Long-tailed Hermit that was published as an Ornithological Monograph (no. 27, 1979). More recently, his collaborative efforts with Douglas Altshuler and Robert Dudley on hummingbird morphology and energetics was published in The American Naturalist in 2004. His work on hummingbirds has included significant publications on systematics, ecology, evolution, morphology, and energetics. These papers combine exceptional field observations with laboratory and museum work. He has a keen mind for the conceptual significance of the results, and his colleagues consider him the most diverse and yet intensive worker on hummingbirds in the world.
Gary has published numerous papers on a broad array of Neotropical birds and their biogeography, migration, systematics, and conservation. He has described several new species and subspecies of birds and worked on taxonomic problems in a diverse set of birds. These studies have made significant contributions to the literature of the birds of Colombia and Costa Rica and place him among a very small group of ornithologists actively working in those areas.
Gary's third research interest is associated with plants of the Neotropics, especially those that are visited by hummingbirds. He has done ecological, evolutionary, and systematics studies of Heliconia, the general vegetation of several areas, and palms.
Gary is a superb field ornithologist and, with Alexander Skutch, co-authored an authoritative field guide to the birds of Costa Rica. He also has been actively training Neotropical science students in both Colombia and Costa Rica, including several master's and Ph.D. students. In Colombia, his exceptional talents as a teacher have been recognized four times with teaching awards.
For his outstanding contributions to Neotropical ornithology, especially his studies of hummingbirds, his continuing commitment to publishing, his diverse research interests, and his contributions to training the next generation of scientists in the Neotropics, the American Ornithologists’ Union is pleased to award F. Gary Stiles the Elliott Coues Award for 2012.
Award criteria.—The Elliott Coues Award recognizes extraordinary contributions to ornithological research. The award is named in honor of Elliott Coues, a pioneering ornithologist of the western United States and a founding member of the AOU. There is no limitation with respect to geographic area, subdiscipline of ornithology, or time course over which the work was done. The award consists of a medal and an honorarium provided through the endowed Ralph W. Schreiber Fund of the AOU.