Gary E. Duke, an avian physiologist at the University of Minnesota, died on 21 August 2006 at the age of 68. He had battled with rapidly advancing Alzheimer's disease for several years. Gary was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1938. His avian research began at Michigan State University with an M.S. thesis on censusing singing male American Woodcocks and a Ph.D. (1967) dissertation on me-tabolizability and food-passage rates in Ring-necked Pheasants. He then began a career as a faculty member in the Department of Veterinary Biology, College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Minnesota. His research specialty was avian digestion, and he was known to many as a leading expert in poultry gastrointestinal physiology.
Gary, however, was fascinated by owls, and immediately began to study owl physiology. His pioneering work on owl feeding behavior and digestive physiology remains a benchmark in the field. His excellent work with owls, diurnal raptors, poultry, and other species provides an important basis for much comparative avian biology. He collaborated with many researchers from across the United States and internationally. He organized and led several ecotour trips to Tanzania and Costa Rica, and collaborated in research on African wild dogs. He spoke annually at professional meetings and published more than 100 scientific papers, chapters in 9 books, and contributions to 25 symposium proceedings. More than 40 of his publications addressed raptors, and most of those were about owls.
Gary served the Raptor Research Foundation in various ways, including as president and several terms as a board member, from 1975 to 1993. He was president of the National Comparative Gastroenterology Society and of the Minnesota Zoological Society. He served as vice president and as director of the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Society. An enthusiastic birdwatcher with a life list of 1,601 species, he was also a member of several ornithological organizations .He joined the AOU in 1967 and became an Elective Member in 1993. He was director of the Avian Research Center at the University of Minnesota for several years. His proudest achievement was cofounding The Raptor Center, a world-class conservation organization dedicated to study, conservation, medical care, and public education. An avid jogger, he set his lifelong goal as the earth's circumference, a goal he missed by only a few miles.
Gary received awards from a variety of organizations, including the Director's Award from the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for Humane Excellence, the American Motors Conservation Award, the Merck Award for Achievement in Poultry Science, and the National Wildlife RehabUitator Award for Lifetime Acheivement. A special issue of the Journal of Experimental Zoology (vol. 283, no. 4/5, 1999) on ‘Avian Gastrointestinal and Renal Physiology’ was dedicated to him.
Gary is survived by his wife of 45 years, Mary Ann, two daughters, and two grandchildren. Owing to the generosity of his lifelong friend Dr. William Holleman, an honorary annual lectureship on topics in conservation and raptor natural history has been created in Gary's name.