Mario Cohn-Haft

Mario Cohn-Haft, American and the husband of Rita Mesquita, is an expert on birds and has guided Bill Gates (Microsoft) and rock star Peter Gabriel around the Amazon. He knows an immense number of species, and can mimic many of their calls. He very much likes exploring and is often out in the wild, and up before dawn, to see and hear birds.

Mario Cohn-Haft is a researcher on the “biogeography” of Amazonian birds, meaning the biological consequences of geography and environment. At one time, he thought his perfect job would be to lead bird watching tours. Now, he actually has birders come to help him do research!

Born in rural western Massachusetts, Mario spent much of his childhood pursuing wildlife. “I went through a butterfly phase, frog phase, snake phase, you know...” Both his parents were educators—his father a professor of Ancient History at a nearby college, and his mother with a master’s in education. Though none of his family were scientists, his interest in nature was encouraged by academically-inclined relatives, and he remembers getting field guides, binoculars, and magnifying glasses at every holiday.

His special fascination with birds began when his parents moved out to a new place in the countryside, where multiple bird-feeders outside the dining room windows provided a constant display of shapes, sizes and sounds. “I was hooked,” he says. “I bought my parents a field guide to birds for their anniversary, but it really ended up being a present to myself, because I used it all the time.”

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