Svein Haftorn, a Corresponding Fellow of the AOU since 1983, died in Trondheim, Norway, on 28 July 2003, at the age of 78. With his death, Norway lost its Grand Old Man of ornithology.
Haftorn was born in Drammen, Norway, on 30 January 1925, and made an early decision to devote his life to ornithology; he spent most of his teenage days watching birds near his home. He soon discovered that school was a waste of time; despite leaving it, he successfully passed all the exams required to enter the University of Oslo. One of his first publications (in 1944) focused on feeding behavior and food storing in tits, the topics of both his MS thesis in 1952 and his Ph.D. dissertation in 1957. That work has become a classic of ornithology and of ecology in general. He became the curator of ornithology at Vitenskapsmuseet in Trondheim in 1953, and professor of zoology in 1966 at Norges Lærerhøgskole, which later became a part of the University of Trondheim.
Haftorn was one of the first in the world to use videotaping to record the breeding behavior of birds within their nest cavities and to use new technology to measure egg temperatures during incubation, nocturnal hypothermia, and metabolic costs of incubation in free-living birds. In 1986, he published a monograph on the Goldcrest. He is most widely known for his book Norges Fugler (1971), which soon became the standard reference for birds in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia. He wondered whether the 11 years he spent on the book was worth the effort, but history tells us he made the right decision.
Haftorn was key in initiating the Norwegian Ornithological Society in 1957 and was its president from 1958 through 1966. The Society was always close to his heart; though in poor health, he attended the annual national meeting shortly before his death. He began the Society's research journal in 1978 (Fauna Norvegica, later Ornis Norvegica), and was its chief editor until his death. He was also a member of the International Ornithological Committee and was the recipient of some well-deserved honors; he was a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science, and received His Majesty's Golden Medal. A more detailed memorial of Haftorn has been presented elsewhere, in Ornis Norvegica 26:55–63, with a portrait and a list of his publications, and in Vår Fuglefauna 26:127–129.
Birds were the passion of Svein's life, but one interest was even stronger: his devotion to his dear wife, Eva, and to his four children and their families. His friends, the research community, and avian science in general are most grateful that Eva allowed Svein to spend so much time with us and with the birds.