Cinematographer, Photographer, Lecturer, Business Owner 1892-1986
Bird Films, ca. 1941. Dick Bird founded the company in 1928 and it is still in operation today. CORA-RPL-B-439.
Dick Bird let his camera lead him around the world. From an early age he was fascinated by still photography and cinematography. His interest led him to become a nature photographer for Disney. His pioneering work brought him great acclaim and Dick Bird became and remains one of Saskatchewan’s most honoured filmmakers.
Dick Bird was born in 1892 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. He began working as a filmmaker at a very early age. He shot newsreels (short news documentaries that were shown before the main feature at the movies) for a variety of companies. Eventually he would travel all over the world filming newsreels: China, Japan, Korea, South America, Mexico and Canada.
Bird settled in Saskatchewan in 1921, where he went to work for the provincial government. As an official filmmaker for Saskatchewan, he shot footage of:
- the RAF Forestry Air Fire Patrol in Northern Saskatchewan
- the opening of the Albert Memorial Bridge in Regina
- the 1935 Regina Riot
- Sudeten German refugees from Czechoslovakia in 1939
In 1928 Dick Bird opened Bird Films in Regina, a business that is still in operation today.
Bird developed an interest in nature photography in the 1930s. He became president of the Regina Natural History Society and began to use his interest in photography to promote interest in wildlife. (Eventually Bird became the first life Member of the Saskatchewan Natural History Society.) His weekly CKCK radio program “Camera Trails” and self-published magazine The Camera Trailer brought the subject of nature photography to the at10tion of the province.
Eventually Bird’s interest in nature brought him to the at10tion of young Ada Bovee of Avonlea. Bird had been married to Pansy Nix, who passed away in 1937, leaving him widowed with 2 daughters. Bovee met Bird when he showed nature films to her CGIT group in Avonlea. The 2 hit it off and were married in 1947. Ada was an ornithologist and nature teacher whose interests dovetailed well with Dick. The pair became photographers for Walt Disney Productions from 1952 to 1955. They lectured and taught about nature, speaking at Harvard, the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institute.
Bird became the first President of the Canadian Press Photographers Association in 1919. This was the first of many honours he received in his lifetime. He was an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London. The Audubon Society frequently funded many of Bird’s lecture tours around Canada and the United States. In 1950 Bird became the second Canadian to become a fellow of the Photographic Society of America. (Yousuf Karsh was the first Canadian photographer so honoured.) In 1976 he received an honourary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Regina. In 1979 he was honoured as Saskatchewan’s Pioneer Cinematographer at the International Film Festival in Yorkton.
In 1986 Dick Bird passed away. Bird Crescent was named so to commemorate this pioneering filmmaker.