Salim Ali was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist, also known as “Birdman of India”.
He was born on 12 November 1896, in Mumbai, India. When he was at the age of three, He lost his father and mother. After his parent’s death, he was raised by his aunt, Hamida Begum, and uncle, Amiruddin Tyabji. He completed his primary education in School Zenana Bible and Medical Mission Girls High School. Later he joined St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai for a year. Then, he went to Burma to look for other family businesses there. In his seven years in Burma, he would spend time in the forests, learning about wildlife and birds, and hunting. At a young age, he also started to maintain a Dairy and was Interested in observations on birds.
In 1917, He returned to India, and he joined Davar’s College of Commerce to study law and accountancy, but he was interested in Zoology and also started taking evening classes in zoology at St. Xavier’s College.
In 1926, he became a guide lecturer at the natural history section of the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai. After two years, he went to Germany, where he was to work under Professor Erwin Stresemann at the Berlin’s Natural History Museum. Where, he met some great German ornithologists Bernhard Rensch, Oskar Heinroth, and Ernst Mayr. In 1930, he returned to India and got the opportunity to conduct bird surveys of the princely states of Hyderabad, Cochin, Travancore, Gwalior, Indore, and Bhopal which were all sponsored by the rulers of those states.
In 1941, He published a Book of Indian Birds, He later collaborated with the famous ornithologist S Dillon Ripley to write the extensive 10-volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, which took 10 years of research to complete.
In 1967, He received the Gold Medal of the British Ornithologists’ Union, He was the first non-British citizen to receive the honor. In 1958, He received the Padma Bhushan the third-highest civilian award of India, and In 1976 Padma Vibhushan the second-highest civilian award of India, Given by the Government of India.
He died on 20 June 1987 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.