by Linda Winnie

Jean Robocker passed away on June 28, 2021, at the age of 98.

Jean Robocker

Jean was a founding member of Flathead Audubon. She played a central role in starting and growing the FAS education program. She was Chair of the FAS Education program in 1977 when FAS was founded, then again in 1984-86, and then became head of “Clubs and Schools Presentations” for 9 years, 1986 to 1995. During those years she spent many hours visiting local schools and community organizations to bring bird education to young and old through stories and slides, study skins of local species, and her own hand-drawn images of our local birds. During those 9 years she also served on the FAS Board of Directors.

In 2013 Jean was presented with Flathead Audubon’s Conservation Achievement Recognition for a lifetime of conservation education and land stewardship efforts.” In addition to her work as a bird educator for Flathead Audubon, the award cites her 7 years as a member of the Flathead Community College Board of Directors, and her service on the Montana State Board of Education for a 3-year term. Her land stewardship efforts began in the 1950s when Jean and her husband Eugene established a 160-acre dairy farm on a bend of the Flathead River. They set aside a portion of their land to be left pristine as a place for native plants and local wildlife. And then in 1973 they put a Conservation Easement on these 160 acres with the help of The Nature Conservancy. It was one of the first of its kind in the Flathead Valley. A few years later an additional 90 acres of farm land were placed in another Conservation Easement, with the assistance of the Montana Land Reliance. These two easements permanently protect over 250 acres of prime river bottom lands from development, preserving a wonderful riparian area for wildlife and birds for the future.

Jean was one of the best birders in the Valley. She bubbled with enthusiasm when describing her latest sightings or recounting the antics of the birds in her yard or reporting the spring return of the swifts that nested in her chimney. She was part of the group that started  the Bigfork Christmas Bird Count in 1975, and went on to participate in every Bigfork Count held since then. In recent years, when she couldn’t walk her usual territory, she participated as a feeder-watcher, counting the birds that showed up in her yard. (When the circle was drawn in 1975 she made sure it included her place.)

Jean’s other interests included weaving and Dutch Bantam chickens. She was a founding member of the Alpine Spinners and Weavers Guild in the Flathead Valley and owner of Allen Looms. And for many years she raised prize Dutch Bantams behind her house and shipped them to buyers throughout the US. She regularly took them to poultry shows around the country – carrying them with her on the airplane in boxes. In 1986 she became a founding member of the American Dutch Bantam Society.

Jean was a warm, funny, smart, energetic woman who loved to tell people about her birds – the wild kind she loved to observe and teach others about, and the chicken kind she raised in her yard and took travelling in boxes. She started Flathead Audubon’s tradition of taking bird education into local schools and helped shape our now 45-year-old Bigfork Christmas Bird Count. She was a valued friend to so many of us in Flathead Audubon. We are fortunate to have had her in our midst for so long.

(Some information above was drawn from previous Pileated Post articles about Jean by Robin Maggadino (Nov 2003) and Leslie Kehoe (May 2013), available at