Missy Patty, ‘The Bird Lady of North Oaks’, dies aged 88 – Twin Cities



Even in her last days, birds came in and went out of Missy Patty’s life.

She was, after all, known as “The Bird Lady” of North Oaks.

In a home hospice after falling for the past few weeks, Patty was still able to look at a line of bird feeders that attracted her feathered friends. Birds were also present in books and conversations inside his house.

“Over the past two days my wife and I have been browsing a bird book with her,” said Brian Patty, one of her three sons.

Longtime advocate for the natural world, Diane “Missy” Muir Patty died at her home on December 5, shortly after this conversation about sandhill cranes. She was 88 years old.


Born in the 1930s in Tacoma, Washington, his father and grandfather were both doctors, but it was someone from their ancestral hometown who played a role in awakening his interest in nature.

“Her maiden name was Muir,” her son said.

John Muir, known as “the father of our national parks”, was a Scottish-born American naturalist who was one of the early advocates of the preservation of America’s wilderness.

“We traced the ancestry back to the same town in Scotland – Crawfordjohn, Lanarkshire, but never made a direct connection,” says Brian Patty. “She was inspired, obviously.”

An outdoor child, Diane “Missy” Muir even had her own horse, called Cindy. Later, due to family ties in Minnesota, she attended the University of Minnesota, where she met her future husband, Willard Patty.

After working as a medic at a veterans center, Patty focused on educating their sons – Brian, Kevin and Tucker – at their home in North Oaks while Willard worked as an accountant. It was around this time that another natural connection was established.

“She was one of the first volunteers for the Warner Nature Center,” said Willard.

In 1995, Patty spoke to Pioneer Press about this time: it was in the 1960s and she was a member of the St. Paul Junior League. The women undertook a project that became the Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center, which included hundreds of acres of deciduous forests, prairies, woodlands, lakes and bogs in Washington County.

The service group was asked to “take charge” of the nature center staff, she said. Patty eventually left the Junior League, but she stayed with the project – for 52 years.

“When you find your niche in life, why not stick to it? ” she said.

In the 1960s, this niche was new.

“There was no one around who had any idea what a nature center was, so we brought in a group of teachers to show them what we were going to do,” she recalls. in 2019. “There wasn’t even a building at the time. . They got off the bus and they weren’t prepared, shoe wise, to walk in the woods. I actually think they had heels on. There has been a learning curve on both sides.


It is in the center of nature that Patty’s interest in birds developed. It happened during a bird banding demonstration. She got hooked instantly, she told Pioneer Press.

“Now every bird I see I have to identify,” she said.

She became an official bander, authorized to tag wild birds in order to study and track their movements across North America.

During her decades with the Nature Center, Patty estimated that she had ringed more than 25,000 birds.

Those she taught will not forget.

“Seeing a beautiful little creature up close – feeling a heartbeat in your hand – is the most magical moment,” says Julie Grecian, who worked as deputy director at the nature center. “It changes your life. “

Seeing Patty at work was also magical.

In a social media post, Grecian – the volunteer manager – recalled the “original volunteer” this way:

“This beautiful, kind, intelligent and funny woman has been a blessing in so many lives that were part of the Warner Nature Center! Grecian wrote. “She has taught me so much about life – dedicated to sharing her love of birds and nature with the thousands and thousands of children at the Warner Nature Center throughout the life of the school. organization. Loved the way she presented herself at volunteer parties in a full dress black leather jacket, then the next week she stepped out in her hiking boots and work jacket for an amazing banding experience birds Such a beautiful soul – my life is so much better than it was.

It was devastating for Patty – and many others – when the Manitou Fund, which largely owned and funded the land and facilities of the Nature Center, chose not to renew its annual partnership agreement with Science. Museum of Minnesota, which operated the nature center. It closed at the end of 2019.

“I just can’t imagine why they would do this,” Patty told Pioneer Press at the time.

Yet she stayed with them until the end.

“She was still volunteering when it closed,” said Brian Patty.


His support for nature transcended one place, however.

“Nature has always been one of his interests,” said Brian Patty. “She always wanted to take care of the wildlife around her.”

Word has spread about it.

“The sheriff knew she was rehabilitating the animals,” Brian Patty said. “It wasn’t just birds. We had three raccoons that we took care of after their mother was killed. We restored them to good health and released them back into the wild. This was the year we had to hang the Christmas tree from the ceiling – they kept rocking it. “

One of the raccoons even went for a hike with the family in Puget Sound. There was also an owl that overwintered in their living room, recovering from a concussion, eating mice the children fed it and sometimes surprising guests – who thought it was an exhibit. – by blinking or turning your head. An orphan fox named Timothy Rubble (T. Rubble) played cat on the lawn with the dogs and the children during his tenure with them. And when the turkey vultures were in residence, the thoughtfully delivered neighbors were killed on the road for mealtime.

Later, Patty and Willard enjoyed traveling to see birds from all over the world, from the Andean Rooster of the Rock in Peru to the Birds of Paradise in Indonesia.

Her favorite bird in Minnesota? The great woodpecker, says Brian Patty, “even if he tore the house up all the time.”

In Minnesota, ospreys were also helped by this bird watcher.

“She was instrumental in reintroducing the osprey to the North Oaks area,” says Willard.

In fact, she was known to paddle local lakes to scale nesting stations, feeding the young with additional fish daily to ensure their survival.


Missy Patty (near right, arms around one of her grandchildren), pictured with her family. She attended all the sports games and other events for her six grandchildren. (Courtesy of the Patty family)

In her later years, Patty developed another interest. Six of them, in fact: Connor, Colleen, Cullen, Siena, Maya and Emma.

“His hobby at the end of his life was attending all of his grandchildren’s events,” says Brian Patty. “From sports to concerts, she has never missed one.”

She was also the children’s personal naturalist, taking them on nature hikes and teaching them all about birds, of course.

It is a legacy that has taken off.

“How lucky I am to have Missy Patty as a grandmother,” Siena Patty wrote in a social media post. “Missy has taught me a lot of things over the years, how to use binoculars, how to sew and knit, how to cure sick mice that nest in her basement and that double-tape is the most effective deer fly. . trap. And many other lessons that I will carry with me throughout my life. I have learned to identify, observe and appreciate all the land has to offer. Because of her, I will always notice the red tail on the light pole, the muskrat swimming through the water lilies and the sound of crucifers in early May. I will think of her when an osprey passes overhead and when toads come out in a thunderstorm. She taught me to love nature, and it’s something that I look forward to passing on to my children one day.

A private service took place for Patty’s family. Memorials can be made at Nature Conservancy on Nature.org.

From the archives: In 1995, Pioneer Press reporter and columnist Cynthia Boyd followed Missy Patty on a bird banding expedition through a bog at the Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center.



Comments are closed.