"Guess" Eleanor Anderson Birchett  (b. 1881, d. 1979)
"Guess" Eleanor Anderson
Former residence of Guess Birchett,
202 E. Seventh Street, Tempe
Guess Eleanor Birchett, a self-trained naturalist, became known as the "Bird Lady" of Tempe. Birchett banded an estimated 5,000 birds, becoming an expert on their migratory patterns. She is representative of the many female naturalists, without formal training, who studied plants and animals, and founded botanical gardens and sanctuaries throughout the U.S.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Science, Medicine and Health

Guess Eleanor Anderson came to Arizona to visit her sister, Honor Anderson Moeur, wife of future governor B.B. Moeur, in 1903. Originally from Texas, Guess soon met and married Joseph T. Birchett, in 1904. She said that her first name, "Guess," came about when her father asked at her birth, "What's the name?" and was told, "Guess." "It's stuck with me all my life," she said.

Guess began studying ornithology in 1940 and applied to federal and state agencies to secure a special license for banding and caring for birds. Over the course of thirty years, she gained wide knowledge of birds and their migratory patterns. She shared her findings with government and private researchers, while also writing for Western Bird Banding Magazine and other local and regional publications. The Fish and Wildlife Bureau designated Guess Birchett's home as a federally recognized bird sanctuary from 1940 to 1970. The Birchett Bird Hospital and Sanctuary served as a popular practical classroom for thousands of school children. She also gave many talks in the classroom and to adult audiences.

Guess Birchett, like many other women who loved and studied natural life, was active in founding the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. She was also a charter member of the Tempe Woman's Club. Today Birchett's former Tempe residence at 202 E Seventh Street is owned and maintained by Arizona State University which is looking at a variety of options for restoring and utilizing the house for public benefit. This is a drive-by site.

Photo Credits:
"Guess" Eleanor Anderson Birchett - Courtesy of Tempe Historical Museum


1225 W. Main Street, Suite 101, Box #159, Mesa, AZ 85201 • 480-834-3833  •  © 2020 Arizona Women's Heritage Trail