Fred was born on May 5, 1892, in Denver, Colorado. As a teenager, doing summer work at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver, Fred became acquainted with student Alexander Wetmore, who showed him how to put up bird skins. That association and learning intensified Lincoln’s fascination with birds, and in 1939, at the age of 21, he became the Colorado Museum’s Curator of Ornithology. As such, he did extensive fieldwork in Colorado, Arizona, South Carolina, and Louisiana. He held that position until 1920 with time out from 1918 to 1919 to serve in the U.S. Army as a pigeon expert in the Signal Corps.
In March 1920, Fred joined the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey as chief of the Section of Distribution and Migration of Birds, the agency’s bird banding operation to facilitate study of the movements and population dynamics of migratory birds. He headed the continental investigation of the status of migratory waterfowl and developed the continental flyways concept, now the basis for formulating hunting regulations for migratory game birds and waterfowl. He devised the Lincoln Index, a formula for estimating total populations of waterfowl from recoveries of banded birds.
Fred was in charge of the U.S. bird banding program from 1920 to 1946. His division (later with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) had sole responsibility for all federal work on bird migration and distribution, and its files provided most of the distribution data for A.C. Bent’s Life History of North American Birds series and several editions of the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Check-list of North American Birds. Fred himself authored approximately 300 scientific and popular articles, and several books including Bird Migration (1939), and coauthored two highly acclaimed works, American Waterfowl (1930) with John C. Phillips, and Birds of Alaska (1959) with Ira N. Gabrielson.
An American Ornithologist Union member since 1910, he was elected a fellow in 1934, and served as its treasurer from 1945 to 1947. He received an honorary ScD degree from the University of Colorado in 1956. The next year, he was accorded the U.S. Department of the Interior’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. He was a member of the Masons and the Cosmos Club.
An excellent field researcher and companion, Fred was a compassionate man, devoted to his science and its practitioners, and greatly admired by his coworkers and friends. He was married to Lulu. He died in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 1960.
He was elected a member of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1922 and served as president from 1937 to 1940.