Amateur Birdwatcher First in World to 10,000 Species Seen

Mar 14, 2024

Thought Question: What is one of your long-term life goals? What do you think is required to reach it?

The goal amateur birdwatcher Peter Kaestner set for himself in 2023 had him looking sky-high — literally.

“Sometime in the second half of 2024, I hope to see a bird,” Kaestner, 70, wrote in an essay for the American Birding Association. “But this one will be different than other birds, although the bird will not know that. This particular bird will belong to a species that I will not have seen before, and it will be the first new species that I will have seen after my 9,999th. In other words, it will represent my 10,000th species.”

Birding is the practice of spotting as many distinct bird species as one can. The official record for birding was 9,829. The 10,000 mark has long been hailed as a nearly-impossible feat. After all, there are only about 11,000 species in the world. Yet Kaestner logged his 10,000th bird late last month. He spied an orange-tufted spiderhunter while on a trek in the Philippines. His 10,000th happened months before he thought it might.

“I feel incredibly lucky,” Kaestner told The New York Times.

Kaestner’s journey to a record 10,000 birds wasn’t all luck, though. He’s been a birdwatcher for decades. His career as a US diplomat has allowed him to log sightings worldwide. He served in the Peace Corps in Zaire, Africa. And he has been stationed in places like Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Malaysia, and New Guinea, to name a few.  

“My life is almost Forrest Gump-ian,” Kaestner said of his birding journey. “I’ve had amazing stories of near disaster, and things have sort of just worked out beautifully.” 

Photo courtesy Peter Kaestner on Facebook.

What happened after Peter Kaestner saw the orange-tufted spiderhunter? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. He gave up birdwatching.
b. He reached his goal of observing 10,000 bird species.
c. He was given an award for birdwatching.
d. He decided to write a book about birds.
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