He Hit a Bird-Watching Mark Once Thought Unreachable

American Peter Kaestner is the first to document 10K different species
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2024 11:05 AM CDT
He Hit a Bird-Watching Mark Once Thought Unreachable
Stock photo.   (Getty/nitrub)

Peter Kaestner has seen 10,000 different bird species, which, if you're not familiar with birding, sounds pretty impressive. If, however, you are familiar with birding, it's far more than that. As in, it's unprecedented. Last month, the 70-year-old retired American diplomat became the first person to log 10,000 different species, reports the Baltimore Sun.

  • The bird: Kaestner traveled to the Philippines, where he spotted and photographed an orange-tufted spiderhunter. Kaestner already was No. 1 in the world in documented sightings, but the bird gave him the milestone.
  • Context: The world has maybe 11,000 bird species, per the New York Times, meaning Kaestner has now seen the vast majority of them. About 60 people have cracked the 8,000 mark, while fewer than 20 have hit 9,000. "The number of people that helped over the years was extraordinary," Kaestner tells the Times of reaching the threshold once thought impossible.

  • Drama: Both the Times and the Sun note that as Kaestner closed in on the milestone—a quest he'd written about—a little-known American birder named Jason Mann came out of nowhere as a challenger. In fact, Mann claimed to have reached 10,000 sightings before Kaestner did, but he has since walked that back, made his birding "life list" private, and acknowledged Kaestner as No. 1.
  • What it takes: Outside magazine profiled Kaestner last year as he approached the goal, detailing how he has traveled the world for decades (his job as a diplomat helped) in pursuit of birds. Read it here.
(More bird-watching stories.)

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