'Follow The Birds, And They'll Take You Places You Never Even Dreamed Of'
Bird Watching|March 2018

In 2015, Noah Strycker set a world record: he saw more than 6,000 species of birds across 41 countries – more than half the birds on earth. This extraordinary adventure is described in Noah’s latest book, Birding without Borders, which has just been released. Noah, now aged 32, has written two other books to critical acclaim: Among Penguins, A Bird Man in Antarctica and The Thing With Feathers

Noah Strycker

Here, we ask Noah a series of birding-related questions…

What led to your passion for birding? 

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher suction cupped a bird feeder to our classroom window and would stop class every time a new visitor showed up. Most of my friends thought it was pretty boring, but I was fascinated by these birds – Evening Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Purple Finches, Black-capped Chickadees – that seemed to appear from thin air. That spring, I enlisted my dad’s help to build birdhouses for our backyard, and a pair of Western Bluebirds moved in. Peering into their nest, inches away from their sky-blue eggs, I was hooked.

Did you collect other things as well?

I collected and sorted all kinds of miscellanies: stamps, coins, rocks, business cards, even, for a while, cardboard toilet paper rolls, which I carefully stashed under my desk until my mom threw them out. I’ve asked a lot of birders if they collected things when they were younger, and it seems that a disproportionate number of us did. Birding certainly taps into that instinct.

What is the first bird you remember seeing?

I grew up on 20 acres of forest, surrounded by wildlife, so birds have always existed in my consciousness. But one particular sighting stands out. When I was about 13, my dad took me to a remote wildlife refuge in the high desert of eastern Oregon, called Malheur, where I watched a Great Horned Owl pick a fight with a Barred Owl. The two big owls were rolling on the ground in broad daylight, battling over possession of a snake which the Barred had apparently captured. After what seemed like several minutes, the Great Horned emerged victorious and took the snake, while the beat-up Barred Owl cooled off on a perch just a few feet in front of my disbelieving eyes.

What bird haven’t you seen that you’d love to?

 The more birds you encounter, the more you realise are out there – and so your bucket list never seems to get shorter! I would love to see the bizarre Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise in Indonesia, the rediscovered Night Parrot in Australia, and the Inaccessible Island Rail (the world’s smallest flightless bird) in Tristan da Cunha. One of my life goals is to observe every penguin species on Earth, which means I’ll have to find a way to reach some of the subantarctic islands around New Zealand.

What is your favourite birdsong?

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