Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World from Noah Strycker

Birding without borders by Noah Strycker - a book about a bird enthusiast who travels the world to see as many birds as possible in one year. The world is already fast. Do we need bucket lists? Well, I don't know. And I don't want to judge about this, as there are so many interesting animals, plants or in general places out there worth to be seen. The author of Birding Without Borders had such a list. He wanted to be the first person with most birds seen in one year. Would he reach his goal?

Birding without borders

Title: Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World
Authors: Noah Strycker
Imprint: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 352 pages
Published: 2018
Language: English


In 2015, Noah Strycker, a young American birder, became the first person to see more than half of the 10,000 bird species on planet Earth in one year. Traveling to forty-one countries on seven continents with just a small backpack, a pair of binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, Noah not only set a new world record, he also captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world.

Thoughts about the book

Actually, at the beginning I was not quite sure if I really wanted to read this book, because the aim of the author was to become the first person with most birds seen in one year. Observing birds and traveling is not just ticking species or destinations off a list in my opinion. As I do not like lists like that, I was not sure if the book was right for me.

However, I’m glad that I haven’t put away the book. There were many thoughts or ideas in the book I very liked.

But first of all, what is the book about?

The book is about a passionate birder who set himself the goal to travel the world in one year to observe as many birds as possible. He wanted to reach an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. He wanted so see most bird species than anyone else before in one year. He started his journey in Antarctica and continued his travels in South America. Then he traveled north to Central and North America where he set off to Africa after a short stop in Europe. After Africa he continued his quest in Asia to end his bird year in Australia and India, respectively.

Although I do not like or understand these lists, I very liked the way he was traveling. He did not book a tour at any company. No. Before he was leaving for his "bird year", he contacted local bird enthusiasts to help him reaching his goal. Thanks to the internet, he could individually plan his journey. He did not have to go to a travel agency. This way he could save not only money - which was good, but not the most important point - but also could he explore bird life with local people. He never would have reached his goal if he would have traveled with just bird companies (although there might be many good ones out there, too). When he described his experiences about how hospitable the people treated him and how hard they were trying to help him, I was really moved by that. His journey brought him together with many bird enthusiasts.

It was also interesting for me to read, that he used eBird on his journey to keep track of his observations and Birdingpal to connect with other birders. On my journey to Brazil I used iNaturalist to find help to identify all animals I saw. I’m sure I want to use more intensively applications like these on my futures travels.

Although I very liked the way he was traveling, I asked myself, is this the way I want to travel in future?

Yes and no.

Yes, because - as mentioned - I very liked it how he could establish contacts with local birders.

No, because his journey appeared to me physically very demanding. He was very (very!) fast. Sometimes he even had not the time to sleep or explore more of the region. He was always thinking of the number of species he wanted to see. This appears to me quite exhausting.

But he was very aware of all this. He wrote, that if you are too fast, you might stay at the surface. And he knew that it is not all about numbers. If you want to see many birds to tick them off a list, you do not have the time to dive deeper. Anyway, in his words I could feel his passion for birds. Be it in Brazil while observing a harpy eagle or in Peru when searching for a specific hummingbird.

His words also made me think about myself and this blog. Do I want to focus more on a region or animal species group or do I want to be more general?

This way, the book was also very inspirational for me.

But I also could confirm for myself that I very like it to be a more slow traveler. I don’t want to hurry. I need time to prepare myself for a journey. And I need time to digest the things I have seen. I would never be able to visit so many countries in one year... And very probably I will never plan to do this...

By the way, he was also writing a blog during his year. He tried to write an article every day. Wow. Since I have started with this blog, I know how much time it requires to write on a blog...


Captivating book. Interesting story. And an author who shares his passion for birds. A book for travelers and especially for bird enthusiasts. Nicely written with inspirational thoughts. I enjoyed reading the book!

Have you already read the book Birding Without Borders? What did you like in this book? And do you have a bucket list? Let me know in the comments.

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