Peter Kaestner

Peter is the world’s #1 birder who has spent a lifetime sharing his passion for birds with others. Always a birder, Peter’s first international trip was at age nine in 1962, when he visited the Bahamas. In 1967 he spent a school year in New Delhi and returned twice as a diplomat to work at the U.S. Embassy there. In total, he has lived in 12 different countries has birded in another 178 eBird countries and territories.  On February 9, 2024 Peter became the first person to ever observe 10,000 bird species. (He also holds eBird’s biggest world life list (9851).)  Peter is also recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the first person to see a representative of every bird family in the world.  Peter has been leading international bird tours since 1978 and started working for Rockjumper in 2019.  He has guided in North and South America, Africa, and South and South-East Asia.

  • After receiving a degree in Biology at Cornell University (where he was an Ornithology teaching assistant), Peter served in the Peace Corps in Zaire as a secondary-school science teacher.

    During his 36-year career as a U.S. diplomat, he helped negotiate the UN Desertification Convention in 1994 and a protocol amending the 1916 Migratory Bird Convention with Canada in 1995.  He represented the United States at Conferences of the Parties of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  (During his employment with the U.S. State Department, he did not work as a tour guide.)

    Peter has lived in 12 different countries where he contributed to the scientific knowledge and conservation of birds, led scores of bird walks, and authored dozens of articles. He re-discovered several birds in Colombia and Ecuador.  But the highlight of Peter’s birding career came in 1989, when he was living in Bogotá. Just 50 kilometers east of the Colombian capital, he discovered a new bird – an antpitta named in his honor: Grallaria kaestneri (Cundinimarca Antpitta)

    Since his retirement in August 2016, Peter has become a full-time birder, striving to be the first person to see 10,000 species. Peter gets the most satisfaction in sharing his passion for birds through involvement in local bird clubs, leading bird walks and tours, and giving illustrated lectures on birds around the world. In 2023, he was appointed aa a brand ambassador for the American Bird Conservancy. 

  • EP, Sri Lanka 2020

    "Both Peter K and local leader were great. Our local leader went so out of his way to find and stake out owls, he'd start roaming the forest at 2 and have reports for us at dawn when we would meet in field. We had all 9 available owls due to his work. He also knew each area so well we found all endemics as he had such intimate knowledge of location and back up sites for each key species. Amazing, he sure pulled some birds out of almost thin air. Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Sri Lanka Bay and Serendip Owls, etc. Also amazing with his knowledge of calls - my guess is Rockjumper has the country's best local guide - keep him happy! The bus was great, more room than we needed but that sure beats the alternative - made the long drives so comfy. Also had WIFI which added a real time killer to travel."

    JR, India 2020

    This trip was great! We were told the trip should generate about 250 bird species and our total was very close. Peter was excellent at finding birds, leading us and keeping a positive group atmosphere. The local guides also were competent and helpful. Accommodations are not an important aspect of a trip to me but the ones we stayed at were excellent, as were the meals. The trip was an excellent introduction to India for me tho I was happy to have it very much concentrate on birding.

    LE, Argentina 2022

    It was an honor and a pleasure to travel with Peter Kaestner, an uncommonly quiet but knowledgeable, dedicated, focused, transparent, kind and caring individual, with a sense of humor and a willingness to take the group's wants and needs into account when issues arose. The whole tour was a rich and rewarding experience!

    FO, Argentina 2022

    Peter is an excellent guide! He’s very friendly and did an excellent job is solving an problem that came along. PLU, He knows the birds well and would help us key in on the differences. I will go with him again! Pablo was our local guide and did a phenomenal job as well.

    GL & CL, Argentina 2022

    Peter Kaestner was an excellent guide, combining outstanding bird-finding and identification abilities, capable and efficient logistical planning, and strong social and interpersonal skills. One especially commendable feature of Peter's bird guiding is his limiting of playback to the minimum needed for the bird to come out and be seen by the whole group (rather than for optimal photos or prolonged views), thereby minimizing disturbance to what are often localized or threatened bird species. We hope that other Rockjumper guides will adopt Peter's approach.

    SG, Argentina 2022

    Peter Kaestner was completely committed to getting every bird possible on both tours. He was sensitive to all the needs of the participants and worked tirelessly on what could have been potentially serious limitations to the logistics. Getting the chauffeur/vehicle company to recognize the needs of a birding tour was difficult. And because of lack of flexibility in overtime use of the driver and deviations from an original itinerary, Peter had to work hard to make sure we had opportunities for every bird regardless. He was uncommonly successful in achieving these results.

    EM, Argentina 2022

    This was an excellent tour and Peter did a very good job. He made the transition from birder/lister to tour guide very well. He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and personable. I also liked that he allowed the tour participants to provide input and vote on any potential itinerary modifications and provided us with the information needed to make decisions. All good.