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James Bond. Spy or Birder?

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Dec 21, 2008 | by Adrian Binns

“Bond. James Bond”, three words that have a storied history in cinematic circles. James Bond is more popular today than ever, if we are to believe the box office success of the latest release, “Quantum of Solace” and its predecessor, “Casino Royale.”

Why am I talking about James Bond on a bird blog? I’ll start from the beginning… Philadelphia has long been considered the ‘cradle of America Ornithology’ spawning such illustrious 19th century ornithological figures as Alexander Wilson, John Cassin, and John James Audubon to more contemporary names as Witmer Stone, James Bond, Robert Ridgely and Frank Gill. James Bond? No not “Bond. James Bond” but the real James Bond. James Bond was curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the leading authority on Caribbean birds, having first published a book on the subject in the 1930’s.

As the story goes, Ian Fleming had almost completed his first spy novel, Casino Royale, in 1953 and was looking for a name for his Agent 007 when the book The Birds of West Indies laying on his table just happened to catch his attention. James Bond. Perfect. You see, Ian Fleming was a birder and even named his estate in Jamaica, Goldeneye.

While Fleming’s novels focus on action, adventure, beautiful women and high-tech gadgets, he manages to add a few birding details, reflecting his personal interest in the hobby. In the movie “Die Another Day,” the infamous book appears on a table, and Pierce Brosnan’s character picks it up along with a pair of binoculars.

So while “Bond. James Bond” continues to have more lives than a cat, the real James Bond passed away in 1989 having left his legacy on the ornithological and cinematic world.

photo © adrian binns

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