James Bond, of Philadelphia, was a prominent ornithologist who birded in Maine. Courtesy of Jim Wright

Who knew when Sean Connery and Roger Moore played James Bond in the famous spy movies of the 1960s and ’70s they actually were playing an ornithologist who loved to bird in Maine? 

Turns out, the clever and unflappable 007 was named after a well-known ornithologist by author Ian Fleming. And the real James Bond – who actually went by Jim – spent summers birding with his uncle on Mount Desert Island, where the two compiled a well-known field guide that was published in 1941, “Birds of Mt. Desert Island Acadia National Park Maine.” 

Maybe that explains why so many birds were killed by villains in the Bond movies.

In his book, “The Real James Bond,” New Jersey journalist Jim Wright – who also enjoys birding on Mount Desert Island – explains why the fictional undercover agent was named after James Bond, a birder from Philadelphia, and how similar the two were. And while the British M16 agent was not a birder, the author who created him was. In fact, when Ian Fleming first met the real James Bond in Jamaica, the two went birding, according to Wright.

In June, Wright will offer three talks in Maine to explain the parallels between the two Bonds and the extensive research he did on the Philadelphia ornithologist. Wright’s book was released last year and is now in a second printing. He also writes a birding column for The Record, a newspaper in New Jersey.

And as it turns out, James Bond of Philadelphia had many friends who were spies during the Cold War, when Fleming wrote his books. Wright devotes an entire chapter explaining who the real James Bond’s spy friends were, including one who tried to thwart a Russian mission to obtain uranium for an atomic bomb.


Jim Wright’s book reveals the truth about James Bond the birder. Courtesy of Jim Wright

Which begs the question: How fictional was Fleming’s famous spy?

“I asked (the CIA) in a Freedom of Information request. They said, ‘We can neither confirm nor deny it,’” Wright said.

But the real Bond – who was the author of the quintessential birding guide of the tropics, “Birds of the West Indies” – led an intriguing life in which he would take mail boats and rum-running ships to small islands to discover new species of birds.

In fact, Wright said, Fleming got the name for his spy from a copy of Bond’s birding guide that was sitting on his desk as he wrote his first secret-agent thriller. 

“James Bond is considered the grandfather of Caribbean ornithology,” Wright said. “His collection of birds is now in the collection of The Academy of Natural Sciences (at Drexel University) in Philadelphia. When you read his book about the West Indies, it’s all about conservation and the illegal parrot trade. He was kind of ahead of his time.”

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