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Birds Spotted on Google Doodle for Phoebe Snetsinger’s Birthday

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Doctors gave Phoebe Snetsinger a year to live when they diagnosed her with melanoma in 1981, she decided to spend her remaining time birding. In the next 18 years, she traveled across the world and ended up recording 8,393 species of birds.

The Google Doodle today celebrates what would be Snetsigner’s 85th birthday with five birds, including the Blackburnian Warbler and Red-Shouldered Vanga (as the ‘G’ and the ‘o’) — both among those she sighted.

Snetsinger had wanted to be a scientist, but married and lived in Minnesota until just before her 50th birthday, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She kept outliving expectations and taking increasingly dangerous journeys, suffering various injuries on trails and surviving a gang rape, eventually sighting a vast majority of the roughly 10,000 bird species in the world. At the time, she amassed the highest bird count in for any birder in the world.

Snetsinger called her autobiography Birding on Borrowed Time, and was killed in 1999 when her van crashed during a trip to Madagascar.


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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com