Photographing birds across continents. In this episode, we interview His Excellency Jacques Pitteloud who happens to be the Swiss Ambassador to the United States.  Based in Washington, Ambassador Pitteloud is also a birdwatcher and bird photographer.  In 2021, Ambassador Pitteloud’s photograph of a rare painted bunting that appeared in Maryland landed in the Washington Post prompting lots of excitement in the birding world. Later, the Washingtonian ran an article about him, titled, “The Guy Who Got That Photo of a Rare Painted Bunting? He’s the Swiss Ambassador!” He posts his birding photos on his Facebook page. On that page, he posts nothing personal or political. Here he talks about how he developed this passion for birds and some of his favourite regions and birds.


H.E. Jacques Pitteloud, a lifelong ornithologist, has been serving as the Swiss Ambassador to the United States since 2019. As a passionate bird photographer, his photographs have been published in several books and publications in Kenya and South Africa. 

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, he earned a doctorate in law at the University of Zurich, with further education in security policy at Geneva University. Dr. Pitteloud has a distinguished career of public service in the military and the Swiss Foreign Service, which he joined in 1987. Before he assumed his position in Washington, D.C., Dr. Pitteloud served as Ambassador of Switzerland to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and the Seychelles (2010-2015), and director for resources of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (2015-2019). 

A retired lieutenant colonel (General Staff) in the Swiss Armed Forces, Dr. Pitteloud also served as the Swiss government’s first intelligence coordinator (2000 – 2005), and Director for Arms Control, Disarmament, Security Policy and Intelligence at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bern. 

Ambassador Pitteloud is married with one daughter.


  1. Why do birds fascinate you?
  2. How did you become interested in birding?
  3. How does an Ambassador find time for birding?
  4. Which aspects of birding do you like– the nature, the photography, the people….?
  5. What do you need to be a good bird photographer? Both in terms of equipment and skills?
  6. What is birding in Switzerland like? Which are some of the Swiss birds that our audience should know about?
  7. You have said that you love birding in Africa. We have done one episode in Africa– in Uganda where Judith Mirembe talked about the shoebills. Can you talk about some of your memorable birding experiences in Africa?
  8. What about in the US? Can you talk about species and places in the US that you have visited?
  9. Is there a link between birding and diplomacy? Birds don’t have borders, isn’t it?
  10. A question I ask all my guests: what are you favorite types of birds and why?
  11. How do you educate yourself about birds on an ongoing basis?

Episode highlights

12:45: his views on the “big year of birding.”

13:45: his view on the different species of bird watchers.

15:00: he talks about two anecdotes in Africa– Kenya.  About finding the blue-headed beeeater and the Mackinder’s Eagle Owl.

18:00 mountain passes where you can see raptor migrations. He talks about Chicago’s Magic Hedge in the middle of the city where migratory birds especially warblers (thousands of them) congregate in early May before crossing the Great Lakes.  

19:30 about the Connecticut warbler and warbler identification.

21:15 the apps that he uses to identify birds.

22:00 Is there a link between birding and diplomacy? “Birding is the new golfing.”

24:15: what photographic equipment does he use.  He uses Canon. 600mm F4 lens.  Camera is D90.  With 500mm lenses he shoots handheld. With the 600mm he uses a tripod.

26:00 his favourite birds.  Raptors.  How they move differently.  

27:15 about his Facebook friends.  


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