Episode #092: Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman burst onto the North American birding scene as a teenager in the 1970s, hitch-hiking all over the continent in pursuit of birds, an adventure later chronicled in his cult-classic book Kingbird Highway.

After working as a leader of nature tours to all seven continents, he made a transition into a career as a freelance writer, artist, and naturalist. Kenn has been a field editor for Audubon magazine since 1997, and now writes a regular column for the Audubon website, “Kenn Kaufman’s Notebook,” illustrating it with his own drawings and paintings.

His book projects have included his own field guide series, Kaufman Field Guides, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company of Boston. This series now includes volumes on North American birds, butterflies, mammals, insects, and advanced bird ID, plus guides to nature of New England and the Midwest. His other books include Lives of North American Birds and Flights Against the Sunset.

In 2005 he moved from Arizona to Ohio, where his wife Kimberly is executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. His current projects include painting portraits of birds and writing a narrative account of spring migration. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, and has received the American Birding Association’s lifetime achievement award twice—a distinction shared only with the late Chan Robbins.

Show Notes:

  • Your early days and origins of your interest in all things birds
  • “Kingbird Highway” was a defining event for you
  • Your early career, tell us what paths you took to develop your particular skills.
  • Artist or illustrator?
  • Field Guide to Birds
  • The entire Field Guide series followed
  • Self funded the Spanish Language edition of your Bird Guide
  • What issues do you lend your voice to these days?
  • Is birdwatching or birding still fun?

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1 Comment

  1. Liz Jaggers on June 2, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Thank you Mardi for interviewing Kenn Kaufman. Kenn has a unique voice and approach to conservation education that makes the subject approachable, fun and fascinating for kids of all ages, including this 53-year old kid. We love his books and have bought several as gifts for our friends and relatives.

    On behalf of all wild creatures, thank you Kenn for your work to raise awareness and to encourage folks to allow life’s distractions to fall away, so that the elegant miracles that surround us can work their magic. As Mardi so eloquently says “Being outdoors in nature and birdwatching soothes our souls”

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