Kaufman, Kenn 1956(?)–
Kaufman, Kenn 1956(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1956, in IN.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.
CAREER: Birder, artist, author, tour leader. Former associate editor, American Birds.
AWARDS, HONORS: Set record for most North American bird species sighted in a year; Ludlow Griscom Distinguished Birder Award, American Birding Association, 1992.
(With Les Line and Kimball L. Garrett) The Audubon Society Book of Water Birds, Abrams (New York, NY), 1987.
(With John Farrand) National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Birds: Western Region, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987.
(Also illustrator) A Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1990.
Lives of North American Birds, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1996.
Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little out of Hand, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.
(With Rick Bowers, Nora Bowers, and Lynn Hassler Kaufman) Birds of North America, Houghton (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Jim P. Brock) Butterflies of North America, Houghton (New York, NY), 2003.
(With others) City Birding: True Tales of Birds and Birdwatching in Unexpected Places, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2003.
(With others) Kaufman Focus Guide to Mammals of North America, Houghton (New York, NY) 2004.
Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, Houghton (New York, NY), 2005.
Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Houghton (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of introduction and notes, Eliot Porter, Vanishing Songbirds: The Sixth Order: Wood Warblers and Other Passerine Birds, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996. Illustrator of Lynn Hassler Kaufman, Deserts, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1993. Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America has been translated into Spanish. Author of foreword, Pete Dunn, More Tales of a Low-Rent Birder, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1994, Gerald M. McWilliams and Daniel W. Brauning, The Birds of Pennsylvania, by Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2000, and Identify Yourself: The Fifty Most Common Birding Identification Challenges, Houghton (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Kenn Kaufman's fascination with birds began when he was a child. Determined to set a record for observing birds, he took his first solo birding trip at the age of sixteen, hitchhiking across the country to observe bird species. In 1973 when Kaufman turned nineteen, he set out again to see how many birds he could spot in one year, posting a record of 671 species. Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little out of Hand is Kaufman's own story of his unique 69,000-mile trip, during which he survived on very little money (less than one thousand dollars during the entire year), took odd jobs for cash, and occasionally ate cat food when the money ran low. The book provides a close look at the unique culture and passion of other birders Kaufman meets along the way, as well as glimpses into the details of hitchhiking and living on the road.
Other adventures Kaufman encountered include unwanted advances from male drivers, crashing a bus in Alaska, and evading a rancher with a gun in Oklahoma. According to Frank Graham, Jr., of Audubon, Kaufman's single-minded drive is typical of expert and passionate birders. "I don't know how a normal person thinks of birds or looks at them," said Kaufman in Audubon. "By the age of six, I had narrowed my interest down to birds and I've never been interested in anything else."
One of Kaufman's earliest books about birds, The Audubon Society Book of Water Birds, earned him praise from a Time reviewer for the "easy, intelligent prose" which helped readers get beyond the pictures and gave a glimpse into the lives of particular birds. A Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them gives detailed identification information for the thirty-five birds that are most difficult to recognize. Kaufman instructs the reader on how to watch for the more subtle characteristics of birding—behavior, molting and plumage, for example—in identifying these birds. Henry T. Armistead of American Reference Book Annual recommended the book, particularly for its field guides, and praised the "well-written text" as well as the "useful line drawings" by Kaufman.
Kaufman's books are frequently praised by reviewers for presenting detailed information in language that is accessible to lay people. His books are also distinguished for his unique illustrations, which use digitally-edited photographs to highlight distinguishing characteristics. "The results are regularly clear, colorful and impressive," said Paul Gray in a Time review of Birds of North America. Kaufman's guides are singled out as being particularly valuable to beginning birders, who might be "intimidated" by conventional illustrations, according to Nancy Moeckel in a Library Journal review. She felt that Birds of North America meets the standard of excellence set by Roger Tory Peterson's classic field guides. Birds of North America was also notable for being the first major field guide to North American birds that was available in Spanish translation. Kaufman has also created field guides to butterflies, mammals, and insects.
In an interview with Diane Porter for Birdwatching, Kaufman explained why he thought people were attracted to, and interested in, birds. He first mentioned "the sheer aesthetic appeal. Birds are beautiful—you can't get away from that. The intellectual challenge of trying to figure out what they are, trying to find them and recognize them. It's not just like passively sitting there and having a beautiful image thrown at you. You have to work at it. So there is that challenge to be overcome. And then just the sheer aliveness of birds has to appeal to people. Most birds live at a level of intensity that we can't match. Watching a bird I'm often reminded of just what an intense experience life can be."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Reference Book Annual, 1991, Henry T. Armistead, review of A Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Birding Challenges and How to Approach Them, pp. 632-633.
Audubon, September, 2000, Christopher Camuto, review of Birds of North America, p. 108; March-April, 2005, Frank Graham, Jr., interview with Kenn Kaufman, p. 17.
Birder's World, December, 1997, Eldon Greij, review of Lives of North American Birds, pp. 94-95.
Booklist, May 15, 1997, George Cohen, review of Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little out of Hand, p. 1549; January 1, 2003, Nancy Bent, review of City Birding: True Tales of Birds and Birdwatching in Unexpected Places, p. 822.
Forbes, November 13, 2000, Susan Adams, review of Birds of North America, p. 402.
Houston Chronicle, March 21, 2003, Gary Clark, review of Butterflies of North America, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of Kingbird Highway, p. 697.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Frank Reiser, review of Lives of North American Birds, p. 88; May 15, 1997, Henry T. Armistead, review of Kingbird Highway, p. 97; November 1, 2000, Nancy Moeckel, review of Birds of North America, p. 128.
MBR Bookwatch, October, 2005, review of Birds of North America.
Natural History, July, 1997, review of Kingbird Highway, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, review of Kingbird Highway, p. 71; September 11, 2000, review of Birds of North America, p. 82; January 20, 2003, review of City Birding, p. 68; March 3, 2003, review of Butterflies of North America, p. 67; April 12, 2004, review of Mammals of North America, p. 56.
Science, September 14, 2001, Hugh Dingle, review of Birds of North America, p. 2002.
Science News, September 13, 2003, review of Butterflies of North America, p. 175; April 24, 2004, review of Mammals of North America, p. 271.
SciTech Book News, spring, 1990, review of A Field Guide to Advanced Birding, p. 13.
Time, November 27, 2000, Paul Gray, review of Birds of North America, p. 90.
Utne Reader, January, 1997, review of Lives of North American Birds, p. 96.
Bird Watcher's Digest, http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/ (February 3, 2006), review of Kenn Kaufman's Focus Guide: Mammals of North America.
Birdwatching, http://www.birdwatching.com/ (February 3, 2006), Diane Porter, review of Birds of North America; interview with Ken Kaufman.
Ken Kaufman's Nature Site, http://www.kknature.com (February 3, 2006).