Kenn Kaufman

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Kenn Kaufman (born 1954) is an American author, artist, naturalist, and conservationist, known for his work on several popular field guides of birds and butterflies in North America.


  • Birds are real. If I had to justify extreme birding, that would be my first defense. Even as we dash around in a mad quest for the biggest list of bird sightings, we are keenly attuned to reality—not just the birds but also geography, weather patterns, forest types, tide schedules, and myriad other factors, because everything in nature is connected. Other people may take up hobbies to escape reality, but birding has the opposite draw. It’s a deep dive into the real world.
All page numbers are from the trade paperback edition published by Mariner Books in 2000, ISBN 0-618-06235-1, 6th printing
The chapters in this book are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
  • But I should have known—when the gods seem to smile, they may in fact be laughing.
    • Chapter 3, “A Record for the Breaking” (p. 23)
  • They were good-looking, too—not in the plastic Hollywood sense, but with the healthy good looks of active young women who spend time outdoors.
    • Chapter 4, “The Tucson Five” (p. 26)
  • The list total isn’t important, but the birds themselves are important. Every bird you see. So the list is just a frivolous incentive for birding, but the birding itself is worthwhile. It’s like a trip where the destination doesn’t have any significance except for the fact that it makes you travel. The journey is what counts.
    • Chapter 5, “California Influence” (p. 44)
  • You had to make the effort to have the luck.
    • Chapter 5, “California Influence” (p. 50)
  • We were talking about the insulation of human experience. We live enclosed in artificial structures with controlled climates, synthetic food, and purified water. No wonder our glimpses of the real world come as a shock.
    • Chapter 9, “Strategy and Hard Weather” (p. 92)
  • “Come on,” I said, feeling tired and angry. “You don’t really think that. Nobody thinks that any more, do they? How can the public image be so far off from the reality? Does everybody pay more attention to damn television than to real life?”
    • Chapter 10, “To the Promised Landfill” (p. 100)
  • The whole thing might have been erected by a demented billionaire—which it was, I reflected, since it had been built by the U.S. government.
    • Chapter 13, “Dry Tortugas” (p. 143)
  • The spark for a relationship might come for free—a look, a word. But the fuel to keep it going would always be expensive. Money might not buy happiness, but the lack of money could buy endless unhappiness for any two people.
    • Chapter 18, “The Kenmare Convention” (p. 216)
  • It did not matter to me what country I was in. Bird-list regions, like political regions, were just human inventions. The birds were wonderful, regardless of where you saw them. It was silly, I told myself, to be preoccupied with how a bird’s location was relative to some artificial boundary.
    • Chapter 25, “Border Patrol” (p. 298)
  • One thing was becoming obvious to me now: list-chasing was not the best way to learn birds. It had been a good way to start, an incentive for getting to a lot of places and seeing a lot of species. But the lure of running up a big list made it all too tempting to simply check off a bird and run on to the next, without taking time to really get to know them.
    • Chapter 26, “Close to the End” (p. 306)
  • Perhaps my Big Year attempt had no value in itself, but it had led me to incredible places, a whole series of extraordinary destinations. It had taken me through life-changing experiences. Regardless of final list totals, it had been worthwhile.
    Listing, at its best, could be a wonderful quest, I reflected. We list-chasing birders, at our best, could be like knights seeking the Holy Grail—except that the birds were real, and we birders were rewarded at every turn. If we made an honest effort, the birds would come.
    • Chapter 26, “Close to the End” (p. 308)
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