Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand

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9780395773987: Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand

At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: not sex, drugs, God, or even self, but birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks. His goal was to set a record - most North American species seen in a year - but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a unique coming-of-age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters.

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Review:

As ornithologist Kenn Kaufman recounts in his lively memoir Kingbird Highway, he's managed to do what other birders only dream of doing: take a year and chase winged creatures from one end of the country to another. The year in question was 1973, when Kaufman was 19 years old, and a few dollars and an outstretched thumb could go a long way. Armed with binoculars, notebook, and the blessing of birder patron saint Roger Tory Peterson, Kaufman set out to capture the record for most species spotted in a single year. He came close, closing with 666 species sighted from Alaska to Florida and back again. More important, he racked up a lifetime's worth of adventures on the road. These stories form the heart of his book, a narrative in which spotted redshanks, white-eared hummingbirds, marbled murrelets, and black-capped gnatcatchers are among the chief supporting players.

About the Author:

Kenn Kaufman is the originator of the Kaufman Field Guide series, which includes books on birds, butterflies, mammals, and insects. He has also written Lives of North American Birds, Kingbird Highway, and the Peterson Field Guide to Advanced Birding.

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Kaufman, Kenn
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