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Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder Paperback – Apr 11 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reprint edition (April 11 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618709401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618709403
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #199,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kaufman set out on his first solo birding trip when he was 16 years old, on a Greyhound bus, starting in Wichita, Kansas, and ending up in a California jail, for it was illegal for minors to be in that state without adult supervision. So began his quest to set a record: spotting the most North American bird species in a one-year period. Kaufman did just that in 1973, sighting what was then a record 229 species on a grueling hitchhiking trip that took him from Puget Sound to the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. Other birding trips followed, from North Dakota to Alaska, from Alaska to Maine, from Maine to Mazatlan in Mexico, and from Arizona to New Jersey. On those arduous trips, too, the author hitchhiked, stopping to work at odd jobs to earn a few dollars. His book is a fascinating memoir of an obsession with birds. George Cohen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Firstly, you don't have to be a "birder" to enjoy this memoir of a year spent tracking & listing birds. A 19 year old Kansas teen takes on this quest with little to no money, no vehicle & not much knowledge on all species of American birds, nevertheless, traverses 69,000 miles in 1972-73 by hitchhiking & mostly sleeping outdoors. It's the man 20 yrs later, who looks at his journals of that year, and transports himself to that age, writing from that perspective - both his age & depiction of America in the early 70s. Appearances, viewpoints & attitudes, specific songs on the radio, at a time when it was common for youth to hitchhike with little in a backpack. You can tell (positively speaking) that the writer is not 19, ( maturity & reflection) but he has successfully placed himself back in time.
The aim is to find birds. The surprising reality is while starting off alone, he soon meets other "birders" of all ages & description, including college students around his own age, who thrive on adrenaline & the challenge of extending 'the list' & at a mad pace traverse distances over a weekend. Addictive birding. He also links up with experts, who aren't competitively 'listing' but for the interest, & genuine passion for our fine-feathered- friends.

Each segment - and there are many to add up to 69,,000 miles , features a map. of N.America, and what route he's taken. Amazingly, there's a network of birders who share there discoveries, report in as sightings take place; word travels. Birders will travel great distances to see one bird. You might be thinking, a strayed blue McCaw, giant parrot, whereas, it might be a small crow or sparrow . There are a few of his b&w sketches of birds, but not many.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book a couple of years ago ,haven't been writing reviews for long;but thought I would go back to this fine effort.I've read a lot of " road" books by some of the best; such as Heat-Moon,Kerouac,Mc Murtry,Peterson/Fisher,Steinbeck,Teale,Caldwell ;but as good as these were, none were written with the passion and self involvement that Kaufman brings to this book.He didn't set out to roam the country to escape,find himself,to discover the people or country.He set with the purpose of finding as many bird species as he could in one year ; wrote a book about it,and even though the goal was not just to write a book; he produced one that is as good as the "best".As a Birder ,we have all experienced many of the things he did ;but without the endurance,passion and commitment that he did.I thought I experienced cold along the Niagara River looking for Gulls in the Winter;but this was mild compared to sleeping in a car on the East coast when it was "cold as an Eskimo's tomb",eating from a can of cold soup at the ABA onvention,or having "his" scope blown away during a storm while doing the Christmas Bird count.If you like road books;but even more so if you enjoy nature/birding you just gotta read this gem !In my opinion he is right up there with the best of them.
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Format: Paperback
If you're stuck in a boring 9-5 job after having paid your dues with years of higher education, you'll be jealous of Kenn Kaufman's freedom at a young age to do what he wanted, learn what he wanted and lay the groundwork for one of the most successful careers in birding in the U.S.
If you're a birder, or at least trying to be a birder, you'll be jealous of the amount of ground Kenn Kaufman covered in the span of a few short years to see and marvel at 100's of birds.
If you're a writer, whether published or not, you'll be jealous of Kenn Kaufman's ability to write a such vividly-rendered account of his souped-up travails engaging in one of the most sympathetic pastimes to develop among modern humans, that of birding, contextualized with his growing awareness of the impact of human encroachment on the wilderness as an increasingly serious environmental problem. Whether the story surveys Kaufman's encounters with the awfully unlucky Myrtle Warblers stuck on North Carolina's Outer Banks in the winter of '73, the transplanted Skylarks of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest, or the migrating warblers stopping for a respite at Fort Jefferson in the Tortugas; or whether Kaufman is birding with his group of friends self-dubbed the "Tucson Five," or enduring the numbing experience of "thumbing" on the road for months on end; he makes you see what he's seeing and feel what he's feeling.
Finally, if you're someone who treasures the comforts of a soft pillow at night and a warm, dry roof over your head, you have to admire Kaufman's tenacity in dealing with -- and his almost joyful tolerance of-- bad weather, having to hike for miles before finding that much-needed ride or the 669th bird for his Big Year List, and, especially, the hunger born of a budget that probably didn't quite reach shoe-string level.
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By Jena Ball on Jan. 14 2002
Format: Paperback
Some decisions just can't be justified by logic or reason. They come from a place inside us that won't be denied - that has an agenda all its own.
And so it was for Kenn Kaufman, a bright young high school student who quit the academic life (bored stiff) to explore the one thing that had grabbed and held his attention from an early age - BIRDS.
Kauffman's approach to birding is simple. Work just enough to accumulate funds for travel, then hit the road with your thumb extended and a backpack full of field guides, the cheapest food you can find, and the rudiments of self-hygiene. When I tell you that Kauffman once ate dry cat food to save money, you will understand why the subtitle of this book is "a natural obsession that got a little out of hand." Kauffman is definitely eccentric, though delightfully so, and it quickly becomes apparent that he is in search of more than birds on his journey.
Kauffman's travels take him back and forth across the North American continent, up to Alaska, down into Mexico and occasionally out to sea, where in addition to finding birds he connects and makes friends with a large network of equally obsessed birders. Meet Ted Parker, the wonder kid of the birding world described as a "super being." Then there are Peli and Rose Ann who give him the nickname Kingbird, and the Tuscon Five, Kauffman's band of birding buddies who are willing to drop their college studies at a moment's notice to follow him into the field. Other memorable characters include a falconer turned conservationist, Diana who drives Kauffman to the local dump in search of Mexican crows, and Charlie who "...had not held a regular job in 30 years."
In addition to unusual characters, you will be introduced to the world of "Lists," "Big Days," "Christmas Bird Counts," and "Big Years.
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