Birding

How Kenn Met Kimberly—and 13 Other Birdy Love Stories

From the City of Angels to the tip of Andes, these couples all have one thing in common.

If there's anything better than birding, it's birding while being in love. At least, that's what the pros say. So turn down your D'Angelo album and listen up: You could play the lone wolf, or you could be the better half of a power birder couple. The key, of course, is finding the right person and the nerdiest, birdiest opportunity to ask them out. Tap through the map above to see where these bird lovers' stories began, or scroll down to experience the sweet memories in a series.

Kimberly and Kenn Kaufman. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Ohio

While visiting the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to speak at their 2003 banquet, I led a walk at a local park on a snowy February day. Birds were scarce, and I was frustrated because I couldn’t find an opening to start a conversation with this beautiful, intriguing expert bander on the trip. Fortunately, she created an opening—by whacking me with a snowball. Other people were shocked, but I fired back. The walk devolved into an epic snowball free-for-all. Smitten in more ways than one, I couldn’t forget Kimberly after that, and within three years we were married.

—Kenn Kaufman, birder extraordinaire, Audubon field editor, and author

Mexico

I met my husband Antonio Celis Murillo 20 years ago while we were doing fieldwork on birds in central Mexico. Since then, we've worked side-by-side counting, observing, capturing, tracking, and recording vocalizations of migratory and resident species in Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. I'm now leading a new Audubon team to translate migration data into action and policy, and he's a scientist at the USGS Bird Banding Lab. We now have two little girls who share our enthusiasm for birds, nature, and conservation, and have lots of great stories from the field.

—Jill Deppe, senior director of the National Audubon Society Migratory Bird Initiative

Ecuador

My wife Alexa Class Freeman and I met in a cloud forest in the Andes in 2007. She was a PhD student studying bird behavior; I was a mere bird enthusiast studying nesting biology.

The big move was when I invited her to come see a Sepia-brown Wren nest that I had found and was watching from a shitty tarp shelter I built. I wanted to know things like how many adults came to feed the babies, and how often they brought food. I wasn't particularly concerned with the logistics of my invitation: Alexa's job demanded she get up at 4 a.m. and spent all day doing hard-ass fieldwork by herself. So, hiking an hour to my spot after that was kind of a big ask. But she came up, admired the wren nest with me, and damn if we didn't get together soon after.

—Ben Freeman, scientist at the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia

Dave Pavlik and Sarah Saunders. Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Saunders

Minnesota

Dave Pavlik and I met in graduate school at the University of Minnesota in 2013—but he remembered meeting me six months previously when he came to visit campus. I was wearing a shirt with Barn Swallows on it and talking about my PhD study species: Great Lakes Piping Plovers. He's a huge bird nerd so he knew there was something there. When he started school in August to study butterflies, he asked me to play ping-pong with him. We maintained our relationship through long-distance field seasons with daily FaceTime calls, trips, and snail-mail surprises. We just got married last October and are enjoying newlywed life!
 

—Sarah Saunders, quantitative ecologist at the National Audubon Society

 

Mexico

Pamela García and I were in our first year of college, and we didn't know what we wanted to do the rest of our lives. One day we noticed a lot of differences between the birds around us. So, we started birding, and in a year we made it in the top 10 eBirders of México City. Our relationship is about loving each other, but also loving birds.
 

—Víctor Romero, photographer behind Tiranos Urbanos

Maine

Jason Guerard and I met during the summer of 2000, our second year working at the Hog Island Audubon camp in Maine on Hog Island. We were the two instructors that were most interested in birds. I had just completed an internship at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, and Jason was born in the state, so we had something to talk about from the start. As the family session was coming to an end, Jason and I talked to the director about starting a teen birding camp on Hog Island. The first year we ran the camp with Kenn Kaufman, the session filled up. We now have two sessions.

In December 2002, Jason and I rowed out to check on the camp and see what birds were brought in to Muscongus Bay (or so I thought). The waters were filled with ice and Long-tailed Ducks were calling close to shore, engaged in their own pair bonding ritual. Jason then asked me to marry him on the rocky ledges on the eastern side of the island. Today, we have two amazing kids that enjoy spending time in nature as much as we do and are enjoying Lake Erie life in northwestern Ohio, the warbler capital of the world.

—Laura Guerard, education director for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory

Garry George and Joseph Brooks. Photo: Courtesy of Garry George

California

I met my husband Joseph Brooks on Valentine’s Day 25 years ago. Our first date was at the Descanso Gardens in Los Angeles. He brought his binoculars and pointed to a small moving object: an Orange-crowned Warbler. I fell in love with him and birds at the same time. Today I'm working at Audubon, in a career that began at my local chapter. Joseph and I take two trips a year to some remote part of the world to enjoy birds, and we're passing off the binoculars to our six-year-old grandson Matteo. Happy Valentine’s Day to all avian and human lovebirds!

—Garry George, renewable energy director with the National Audubon Society

Maine

Katama Murray and I first spoke while in the bird blinds on Eastern Egg Rock looking at nesting Atlantic Puffins. After leaving the camp, we began a long-distance relationship spanning hundreds of miles between Pennsylvania and Maine. We've returned to Hog Island on the anniversary of the day we met almost every year since, and we're now lucky enough to be much closer and doing what we love. Katama is currently a student in New Hampshire studying art, and I recently graduated with a degree in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont. We both love birds and nature, and are thankful to Audubon and the amazing Hog Island camp for bringing us together. We've even discussed the idea of a wedding there sometime down the road.

—Nathaniel Sharp, outreach naturalist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies

New Mexico

It started when I commented on Adam Kludt's Sandhill Crane photo that he'd posted on Facebook. We've now known each other for five years. Birding is a great part of our daily life in New Mexico and our travels throughout the Southwest. We just got back from the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, where crowds of Sandhills roost during migration.

—Judith Purcell, environmentalist

Gabriel Foley and Jordan Rutter. Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Rutter

Washington, D.C.

Gabriel Foley and I met on Twitter, then at a bird conference. We started chatting, and haven’t stopped since. Gabriel is in Canada and I'm in D.C., so we're still syncing our full annual life cycles. During his ornithology fellowship in South Africa last year, we saw more than 350 species together, including Lilac-breasted Rollers and a European Nightjar that we’ll probably talk about forever. Despite the distance, it works because we're complementary; I photograph, and Gabriel submits to eBird. Did I mention he's entered 25 years worth of my historical data? If that isn’t bird nerdy love, I don’t know what is.

—Jordan Rutter, director of public relations for the American Bird Conservancy

Wisconsin

My husband Joe Charles fell in love with me after I told him about my love for hunting and dissecting owl pellets. Shortly after, he proposed to me as we skied under a full moon, and an owl hooted its approval as we skied. Since then we've been birding together across the world.

—Phoebe Devitt, family medicine doctor

Connecticut

A friend introduced me and Fiona Kurylowicz with the intentionally awkward phrase, “you both like birds . . . you should date.” We laughed it off and I invited her on a kayak trip to see Tree Swallows staging by the hundreds of thousands over the Connecticut River. We shared an awkwardly long hug afterward. Now, she's a student in New Haven, and I work at a conservation organization in Boston. We alternate visits with field work in the Berkshires, sea watching at Race Point, and weekend trips farther afield. It's worked out beautifully so far.

—William Freedberg, bird conservation associate at Mass Audubon

Susan Antenen and Sam Kornhauser. Photo: Courtesy of Susan Antenen.

New York

When I moved to New York City in 1979, I wrote to the National Audubon Society to ask why there wasn’t a local chapter. As it happened, it was being organized. To celebrate, my friend Eleonore and I went on an Audubon-led September trip to the newly designated wilderness area at the Fire Island National Seashore. When we gathered around a picnic table to discuss the eight-mile route and look at a map, I noticed a guy who was carrying his lunch and water in a grocery shopping bag (horror of horrors). I asked him if he’d like me to put his bag into my backpack.  He said, “sure,” and the hike began.
 

Before going too far, I spotted a Black-crowned Night-Heron, so we stopped and watched it for a bit. At lunch, I handed the guy his bag and learned his name was Sam Kornhauser—a cousin of Eleonore’s. He was hiking with his girlfriend; nonetheless, he and I talked the whole walk back. A few days later, he called me at Wave Hill, where I worked, and said, “I happen to be in the Bronx . . .

Turns out Sam was in midst of breaking up with his girlfriend. He was impressed that I knew about the night-heron, and confessed that he had come across Eleonore, me, and her friend Jane skinny dipping after the Fire Island hike. From that second meeting, we each knew. By Thanksgiving we'd found an apartment together and married two years after that. Thirty-five years later, he's a sharp birder and a good judge of women, of course.

 

—Susan Antenen, former manager of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve
 

Idaho

The first time my now-husband Ryder Evan Robinson and I went to brunch in New York City, he pointed into the sky and said, “Red-Tailed Hawk.” I knew all the little birds’ names, but not the big ones, so I knew it was meant to be. Less than a year later we moved to southeast Idaho—into the house his great-great-grandparents built in 1914. This year I participated in my first ever Christmas Bird Count (Ryder had to work at the rural fire department), and next year, we’re hoping to organize the count in our small community along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. His favorite bird is the Loggerhead Shrike, though he’s never seen one. I just saw my first one last week in a cottonwood tree in our yard! These days, when anything significant happens in our lives, it seems a Red-tailed Hawk is not far away, soaring overhead or perched in a tree. It’s our lucky sign.
 

—Ainsley McWha, writer, teacher, and counselor

 

Connecticut

My story is just the opposite of the others. My ex ditched me not long after I became an obsessive birder. Guess the Snake Bight Trail (Florida) and Nogales Sewage Ponds (Arizona) weren't her idea of ideal vacation spots.
 

—Jamie Meyers, forever channeling thank u, next

“The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”