13 years later, Kimberly Kaufman is still grand marshal of the feathered parade

May 7, 2024 | Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

Kimberly Kaufman created the Biggest Week in American Birding 13 years ago, and today, it attracts birders from around the world. Here, she talks about birding on Governor’s Bird Ohio Day. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


As Kimberly Kaufman sat in her office at Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) the past couple of weeks, she could feel the earth and sky moving across the area as thousands of migratory birds arrived to Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, followed by the people who traveled from around the world to see them.

Kaufman, who serves as executive director of BSBO, was thrilled to see both.

“We welcome people in Ohio better than anyone else in the world,” she said.

Each spring, migratory birds stop along the shores of Lake Erie for a respite before continuing on their journeys to summer nesting spots. A few remain in the area and make Ottawa County home, but many move on, giving birders a brief window of time to see them.

Some of the early migrators had already arrived when Kaufman spoke at Governor’s Bird Ohio Day on May 2, the official kickoff of the Biggest Week in American Birding.

“The feathered parade has already started,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman created the Biggest Week in American Birding 13 years ago, and her enthusiasm for protecting bird habitat and creating a welcoming space for birders has not waned. As she spoke to the crowd gathered for Governor’s Ohio Bird Day about the founding of BSBO and the growth of birding in the area, the movement of earth and sky was felt by everyone.

“I call BSBO the little nonprofit that could. We saw this as an opportunity to not just create a birding festival but also a birding season,” Kaufman said. “It’s safe to say it worked.”

Today, the Biggest Week in American Birding creates the largest gathering of birders anywhere in the world. Birders walking on the Magee Marsh boardwalk are likely to bump elbows – or clink binoculars – with visitors from across the globe. They can also expect to see their neighbors.

“We’re trying to change the culture of Northwest Ohio,” Kaufman said. “Before we started, birding was not a thing here. Now it’s everywhere.”

Kaufman said the festival’s success is dependent on regional partners, especially Shores & Islands Ohio and Destination Toledo. Kaufman expressed personal gratitude to Shores & Islands Ohio President Larry Fletcher and Destination Toledo President Lance Woodworth.

“Teaming tourism experts with birding experts creates something extraordinary,” Kaufman said. “When people are here for birding, they learn about other things to do in our little corner of the state.”

She also thanked Governor Mike DeWine for his continued support of conservation. She said his efforts to advance wildlife preservation and protection causes in the state will be the governor’s legacy.

“I’ve never known an administration more committed to conservation,” Kaufman said.

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May 2024

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