Kim Risen

Tour Leader

NatureScape Tours owner, Kim Risen


Kim started birding along the Mississippi River flyway more than 40 years ago at the age of ten. Experiences with his camera and binoculars along the ‘Big River’ and in the woodlands and prairies of the Midwest cemented birds, photography and natural history as major focuses of his life.

He began leading birding trips around the Midwest while still in high school. As his experiences grew, so did his tour-leading schedule. As a result, for the last 31 years Kim has led birding tours throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and Southern Africa. For the past 25 years, he has specialized in Latin America, where he has studied bird vocalizations, status and distribution and field identification.

In 2004, he broke the record for most species recorded in one year for Mexico by 60 when he ended his Mexican ‘Big Year’ with a total of 876 species. Mexico remains his most visited international destination (having led more than 180 trips throughout the country) and a frequent subject of his photography. He lists Oaxaca as his favorite birding state in Mexico and he’ll lead his 36th Oaxaca tour in October 2015.

His tour leading travels have taken him to five continents, all the states of Mexico and into more bogs than most people have ever seen. He counts the woodlands and plains of Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba, the awesome diversity of Mexico, Alaska’s stark beauty (plus ever-present vagrant fever!), South Africa’s unsurpassed combination of birds/flowers/mammals and the peerless Andes Mountains among his favorite locations. 

Being a tour leader allows him the ultimate birding high—seeing old, familiar birds for the first time over and over again through the eyes and ears of others—something in which he takes great pleasure. He and his wife, Cindy, are youth mentors in Minnesota. Working with beginners and children, introducing them to birds and the natural world, is one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

Kim and Cindy are both longtime freelance photographers and writers. Their photography has appeared in newspapers, books, magazines and field guides. They were the primary photographers and authors of a 92 page, full color book celebrating the nature of their home county, Aitkin County Naturally! (ACN!). Their photography and design talents were recognized in 2008 when ACN! was the recipient of a National Media Award from the National Association for Interpretation. Released in Fall 2006, Aitkin County – Naturally! showcases the natural wonders of Aitkin County and Mille Lacs Lake and introduces readers to the best places to view nature’s beauty. 

Their latest book “Orchids of the Northwoods”, released by Kollath-Stensaas in May 2010, was nominated for a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.

Even after 40 years, Kim still looks at birds every day—often with his camera in tow—with the same excitement he felt on his first birding trips.