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(Photo: Nest Box Project- Colonial Acres, NY)

Audubon International's History

The name Audubon has long been synonymous with birds…and for good reason.  Each of the more than 500 Audubon clubs, societies, and organizations in North America takes its name from the famous bird artist John James Audubon.  Audubon lived from 1785 to 1851, and over the course of a lifetime he roamed across a still very wild America to paint hundreds of its birds. 

Audubon was adventurous, passionate, and by all accounts charismatic.  But, more than that, he was determined.  Realizing his dream of not only painting North America’s birds, but publishing his massive The Birds of America, containing 435 hand-colored plates of 1,065 individual birds, required the determination of a man willing to leave his home for years at a time, labor tirelessly under difficult conditions, and risk everything to sell his life work.

A Call for Conservation
It was that quality—determination—combined with his love of birds that made the name Audubon the perfect choice for a movement begun in the late-1890s to stop the unrestricted slaughter of birds.  Early Audubon society members pledged to shun the fashion-of-the-day of wearing hats and coats adorned with bird feathers and wings.  They pledged to hunt birds for consumption only, rather than sport or trade.  North America’s birds were under threat, and ordinary people took a stand.

The power of those early Audubon society members was not only in their individual acts, but also in the collective actions of thousands.  Early Audubon members studied birds, improved their habitats, and fought for bird protection.  Their determination fledged a conservation movement and eventually led to passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918.  The act ended trade in migratory birds, and was among the first federal protections ever afforded to wildlife.

Audubon Today
There are more than 500 Audubon societies in the United States today.  Each of these groups is independent and separately incorporated, and each is free to establish its own programs.   Audubon societies vary greatly in their scope and missions— some remain small bird clubs, while others focus on state, national, or international bird conservation and environmental issues.  Through a diversity of approaches, Audubon societies today carry on the conservation ethic begun at the turn of the 20th Century. 

Continuing the Tradition of Taking Action
Originally established in New York in 1897, the Audubon Society of New York State was reincorporated in 1987.  Today, its programs in New York continue under that name, while programs and initiatives reaching beyond New York State borders are carried out “doing business as” Audubon International (since in 1996).

Our program members continue the tradition of stewardship action begun by the earliest Audubon societies.  We are still learning about birds and improving their habitats.  But we’re also doing much more.  By joining an Audubon International program—whether it be for backyards, businesses, golf courses, schools, neighborhoods, or entire communities—members pledge to protect and sustain our land, water, wildlife, and natural resources. 

Sustaining healthy bird populations can’t be accomplished without sustaining healthy human populations.  And that requires the same sort of passion, charisma, and determination that John James Audubon brought to his work.  It requires the same sort of conviction that early Audubon members brought to their struggles.  And it will require the same dedication to individual actions, that, when taken together, make all the difference. 


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