National Audubon Society

Photo Group

No name is more associated with birds and bird conservation than Audubon. The National Audubon Society was founded at the turn of the century by a group of bird watchers who were concerned by the unregulated killing of birds. Their primary focus centered on the killing of herons and egrets who were killed at the peak of their nesting season for their decorative plum feathers. These feathers were used to decorate ladies hats so popular during that era.

The group got their name from the great artist and naturalist John James Audubon who is often referred to as the artistic father of American Ornithology. Audubon spent much of the early 1800’s exploring, collecting and painting the birds of eastern North America.

For nearly 100 years, the NAS has been deeply involved with bird conservation as both an activist group and a source of expert bird education. Those of you who know me, know that there was a period of time when I, like many bird enthusiasts, was not at all happy with Audubon. Just like any business or non-profit organization, leadership dictates the direction of an organization. During the late eighties and early nineties, Audubon lost touch with its constituency and suffered the consequences.

I am very happy to know that Audubon is “back”. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore ecosystems focusing on birds and other wildlife. They are among other things, the North American implementers of the IBA (Important Bird Areas) program. Probably their most well-known program is the Christmas Bird Count. This past year marked the 100th anniversary of this annual citizen science based event. In short, Audubon is about connecting people to nature.

In my opinion, things really started to change for Audubon when they moved their offices out to the individual states. This approach gives real power to those who work on the local level. Here in Missouri, we are fortunate to have a very strong Audubon program.

This Missouri office works cooperatively with the Missouri Department of Conservation to house the state’s Director of Bird Conservation. It is also working with partners in the Joplin area build a new nature center and to protect the unique chert glade ecosystem found there. They are also taking a leadership role in a protection effort of some critical bottomland habitat in the Leavenworth bottoms area.

By Mark McKellar

SUMMER 2003