Audubon International's History
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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