At Audubon, every year is the year of the bird. So when I got a call early 2017 from my good friend and former San Jose Mercury News colleague Susan Goldberg, now the charismatic editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine and editorial director for National Geographic Partners, about a possible alliance between Audubon and Nat Geo, I was thrilled. What if, she asked, we made 2018 the Year of the Bird? And what if we could bring together dozens of organizations and use all of our combined storytelling expertise to elevate birds and the important place they have in our ecosystems?
What if, indeed.
2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the earliest environmental laws enacted anywhere in the world, and a key element of Audubon’s genesis story. It was Audubon chapters—spurred by the wanton destruction of bird life wrought by the plume trade—that were the force behind Congress’s adoption of rules that still protect birds 100 years later. As it made perfect sense to join forces with Nat Geo, an organization that spans the globe, it was also natural to expand the partnership to include two other groups with similar international breadth: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdLife International. And once we did that, the lead partners recruited dozens of other organizations, ranging from the National Park Service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program, to help in the cause.
Bringing the combined strengths of all of these organizations to bear on bird conservation is a type of collaboration that happens frequently—but often under the radar—in the NGO world. In truth, it’s the only way that any of us can realistically tackle the scale of the threats that birds face.
The Year of the Bird will celebrate the importance of birds in our lives: the wonder and passion and Internet memes (so many memes) that they inspire, and the roles they play in the web of life. The Year of the Bird collaboration gives us all an opportunity to recommit to our promise to protect birds and the places they need for the next century.
Throughout the year of storytelling and of science, of celebration and conservation efforts, the Year of the Bird will focus on how our changing environment is affecting bird populations and what we can do to stop the decline.
During the Year of the Bird, you will see the gripping stories and beautiful photography from around the world for which both National Geographic and Audubon magazines are known. You will also gain important insight into science and conservation efforts from Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and BirdLife International. All of these can be found at the Year of the Bird site: birdyourworld.org.
But Year of the Bird isn’t a passive exercise—you have a critical role to play. Throughout 2018, we’ll ask you to take simple actions that will help protect birds and provide you with themes that are sure to inspire. Each month, you could make your home and your communities’ buildings bird-friendly, or you could join a community science project for a day, or you could help birds stay safe during migration. Many of the actions are designed to engage others—your friends and family—with the natural world right alongside you. And you don’t have to wait to get started: You can start now by beginning to plan your spring planting with our Plants for Birds database. All of these small actions will help ensure that we’ll have birds to love for the next century—and beyond.
This unprecedented coalition could come together only around the most bountiful, beautiful, and compelling wildlife on the planet. Now, more than ever, you’re what hope looks like to a bird. And you have a lot of good company.