Top Audubon Stories in 2023: Local and Community

Audubon protects birds, people, and the places they need to live and thrive. Here, a look back at a selection of our local and community achievements from the last 12 months.
A group of people stands in front of a garden

Throughout 2023, Audubon continued its rich tradition of advocating for and securing the space, clean air, and clean water that birds and people need to live and thrive. Audubon staff, chapters, and partners worked on the ground to protect and restore vital habitats and natural spaces. Read on to learn more about Audubon’s most local achievements across the hemisphere this year!

Rallied members to support a longer closure window for coastal nesting sanctuaries, which then helped fledge strong numbers of chicks

This year, Audubon North Carolina members rallied to support a longer closure window for coastal sanctuaries, a policy the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission approved after 900 Audubon members sent letters in support of it. The closure window is now March 1 to September 15 and allows state sanctuaries to provide a safe place for 40 percent of North Carolina’s coastal nesting waterbirds to raise and fledge chicks. Audubon North Carolina shorebird monitors saw positive results of the new closure window. 

Worked with chapters to make North Carolina's skies darker for migrating birds, including a new Lights Out partnership with a prominent real estate company

Kane Realty Corporation, one of the biggest real estate companies in Raleigh, joined Wake Audubon chapter’s Lights Out Wake initiative. As part of the program, the developer will turn off unnecessary building lights at its commercial buildings during migration season and is asking its tenants to do the same. Raleigh was the first city in North Carolina to join Lights Out, with other municipalities like Matthews, Greensboro, Asheville, Cary, and Chapel Hill building on that momentum.

Celebrated the return of Old Man Bunting in South Carolina

Audubon South Carolina staff Jen Tyrrell and Wings Program intern Katie Galletta recaptured a male Painted Bunting that had been banded years before as a second year male. At 14 mighty years old, Old Man Bunting is officially on record as the oldest Painted Bunting ever recorded. (Editor’s note: We stan an elderly bird.)

Expanded our footprint in Nebraska’s tallgrass prairie

Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, in partnership with Solidago Conservancy, acquired 310 acres of native prairie north of the center. At the time of acquisition, the acreage was believed to be one of Lancaster County's largest unprotected tracts of prairie. This acreage will connect Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center with the Prairie Corridor, a tallgrass prairie passage and trail. The Prairie Corridor project is a collaborative effort with many partners that include the City of Lincoln, the Lincoln Parks Foundation, and the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District. With less than two percent of tallgrass prairie remaining in North America, this purchase will conserve and connect a larger habitat area to support the tallgrass prairie ecosystem for future generations.

Certified Two New Bird City Texas Areas

Audubon Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Austin and Cedar Hill as the newest additions to the Bird City Texas flock. This certification program recognizes cities' efforts to ensure birds, wildlife, and people thrive in their communities. Austin and Cedar Hill have displayed leadership as bird-friendly cities by excelling in three criteria areas: community engagement, habitat enhancement and protection, and creating safer spaces for birds. Their Bird City Texas certification will continue through 2026.

Showed the world what the next generation of conservation leaders can do

Audubon campus chapters across the country ran collision surveys, lobbied for bird-safe buildings, visited their legislators in Washington D.C., and held climate summits and Pride events to engage their local communities. In particular, chapter leaders from San Diego City College held their Environmental Justice Summit in April, chapter leaders from University of Nevada at Las Vegas held Plants For Birds advocacy workshops that same month, and University of California at Los Angeles chapter leaders at the UCLA Bruins Birding Club hosted more than 150 people for their Pride Festival in June.

Expanded Lights Out to new areas across the country

Continued expansion/success of our Lights Out and collision reductions efforts across the country, adding efforts in Louisiana; San Diego, California; Eugene, Oregon in recent months. Read more about Lights Out here.

Addressed local threats to birds by engaging property owners and retrofitting buildings

Audubon Mid-Atlantic and Bird Safe Philly worked with local business Sister Cities Café to retrofit their exterior windows with Feather Friendly vinyl dots. The café had been monitored by Bird Safe Philly since 2020 and volunteers had found that the building was especially prone to bird collisions. 

Launched the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail App

The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail mobile app was launched in June at the Yakutat Tern Festival in Yakutat, Alaska by its developer and Audubon Alaska GIS Analyst Victoria (Tory) Elmore. The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail is a curated list of nearly 200 birding sites found among 18 communities throughout Southeast Alaska, including the Tongass National Forest, the Mendenhall Wetlands Important Bird Area, Glacier Bay National Park, and the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail was conceived in 2017 as a partnership between Audubon Alaska, Juneau Audubon Society, and the U.S. Forest Service. Now with the mobile application, travelers may explore everything the trail has to offer conveniently from a mobile device regardless of internet connection or cell service.

Supported a new generation of conservationists working to restore habitat in Chicago

For more than a decade, Audubon Great Lakes has nurtured the future leaders of conservation through the Audubon Habitat Restoration Internship Program. This summer, Audubon Great Lakes’ Restoration Interns rolled up their sleeves to protect the places that vulnerable marsh birds like the Common Gallinule need to thrive on Chicago’s southeast side. Among their work, they removed harmful invasive plants, like phragmites and buckthorn, by hand and through herbicide application to limit harmful invasive plant growth and to encourage native plants to sprout.

Made the outdoors more inclusive in the Great Plains

Audubon Great Plains organized or participated in many outdoor events designed to be inclusive of different communities, including Birdability events, Lincoln’s annual Pride parade, and a bilingual event that centered Indigenous experiences and language.

Commemorated Four Holes Swamp’s role in the Underground Railroad

U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn (SC-06) joined representatives from Audubon South Carolina, the National Park Service (NPS), Clemson University, and other community leaders for an event at Audubon’s Center and Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest to commemorate the Four Holes Swamp watershed’s role in the fight for freedom from slavery in South Carolina. Congressman Clyburn offered remarks at the event, hosted by Audubon South Carolina, which was planned for September in honor of International Underground Railroad Month.

Renested Swifts at Sharon Audubon Center

It was a record summer for Chimney Swifts at Sharon Audubon Center’s wildlife rehab clinic!  Wet conditions this summer caused many nests to fall to the bottoms of chimneys. Rehabbers re-nested approximately 50 nestlings and admitted more than 100 additional nestlings, from across the region, to the clinic. When raised and ready for release, Sharon Audubon Center hosted a “Swift Night Out” to celebrate releasing the birds to wild flocks.

Restored a forest under Indigenous guidance with the Ecoleadership Corps

Inspired by the forest management practices of the Greenwich Audubon Center’s earliest inhabitants, staff and high school-aged "Eco-Leadership Corps" interns transformed nearly one acre of Center land into a living classroom. Oak, hickory, and chestnut trees were planted to produce hard mast for myriad species of birds and other wildlife. Funded through a matching grant from Sustainable CT, this initiative was facilitated through the thought leadership of the Siwanoy Nation.

Engaged local students in Purple Martin conservation and tracking at Bent of the River Audubon Center

Of the more than 2,000 species of birds that reside in the Americas, Purple Martins are one of just three that have entirely changed the way they nest over time. Where once they nested in cavities like old woodpecker holes, they now almost exclusively rely on human-made structures. Each summer, Bent of the River Audubon Center's Junior Forest Technicians (JFTs) assist a local expert, Laurie Doss of the Marvelwood School, in Purple Martin chick banding. But this year, they were able to expand their efforts and install a "gourd array" on-site. If they can attract a new colony, the Center will be able to provide new educational opportunities for both the junior forest technicians and visitors.

Gathered hundreds of staff, community and campus chapter leaders, and partners from across the hemisphere for the 2023 Audubon Leadership Conference

More than 350 chapter leaders, partners, and Audubon staff came together in Estes Park, Colorado for the Audubon Leadership Conference. Conference participants included 46 campus chapter leaders from 20 campuses, including three Historically Black Colleges and Universities and five Minority-Serving Institutions; 123 community chapter leaders from 83 chapters, including 36 leaders in the under-35 age cohort; 24 partners from six countries; and many staff from across Audubon. Participants dug into shared goals and challenges, and collaboratively helped build methods for how they can each work locally and at the same time achieve hemispheric impact. The next Audubon Leadership Conference is scheduled for 2025. Exact dates and location will be announced soon. You can watch a recap video here.

Engaged local communities on urban forests and other ways to mitigate climate change

Seward Park staff worked with the Green Seattle Partnership and the City of Seattle to provide public community education events around the challenges of climate change—and what people can do in their local communities to help mitigate some of those challenges. Topics included “Effects of Heat Islands” and “What We Can Do to Save Trees.”

Planted thousands of native plants around a new community solar project in Colorado

Audubon Rockies and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado coordinated seventy-five volunteers to plant 2,500 plants and seed 1,000 square yards around a new community solar project in Johnstown, Colorado. The garden provides a living perimeter around the community solar field that will provide habitat for birds and other pollinators.

Celebrated 100 years of protecting birds at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in New York

2023 marked the Centennial of the United States’ first songbird sanctuary, the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Its 14 acres are a thriving hub for conservation, featuring incredible native plant demonstration gardens and a new ADA-accessible Wood Thrush Education and Visitor Center. With this new space and thriving habitat, the "TR Sanctuary" is preparing to launch an endorsement program for landscaping professionals which will teach them how to create bird-friendly ecoscapes using native plants and best habitat management practices.

Uplifted the next generation’s voices for climate in Florida

Audubon Florida is empowering the next generation’s voice in advocating for birds and the places they need. Our innovative “Write for Climate” program was designed to work with students to write op-eds and Letters to the Editor (LTEs) to influence issues in their local communities. Write for Climate gives students the tools they need to advocate for crucial climate topics, including natural climate solutions, conservation, and renewable energy. The program spans three to four months: a typical semester. Upon program launch, students receive resources and a brief training on the value of op-eds and LTEs in the current media environment. Eight student op-eds were published in 2023.

Engaged local wildlife enthusiasts to participate in community science

Part of being a successful conservation organization is meeting people where they are, and sometimes that means loving all things with wings, even if they’re not birds. In this case, staff at Seward Park Audubon Center in Seattle, Washington and partners at the Woodland Park Zoo, Bats Northwest, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife collaborated to train volunteers on bat identification. Those volunteers led survey expeditions through Seward Park and beyond for 10 weeks during the summer to build up a database of Seattle’s bat population.

Tackled conservation needs at the local level through the 2023 Audubon In Action grants to community and campus chapters

Tucson Audubon Society – Arizona

With their $10,000 grant, Tucson Audubon aims to co-create a set of neighborhood visions addressing environmental, climate, and economic injustice with local community groups near the Santa Cruz River in Tucson, Arizona. By leveraging the city of Tucson's ongoing efforts to address climate change and climate injustice, Tucson Audubon will integrate strategies that promote housing affordability, water security, and urban biodiversity.

Sonoran Audubon Society – Arizona

Sonoran Audubon Society will use their $3,400 grant to expand their internship program. They plan on hiring four interns and helping prepare them for a career in conservation, which includes: workshops by US Fish & Wildlife Service and Audubon Southwest, 40 hours of supervised bird survey work, and certification opportunities.

Ventura Audubon Society – California

Using their $9,836 grant, Ventura Audubon Society aims to build new partnerships and work with underserved communities in Ventura County by recruiting a diversity intern, building their bi-lingual outreach curriculum, and hiring a EDIB consultant to support a new board EDIB working group.

Georgia Audubon – Georgia

Georgia Audubon plans on using their $10,000 grant to connect conservation professionals and volunteers with under-represented youth to share advice around careers in bird conservation and education through expansion of their existing programs like Bird Beyond. They also plan on utilizing a virtual platform for their Conservation Careers program to enhance accessibility.

Lake County Audubon – Illinois

Lake County Audubon Society (LCAS) hopes to use their $5,000 grant to strengthen their Sharing Our Shore program's reach with the help of Audubon Council of Illinois and Audubon Great Lakes. LCAS proposed new efforts including: restoring the Bonnie Brook Bird Sanctuary, developing a bilingual nature education curriculum for Latinx students, and elevating their work at the February 2023 Wild Things conference at Rosemont, Illinois.

Detroit Audubon Society – Michigan

Detroit Audubon plans on using their $5,000 grant to organize a year-long outreach program to support their Black, Browns, and Birds event in collaboration with the Black to the Land Coalition. This includes monthly programs, hands-on activities, interactive field trips, and outdoor resources from other environmental organizations that support Black and Latinx communities in Detroit and Southeast Michigan.

Bedford Audubon Society – New York

Bedford Audubon plans on using their $3,000 grant to recruit an in-community Outreach Volunteer who will source and work with local partners to co-create programs and events. To further bulk up their EDIB efforts, Bedford Audubon will work towards forming a board-level EDIB committee with the help of Audubon NY/CT’s EDIB Working Group.

New York City Audubon – New York

NYC Audubon will use their $10,000 grant to pilot new partnerships for nature and conservation activities with New York City Housing Authority residents, increasing their capacity to engage some of the city's most diverse communities and incorporate their perspectives into efforts to protect the City's natural environment for the benefit of both birds and people.

Chemung Valley Audubon Society – New York

Chemung Valley Audubon Society plans on implementing National Audubon’s EDIB guidelines to assist in their outreach to community organizations and to foster diversity in their membership and programs through their $5,000 grant. They will also seek partnerships with local organizations pursuing similar goals.

Audubon Society of Forsyth County – North Carolina

Audubon Society of Forsyth County will use their $2,500 to hire, support, and nurture a student leader (ideally from the HBCU Winston-Salem State University) to teach the Fish and Wildlife’s “Flying Wild” curriculum to elementary and middle schoolers at a predominantly black/brown school and recreation centers this summer. 

Blue Ridge Audubon – North Carolina

Blue Ridge Audubon will use their $4,020 to expand their Lights Out initiative by boosting participation through door-to-door activism, lobbying to establish best-practices (perhaps eventually code specifications) for bird-safe glass installation of new building construction. Blue Ridge Audubon will also use their grant to recruit, train, and mentor activist volunteers from UNC-Asheville Audubon and student-led clubs and organizations at local high schools.

Hilton Head Audubon Society – South Carolina

Using their $10,000 grant, Hilton Head Island Audubon Society will collaborate with Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park—the Civil War-era site of the first self-governed town of formerly enslaved people in the United States—to connect with a broader, more diverse set of people to have ongoing conversations about conservation, birding history, and birding.

Madison Audubon Society – Wisconsin

Through their $10,000 grant, Madison Audubon aims to make programming more welcoming to diverse visitors, removing barriers to accessibility, making sanctuaries easier and safer to visit, and ensuring success through EDIB training. As part of Madison Audubon's comprehensive plan for change, they will create, distribute, and install better maps and signs and will purchase, offer, and promote all-terrain wheelchairs.

Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society – Wisconsin

Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society will use their $10,000 grant to provide continued support to the Oneida Nation and amplify their work through advocacy, cultural exchange, and camaraderie building between birders and the Oneida community.

The following campus chapters are developing the next generation of conservation leaders and achieve conservation outcomes on their campuses and in their communities:

Brown University's Student Birding Club – Rhode Island

Brown University's Student Birding Club plans on using their $4,695 grant to convert lawn space into a bird-friendly native plant garden to demonstrate how students can take action to increase sustainability on campus. Their project will also engage members of the Brown and Rhode Island School of Design communities in hands-on volunteer work like planting the garden in the spring.

Bruin Birding Club – California

The University of California, Los Angeles' Bruin Birding Club will use their $4,828 grant to grow their recruitment efforts by increasing their capacity to support new members by improving event accessibility and by building up their programming. With their grant, they seek to provide equipment to loan, cover travel expenses for educational bird walks,  submit Birdability reports for locations on campus and around Southern California, and expand use of their Hummingbird Canyon native plants garden.

With a second $10,000 grant, Bruin Birding Club plans to launch a bird-themed, one-day LGBTQ+ Pride Festival. Their festival will include activities like guided bird walks featuring curriculum focused on bird diversity and conservation, as well as the history of UCLA’s LGBTQ+ movement; a panel discussion with queer leaders and researchers in ornithology, climate change, gender studies, and accessible birding; and a mixer for project participants.

City College San Diego – California

The San Diego City College Audubon Campus Chapter will use their $6,100 grant for a birding event at the San Diego Audubon Silverwood Sanctuary to expand their outreach to other colleges. Students want to engage in meaningful scientific research about microplastics and nesting birds on campus. Additionally, they plan on installing a second Audubon mural and a Vaux Swift Chimney structure near the mural to tie in structures for a Bird Art and Garden tour on campus.

Grossmont College Campus/San Diego Audubon Society – California

The Grossmont College Audubon on Campus chapter and San Diego Audubon Society will use their $9,970 grant to design and install interpretive signage on all six of Grossmont College’s native plant gardens that represent different habitats and their uses, informed by a Kumeyaay Tribal representative. The Grossmont College nature trail will provide underrepresented students and the local community an outdoor interactive classroom to engage with and learn about nature while expanding knowledge about Kumeyaay uses and names.

Indiana University Kokomo – Indiana

The Audubon on Campus chapter from the Indiana University Kokomo will use their $10,000 grant to reinvigorate their campus bird population, improve native plant diversity, and manage invasive plant species. Specifically, they aim to add much-needed feeders for songbirds and hummingbirds while also making a meaningful investment in native plants.

Welcomed 10 new chapters to the fold

In 2023, Audubon welcomed to the flock 10 new chapters: Two new community chapters–Camden County Audubon in Georgia and Sunflower Audubon Chapter in Kansas–and eight newly established campus chapters. Claflin University is the newest chapter at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), and Grossmont College is the newest chapter at a Hispanic Serving Institution. Rounding out the list of new campus chapters this year are Florida State University, Lake Superior State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Skidmore College, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and University of Rochester. Of our 76 campus chapters, 25 percent are on the campuses of HBCUs or MSIs.