Top Stories in 2023 From Around Audubon

Throughout 2023, Audubon continued to advocate for and secure the space, clean air, and clean water that birds and people need to live and thrive.

During 2023 Audubon worked tirelessly to "bend the bird curve," starting with its launch of Flight Plan, Audubon's new five-year plan to protect birds and their habitats across the hemisphere. But that wasn’t all Audubon did. Audubon also pushed for stronger climate action at COP28 and co-sponsored Climate Week NYC, helped secure more water for birds and people across western landscapes, followed individual birds as they made their epic annual journeys across the hemisphere, secured important Lights Out wins in North Carolina and beyond, and celebrated a century of conservation work in Texas and New York. Audubon staff, chapters, and partners worked on the ground to protect and restore vital habitats and natural spaces, in state and national legislatures to strengthen conservation laws, and worked locally to support the places they share.

Read on to learn more about Audubon’s most important advocacy, conservation, science, and local achievements across the hemisphere this year!

Habitat, Conservation, and Science

Celebrated the groundbreaking of the largest single-ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history

In August, the State of Louisiana broke ground on the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, the largest single ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history that will reconnect the Mississippi River with its wetlands. The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will deliver much-needed sediment to restore the wetlands in Barataria Basin, strengthening tens of thousands of acres of wetlands, which will buffer nearby communities from storms and provide habitat for iconic birds like Roseate Spoonbills and Bald Eagles.

This monumental milestone is decades in the making. Audubon staff contributed over 15 years of advocacy, science, and public engagement to help finally bring this priority project to fruition, including driving over 25,000 of the 51,518 public comments submitted to the state in support of this project.

Certified the 100th bird-friendly habitat in the Conservation Ranching program

Audubon Conservation Ranching is Audubon’s flagship grassland habitat effort, a land certification program that works in partnership with ranchers to conserve habitat for grassland birds. Badger Creek Ranch in Colorado is the 100th ranch to receive the Audubon Certified bird-friendly distinction.

Celebrated second record-breaking breeding season for Great Lakes Piping Plovers

In 2023, 80 pairs of Piping Plovers that nested in the Great Lakes region, the highest number of pairs since being listed as endangered and eight more pairs than last year. This achievement is particularly exciting as the population has been relatively stagnant around 70-75 pairs in recent years. The bump in pair numbers is due, in part, to the record fledgling numbers from last year, demonstrating the carry-over success of a productive 2022 season. Importantly, reaching 80 pairs brings the population that much closer to the 150-pair recovery goal, a milestone that has reinvigorated recovery partners. The goal of the recovery effort is to restore and maintain a viable plover population within the Great Lakes and eventual removal of the population from the Endangered Species list.

Partnered with Cocopah Indian Tribe to secure critical restoration funding for the Colorado River Delta 

Audubon partnered with the Cocopah Tribe to secure $5.5 million in public and private funds to embark on restoration of a significant area in the Colorado River Delta on their reservation in southern Arizona. The result will be improved habitat for birds and other wildlife and access for the Tribe to culturally significant native plants that have been hard to find in recent decades due to degraded river conditions. The funds will allow the Tribe to transform more than 400 acres in the Colorado River floodplain by removing invasive, non-native vegetation, planting native trees, shrubs and grasses, and using their water rights to sustain the restored area in the absence of Colorado River flows. The funding will also support development of a Cocopah Tribal youth corps to engage young people in the project and rebuild connections to the Colorado River. 

Restored critical marsh habitats across New York and Connecticut for Saltmarsh Sparrow

Last summer, Audubon Connecticut and partners restored 34 acres of salt marsh and other important coastal habitat at Great Meadows marsh in Stratford. The $4 million project wasn't a culmination, however, but a kick-off. Immediately, the area became a hub for scientific research. Groups from the University of Connecticut, Yale University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maritime Aquarium, and more jumped at the opportunity to conduct research in the restored area. Their investigations will reveal important information about nesting birds, vegetation growth, and water health, and will inform future management activities.

Farther south in Hook Creek Park in Queens, New York, Saltmarsh Sparrows got a newly restored habitat when NYC Parks, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, neighborhood activists, and Audubon New York worked together on a $700,000 effort to add fresh sediment to increase the marsh's base elevation, and plant around 18,000 native grasses. The result is a healthier marsh that can keep up with sea level rise and provide essential nesting and feeding habitat to birds.

Contributed vital information to important planning and restoration work for the coming decades across many states, including Louisiana and South Carolina

The Audubon-led Bald Eagle Habitat Suitability model was included in Louisiana’s 2023 Coastal Master Plan to evaluate a future with and without coastal restoration projects. The study was also published in Restoration Ecology. Overall, the study helps demonstrate that coastal restoration projects, such as sediment diversions and barrier reef construction, will help create more land and healthy habitat for the eagle to nest and forage. This science has been used to help advocate for continued investments into projects in the Coastal Master Plan.

South Carolina released the first ever Statewide Resilience Plan which will guide state investment in flood mitigation and resilience projects to protect people and property in the state. The plan took two years to complete with input from Audubon South Carolina and other industry partners and nonprofits. In this document science-based recommendations and plans include flood mitigation through green infrastructure and nature-based design, electrical grid evaluation, and watershed-based resilience planning. In addition to a comprehensive vulnerability assessment, the plan recognizes impacts to coastal priority bird species, and recognizes the role of native plants for habitat and flood mitigation.

Restored more than 100 acres at Powderhorn Lake wetlands in South Chicago

Audubon Great Lakes, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and partners at the Great Lakes Commission, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have completed a significant restoration project at Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve, the most biodiverse area in the city of Chicago restoring more than 100 acres of wetlands and reconnecting Powderhorn Lake to Wolf Lake, creating improved habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife to thrive. Nearly $1.2 million of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds were directed to Powderhorn Lake, resulting in the restoration of 192 acres of wetland habitat, 630 linear feet of stream habitat, and 45 acres of native vegetation.

Installed Motus stations across the hemisphere and tracked So. Many. Birds.

Across the hemisphere, new "Motus" wildlife tracking stations at Audubon centers, sanctuaries, local parks, and beyond, are receiving pings from tracking devices on birds. Receiving towers pick up radio signals from any bird with a radio tag that flies within nine miles of the site. The data is automatically uploaded to the internet, where anyone can view it. Motus technology has the potential to track individual birds, where they spend their time, and whether they encounter difficulties. It's also an amazing tool to connect people with nature.

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Gathered data on migration routes with Motus stations at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

A Motus station at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary recorded an American Redstart tagged in Jamaica as part of a long-term study investigating the connection between areas where they spend their winters, spring departure timing, and migration. While some American Redstarts overwinter in South Florida, visitors at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary usually see them during spring and fall migration in the old-growth cypress forest.

Tracked a cuckoo named Hummus across multiple Audubon-managed areas as it migrated south for the winter

Radio telemetry data from Motus towers in California, Arizona, and Mexico indicates that Hummus has passed through at least six different protected areas on its southward migration, dramatically illustrating the need for land and riparian conservation. Those places include the Audubon Kern River Preserve in California where Hummus was first banded and outfitted with its transmitter earlier this summer by staff from the Southern Sierra Research Station and Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in Arizona. Audubon was able to track Hummus over nine days and 900 miles, but Hummus’ ultimate goal is the Dry Chaco region in South America.

Launched new NOAA-funded coastal resilience projects in partnership with local communities in the Carolinas and on the Great Lakes

What does the industrial city of Gary, Indiana share with the rural lowland communities of coastal North Carolina and South Carolina? Flooding, degraded wetlands, and a history of underfunding and other inequitable policies—and, as it turns out, secretive marsh birds like Least Bittern. Because of the degradation of wetlands and beach habitats, the coastal regions in these three states no longer adequately protect nearby communities from storms and rising sea and lake levels. To address these issues, Audubon launched a new suite of climate resilience planning projects in partnership with coastal communities in these states, supported by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Published a conservation plan for Parita Bay in Panama

In February 2023, the Panama Audubon Society with support from Audubon Americas and the Blue Natural Heritage project launched the Plan de Conservación para los humedales de la Bahía de Parita (Wetlands Conservation Plan for Parita Bay, Panama) which identifies the main conservation objectives at this internationally Important Bird Area. Panama Audubon Society's and Audubon Americas' staff are currently disseminating the conservation plan among regional stakeholders and government authorities. This and other complementary research will help establish a baseline for site conditions, inform policy, and management processes to impact and improve the management of marine-coastal ecosystems, as well as develop the carbon market and help support local coastal communities with the resulting income.

Surveyed shorebirds in saline lakes, which are critical migration stopover sites, across the western United States

Shorebirds are some of the most vulnerable species reliant on saline lake ecosystems. An important partnership of Audubon, Point Blue Conservation, Sageland Collaborative, 11 western states, and wildlife refuges have embarked on a multi-year project to determine the abundance and trends of shorebirds across some 200 sites as part of the Intermountain West Shorebird Survey. In 2023, more than 300 participants completed the first full year of surveys (spring and fall migration) under the extremes of “weather whiplash”— peak mega-drought followed by record-breaking snowpack and runoff. During the latest migration window (August 2023), nearly 700,000 shorebirds were counted at approximately 195 sites. Preliminary data revealed that sites like Great Salt Lake, Lake Abert, Lahontan Valley, Mono Lake, Owens Lake, and Salton Sea continue to be the most important stopover sites for shorebirds in the interior portion of the Pacific Americas Flyway in North America – bolstering their importance to migratory shorebirds and Audubon’s focus on protecting this network of habitats. 

Welcomed the first pair of nesting Piping Plovers in a decade to Lea-Hutaff on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Nesting Piping Plovers are most common in North Carolina on the Outer Banks. The southernmost pair of these round, sand-gray shorebirds usually find a summer home on Figure Eight Island, but habitat change brought a pair to Audubon’s Lea-Hutaff Island sanctuary this summer, the first Piping Plover nest on this undeveloped barrier island since 2014. The nest had a lot to contend with—from ghost crabs, grackle, and heat to disturbances from people, dogs, and storms—as our trail camera showed. This is why our coastal team protects and manages sites like this one, so that birds can successfully raise their young.

Banded thousands of coastal birds in North Carolina to help better understand and protect them

Audubon North Carolina staff, partners, and volunteers visited nesting colonies across the coast to band thousands of terns, Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers throughout the spring and summer. As part of this effort, Audubon staff put the first field-readable bands on Royal and Sandwich Terns in the state, which will allow them to gather insights into where and when these birds are moving around the coast. This work is already paying off in the form of re-sightings later in the summer—one in Maryland and the other in New Jersey.

Tracked Golden-winged Warblers from North Carolina to South America and back

Audubon continues to work with private landowners to manage habitat for Golden-winged Warblers, and a new partnership with the NC Wildlife Resource Commission and researcher Darin J. McNeil of the University of Kentucky, has already yielded a closer glimpse into the bird’s lifecycle. Earlier this year, biologists re-caught two Golden-winged Warblers in mist nets in Madison and Yancey Counties—the same individuals that Audubon scientists caught and tagged with a tracking device in the same location last spring. The ultimate goal is to learn more about how this rare songbird moves across its range, and what threats might be causing its population to dwindle.

Surveyed Panama Bay, Panama using audio recordings of local avifauna

This year the Audubon Americas team collected more than 150,000 audio recordings from 19 mangrove sites in Panama Bay, Panama. Now Audubon scientists are using supervised and unsupervised machine learning frameworks to process these recordings and gain insights into the species that occur there, the factors that influence their occurrence, and their potential responses to global change.

Released captive-reared Great Lakes Piping Plovers in Lower Green Bay for the first time

Audubon Great Lakes and partners at U.S Fish and Wildlife, Detroit Zoo and University of Minnesota, released four federally endangered Great Lakes piping plover chicks at the Cat Island Restoration Site, in Lower Green Bay. This is the first year the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has released captive Great Lakes piping plovers outside of the state of Michigan–the population's stronghold–and the first time in the state of Wisconsin. Audubon Great Lakes coordinates staff, partners, and volunteers to monitor Piping Plovers at the Cat Island Restoration Site every day, including holidays, from April through August.

Followed American Golden-Plovers from Alaska to South America

This summer, Audubon Alaska launched Tullik’s Odyssey, a project following American Golden-Plovers that were equipped with GPS Argos tags at Teshekpuk Lake Special  Area in the Western Arctic. (Tullik is the Iñupiaq word for plover.) It is part of a study overseen by Manomet, Inc. and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Alaska Region, with assistance from Audubon Alaska, Audubon's Boreal Conservation Program, Audubon Americas, and the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative. Tullik’s Odyssey tells the story of the American Golden Plover’s  journey along the southbound migration route from Alaska to Canada, the Atlantic Coast, and South America.

Protected hundreds of acres in endangered bottomland hardwood forest

Audubon South Carolina worked to acquire and protect just over 800 acres of high priority and high conservation value land in South Carolina through three tracts of land. The Arant Property protected 400 acres of biologically diverse Congaree River Front adjacent to Congaree National Park. 413 acres were added to Audubon's Beidler Forest through the acquisition of Dean Swamp, protecting more bottomland hardwood forest which is home to Prothonotary Warblers and Swallow-tailed Kites.   

Maintained critically threatened tallgrass prairies in the Great Plains

Audubon Great Plains crafted a comprehensive strategy, including hiring a Prescribed Burn Coordinator and hosting a series of workshops designed for local landowners, aimed to raise awareness of the invaluable role prescribed fire plays as a habitat management tool. The advantages of prescribed burns extend far beyond the immediate ecological impact. One of the most significant beneficiaries of this management tool is the diverse community of grassland birds, such as Western Meadowlark, Bobolink, and Short-eared Owl, that rely on these habitats for their survival.

Supported more than 100 million acres of proposed Indigenous Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Areas in the Boreal

Audubon continues to work with each of its Indigenous partners as their land and marine conservation efforts progress through the complexities of establishing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) and Marine Conservation Areas. This year Audubon participated in meetings within six communities across Northern Ontario facilitated by the Mushkegowuk Council. Audubon’s scientific data about birds of special importance to the area is expected to be incorporated into IPCA proposal(s) for the region and to support a massive proposed Hudson-James Bay National Marine Conservation Area.

Launched a new program to train and endorse foresters that use bird-friendly land-management techniques

Audubon’s Connecticut and New York regional office, in partnership with Audubon Vermont, launched the Audubon Forester Training and Endorsement Program to help create high-quality forest habitat at scale. Caitlin Cusack, newly-endorsed forester with the Vermont Land Trust, has already seen results. In conducting a timber harvest, Caitlin created several openings that brought sunlight to the forest floor. This in turn helped plants regenerate in the understory, creating new places for birds to nest, forage, and seek cover. Within the first year, Caitlin saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing right on the edge of the largest opening! Since then, she has heard or seen Mourning Warblers, Ovenbirds, Wood Thrush, all species which nest and forage in the lower canopy layers.

Celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Seabird Institute and the 100th Anniversary of Audubon Texas’s coastal program

This year the Seabird Institute celebrated 50 years since Project Puffin began, restoring Atlantic Puffins to Maine's coast and expanding that expertise beyond to seabird conservation efforts around the world.  To mark the occasion, Audubon published an oral history feature story and video featuring many of the original “puffineers” involved in launching the project. In Maine this summer, the Project Puffin Visitor Center debuted a new documentary, and a mother-daughter artist team created an immersive, interactive exhibit that simulates the experience of standing on Eastern Egg Rock, where Project Puffin began.

Audubon Texas celebrated 100 years of formal coastal conservation, education, and outreach across the state of Texas, and has launched a new, online tool showcasing how birds across the Western hemisphere rely on the Texas Gulf Coast. In 1923, Audubon initiated its first rookery island leases, beginning a century of conservation partnerships and stewardship. The Texas Coastal Bird Explorer tool allow users to explore and discover birds along the vibrant Texas coast, as well as the critical impacts that could be caused by increasing sea level rise.

Secured Deepwater Horizon funding for Indigenous Guardians in Manitoba

The Deepwater Horizon Trustees charged with restoring the Gulf Coast and its species after the BP oil spill proposed and ultimately agreed to fund a project to help migratory seabirds recover. The $5.3 million project will enable Indigenous Guardians to protect and manage nesting Common Terns at key colonies in Manitoba. Through hands-on stewardship and monitoring, the project aims to help 2,000 nesting pairs of Common Terns produce more baby birds that survive to fledge from their nests. During the BP oil spill, Common Terns were among the hardest hit migratory seabirds, killed by oil exposure in the Gulf of Mexico on their way to their nesting grounds in Canada. Many of these birds fly long distances throughout the hemisphere, so to help them recover we must think outside of the Gulf region and beyond US borders. 

Released the Birds and Transmission report

In August, Audubon released the report Birds and Transmission: Building the Grid Birds Need, which calls for rapidly expanding electric transmission to meet climate goals while also protecting wildlife habitat. In the report, Audubon shares science-based solutions for minimizing risks to birds and outlines how collaborative planning efforts can responsibly upgrade the grid. 

Joined Industry and Government Leaders to Break Ground on the SunZia Transmission Project 

In September, Pattern Energy officially started construction on the SunZia Transmission project, which will span 550 miles between central New Mexico and south-central Arizona, making it one of the largest clean energy infrastructure projects in American history. Audubon Southwest’s Executive Director Jonathan Hayes and New Mexico Policy Director Judy Calman attended the groundbreaking event. As the Birds and Transmission report notes, SunZia is an example of how Audubon’s direct engagement can have a beneficial impact on transmission deployment. Audubon convened an informal group of NGOs and provided guidance on best practices related to routing, siting of towers, installation, and tower design. By working effectively with developers and communities, Audubon was able to improve outcomes for birds and positively impact the approval process. 

Trained and certified dozens of naturalists who surveyed shorebirds in Wyoming

Audubon Rockies and the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute co-created the Wyoming Naturalist Program three years ago. Now, they have trained and certified 64 naturalists who have completed 2,454 hours of conservation service in Wyoming. Last spring, Wyoming Naturalists filled all the survey routes of the new Intermountain Shorebird Surveys in Wyoming. Naturalists completed training for this new program, then surveyed eight locations during spring shorebird migration.

Welcomed nesting Black Terns for the first time ever in Montezuma

At the Montezuma Audubon Center, state-endangered Black Terns were spotted nesting in the marshes for the first time ever! Across the greater Montezuma Wetlands Complex, 96 nesting Black Terns were counted across eight marshes, the highest count since 1982. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation worked for years to clear the marsh of invasive Purple Loosestrife, eventually succeeding with the help of leaf-eating beetles and root-eating weevils. Now, Montezuma Audubon Center staff and volunteers are helping clear a new threat: invasive water chestnut. The efforts—and the return of the terns—provide great opportunities for young people to get involved.

Tracked shorebirds between California and Alaska to understand habitat needs, especially during drought years

Audubon California completed the second year of a Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership (MBCP) multi-year study to examine drought impacts on shorebirds. The MBCP, along with other partners, captured more than 100 shorebirds and deployed 26 Motus tags to collect physiological data and to track movements across the landscape in periods of drought. With this data, Audubon California scientists hope to learn more about how shorebirds respond to drought and inform decision makers on when and where to provision habitat when water resources are limited. Nearly a quarter of the tagged birds were detected in the Alaskan Copper River Delta, and many birds moved between the Sacramento Valley, Grasslands Ecological Area, and coastal sites near Tomales Bay, California.

Protected 100 percent of Tricolored Blackbirds in California; recent population increases mean this program is both successful in the short and long term

This breeding season, Audubon California reports that its team successfully protected 100 percent of Tricolored Blackbird breeding colonies on farms enrolled in Regional Conservation Partnership Program in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin, where the majority of Tricolored Blackbirds nest. This means that Audubon protected approximately 214,000 adult birds, their nests, and young in 12 colonies on 10 properties. This count aligns with the reported increase in the population estimated during the 2022 Triennial Statewide Survey. The largest colony this year was estimated at over 50,000 individuals, the largest colony in more than five years.

Revealed the mysteries of the elusive American Woodcock in Nebraska

Over the past three years, research undertaken by Audubon Great Plains in partnership with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has revealed fascinating and previously unknown migratory behaviors of American Woodcock at the extreme western edge of their continental range. The findings from this work were recently published in the peer-reviewed international journal Wader Study. This study, titled “The outsiders: American Woodcock movements and migratory patterns in the Great Plains of North America,” describes the migratory behaviors of woodcock as they travel through (or remain for the summer) in Nebraska. Using advanced GPS satellite transmitters, researchers were able to track timberdoodles both within the state and beyond as they traversed the continent. 

Experienced a wave of charismatic pink birds—American Flamingos and Roseate Spoonbills—across the country

For the first time in almost a century, Floridians are seeing a lot of flamingos. Blown in by Hurricane Idalia, American Flamingos have landed as far north as St. Marks Wildlife Refuge all the way south to Collier County and the Florida Keys, including a record sighting in Alachua County. Additional birds touched down in Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, and more. Water quality and conservations efforts are critical to keeping wading bird populations strong: Both 2018 and 2020 proved to be strong nesting years for most of the Everglades’ wading birds. As Roseate Spoonbill numbers have recovered, as an example, they have spread their range farther north, and now are regularly seen in places like Tampa Bay. Audubon Florida staff hope that through additional restoration and conservation efforts, the U.S. will see a similar recovery for the equally pink American Flamingo.

Restored vital coastlines along Southern California

Audubon secured a second year of funding from the Dorrance Family Foundation, in partnership with Buena Vista and San Diego Audubon chapters, to restore Mission Bay coastline in San Diego, California. Additional funding from the foundation went to community partners within the Buena Vista Lagoon and Mission Bay watersheds. More than 1,000 community members participated in community restoration events, 550 coastal advocates took action to protect Ridgway’s Rail habitat in Mission Bay, and project leads completed the initial design and permitting for the Wetland Reserve along Buena Vista Lagoon.

Delved into Bald Eagle resilience to hurricanes in Florida with community science

Despite nest destruction from Hurricane Ian, resilience proved to be the theme of the 2022-23 Bald Eagle nesting season, according to end-of-season data compiled by the Audubon EagleWatch program. Across the state, volunteers documented 148 nests lost to the Category 5 storm. Typically, when an eagle pair loses a nest, they simply rebuild in another suitable tree nearby. In the storm’s path, however, suitable trees were also lost. With few other options, many eagle pairs rebuilt their nests in spindly trees with bare branches and little foliage. According to EagleWatch data, roughly 70 percent of the eagle pairs that lost their nests rebuilt in the same season. From those rebuilt nests, more than 100 chicks have fledged.

Helped set bird-focused priorities for sage-grouse ecosystem restoration in Eastern Washington

In 2020, wildfires burned more than 500,000 acres of shrub-steppe habitat in core Greater Sage- and Sharp-tailed Grouse breeding areas, furthering imperiling these state endangered species. 

After successfully advocating in 2021 to fund landscape-level conservation and restoration in Washington’s shrub-steppe lands Audubon Washington has served in an advisory and stakeholder role on the project, ensuring that the needs of birds are strongly represented in this process. In the coming months the project will circulate a draft strategy for Tribal consultation and public review; the strategy includes a newly defined set of spatial priorities for the region based on dynamic mapping sources and a set of ambitious goals and related actions for shrub-steppe ecosystem health and resilience in the Columbia Plateau.

Protected and monitored critical habitat throughout Arizona

The Arizona Important Bird Areas (IBA) program wrapped up another 12 months of work and accomplishments that included bird monitoring, research, habitat improvement projects and developing plans for future efforts, all with the goal of ensuring these vital landscapes continue to provide habitat to native bird species like Pinyon Jay, western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Elegant Trogon, Lucy’s Warbler, and many others. To make that work happen, volunteers donated more than 6,000 hours and 23,000 miles in 2023. Tucson Audubon played an instrumental statewide role in these efforts, while Arizona’s seven other chapters helped manage the IBAs closest to them.

Launched the Great Salt Lake Water Trust

The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust was established in January 2023 to enhance water quantity and water quality for Great Salt Lake and its wetlands, as well as protect and restore wetlands and habitats to benefit the hydrology of Great Salt Lake. The $40 million trust is co-managed by Audubon and The Nature Conservancy; in November, the trust announced its first grants for projects that will protect and enhance more than 13,000 acres of wetlands along the eastern and southern shores of Great Salt Lake.  

Brokered the largest-ever water donation to Great Salt Lake

To benefit the Great Salt Lake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agreed to donate more than 5,700 water shares (a little more than 20,000 acre-feet of water) in the North Point Consolidated Irrigation Company to the state of Utah, in partnership with Audubon and The Nature Conservancy’s co-led Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust. The donation, believed to be the largest ever permanent donation to benefit the Great Salt Lake, ensures water will continue to flow to the lake and preserve critical shoreline and wetland habitat in Farmington Bay. 

Supported the newly launched Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project in Florida

The Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project broke ground this February. This high-impact project is part of the $20 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. In support of the project over the past decade, Audubon spearheaded a significant legislative campaign in Florida to secure state support, used Audubon science to influence project design, and advocated for construction funding from both state and Congressional appropriations and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Supported regenerative agriculture in Colombia

Audubon Americas published Cattle ranching for birds: A song for sustainability which the Cattle Ranching Associations in Colombia are using to plan project implementation. The playbook shares best practices and information that can be used in almost any farm in Latin America and the Caribbean, regions where the transition to sustainable cattle ranching practices is urgently needed to stop deforestation, and overall environmental degradation.

Launched the first projects from Conserva Aves

Conserva Aves, a partnership between National Audubon Society, Birdlife International, American Bird Conservancy, and REDLAC (Network of Environmental Funds in Latin America and the Caribbean), launched its first call of proposal successfully in Colombia and 12 projects are now supported covering 37,000 hectares. Three of these projects are directly led by local communities. Last July, the call for proposals in Perú was made to select 10 projects that will receive co-funding that totals US$1,158,700, covering at least 160,000 ha. Bolivia recently opened the call for proposals, with US$1,100,000 available co-funding for the selected projects to be announced early 2024.

Policy and Advocacy

Advocated for strong federal investment in projects that benefit birds and people

During the current federal legislative sessions, Audubon urged for increased investment for federal agencies and programs that will reduce carbon emissions, conserve lands and waters, and recover bird populations. Major pieces of legislation affected include the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Specific actions supported by Audubon for funding include climate smart advanced soil health, wildlife habitat planting, wetland restoration, forest songbird habitat maintenance, forest stand improvement to rehabilitate degraded hardwood stands, forest stand to increase on-site carbon storage, and sagebrush habitat restoration.

Secured a new native plants policy and conservation funding in North Carolina legislature

This year Audubon partnered with the North Carolina Department of Cultural and Natural Resources on a new policy requiring the use of native plants at all state parks and historic sites. To further solidify this policy into law, Audubon worked with Senator Bill Rabon to champion legislation requiring the use of native vegetation at state parks, historic sites, and roadways. Audubon members spoke up for this policy at Advocacy Day and have rallied support from landscapers, nurseries, and garden stores across the state. The policy builds on other recent native plants legislation supported by Audubon. The budget also includes $30 million in 2024 and $28 million in 2025 for the Land and Water Fund, and the same amounts for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. This represents a $4-6 million increase in annual funding.

Ensured that critical areas in the Alaskan Arctic are off-limits for oil and gas development

In September, the Biden administration announced a suite of constructive actions that would strengthen conservation protections and help address climate change in America’s Arctic. The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a much-needed environmental impact statement to formally recognize the conservation needs and Indigenous values connected to the Arctic Refuge. The DOI also issued a new conservation rule that would further protect, and possibly expand, the Western Arctic's designated Special Areas. Audubon’s Alaska Interim Executive Director David Krause and the Audubon public lands team worked tirelessly to educate and brief officials from the Biden administration about the threats to birds in the Arctic and to urge protections for priority habitats—including invaluable regions like the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area—and sacred lands through these policy mechanisms.

Helped secure $41 million for water savings across Arizona

The Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) awarded $41 million to applicants across the state to achieve long-term water conservation. The total projected water savings from these activities is 860,000 acre-feet to 1.3-million-acre feet (one acre foot is 325,851 gallons). Projects awarded funding include advanced metering infrastructure efforts, turf/grass removal projects, and agricultural system upgrades. This funding, which Audubon Southwest advocated for, came from the 2022 Arizona legislature’s investment of $200 million for water conservation efforts to save water and improve water reliability—a much needed boost for one of the driest states in the country. WIFA has since established an ambitious target to save more than 1.6 trillion gallons of water through this program. 

Helped launch, with strong bipartisan support, a new conservation fund in New Mexico

After years of difficult negotiations, New Mexico created the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund during the 2023 legislative session. Audubon began working with a coalition four years ago, which included groups representing conservation, agriculture, state agencies, outdoor recreation, and industry, to make the fund a reality. The legislature appropriated $100 million to the fund, with $50 million slated to be spent over the next four years, and $50 million put into a permanent fund to generate interest. The legislature made a commitment to put an additional $75 million into it during each of the next three legislative sessions.

Defeated bills in the Texas legislature that would have doomed the Golden-cheeked Warbler

Fast, persistent advocacy by Travis Audubon Society, Bexar Audubon Society, Audubon Texas, and the City of Cedar Hill, stopped a set of bills that would have eliminated the ability of local governments to regulate the removal of Ashe juniper trees. Ashe junipers are required for the nesting success of the federally endangered Golden-checked Warbler. As it stands, landowners must get permits to remove any Ashe juniper on their property.

Advocated successfully for 30x30 land and biodiversity conservation in Vermont

On June 12, the Vermont General Assembly passed the Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act in response to the growing recognition that Vermont, like the rest of the globe, is facing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity. In the legislation, the Vermont General Assembly set ambitious goals to conserve 30 percent of Vermont’s total land by 2030, and 50 percent by 2050. Audubon Vermont and local chapters advocated strongly for the inclusion of strategies and incentives to ensure the active participation of private landowners in stewarding the land, as more than three-quarters of the land in Vermont is privately owned.

Launched an ambitious plan to build a constituency for birds in Colombia

Colombia, the country of birds: The National Strategy for the Conservation of Birds (ENCA2030) launched in June in Bogotá, Colombia. More than 2,000 organizations helped design ENCA2030, which lays out strategies to engage development plans at the national and local level.

Engaged communities around the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan

Over late 2022, the Mississippi River Delta Coalition teamed up with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to host events called "Community Conversations around the 2023 Coastal Master Plan" in different parts of coastal Louisiana. More than 500 people from communities like St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lacombe, New Orleans, Gonzales, Abbeville, Larose, Lake Charles, and Gretna took part. These events included both small and large group discussions, where people could share worries, learn about the plan's benefits, and connect with others. Audubon was the key organizer of two of the meetings at Xavier University in New Orleans and in Gonzales, Louisiana. The Xavier meeting was co-hosted with Xavier University and the XULA Geaux Green student-based Audubon campus chapter.

Helped Advance the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act 2023

Thanks to advocacy from Audubon's Coasts team, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted to advance the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2023, a bill introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). This bipartisan legislation will update and modernize the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, a law that for more than 40 years has protected undeveloped beaches, wetlands, and other coastal areas while saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

Engaged legislators on the importance of ocean protections at the Save the Seabirds Fly-In

More than 20 campus chapter members from around country convened in Washington, D.C. for the 2023 Save the Seabirds fly-in, to encourage their legislators to protect seabirds and people from the effects of climate change.

Audubon’s Coasts, Government Affairs, and Campus program teams helped organize the fly-in, with featured members from many Audubon chapters including Portland Audubon and campus chapters at University of California-San Diego, University of California-Berkeley, Stetson University, Xavier University of Louisiana, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Union College, Stony Brook University, Skidmore College, University of South Carolina, University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Claflin University.

Joined key committees and advisory groups

Audubon's Chief Conservation Officer Marshall Johnson was appointed to the North American Wetlands Conservation Council and Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Advisory Group.

Secured funding and protections for birds in the face of budget cuts in California

Audubon was pivotal in protecting vital funding to entities such as the Wildlife Conservation Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife in the face of state budget cuts. Audubon also helped craft a compromise to Governor Newsom’s proposal to repeal the Fully Protected Species statues, which protect species such as Sandhill Cranes and Golden Eagles. The new rules will provide for a permit to take Fully Protected Species provided mitigation measures provide a net conservation benefit for the affected species.

Helped pass critical water legislation in Colorado

Audubon Rockies and local chapters helped pass SB23-270, Projects To Restore Natural Stream Systems, in Colorado. To support its passage, Audubon Rockies served as a technical advisor and hosted several webinars about the subject with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. 1,266 Audubon advocates sent messages to their state legislators in support of the bill. After its passage, Audubon facilitated a training series to inform water managers, government agency staff, watershed groups, restoration practitioners, academics, and others on how to move stream restoration projects forward under the new law.

Leased and released water in the Rio Grande in New Mexico

Despite abundant spring flows, the Rio Grande is drying in Albuquerque, the result of hot temperatures, a very dry monsoon, and limited water storage in upstream reservoirs. Audubon Southwest brought 580 acre-feet (189,000,000 gallons) of water leased from local municipalities back to the Rio Grande to help the federally endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, many bird species, and neighboring communities that rely on the river.

Advocated for a Tribal-led national marine sanctuary in California

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed to designate the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, located between the Monterey Bay and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries, which will protect thousands of square miles of ocean off California’s Central Coast. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council has been working for 40 years to establish this sanctuary, home to the Chumash Peoples both historically and presently. The underwater portion of the proposed sanctuary includes important sacred sites of the Chumash Peoples. Seabirds like Sooty Shearwaters gather in the thousands in this area, and Morro Bay, an Important Bird Area, hosts up to 20,000 shorebirds in its mudflats every winter. Sixty percent of the California Brown Pelican population is found within the proposed sanctuary. Almost 19,000 Audubon members and supporters submitted comments in support of establishment of the sanctuary.

Advocated for better public land management

Audubon Rockies elevated the collective voice of 194 chapters in 41 states in a supportive letter to the Bureau of Land Management’s effort to improve how our nation’s public lands are managed by putting conservation on equal footing with other land uses, via their proposed Public Lands Rule.

Secured funding for wetlands in Indiana and Michigan

Audubon Great Lakes policy staff gathered members and coalition partners at the Indiana and Michigan statehouses to meet with their representatives to advocate for wetlands protections, solutions to climate change, and conservation of important natural areas. In Indiana, this advocacy helped ensure that the final budget included an investment of $10 million in the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust Fund to conserve important natural areas across Indiana, and $30 million to expand state trail.

In Michigan, this advocacy helped secure an appropriation of $10 million dollars of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to accelerate wetland conservation work. This significant investment in wetlands restoration will minimize phosphorous entering Lake Erie to reduce harmful algal blooms while offering flood reduction, increased groundwater infiltration, fish and wildlife habitat creation, and improved quality of life for communities.

Supported biodiversity protection under Washington State’s clean energy transition

Audubon Washington celebrated a significant milestone in the state’s transition to a clean energy future with the release of a new report that offers guidance on where utility-scale solar can be developed on the Columbia Plateau while also protecting sagebrush birds and their habitat. Through its collaboration with American Farmland Trust and its dedicated network of members and supporters, Audubon Washington secured bipartisan support for the funding for this innovative clean energy siting resource. Additionally, Audubon Washington collaborated with chapter leaders to bring science and local knowledge on bird occurrence and habitat needs to the table, ensuring that datasets like the Sagebrush Songbird Survey songbird data are used to make better siting decisions that minimize conflicts and garner support.

Co-launched campaign to declare Chuckwalla National Monument and expand Joshua Tree National Park

Audubon California, California Desert Protection Council, Representative Raúl Ruiz (D-California) and Indigenous representatives officially launched a campaign to declare Chuckwalla National Monument and the expansion of Joshua Tree National Park. This work will protect almost 700K acres of sensitive desert habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as sacred areas and historic sites.

Advocated for additional protections for the Wilson’s Plover in Florida

Audubon Florida has officially petitioned the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to list the Wilson’s Plover as a state-designated Threatened species under Florida’s Imperiled Species Rule. If additional protective action is not taken, this coastal bird species, with an estimated population of fewer than 1,000 birds in the state, could disappear from Florida’s shorelines forever.

Advocated for increased funding for wetlands work with Oneida Nation in Wisconsin

As a result of Audubon Great Lakes’ advocacy work, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers signed the most-recent state budget into law that included $350,000 over the next two years to fund an Audubon-led bird monitoring project. The project with Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity (UWGB) evaluates the success of Oneida Nation’s recent restoration of grasslands, marshes, and forests. Over many years, the Oneida Nation has restored 3,000 acres of the reservation's wetlands, grasslands, prairies, and forests—addressing water pollution and invasive plant species. This data from the bird monitoring project will be used to inform future conservation work on their lands, as well as vital knowledge-sharing for conservation across the region. 

Engaged landowners on the importance of conservation easements in Nebraska

In September, the Crane Trust in partnership with Audubon Nebraska, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and Nebraska Land Trust, hosted a tour to discuss conservation easements, private land rights, and the importance of keeping agricultural land large enough to remain viable as working farms and ranches in the hands of local families. In Nebraska, conservation and agricultural land easements are a voluntary, free-market, incentive-based approach to protect privately-owned land for specific uses, such as habitat restoration or agricultural production. Habitat restoration can be costly yet is important for many landowners, so the combination of a conservation and agricultural land easement and habitat restoration helps private landowners achieve their goals they would be unable to afford without financial compensation.

Secured important funding and policy wins in Washington State

Audubon Washington and its 50,000 members successfully advocated for three pivotal conservation and climate bills, as well as a strong bird conservation budget. The Shoreline Assessment Program bill (SB 5104) represents a crucial step towards safeguarding and restoring the habitats of marine birds, salmon, and orcas. The clean energy siting bill (HB 1216) strikes a balance between preserving Washington’s natural and cultural heritage while advancing the necessary expansion of clean energy resources. And HB 1181, the Climate and Growth Management bill, marks a crucial step towards local climate change planning and action. This new policy mandates that local governments develop comprehensive plans to address the challenges of a changing climate. Finally, the investments in Audubon Washington’s “Bird Budget” totaled over $270M and reflect the commitment of the Washington state legislature to protect habitat in a changing climate.

Engaged lawmakers on the importance of protecting the Upper Mississippi River

Audubon and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators took a cohort of Minnesota and Wisconsin legislators and staff on a boat tour to learn about critical habitat and floodplain forest loss along the Upper Mississippi River. In all, nine lawmakers and two congressional staff came along for the ride. Audubon works closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Upper Mississippi River National Fish & Wildlife Refuge on reforestation projects. Over the past eight years, Audubon planted more than 100,000 trees and improved more than 2,200 acres of bottomland forest through this collaboration.

Weighed in on important Colorado River management decisions

The wet winter of 2022-2023 followed more than two decades of drought in the Colorado River Basin. The snowmelt boosted system reservoirs by about 10 percent, an extremely fortunate turn of events. But the reality remains that system reservoirs are more than half empty. In the Colorado River Basin there will always be wet years and dry years, but climate change means the overall trend is warmer, drier, with less water availability.

In the midst of this variability, Audubon weighed in on new rules for sharing the Colorado River, working simultaneously on a short-term fix and a long-term reset adaptive to climate change.

Read more about Audubon’s vital 2023 Colorado River Basin work here:

How to Save the Colorado River? Use Less Water.
Living on a Smaller Colorado River Water Supply

Sponsored Climate Week NYC and engaged tens of thousands of participants

Audubon was a sponsor of Climate Week NYC 2023! Hosted annually by Climate Group in partnership with the United Nations General Assembly and the City of New York, Climate Week NYC is a global platform for all voices working to protect the planet and its people. From September 17-24, 2023, world leaders and changemakers will come together to showcase ambitious climate action and discuss how to do more. 

Audubon hosted or participated in many events during Climate Week.

Audubon President and CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray was featured as part of a panel discussion “Communicating Climate Change” on September 18.

Dr. Gray led the launching of the Americas Flyways Initiative (AFI), an Audubon Americas partnership with the Latin American Development Bank (CAF) and BirdLife, with an event "Discovering the Americas Flyways Initiative" on September 20. The Americas Flyways Initiative will promote the protection, conservation, and restoration of Key Biodiversity Areas by integrating and scaling up Nature-Based Solutions (NBS). It will also invest in natural climate solutions focused on restoring, conserving, and protecting ecosystems, coastal management to foster climate resilience, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Chief Conservation Officer Marshall Johnson was a panelist for “Move Fast Without Breaking Things: The Opportunities of Ramping Up Renewables in a Sustainable Way,” hosted by WWF on September 19.


A few big stories emerged late last year after the 2022 yearly roundup was published.

Congress passed an Audubon-backed bill to assess and monitor saltwater lake ecosystems in the West.

Audubon celebrated a number of legislative wins in the Delaware Watershed region in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, including a bill to limit horseshoe crab harvests and a bond act in New York that raises $4.2 billion to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Local and Community

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.)

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.

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.

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. 

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.