What Does the National Audubon Society Do?

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The National Audubon Society is a nonprofit conservation organization that’s dedicated to protecting birds and the habitats they live in. If you’re a bird lover or just interested in learning more about Audubon, join us for a journey into the organization’s history and the many different ways it goes about achieving its conservation goals. And just in case you find yourself feeling inspired to join the National Audubon Society’s efforts, we’ll even go over how you can donate, volunteer or get involved with your local chapter. 

Two Women…and a Whole Lot of Bird Hats

While the National Audubon Society wasn’t technically founded until 1905, the seeds of its history really began in 1896. It all started with two women and a massive number of feathered hats. Back in the 19th century, feathered hats were all the rage among society’s trendiest echelons. But when two women named Harriet Hemenway and Minna B. Hall learned that millions of waterbirds were being slaughtered in the name of fashion, they were shocked — and they decided to do something about it. 

The two began organizing afternoon teas to convince other women to join the cause by refusing to purchase hats with feathers. Ultimately, their efforts expanded and eventually led to the founding of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

The National Audubon Society Goes Official

More people began to join the cause, and, in 1900, a man named Frank Champion proposed replacing traditional Christmas bird hunts with the first annual Christmas Bird Count. He announced his idea in his publication, Bird Lore, which would evolve into today’s Audubon magazine. 


Soon, the Audubon Society’s legacy began to spread and even influenced the passing of legislation designed to protect birds and other animals. But the Audubon Society’s early days weren’t all roses. In 1902, Guy Bradly was appointed as one of the first Audubon wardens, only to be murdered three years later by poachers. Despite this early tragedy, the National Association of Audubon Societies was officially incorporated and has maintained its mission to protect birds ever since. 

Where Did Audubon Get Its Name?

While many people’s first guess tends to be that Audubon describes a bird of some sort, this is actually not the case; Audubon isn’t a what, but a who. The Audubon Society got its name from a man named John James Audubon, who actually died 35 years before the organization was founded.  


He made sense as a namesake due to the fact that he was an artist who set out to create a complete picture guide to every species of bird native to North America. An avid naturalist and ornithologist in his own right, Audubon worked on the project for years, creating a collection of illustrations of over 400 different species. The collection was ultimately published as a book, Birds of America, which you can still check out online.

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How Does the Audubon Society Help? 

It’s clear that Audubon is all about protecting birds and their habitats, but how does the organization go about it? Audubon uses various approaches, including science, publications, education, hands-on conversation and advocacy, to accomplish its mission. It also hosts and operates multiple events, state-level programs and nature centers.


Last but not least, the society welcomes community involvement in over 450 local chapters. Interested in joining one near you? Check out this handy interactive map to find chapters by you. No matter how you’re interested in helping, Audubon chapters offer many volunteer opportunities. 

You can donate your time to community outreach events such as birding festivals, educational programs and bird area conservation efforts. If you’re looking to help on a political level, there are plenty of opportunities to advocate for bird and habitat legislative efforts on the local, state and even national levels. No matter how large or small, every contribution counts. 

Donating to the National Audubon Society

Audubon’s financial donation plans are flexible and allow you to choose the amount you’d like to give on a monthly, annual or one-time basis. Membership in the society gives you access to a one-year subscription to Audubon magazine, along with access to local birding events. Want to know how your donation will be used? Audubon’s strategies are about as transparent as it gets and are routinely updated on its website. 


There are also several other ways to donate, including gift memberships, memoriam gifts and honor gifts. Audubon even accepts IRA, real estate and stock donations. Last but not least, you can visit the society’s adoption center, where you can choose from various beautiful birds to adopt symbolically and sponsor with a donation.  

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How to Make Your Yard Bird-Friendly

The great thing about the Audubon society is that it focuses just as much on helping people make small-scale changes as it does on pursuing national agendas. It’s an ideal solution if you prefer to donate time instead of money. That’s why its website hosts an Activities and DIY page with lots of fun ideas for making your own yard more welcoming to local birds. 


There, you’ll find tips on everything from choosing plants that are the most bird-friendly to making your own hummingbird nectar, birdhouses and birdbaths. There are also plenty of fun activities for kids that can help nurture a lifelong love of nature and conservation. Want to take things to the next level and take your family out birdwatching? Whether you want to venture into the woods or set up camp in your own backyard, Audubon has everything you need to help you identify different types of birds. The Audubon Bird Guide app for iPhone and Android offers details about over 800 species of different birds native to North America. You can also check out the Guide to North American birds online or read through free tips on birding for beginners.