Birds are some of the most effective indicators of our ever-changing environment. Because of the diversity of their habitats, their observable nature and their place near the top of the food chain, disrupted or unhealthy birds are clues that the environment is out of balance. Birds are threatened by water and air pollution, habitat destruction and the effects of toxic chemicals and pesticides. The National Audubon Society works to protect birds and other wildlife and to conserve the ecosystems that support them.

Bird Image Gallery­

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David McNew/Getty Images
The Audubon Society works to protect birds and other wildlife. See more ­pictures of birds.

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­The National Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization based in New York City with state and local chapters throughout the United States and international chapters. The national organization focuses primarily on fighting for legislation that strengthens or protects federal environmental and wildlife policies. The society also promotes scientific research and educational programs about birds and their habitats.

The Audubon Society is best known for its chapters' efforts to promote bird watching and create backyard and loca­l habitats for birds. The society has helped make bird watching the popular hobby it is today. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 63 million bird watchers in the country [source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service].

John James Audubon
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­The Audubon Society's namesake actually had nothing to do with the organization's founding -- he died 35 years before the organization's first incarnation. But John James Audubon's career as a scientific illustrator of birds made his name a natural choice for an ornithological society.

After a failed business venture in Kentucky, Audubon headed west with his gun, art supplies and an assistant to begin a collection of avian illustrations. His large, colorful and extremely detailed depictions of birds proved enormously successful when they debuted in London in 1826. The illustrations were eventually printed in a collection entitled "Birds of America."


In this article, we'll learn about the history of the Audubon Society and the society's programs. We'll begin with the origins of the organization.