Audubon Centennial

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Did You Know: Award winning Audubon magazine started out in 1899 as Bird Lore for 20 cents an issue?

Historical Highlights: Signature Species

For a century, Audubon has been working to protect birds and their habitat. Here are some of the species where conservation is making a difference.
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1910 Great Egret: The much sought-after plumes of this magnificent creature and the Snowy Egret were worth twice their weight in gold as a fashion accessory at the turn of the century. Fledgling Audubon groups fought for legal protection of the birds, eventually leading to the passing of the Audubon Plumage Law and turning public opinion against the wearing of feathers.
1922 Greater Flamingo: As the numbers of these vibrant birds migrating from the Bahamas in winter to southern Florida diminished and eventually disappeared, Frank Chapman, editor of Audubon magazine's predecessor Bird Lore, discovered their nesting colonies were being raided and destroyed by poachers. In 1922, with the help of the National Association of Audubon Societies, the birds were granted full protection on the Bahamas island of Andros, to the benefit of other wildlife as well. In recent years, flamingos have returned to winter in southern Florida.
1946 Whooping Crane: At nearly five feet, Americas tallest bird has been on the brink of extinction, its numbers dwindling down to a mere 15 in 1941. With the help of expert researcher Robert Porter Allen, the species' previously undiscovered nesting territory was studied and protected, helping to restore their numbers to more than 300 birds in the wild.
1972 Bald Eagle: Despite being top predator in its food chain, the Bald Eagle's population was rapidly diminishing due to the pervasive effects of the insecticide DDT. Audubon launched The Continental Bald Eagle Project, whose efforts led to the banning of this harmful insecticide. As a result, their numbers have recovered significantly.
1972 Peregrine Falcon: The Peregrine Falcon is another species whose numbers declined due to the effects of DDT, causing them to lay eggs so thin that they broke under the weight of the parents. With research and support led by the Peregrine Fund, the species had a chance to recover after Audubon helped ban DDT, through captive breeding programs and guarding hatchlings. The goal was to recover 631 breeding pairs in the U.S. and Canada; today there are around 1,590 in cities from New York to Seattle.
1987 California Condor: Condors, which managed to survive prehistoric times, have not fared as well with modern dangers such as poisons, power line collisions, and illegal shooting. Despite long-running efforts to save the bird, including a study commissioned by Audubon, fewer than 25 remained in the 1980s. A captive breeding program was put into effect, the last free-ranging condor being captured in 1987. While the program has exceeded expectations and 100 condors have been released, including a few who have nested in the wild, it remains to be seen if they can establish a viable population on their own.
1991 Spotted Owl: Federally listed as an endangered species in 1990, the Northern Spotted Owl has been losing its old-growth forest habitat to the aggressive logging of the Pacific Northwest. In 1991 a lawsuit by the Seattle Audubon Society revised standards for protecting owl habitat, leading to the protection of a vast area of habitat under the 1993 Clinton forest plan. However, a new threat has emerged in the form of Barred Owls, which displace and interbreed with this still declining species.
2004 Cerulean Warbler: This tiny warbler is one of the highlighted species in Audubon's 2004 State of the Birds report. They winter south of the U.S. and are rarely found on Christmas Bird Counts which integrates data from the U.S. Geological Survey's Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). BBS analysis shows this warbler's population is declining throughout its range, dropping eighty percent since 1966.
2004 Red-tailed Hawk: A full century after National Audubon's founding, the organization continues to fight to protect birds and the places they call home. The dismantling of the nest of Pale Male, a legendary Red-tailed Hawk who resided on the window ledge of a New York City apartment building, raised a rallying cry among nature lovers the world over. The hawk had survived all odds in one of the most urban cities in America, and managed to fledge twenty-three chicks. National Audubon, together with New York City Audubon, waged a campaign to return Pale Male's nest to the window ledge. Through more than two weeks of nightly vigils, a 10,000-name petition, and nearly 5,000 letters to the building board chair, the nest site was restored.
2005 Red Knot: This colorful sandpiper is on the Audubon Watchlist as a species in decline, and is also listed by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan Council as a "Species of High Concern". Audubon and other conservation groups are fighting to protect its migratory feeding grounds on the mid-Atlantic coast.