Atlanta Audubon assumes statewide role, becomes Georgia Audubon

The Atlanta Audubon Society is adopting a new name, Georgia Audubon, and a new statewide role, in its mission to protect birds, including this eastern bluebird.
The Atlanta Audubon Society is adopting a new name, Georgia Audubon, and a new statewide role, in its mission to protect birds, including this eastern bluebird.

Credit: Esther Little

Credit: Esther Little

The Atlanta Audubon Society announced this week a change of name and an expanded mission, becoming Georgia Audubon.

“With an ever-growing list of conservation threats facing Georgia birds and their habitats, there is a clear need for habitat restoration and resilience, education, and community engagement on a statewide level,” says executive director Jared Teutsch, in a statement. “As Georgia Audubon, we will seek to adopt a broader focus to connect birds and people across the state.”

The Atlanta-based chapter of the national group is one of seven in the state, and the largest, with 1,700 members.

It was founded in 1926 as the Atlanta Bird Club, and later became an independent chapter of the National Audubon Society. Among Georgia chapters, it’s the only one with a paid full-time staff, with eight full-time and one part-time position at its headquarters at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Buckhead.

The National Audubon Society had its beginning in 1896 when two Boston women started inviting their friends to afternoon teas to convince them to stop wearing hats decorated with the plumes of birds. (In the Gilded Age it was the height of millinery fashion to adorn hats with the feathers of woodpeckers, bluebirds, owls, herons and warblers. Millions were killed each year.)

They founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society, naming it after the famed painter, ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon; other state chapters followed. The chapters were loosely organized into a national organization in 1901.

“We’re not looking to supplant the other chapters,” said Dottie Head, director of membership and communication for Georgia Audubon. “This is not a membership grab.”

Rather, Georgia Audubon hopes to expand its efforts at conservation and habitat protection to include areas around the state.

That means, for example, collaborating with the Coastal Georgia Audubon Society to work on protecting the horseshoe crabs of the Georgia beaches, which will help the shore birds, including red knots and Wilson’s plovers, that depend on horseshoe crab eggs to survive.

“We’re rolling out education programs statewide, and we’re looking to do more and be a bigger player from an advocacy perspective and a conservation perspective,” said Head. “We’ve always had an Atlanta bird fest; now it will be a Georgia bird fest.”

Adam Betuel leads a group of birders in a Kennesaw Mountain birding walk in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic hs put a temporary halt to these expeditions, though the Atlanta Audubon Society, now called Georgia Audubon, sponsors "virtual" birding walks online.
Adam Betuel leads a group of birders in a Kennesaw Mountain birding walk in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic hs put a temporary halt to these expeditions, though the Atlanta Audubon Society, now called Georgia Audubon, sponsors "virtual" birding walks online.

Credit: Georgia Audubon

Credit: Georgia Audubon

That spring bird festival had its wings clipped this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but usually consists of organized birding trips to special locations, plus parties, lectures and other events.

Georgia Audubon also hosts “virtual birding” hikes, in which members can follow expert birders live, online, as they tramp through area parks and identify different species.

In September the chapter sponsors a Georgia Grows Native for Birds month, encouraging homeowners to grow native plants, which help provide for Georgia’s birds.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. Georgia Audubon is hosting “Nature’s Best Hope,” a webinar by entomologist Doug Tallamy to show how we can all address biodiversity in our plantings, and slow down the extinctions of bird species, two-thirds of which are at risk.

“Georgia Audubon knows that when we protect birds and the places they need, we are building communities where birds and people can thrive together,” said David J. Ringer, chief network officer of the National Audubon Society, in a statement.

“We’re confident Georgia Audubon will continue to grow their advocacy efforts and groundbreaking programs to benefit the birds, people, and economy of Georgia, and we look forward to growing our partnership.”