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Published May 27, 2022

The Audubon Name

In 1897, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island was founded by a group of concerned citizens to protest the inhumane slaughter of birds for fashion. The organization invoked the name of John James Audubon, as did a number of newly created birding organizations of this time.

Audubon was an acclaimed bird and wildlife artist, and The Birds of America is unarguably an enormous achievement. He died in 1851, 45 years before the founding of what we now call Audubon Societies. His name was recognizable and associated with birds, but he played no part in this conservation movement.
The legacy of John James Audubon, the man, is not inspiring. It is one fraught with racism and arrogance. He was an enslaver and displayed an amazing degree of intolerance over his lifetime. His work was only possible with Black and Indigenous knowledge, even though he viewed people with these identities as his social and cultural inferiors.

Today, the name Audubon is an international brand associated with the protection of birds and habitat. The origins of this environmental movement reflect the intent of its founders, not that of the artist. Although the modern Audubon movement is far removed from the man of which it is named, we recognize that the views held by John James Audubon and early environmental leaders have left a painful legacy and are not conducive to creating the healthy environment we all deserve.

Latest News and Events

Recently, a number of dead shore- and seabirds have been found along the Rhode Island coast. The birds are currently being tested for the presence of HPAI and, although results have not been confirmed, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island is urging individuals to avoid contact with any dead birds they may encounter and to take proper precautions to avoid transmission risk. Dead and dying wild birds should be reported to the RI Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife by calling 401-789-0281. Click to read more.

In this Issue: A Reminder of Why We Do What We Do; Research Updates; Next Chapters; Citizen Science projects. Click here to subscribe to the Audubon bird research email newsletter!

Where do wild animals go in such storms? Where do they shelter and hide? How do they protect themselves from getting too wet or cold? In this installment of the Newport This Week Nature in the Neighborhood series, Audubon Senior Director of Education Lauren Parmelee answers these questions and more!