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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Audubon Societies

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AUDUBON SOCIETIES are organizations of bird-lovers who work to educate public opinion to a proper appreciation and protection of bird life. The term ‘Audubon Society’ was coined by George Bird Grinnell (q.v.) in 1886, and an organization for the protection of birds at that time started by him attained a membership of 48,862. It was later discontinued, but the name and plan survived. In 1895 Audubon societies were organized in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and during the next few years bird-lovers in many other States followed suit. The national committee of Audubon societies was organized at a meeting held in Washington in 1902; and 1905 saw the organization of the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals, with William Dutcher as president and T. Gilbert Pearson as secretary and financial agent. The generosity of Mr. Albert Willcox provided financial support of the undertaking at this period (more than $331,072 in 1905 and 1906), and at the end of 1906 the Association had an interest-bearing endowment fund of more than $336,000 and an income from other sources of approximately $9,000. In May 1910, the Audubon bill to prohibit the sale of the feathers of native birds in the State of New York was enacted. A similar law has since that time been enacted in about 12 other States. Many laws for the establishment of game commissions and game warden forces, or prohibiting the sale of game, owe their existence to Audubon society activities; and from the beginning the educational side of Audubon work has been prominent. Up to 1 July 1915 the Association had enrolled as Junior Audubon members 373,153 school children, and had given systematic instruction in bird lore to them and to 18,966 teachers. Hundreds of articles bearing on the economic value of birds to mankind have been published in school journals, in various literary magazines and in newspapers throughout the country. A force of six or seven lecturers is maintained, who give illustrated addresses before audiences of school children and to women's clubs, granges and other organizations. A system of courses in bird study is given by the association's special corps of lecturers at many different State summer schools for teachers.

In 1914 the Association began its department of applied ornithology. This is a special work to encourage the people generally to attract birds about their homes by artificial means, and to induce those favorably situated to engage in the propagation of wild ducks and other game birds. Bulletins and lectures bearing on this point are destined to produce a decided influence on popular sentiment.

The National Association of Audubon Societies is to-day a strong, far-reaching institution. While engaging actively in preserving wild life, it recognizes fully the claims of the sportsman, and has no fight with the man who legally kills game birds and game animals. In summer it guards, by means of paid wardens, virtually every important colony of sea-birds on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, as well as on many lakes of the interior. It owns or leases many islands where ducks and sea-birds breed. It originated the system of Federal bird reservations, and co-operates financially with the government in protecting them. It publishes and distributes annually over 6,000,000 pages of bird-protective literature, and the home office has become a general clearing house for all kinds of information in reference to the study and conservation of wild birds and animals. The Association makes expenditures every year for the protection of big game, for feeding game birds and song birds in winter, and in prosecuting violators of the law. The Association collected over $90,000 for the bird-protective cause in 1914, and the friends of the organization speak with pride of the fact that only 7 per cent of the income is being expended for administrative salaries.