Annual Impact Report

Annually, we gather information about what we’ve done as an organization to write our Impact Report. We hope to share our accomplishments with our donors, members, partners and all bird lovers. We appreciate everyone who attends and supports our events and programming. We value your commitment to Detroit Audubon, the local environment and all our feathered friends.

Detroit Audubon 2021 Impacts

View the 2021 Report PDF here

When in-person events were cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2020, we knew we had to be creative and stay connected to everyone who counts on Detroit Audubon (DA) for field trips, questions about birds, and general information about the natural world. Webinars and the Flyway Express were our ways to stay relevant and connect with our constituents.

Linnea Rowse presenting on Swifts in the City


Creative Connections: Webinars Continue in 2021

  • 15 Webinars in 2021: Upland Birds, Winter Birding, Detroit River Biodiversity, Native Plants, Hummingbirds, Birding by Ear, Bird-friendly Spaces, Penguins, Elmwood Cemetery Natural and Human History, Chimney Swifts, and Peregrine Falcons. We had 300 sign up for our recent Hummingbirds webinar! 
  • 1,800 registrants plus an additional 1,200 via YouTube mostly from SE Michigan, but also from other points of Michigan, plus California, Texas, Puerto Rico, British Columbia, New York, Maryland and Ontario.
  • All webinars are recorded to our YouTube channel; many folks view the webinars after the initial event and share appreciative comments with us.
  • Webinar presenters include our own staff and volunteers as well as staff from Michigan DNR, Detroit Zoo, Michigan Audubon, Elmwood Cemetery Foundation and Southern Africa Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

A Return to Normal: Field Trips

  • 53 field trips in 2021 with 880 attendees. We are one of the few environmental organizations in Southeast MI leading in- person field trips; which restarted August 2020. 
  • Registrants must agree to abide by our strict COVID-19 safety measures; we have had 100% compliance. We limit the number of field trip participants to comply with Michigan state mandates. 
  •  Field Trips have included a monthly Young Birder’s, St. Clair River, Downriver Birding Blitz (Dingell Park in Ecorse, Bishop Park in Wyandotte, Golf Course in Wyandotte, Elizabeth Park, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh), Belle Isle, Pointe Mouillee, Owl Prowl, Kensington Metropark, Woodcock Watch, and Frog Symphony.

Continued Support: School Programs

  • Through the website and the Flyway Express, we’ve provided links for teachers and homeschoolers to on-line resources and curricula. Some teachers use our webinar recordings as part of their lessons.
  • Our flagship education partnership with four Detroit charter schools is the B.I.R.D.S (Building Informed Resourceful Detroit Stewards) program for 4th and 5th graders. The original curriculum and project established four in-school sessions and four seasonal field trips for each of four classes of students in four charter schools in Detroit. When in-person school programs were again cancelled for 2020-2021, our program coordinator devised alternate activities that teach lessons that are like the original plans. We still managed to conduct six virtual class sessions since January including virtual field trips. We have had Zoom lessons to teach them about Bird ID and eBird. 
  • To aid with at-home learning for these 118 students, Detroit Audubon provided a birdfeeder, bird seed, bird ID poster, Kids Guide to Birds in Michigan books and a pair of binoculars (Wild Birds Unlimited was instrumental in helping us purchase them). In place of the community service project that was to be the culminating activity, each student will be given native wildflowers to plant in their bird-friendly yards.

The FLYWAY Magazine: A Member Benefit

The Flyway magazine is provided as a benefit to members who donate $30 or more per year. The magazine has been in production for 3 years and our full- chapter membership increased by over 40% in the last quarter of 2020! We credit much of this growth to the tremendous popularity of our webinars and field trips, along with our improved communications through the Flyway and the Flyway Express.

Digital Communications: The Flyway Express: 

This bi-weekly e-newsletter is now a permanent communication method to all constituents with an email address. The Flyway Express is used to share information about webinars, online resources, field trips, and volunteer opportunities.

Research and Conservation

Conservation Advocacy

  • We contacted congressional representatives and U.S. Senators to push for restoration of bird protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and sent email alerts urging similar contacts from our members.
  • DA signed coalition letters supporting funding for Great Lakes restoration.
  • DA met with legislators virtually to urge support for Seabird conservation (many Michigan migrants and breeding birds spend part of their life cycle in the marine environment).
  • Sent out an alert to our members suggesting they contact their congressional representatives and U.S. senators to urge them to support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act sponsored by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska.

Long Term Research Focus: Black Terns

  • Our Research Coordinator conducted our ninth summer of research monitoring the Black Tern colony at St Clair Flats with our partners, the Michigan DNR, Audubon Great Lakes, University of Michigan, and Indiana University.
  • We deployed 20 nanotags on juvenile Black Terns to track their movements after fledging and inform conservation efforts.
  • We recorded 99 Black Tern nests and to our best ability tracked each nest to hatching, fledging, or failing.
  • We installed eight nest cameras to closely watch Black Tern nests without disturbing or affecting the nests.

Urban Habitat: Detroit Bird City

  • Detroit Bird City is a multi-year partnership with the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local community groups to transform under-utilized city parks into native wildflower meadows
  • As of 2021 we have planted eight acres of meadow at five different parks and at least four more acres will be planted in 2022.
  • Callahan Park, planted in 2019, was gorgeous in full bloom this August (picture shown right).
  • The two acre meadow at Palmer Park, planted in 2020, is still developing but has been a delight for kids at day camp this Summer
  • We planted three more parks, Bryant-Vermont, Lifsitz and McKinley-Merrick, in 2021.
  • Each Detroit Bird City park will have pathways, signs, and benches when complete to ensure the parks are welcoming to people as well as birds.

Migration: Great Lakes Safe Passage

  • Great Lakes Safe Passage is a long-term effort to minimize bird building and window collisions. DA continues to advocate for buildings to turn their lights off after 11 pm during migration, and for bird-safe building design. Specifically, we installed CollidEscape film at the Detroit Exploration and Nature center at Palmer Park to make the windows visible to birds and prevent bird-window strikes.
  • DA volunteers continue to record specimens of window strikes (dead birds) on the global software called Bird Mapper which collects data from anyone and complies it to determine which buildings are the most harmful to birds and in need of retrofits.

Waterfowl Surveying

Data Collection: Bird Surveys 

In January and February DA continued our participation with Birds Canada in the Detroit River Important Waterfowl Survey.

DA conducted bird surveys and assisted with plant surveys at the Detroit Bird City parks in June and August.

We concluded 2021 with the Detroit Audubon and Rockwood Christmas Bird Count.

Future Conservation Opportunities: Belle Isle

We have engages in discussions for a future banding station on Belle Isle in collaboration with the Detroit Zoo and Audubon Great Lakes for both research and educational purposes. We are in ongoing discussions about enhancing habitat on Belle Isle; especially for grassland birds and are hoping to resurrect the bluebird trail by Blue Heron Pond.


Funding FY 2016-2021

Donations$ 33,295$ 48,991$ 99,979$ 143,571$ 69,826   a$ 140,300
Grants$ 390$ 4,000$ 31,426$ 110,701 b$ 13,760$ 18,286
National Audubon Support$ 15,613$ 15,613$ 15,613$ 0 c$ 15,613$ 15,613
Program Income$ 9,469$ 12$ 19,658$ 10,217$ 2,259$ 2,000
Other Income$ 4,036$ 2,757$ 1,055$ 2,005$ 442$ 118
TOTAL NEW INCOME$ 62,803$ 83,387$ 161,726$ 266,494$ 101,900$ 176,316

a = major donor contributions fell in 2020 (could not meet with them due to COVID-19)

b = grant income received and reported this year for multi-year programs.

c = National Audubon moved end-of-year annual support to early in following year from 2020 forward

Breakdown of Expenses FY 2017-2021

Programming (non-personnel)$ 9,813$ 11,484$ 3,245$ 5,531$ 28,645   a
Office$ 19,620$ 15,847$ 23,783$ 22,092$ 31,847
Info Tech$ 514$ 1,390$ 6,836$ 6,347$ 10,067
Occupancy$ 6,843$ 8,315$ 9,033$ 9,041$ 9,107
Travel$ 5,983$ 6,926$ 6,793$ 1,626 b$ 7,995
Staffing$ 59,785$ 57,288$ 58,787$ 64,397$ 107,331 c
Contracted Services d$ 32,099$ 28,195$ 38,461$ 16,842$ 31,550
Grants Paid Out$ 3,793$ 250$ 0$ 0$ 0
Depreciation$ 1,688$ 1,753$ 1,210$ 1,093$ 318
Misc$ 1,493$ 314$ 0$ 41$ 220
TOTAL$ 139,943$ 131,512$ 146,938$ 125,276$ 227,080 e

a = includes grant-funded interpretive exhibits, benches, etc. for parks that are part of the Detroit Bird City project.

b = reduced mileage reimbursements due to shelter in place and no in-person events in 2020.

c = includes funds to hire an Executive Director starting July 1, 2021 at $54,000 + benefits.

d = fundraising consultant through 2019; bookkeeping services; CPA review of finances in 2017 & 2021; potential communications consultant in 2021.

e = 2021 will draw $39,727 from restricted funds of multi year grants received in 2019 and $10,401 from unrestricted reserves.

* 2021 income and expenses are projected estimates in our budget. 2017-2020 are actual figures. (Level of detail for 2016 expenses not available.)

Previous Annual Reports

2019-2020 Annual Impact Report