In the News

Midwestern chapters of National Audubon Society drop ‘Audubon’ name, citing racist views of organization’s namesake

CNN, October 25, 2023 by Kaitlyn Schwanemann

Three Midwestern chapters of the National Audubon Society, a nonprofit bird conservation group, are dropping the “Audubon” branding over namesake John James Audubon’s racist views and ties to slavery.

The society’s chapters in Detroit, Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, have announced they will now be known as chapters of the “Bird Alliance.”

“It was important for us to collaborate with other Audubon chapters — especially those in our region — in adopting a name that unifies our members and unifies us as organizations,” Gretchen Abrams, executive director of the Detroit chapter, said in a press release.

Read the full article here.


Detroit Audubon will become Detroit Bird Alliance after dropping racist namesake

Detroit Metro Times, October 20, 2023 by Randiah Camille Green

Midwestern birding groups in Chicago and Wisconsin are also changing their name to address John James Audubon’s unsavory legacy 

. . . Midwestern chapters of the birding group in Detroit, Chicago, and Wisconsin are rebranding in an effort to address the problematic legacy.

Detroit Audubon will become the Detroit Bird Alliance, the organization announced Monday. Chicago Audubon is changing its name to Chicago Bird Alliance and Madison Audubon will become Badgerland Bird Alliance.

“Our approach has always been to bring nature and people together in a way that serves both,” said Gretchen Abrams, executive director of Detroit Audubon (soon-to-be Detroit Bird Alliance). “It was important for us to collaborate with other Audubon chapters — especially those in our region — in adopting a name that unifies our members and unifies us as organizations.”

Read the full article here.


Detroit Bird Alliance, formerly Detroit Audubon, flies beyond controversial legacy with new name

Planet Detroit, October 20, 2023 by Nina Ignaczak

Three formerly named Audubon chapters in Detroit, Chicago, and Madison rebrand to foster inclusivity and collaboration. 

Detroit Audubon has rebranded itself the Detroit Bird Alliance. The move is part of a partnership with three bird conservation organizations in the Midwest, previously known as Chicago Audubon, Detroit Audubon, and Madison Audubon, which are changing their names to Chicago Bird Alliance, Detroit Bird Alliance, and Badgerland Bird Alliance, respectively.

The rebrand comes as Audubon chapters across the country grapple with the controversial legacy of John James Audubon, who owned slaves and dabbled in eugenics, and his name’s negative connotations for many community members. 

Read the full article here.


Detroit Audubon is becoming Detroit Bird Alliance! New Name, Same Mission

Detroit Audubon Press Release, October 20, 2023

Detroit Audubon is becoming Detroit Bird Alliance!  

Why Detroit Bird Alliance? The name says it all!

Detroit: Our members reside in the City of Detroit and across southeastern Michigan.

Bird: We are dedicated to birds – to protecting them, preserving their habitat and inspiring an appreciation for all birds. 

Alliance: We are part of a larger network of bird-dedicated organizations. Our conservation efforts rely on collaboration between individuals, communities and organizations. We are stronger together.     

When will the new name go into effect?  Our transition to Detroit Bird Alliance will take place in 2024. 

  • For now, we will operate as Detroit Audubon. All donations and membership renewals may continue through Detroit Audubon and will transition seamlessly next year. 
  • Our affiliation as the Detroit chapter of the National Audubon Society will not change.  
  • In the new year, you’ll notice some changes as we adopt our new name and a new look. 

Detroit Audubon (soon-to-be Detroit Bird Alliance): New name, same mission – to foster the appreciation and conservation of birds and the environment we share. 

Read more about today’s joint announcement and background on the name change here.


Detroit Audubon says it’s changing its name, citing namesake’s racist past

Detroit Metro Times, May 12, 2023 by Lee DeVito

In recent years, a reevaluation of United States history has led to all manner of changes, from the removal of monuments to the renaming of places and things. The Detroit Audubon is among the latest to join, saying its board of directors voted Monday to change the name of the local chapter of the national bird conservation group.

For now, the group says it has not yet decided on a new name. It says it will now begin the work of seeking input from its members with the goal of changing the name by September.

Read the full article here.

Photo credit: Randiah Camille Green: Evan Deutsch and Sarah Peterson at a Detroit Audubon birdwatching trip on Belle Isle.


What to watch: Weird winter waterfowl on Belle Isle

Planet Detroit, March 9, 2023 by Rob Streit

Belle Isle is a birding hotspot year-round, but in the cold months, it offers up the chance to see some out-of-towners from up north. Notes and tips from a local birder. Enjoy reading sections on:

  • A refuge for the mind- or ‘How I got into birding’
  • Embrace your unicorn
  • Don’t worry about expensive equipment
  • Develop your ear
  • Respect birding ethics
  • Respect other birders
  • Help birds
  • Be aware of migration
  • Some insider tips on Belle Isle

Read the full article here.


Great Lakes Moment: The event that saved Humbug Marsh

Great Lakes Now, March 6, 2023 by John Hartig

On that September day in 1998, more than 1,000 rain-soaked and determined people stood up for what they felt was right.

People from all over Michigan and beyond attended the public hearing at Gibraltar Carlson High School, so many that there were traffic jams and the fire marshal had to lock the doors to prevent a larger crowd. The issue at hand was residential development of the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River – Humbug Marsh.

Locally, the saving of Humbug Marsh was viewed as a citizen victory. Indeed, citizens and grassroots organizations like Friends of the Detroit RiverSierra ClubDetroit Audubon and others banded together for nearly ten years in a campaign to preserve Humbug Marsh. But others like Congressman John Dingell, other local elected officials, scientists and natural resource managers also played critical roles. This tremendous public support was a key catalyst in establishing the international wildlife refuge and Humbug Marsh became its cornerstone.

Today, Humbug Marsh is considered an internationally important wetland because of its ecological importance in the Detroit River corridor and the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Oak trees on site have been aged at over 300 years old and were alive when Cadillac founded Detroit in 1701. Indeed, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory has ranked this community as globally imperiled. It serves as vital habitat for 51 species of fish, over 90 species of plants, 154 species of birds, seven species of reptiles and amphibians and 37 species of dragonflies and damselflies.

Read the full article here.


Detroit Zoo leads coalition to connect habitat restoration efforts across the city

Photo Credit: Melissa McLeod

Planet Detroit, January 18, 2023 by Tom Perkins

Detroit Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, Arboretum Detroit and neighborhood groups are working on small and large-scale habitat restoration projects. The challenge is to connect them.

The effort is being carried out by multiple groups and individuals increasingly coordinating to redevelop a system of native habitats across Detroit. Among the restorations are larger neighborhood-scale initiatives like Callahan, “backyard” habitats, and native plant and rain gardens at churches or local businesses. 

Some organizers are coordinating with private-public partnerships responsible for the region’s growing number of large-scale green infrastructure projects, like the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership.

The efforts are critical to sustaining local wildlife because native plant habitats attract thousands of species of insects and lifeforms, said Shafkat Khan, director of conservation with the Detroit Zoo, which is taking on a leadership role.  

Read the full article here.


From Empty Plots to Thriving Wild Spaces

Gretchen Adams of Detroit Audubon at one of the Detroit Bird City parks.

Children & Nature Network, January 2023 by Rosalind Allen

For many, the dawn of a new year marks a fresh start, rife with opportunity for new beginnings, habits and projects. This week’s feature, about transforming empty plots into thriving wild spaces for children and other members of the community, is all about the possibilities that come with investing time and energy into unattended spaces. Guest columnist Rosalind Allen of the RSPB, the U.K.’s largest nature conservation charity, takes us on a whirlwind tour across the U.S. Among others, she visits Detroit Bird City, who plant native wildflower meadows to beautify and revitalize abandoned city parks, and BLISS Meadows, who tend a community farm, summer camps, and natural woodlands on what was once a vacant lot.

As you consider the next dozen months, envision the year as a garden, and ask yourself, “What seeds do I want to sow?” Make a plan, don your overalls and get to work. You’ll thank yourself as you reap your harvest next winter.

Read the full article here.


Looking for a new winter hobby? Try birdwatching on Belle Isle with Detroit Audubon.

Evan Deutsch and Sarah Peterson.
Photo taken by Randiah Camille Green

Detroit Metro Times, January 13, 2023 by Randiah Camille Green

Clouds hung in the sky over Belle Isle on a chilly January morning as a crowd gathered to look for new friends: birds. Birding may seem like a springtime activity, but Detroit Audubon hosts bird watching field trips throughout the winter season. Though winter can be hit or miss, it’s a good reason to get outside instead of being cooped up in the house all winter.

Birding is an activity that takes patience, time, and lots of curiosity, but it can be rewarding in the moments you spot a rare species or connect with like-minded folks. Plus, birding can be beneficial for your mental health.

Read the full article here.


Stateside Podcast: Building a safe space for BIPOC birders

April Campbell, Founder of BIPOC Birders of MI

Michigan Radio, October 17, 2022 by Stateside

Despite the fact that birdwatching is a relatively common hobby, birding groups are often overwhelmingly white. Campbell, an avid birder and retired physician, found she was often the only person of color in the various birding groups she joined over the years.

“When I retired, I decided, well, now I’ll have the time. I want to devote that time to changing this,” she said.

And so, this past year, Campbell formed a group called “BIPOC Birders of Michigan” in partnership with Detroit Audubon. She wanted to create a birding group that felt inclusive and relatable to other people of color.

Listen & read the full interview here or click below.


Building a Black birding community in Detroit

April Campbell, Founder of BIPOC Birders of MI

Planet Detroit, October 3, 2022 by Rukiya Colvin

According to a 2019 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report, just 6% of birders are Black. In Michigan, Campbell decided to create her own local group for Black birders – BIPOC Birders of Michigan. “I called it BIPOC Birders of Michigan because I wanted to be acknowledged that the goal was to have this statewide,” Campbell says.

Finding a local Audubon chapter willing to work with her took a while. In Michigan, local chapters operate autonomously and are unaffiliated with each other and with the National Audubon Society. At first, Campbell hoped to work with the state chapter, Michigan Audubon, but found a good fit with Detroit Audubon.

BIPOC Birders of Michigan held its inaugural event – Blacks, Browns, and Birds – in early June, leading a bird-watching tour through the trails of Detroit’s Palmer Park and ending with a conversation about the joys and challenges Black Birders face. Detroit Audubon helped distribute flyers among Black communities and loaned equipment for the program.

“Detroit Audubon has undergone what I would describe as a sea change in their entire philosophy of birding and outreach,” April Campbell says. “And they have a number of young new people who are really dedicated to making this work.” She’s also building partnerships with other metro Detroit chapters and continues working with supportive Washtenaw Audubon members.

Read the full article here.


These Native Meadows in Motown Aim to Boost Birdlife and Neighbors’ Well-Being

Ava Landgraf, Detroit Audubon Research Coordinator

National Audubon, Fall 2022 by Allison Torres Burtka

A few years ago, Detroit’s Callahan Park was indistinguishable from an abandoned lot, its overgrown turf grass strewn with litter. While the city has been in economic recovery mode since its 2013 bankruptcy, some areas have rebounded more than others, and many of its more than 300 parks look much like Callahan once did.

With two acres planted in 2019, Callahan became the first of five parks transformed through the initial phase of Detroit Bird City, a project led by Detroit Audubon in partnership with the city. The makeovers are a relief for the city’s parks department because the meadows, once established, need little upkeep beyond an annual mowing. For conservationists, they’re an opportunity to create grassland habitat for birds in decline. “A two-acre patch isn’t going to save a species, but it helps,” says Diane Cheklich, a Detroit Audubon board member.

The new habitat will take time to reach its full potential, but Detroit Audubon has already recorded 98 avian species in Callahan Park.

Read the full article here.


The Eagles of Belle Isle

Detroit Is It, July 11, 2022 by Kim Kisner

In February of 2018, two members of the Detroit Audubon Society – Rebecca Minardi and Diane Cheklich – discovered what seemed to be the initial makings of an eagle’s nest – called an aerie – in a large tree near Central Avenue on Belle Isle. Their initial observation turned out to be correct, and the pair of bald eagles had three eaglets in the spring that year and has had baby eaglets each spring since.

Read the full article here.


In Detroit, the long-term fight for biodiversity is bearing fruit (and flowers, and birds, and butterflies…)

Planet Detroit, June 18, 2020 by Jeff Burtka

When invasive species and development overtake prairies, forests, and marshlands in the Detroit area, biodiversity is threatened. But conservation groups are fighting, project by project, to restore some of the region’s natural biodiversity. It’s an effort that requires constant vigilance and takes decades.

“Without these projects, we are losing that habitat where these creatures exist,” says Ava Landgraf, research coordinator for Detroit Audubon. “And without that habitat, they’re going to slowly disappear if we don’t do something about it.”

Read the full article here.


Birds are disappearing. Here’s what we can do about it.

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Detroit Free Press, December 6, 2019

Detroit Free Press Op-Ed by Detroit Audubon Safe Passage Committee Members, Diane Cheklich, Heidi Trudell, and Kami Pothukuchi.

Read the article here or download the pdf here.


Detroit Audubon Turns East Side Park Into a Haven for Bird Watchers

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Detroit Free Press, September 3, 2019

Micah Walker reports on the Detroit Bird City project and the efforts to restore Callahan Park on the city’s east side into a native grassland ecological space.

Read the article here.


MSU to Study Impact of Natural Habitats on Health of Detroit Residents

Kids in Field-2

Crain’s Detroit Business, August 30, 2019

Sherri Welch reports on our efforts with the city of Detroit, Michigan State University, and the National Insitute of Health to study restored green spaces and their effects on people and the environment.

Read the article here.


Opinion: Citizens Must Speak Out Against Destructive Wetlands Bill

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Detroit News, December 7th, 2018

Detroit Audubon President Jim Bull released an opinion piece in the Detroit News about the the need for citizens to call their Michigan House Representative and tell them to oppose SB 1211.

Read the article here.


Opinion: Migratory Bird Protections Under Threat

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Detroit News, September 18th, 2018 by Tyler Klifman

Workshop to highlight how partnerships maximize conservation of unique wildlife in Southeast Michigan

Detroit Audubon President Jim Bull released an opinion piece in the Detroit News about the importance of, and threats to, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of America’s most important pieces of conservation legislation.

Check out the article here.


Urban Bird Treaty Will Advance Conservation in Metro Detroit

SEMCOG, May 31st, 2017

This time of year, the Detroit Riverfront seems more and more like a magnet for people living, working, or visiting downtown. It turns out that same attraction holds true for birds in our region. Southeast Michigan is situated at the intersection of two major migration routes— the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways— and more than 350 species of birds are regularly seen along the Detroit River corridor. For those flying north, the Western Lake Erie Basin and the Detroit River welcome birds to our region with North America’s only international wildlife refuge, spanning 6,000 acres between Toledo and Detroit. The river helps them navigate through the urban area to reach points north, including the globally rare lakeplain prairie habitat in the St. Clair Flats, the world’s largest freshwater delta.

Throughout the year, these natural resources provide critical nesting areas and stopover habitat for millions of birds. In his remarks, Detroit Audubon Society President James Bull, agreed. “You don’t have to go out west or up north to see a bald eagle,” he said. “It’s very common to see one flying over the river or downtown Detroit, because there are 28 bald eagle nests in Southeast Michigan, many of them near the Detroit River. We are also in one of the three best places in North America for watching hawk migration. The most spectacular record was on one day in 1999 when more than 555,000 broad-winged hawks were observed.”

Check out the article here.