Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

What Audubon Saw

Dedicated people can create and preserve as fast as we can destroy
© J. J. Audubon (print) View Large

Over the course of John James Audubon’s life, even in the 1800s, he noticed how quickly people were changing the wilderness. Today, hundreds of local, state and national Audubon societies fight for birds and the environment in his name.

Full Transcript



What Audubon Saw

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

In the first decade of the 1800s, when the young John James Audubon first started roaming the vast young United States, he encountered what seemed to him a pristine wilderness. But by 1829, as he traveled the Mississippi by steamboat, he wrote with the sobering voice of an early conservationist:

“When I reflect that all this grand portion of our Union, instead of being in a state of nature, is now more or less covered with villages, farms, [and] towns ... I remember that these extraordinary changes have all taken place in the short period of twenty years.”

As Audubon watched, the natural landscape of the country had been upended, as pioneers moved west and settlements expanded.
But by 1898, early environmentalists had established nearly twenty state-level conservation societies in Audubon’s name. They led the charge to establish the country’s first national wildlife refuge, called Pelican Island, in Florida. And in 1905, the National Audubon Society was formed.

Today, there are nearly 500 local Audubon chapters advocating on behalf of birds nationwide. Regular people coming together to protect the birds they love.

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   August 2019

ID#  jjaudubon-03-2019-08-21    jjaudubon-03

Audubon quoted, p. 337, in Richard Rhodes, John James Audubon: The Making of an American. Vintage, 2004.
See also