Audubon Magazine Spring 2021

Audubon is the official magazine of the National Audubon Society. Get Audubon Magazine digital magazine subscription today for news coverage of the natural world. We help our readers appreciate, understand, and protect the environment with a particular focus on birds, other wildlife and their habitats

United States
National Audubon Society
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2 min
beneficial blossoms

If a human and a bird each spied the blooms featured in Andrew Garn’s book Wildflowers of New York City (Cornell University Press, 2021), their takeaways would be staggeringly different. Humans value flowers for their beauty; birds see them as oases—especially native plants, which co-evolved with birds to provide food and shelter. Garn traversed many of the city’s 26 distinct habitat types—including swamps, forests, and urban parks—to find photogenic examples of the more than 2,000 wildflowers in the five boroughs. “I went down this path of photographing wildflowers after hearing how many are actually around me every day,” Garn says. He hopes that by highlighting individual plants, others will take notice. Beautiful things persist everywhere, his book reminds us, even in the cracks of a sidewalk—and with a little care,…

2 min
the man behind our name

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON DIDN’T start this magazine. He didn’t even live to know about the organization that publishes it. But he was the inspiration for a whole movement of Audubons, including the National Audubon Society and its hundreds of affiliated chapters, dedicated to appreciating and protecting birds—not to mention countless nature centers, schools, towns, and at least one zoo, state park, and national wildlife refuge. Audubon’s influence as a naturalist and illustrator of 19th-centurybirdlife is far-reaching. The beauty of his art, as J. Drew Lanham writes in “What Do We Do About John James Audubon?” (page 28), is unparalleled even today. That’s one reason why we ask artists to reimagine plates from Birds of America for our Illustrated Aviary page—incorporating Audubon into not just our name but also the magazine’s visual…

2 min
an era of opportunity

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A FEW weeks make. As I write this, we’re about a month into the Biden-Harris administration, and the conservation landscape has completely changed. With the commitments that the administration has already made to a number of issues important to Audubon, and to you, we collectively have an extraordinary opportunity over the next two years to protect birds and the places they need. We can make meaningful strides to address the climate crisis, and we can make sure the conservation movement and land management practices become more equitable and just, especially for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Our policy team has been working for months to help shape how the different departments in the administration will do business. The United States has officially rejoined the Paris Agreement, and President…

3 min

Mosaic Moment For the past six years, the Audubon Mural Project has enlisted artists to paint more than 120 avian species threatened by climate change on building walls in New York City’s northern Manhattan. The most recent work—a stunning mosaic of two Trumpeter Swans, built from recycled and donated glass, ceramic, and mirror—stands out from the flock. Created by Guatemalan artist Juan Carlos Pinto and Brooklyn native John Sear, the mural came together during a time of forced isolation in a neighborhood that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more about the collaboration, please visit RE: Winter 2020 I am compelled to tell you how outstanding the winter issue was. I loved the story of creating “Chipilo Crisopario.” I want to get a copy of the book, so…

4 min
native ground

FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES THE Blackfeet Nation has fought off attempts to drill for oil and gas in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine area. Nestled in a national forest beside Glacier National Park, the region’s sweeping valleys, rivers, and wetlands—almost entirely unmarred by roads—form the setting of the Blackfeet creation story and host tribal ceremonies today. After winning the latest battle last June, when a federal court threw out the industry’s remaining lease there, the tribe now seeks more enduring protections. Its leaders worked with U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce a bill in July that would permanently conserve nearly 130,000 acres. A new “cultural heritage area” designation would also give the Blackfeet more say in how it’s cared for. “We have our own ethical way of working with the land,” says…

2 min
sound of silence

THERE WERE NO BUSLOADS OF tourists vying for Golden Gate Bridge views in the San Francisco Bay Area last spring, and roads normally clogged with commuters were nearly empty. With pandemic lockdowns in force, behavioral ecologist Jennifer Phillips was struck by the profound quiet—and by a unique chance to see how the area’s White-crowned Sparrows, which she’d recorded in previous years, would respond. What she found was somewhat expected: The birds sang more quietly in the region, which hadn’t been so hushed since the 1950s. But the degree of change shocked the study’s leader, Liz Derryberry at the University of Tennessee. The sparrows’ songs were 37 percent softer—much more than anticipated. It's possible that the birds wanted to avoid standing out to predators. But the songs also featured new characteristics, including…