Win-Win for People and Birds

     The National Audubon Society, long known for its work to protect our bird populations, has launched an exciting new initiative that is helping not only birds, but thousands of people as well. 

     For the last few years, Audubon has been establishing nature centers right in the middle of some of our largest cities.  As many cities have grown in population and sprawl over the last  decades, birds have had an increasingly difficult time finding the habitat they require.  And many urban areas are hostile to migrating birds.  As they fly through urban areas, the birds cannot find the trees, shrubs, and grassland they need, and so are forced to land on concrete and metal.

     The six urban nature centers Audubon has created so far–in Phoenix, Brooklyn, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Columbus– demonstrate that a wasted industrial site can be transformed into a productive ecosystem teeming with life, even in the middle of a big city!   In the heart of downtown Phoenix, for example, a landfill was replaced with a natural Sonoran Desert habitat that attracts more than 200 species of birds and other animals.  Species once seen only rarely in the area, like owls, roadrunners, hawks, herons, and hummingbirds, are now common sights there.  The newly created habitat includes an environmentally friendly structure, in which adults and kids alike can learn about the flora and fauna native to their area.

     Another urban nature center, New York City’s Prospect Park Audubon Center, is housed in an historic landmark boathouse in Brooklyn.  Around the building, natural habitat has been carefully restored.  As a result, hundreds of bird species have been spotted, including such rare birds as the pied-billed grebe and the American bittern.  The Center includes a cafe, interactive exhibits, a nature theater, and a learning lab.

     In the cities where urban nature centers have been established, adults and children alike have been observing the birds and wildlife there.  That’s a good thing, maintains Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice-president for Education and Centers.  Since most Americans today do live in cities, many, many peoople have little contact with nature.  But by visiting a nature center close to home, city dwellers can gain an awareness of the wealth and beauty of living things that surround them, and have an enriching experience, Braus explains. 

     Braus is especially pleased that the urban nature centers are increasing children’s opportunities to experience nature.  “We are especially worried that children raised in urban settings will grow up with no appreciation of or connection to the natural world,” she explains.  “And if our children have no appreciation for the value of nature,” she asks, “what will the future hold for our birds and wildlife?”  She is hopeful that by providing young people with greater access to nature,  these urban nature centers will help stimulate and develop a new generation of conservation leaders for the future. –April Moore


Prospect Park Audubon Center, Brooklyn

Prospect Park Audubon Center, Brooklyn

2 Responses to “Win-Win for People and Birds”

  1. Elizabeth Cottrell Says:

    This is indeed wonderful news, April. I’m sending the info to my son and his wife in New York City right now.

  2. Priscilla Arsove Says:

    This is wonderful! I look forward to learning more about the Seattle site. Thanks for sharing, April!

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