Portland Audubon changes name to Bird Alliance of Oregon

The group’s former namesake was an American naturalist and slave owner.

A single-story naturalist building with wooden shingles and a blue metal roof with a round sign of a heron surrounded by pine trees.

The Bird Alliance of Oregon rehabilitates injured and orphaned native animals at its Wildlife Care Center, the oldest wildlife hospital in the state.

Photo by Finetooth

A new chapter for the conservation and education group formerly known as Portland Audubon has taken flight.

One year after announcing its intentions to drop the name “Audubon,” the organization is now officially known as the Bird Alliance of Oregon.

This is the organization’s fourth name since it was founded in 1902 — past versions included Oregon Audubon Society and Audubon Society of Portland — but it’s the first iteration that doesn’t honor John James Audubon. The naturalist and author of a book published in 1827 called “The Birds of America” owned slaves, publicly criticized abolition, and robbed Native American graves.

“Our adoption of a new name is one of many steps in our years-long equity journey to create a more welcoming place,” Stuart Wells, executive director of the Bird Alliance of Oregon, told OPB.

Finding a new name, one that would simultaneously distance the organization from its slave-owning namesake and better underscore its work defending birds and their habitats, was an effort that included collecting feedback from nearly 2,000 Oregonians. Here’s how the Bird Alliance of Oregon defines each part of its new title:

  • Bird: “We were founded in 1902 to protect birds, and that remains at the heart of our work. By calling out birds, we get to quickly and effectively share who we are and why we’re here.”
  • Alliance: “We are strong because of our collaborative relationships with partners, members, volunteers, activists, birders, donors, and learners. It’s only through these connections that we can protect wildlife and wild places.”
  • Oregon: “Our advocacy and education efforts have always been statewide, from the coast to the high desert and sometimes even following ecosystems across state borders. Now our name reflects the fuller geographic scope of our work.”

The Bird Alliance of Oregon isn’t the first such group to distance itself from Audubon; the former Seattle Audubon Society is now Birds Connect Seattle. The National Audubon Society has chosen to not take similar action.

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