Name Change Information ⋆ Tucson Audubon Skip to content

Immature male Vermilion Flycatcher molting to adult plumage, Mick Thompson

Name Change Info

We have some exciting news! 

On May 6th, 2024, Tucson Audubon Society’s Board of Directors voted in favor of changing the organization’s name. This will involve dropping “Audubon” and choosing a new name that better reflects our organizational values and work. 

Here are some answers to questions that might be on your mind.

What’s your new name?

We don’t know yet! Over the next several months we will embark on a collaborative process to select a new name that encapsulates who we are and what we do, while being inclusive and welcoming to all. 

We plan to have a new name in the new year (January 2025). 

How does changing the name help your work?

We are changing our name because birds and their habitats are facing critical threats, and saving them requires everyone’s involvement. In order for our organization to have the greatest impact, we need the support of as many members, partners, and the general public as possible. 

John James Audubon was a white supremacist who owned, purchased and sold enslaved people, openly rejected the abolition movement, and desecrated indigenous burial grounds. 

Although the name “Audubon” was initially chosen by many bird organizations for its broad appeal and connection to the beautiful bird paintings by the 19th-century artist and naturalist, he has a legacy that causes pain, unease, and distrust among partners and community members. 

This is a clear barrier for people who might otherwise become involved in or support our work, and is detrimental to those already in our community. Although a name change is only one aspect of being a more inclusive and welcoming organization, we believe words carry immense weight and signal our larger commitment to diversity, equity, and access.

What was your assessment process?

The organization undertook a thorough and deliberate process before deciding to drop “Audubon” and change our name. During the past couple of months, our naming committee (made up of Board and staff, including members from our IDEA team) gathered important information to make an informed decision about changing our name or not. 

The committee interviewed five other chapters who have gone through this process. Each organization is glad to have made the change and are in full support of us doing so. They all offered to provide resources and other assistance as we move through this process. 

All staff were sent two separate surveys, one in June of 2023 and a follow-up survey in April of 2024. In the most recent survey, thirty staff responded and all were in favor of a name change. As an organization that is proud of the critical work we do to protect birds and their habitat, we also want to be proud of the name that represents us. 

The Committee shared their findings and overall assessment with the Board with a request to move forward with a name change. The name change request was put to a vote at the May 2024 Board meeting and approved. 

Don’t you rely on name recognition to do your work?

Although we rely on our name recognition to an extent, we don’t expect the name change to have any lasting impact on our ability to do our work to the highest standard. We have been working on behalf of birds in Southeast Arizona for 75 years and have deep connections to our communities regardless of our name.

In our birding/conservation bubble it may seem like everyone knows the name Audubon and what it represents. Throughout our assessment process, we heard from many people that it has little to no recognition (or they think we were talking about the German Autobahn, the highway). We now have an opportunity to choose a name that better represents us and more clearly signals what we do. 

Who was John James Audubon? 

John James Audubon was a white supremacist who owned, purchased and sold enslaved people, openly rejecting the abolition movement, and desecrated indigenous burial grounds. He was an artist and naturalist who made significant contributions to ornithology, culminating in the publication of his most well-known book, The Birds of North America. The name “Audubon” was initially chosen by many bird organizations for its broad appeal and connection to his beautiful bird paintings without regard to his harmful legacy. Read more about John James Audubon here.

Are you still an Audubon chapter?

Tucson Audubon Society is part of a national network of 400 local, independent chapters affiliated with the National Audubon Society.

We are, and will continue to be, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit. We are governed by our own Board of Directors, maintain our own membership, and fund all our operations. This is what has allowed us to make our own decision regarding a name change, even when National chose not to change theirs. We are considered a chapter of the National Audubon Society, due to our shared commitment to bird conservation and will continue to share resources and work closely with them into the future.

I have more questions about the name change. Who can I reach out to?

We are committed to our mission to inspire people to enjoy and protect birds through recreation, education, conservation, and restoration of the environment upon which we all depend

Thank you for your continued support!

Want to learn more? 
  1. Is social justice for the birds? Audubon attempts an answer by Clyde McGrady, New York Times (August 2023).
  2. Tahoma Audubon announces their board has voted to move forward in finding a new name (August 2023).
  3. Buffalo Audubon moves toward a new name: Local chapter votes to change name by Janet Gramza, Buffalo News (June 2023).
  4. Detroit Audubon’s board of directors vote to change the organization’s name (May 2023).
  5. Golden Gate Audubon announces their board has unanimously voted to remove “Audubon” from their name, their membership agrees (April 2023).
  6. Why the Audubon name must go: It will save more birds by Christian Cooper, Washington Post (April 2023).
  7. Listen to NPR’s Science Friday National Audubon Society sticks with its name, despite namesake’s racism with Stuart Wells, executive director of Portland Audubon and conservation scientist Corina Newsome (April 2023).
  8. Watch this video announcing the new organizational name for Birds Connect Seattle and featuring Dr. J. Drew Lanham discussing the importance of removing the Audubon name (March 2023).
  9. New York City Audubon announces that their board of directors voted to drop the Audubon name (March 2023).
  10. National Audubon announces the decision to keep the Audubon name (March 2023).
  11. DC Audubon Society publicly announces they will drop the Audubon name (March 2023).
  12. Portland Audubon commits to dropping “Audubon” from their name (February 2023).
  13. The union that represents the staff at National Audubon becomes the Bird Union, calling on National Audubon to change their name as well (February 2023).
  14. Chicago Audubon Society signals their intention to change their name (February 2023).
  15. Watch a recording of Madison Audubon’s November 2022 speaker series featuring Brigitte Fielder, “I’ll Fly Away: Birds and the Enslaved in Flight in Audubon’s World.” Available on Facebook or YouTube.
  16. Audubon Naturalist Society drops controversial “Audubon” from its name: The DC-area nonprofit is among the first to drop the racist ornithologist from its name by Damare Baker, Washingtonian (October 2022).
  17. Audubon’s beautiful birds don’t erase his racist life, by the Seattle Times Editorial Board in support of the Seattle chapter’s decision (July 2022).
  18. Seattle Audubon became the first large chapter to signal its intention to change its name (July 2022). Learn more about their process.
  19. What’s In A Bird Name? by Ariana Remmel, Audubon Magazine (Summer 2021).
  20. A D.C. area environmental group is dropping the name of John Audubon, naturalist who was an enslaver and Indian grave robber by Darryl Fears, Washington Post (October 2021).
  21. River Center’s Expansion and Remodel call for changes — a new Mission, Name, and Logo. Dungeness River Nature Center blog post (September 2021).
  22. What’s in a Name? Plenty, if It Belongs to a Slaveholder or White Supremacist, by Glenn Nelson, South Seattle Emerald (August 2021).
  23. How Audubon societies are grappling with a racist past by Philip Marcelo, The Christian Science Monitor (July 2021).
  24. What Do We Do About John James Audubon? by J. Drew Lanham, Audubon Magazine (Spring 2021).
  25. John James Audubon Was Never Good by Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Gizmodo, (September 2020).
  26. The Myth of John James Audubon by Gregory Nobles, Audubon Magazine (July 2020).