Most birders know that there are bird observatories out there. Some are relatively well-known, such as Pt. Reyes in California, Cape May in New Jersey, and the Rocky Mountain in Colorado. Bird observatories are not like astronomical observatories. While one can usually see birds on the trails provided at most bird observatories, the focus of the institution is much more. The primary focus of almost all bird observatories is the preservation of birds and bird habitat of the area. There is also an emphasis on education and outreach, dissemination of information through newsletters and mailings, and often research projects. But what about the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the American Bird Conservancy, EarthFirst!, and other organizations? What do these others do? Audubon Societies also restore and conserve habitiat for birds, and focus a lot on education and outreach. Audubon groups are also advocacy groups - they involve themselves in environmental issues and represent a voice for people interested in preserving our natural environment. EarthFirst! does the same, but in a much more dramatic and direct way. The Nature Conservancy's main mission is to preserve land by acquiring and protecting it. The American Bird Conservancy has a broad mission to coordinate and link groups and organizations together to address threats to birds and further research into combating those threats.
When you get the chance to be a member of a conservation organization, remember its mission and its purpose. Try to join as many as you can - a lot of these groups depend of membership for a majority of their funding. It's a great way to get involved in bird conservation.
Caracara photo by Joe Kennedy