Our Mission

Bird Town Pennsylvania works in partnership with local municipalities and like-minded organizations to promote community-based conservation actions to create a healthier, more sustainable environment for birds, wildlife, and people.

Bird Town Pennsylvania – A Brief History

The Bird Habitat Recognition Program Came First!

Since 2010, the Bird Town Program has grown and evolved, first starting as a means to amplify the Bird Habitat Recognition Program. This program, the Bird Habitat Recognition (BHR) program was launched earlier in 2008 as a program of Audubon Pennsylvania. It was an offshoot of the Audubon At Home initiative wherein the National Audubon (NAS) promoted small and private spaces as potential bird habitat.  With the exception of a few local programs (Ohio, Northern Virginia) sharing some of the original support from the USDA, Audubon At Home was a broad, national information resource aiming to inspire homeowners to create better bird habitat using native plants and measure to protect birds (from pesticides, windows, etc.).

The primary writer and researcher, Steve Saffier, who developed the Audubon At Home content in early 2003, saw an opportunity for on-the-ground application when he shifted from the national office to the state office of NAS in 2008.  Almost immediately and with funding from Together Green (Toyota), he developed the BHR.

The Bird Habitat Recognition program slowly grew, but with a staff of one and a limited budget, it was not reaching its potential to create a large network of like-minded people and communities.  So, in 2010, the concept of Bird Town originated primarily as a mechanism for which information about habitat stewardship and BHR could be magnified.  Early on, environmental consultant John Rogers was contracted to work with Steve in developing a strategy for the rollout of Bird Town.  The two met regularly, often at John’s residence, to shape and develop the program which included a train-the-trainer component and a book John self-published for the training module.

The First Bird Town Programs

When they had a general plan in place, they approached Upper Moreland Township to further develop and pilot the program.  For nearly a year, monthly meetings were held with the Director of Parks and Recreation and the township’s EAC chair.  Subsequently, and after approval from the township supervisors, Upper Moreland became Audubon’s first Bird Town.  (See article here: https://patch.com/pennsylvania/uppermoreland/upper-moreland-designated-first-bird-town-in-pennsylvania)

Not long after, other municipalities were approached and adopted the Bird Town program which had to be adapted for each because of varying political structures, habitat and constituent dynamics, and the wants and needs of the community.  Schuylkill, Radnor, Longswamp, Upper Dublin and others were among the early adopters.  (See articles here: https://www.audubon.org/news/schuylkill-township-be-first-bird-town-chester-county; https://www.mainlinemedianews.com/2013/02/05/audubon-society-takes-radnor-under-its-wing-as-first-delco-bird-town/)

In the first few years, there were goals but no set criteria for a township to meet in order to “qualify” to become a Bird Town.  It was important to gain visibility and acceptance from municipalities prior to this level of scrutiny.  However, eventually requisite benchmarks were put in place and towns would have to meet them first to become a Bird Town.

Pictured: Cindy Nuss, Barbara Malt, Steve Saffier, Connie Sanchez, Janet Krevenas, Leigh Altadonna

The Growing Bird Town Program and Its Impact

Ultimately, Bird Towns, once designated, were encouraged to innovate and create opportunities for their community members that they thought would be well-received.  What came out of that were nest building workshops, parade floats, speaker events, pop-up gardens and plant sales/swaps, and dozens of other programs that brought people together in joyful celebrations of backyard nature and vibrant, native habitats.

The original intent was realized as well; Bird Towns doubled the number of Bird Habitat Recognition properties.  Property owners within Bird Towns had the extra benefit from knowing they were part of a mindful and supportive community.  Wyncote Audubon, under the leadership of Leigh Altadonna, demonstrated that Audubon chapters are the key partner in Bird Towns and spearheaded efforts for the support and designation of numerous new Bird Towns in Montgomery County and beyond.  By late 2018, there existed 28 Bird Towns in seven counties and nearly 2,000 register BHR properties across the state with concentrations in the southeast.

In 2011, synergy between the Montgomery County Parks Department, the Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, Audubon, area schools, and three Bird Towns in the western part of the county, led to the origination of the Upper Perkiomen Bird and Wildlife Festival which became a thriving event that continues to this day.  Along with the valuable presence of Wyncote Audubon and the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, the festival is a unique assembly of nature vendors, environmental non-profits, governmental natural resource agencies, wild rehabbers, native plants growers, artists, musicians, scout groups and more, all converging at Green Lane  each September for a fun day in nature.

Changing Times for the Bird Town Program

After Audubon PA conducted an extensive review of the Bird Town program in late 2020, recommendations were made. Following these guidelines, a Bird Town Working Group was established in March of 2021 to create an advisory committee to help run the program and work as a liaison to Audubon PA and the different Bird Town Programs. When Audubon PA merged with other state offices to create the regional office of Audubon Mid-Atlantic, their new leadership decided in July 2021 that they would no longer support the Audubon Bird Town Pennsylvania program.  After the withdrawal of support in July, the Bird Town Pennsylvania Working Group shifted their focus and created a new trademarked logo, a website, a new Board structure and a dynamic program to engage more deeply with their leaders and to further expand throughout Pennsylvania by working with various partners, including the Pennsylvania Audubon Council, Audubon Chapters and WeConservePA.

SUPPORT

We provide support to municipalities and their residents to assist in transforming landscapes to sustainable and life-supporting habitats for everyone.

INSPIRE

We inspire community-based actions that create a culture of conservation.

PROMOTE

We promote environmental awareness through engagement, education, birding activities and community involvement.