Chapter of the Month

Chapter of the Month: Mecklenburg Audubon

Audubon North Carolina has 10 amazing chapters across the state who help put a local focus on bird preservation and conservation issues. In this special blog series, we’ll focus on a chapter each month to learn more about their history, what they are working on, and to increase the statewide understanding of special ecosystems and habitats. Each month will include a series of posts about each chapter including a post from our biologists that will share a unique research project that is happening in the chapter’s geographic footprint.

This month, we get to know the Mecklenburg Audubon Society Read on to learn more about our chapter serving the greater Charlotte area.


Charles Sellers, of Charlotte, suggested that the time was right for the people of the county to take a more active part in bird conservation. The suggestion led to talk of a club, and to the gathering of a small group of interested people at the Clarkson home.” (The Chat, March 1941).

The first Audubon chapter in the state, the Mecklenburg Audubon Society was founded in 1940 becoming an official chapter 30 years later. The founding meeting was held at Winghaven, a unique southern garden and urban bird sanctuary developed in Charlotte at the home of Elizabeth and Edwin Clarkson.

During the past 30 years, Mecklenburg Audubon has fostered a love of birds with Charlotte’s citizens. Along with supporting the education of elementary school students by funding the purchase of Audubon Adventures guides distributed to classrooms throughout Mecklenburg County, the group established the Mecklenburg Audubon Sanctuary within Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, and provided grant funding for several local citizen science projects including a “M.A.P.S.” bird banding station at Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge.

This chapter has a rich history of participating in area bird counts throughout the year. A crowning achievement for Mecklenburg, members have rallied local birders to participate in the national Great Backyard Bird Count, and because of their hard work, Charlotte has been one of the top three cities for participation for 11 years running.

How many members:

Mecklenburg Audubon Society has more than 200 active members from 10 counties and two states locally, and more than 1,200 members on the national roster. Because of successful outreach efforts in the community, membership has increased by 10% during this past year alone!

Annual Activities:

Annual out-of-town field trips include fall and winter excursions to Huntington Beach State Park, and trips to Congaree National Park and the Fort Fisher area. Last year, two workshops were held for members including Sparrows and Confusing Fall Warblers. A Birding by Ear workshop is scheduled for March of 2014. And true to the commitment to engage young people in birding, MA is in its third year of spending a day with area campers, which includes fun activities related to birds and bird watching at Piper Glen Golf Club, a favorite for the kids and parents.

Special Projects we are working on:

  1. Members are working with the statewide Bird-Friendly Communities team supporting the Brown-headed Nuthatch next box initiative to place 10,000 boxes across the state by 2015. We are selling boxes and seeking groups to participate in monitoring projects, providing the boxes free of charge. Along with promoting the nest boxes, Mecklenburg distributes Native Plant brochures to the public and encourages Places of Worship to make their properties bird-friendly.
  2. The Lights Out Charlotte program to document bird kills in the center city has completed its first spring and fall monitoring seasons. The volunteer group is approaching a second spring monitoring in the coming months. In addition to collecting fallen birds, Mecklenburg Natural Resources staff is also monitoring nocturnal flight calls during migration periods.
  3. The Breeding Bird Atlas Project will conclude a four-year initiative in partnership with Mecklenburg County Natural Resources, the first of its kind at the county level. A publication documenting the results will be released in the coming years.
  4. To assess wetland property and identify needs to encourage nesting and the sustainability of Great Blue Herons in Cabarrus County, Mecklenburg Audubon is working in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, Cabarrus Soil & Water Conservation and the City of Concord.
  5. Mecklenburg Audubon is educating members and the general public about the need to conserve and preserve Neo-Tropical habitat in Central America for wintering songbirds by offering information about conservation and Bird-Friendly Birds & Beans Coffee. The coffee is available for sale at festivals, events and chapter meetings, and the proceeds benefit purchasing land in Central America that will add to the existing protected Neo-Tropical habitat. Even more protected land will ensure the success of future migrating songbirds.
  6. Under the Prothonotary Project, Mecklenburg Audubon has monitored 11 Prothonotary boxes for four years. They are located in Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge, on the edge of Mountain Island Lake cove. Since the project began, 27 clutches with 59 fledglings have thrived. There are three or four boxes that don’t get used by warblers, so Eastern Bluebirds have taken up residence producing 17 clutches with 45 fledglings!

What birds to see in our area?

While we have lost some species due to city growth, such as the American Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike, we still have a hugely diverse population of birds, including more than 300 nesting pairs of Barred Owls. To the north of the city, Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark, as well as the Loggerhead Shrike. Newly created wetlands invited a Purple Gallinule in this past summer, while two local quarries host Common Ravens annually.

It’s not hard to achieve a 15+-warbler day during migration season, or an 8-10 sparrow day during winter months. We have nesting Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and Mississippi Kites within the city limits, and some Peregrine Falcon have wintered in Uptown for eight years, frequently perching in the O of the Hilton sign. Lake Norman has provided all three jaegers and scoters, Franklin’s, Sabine’s, Thayer’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Western Grebe, Red-throated Loon and Red-necked Grebe. After Hurricane Hugo, Brown Noddy, Black Skimmer and Bridled Tern were reported. Over a 30-year period, 29 species of shorebirds have been spotted in the region!

What are the best Birding spots:

Living in a city the size of Charlotte has its benefits. With more than 37 miles of greenway trails, 24 nature preserves and more than 200 parks, there is no shortage of bird watching locations to try! Latta Park, with a brush-lined creek and second growth trees, is the best Charlotte has to offer for spring migration. Lake Norman and Coddle Creek Reservoir provide large expanses of water for winter ducks. Cowan’s Ford Wildlife Refuge, Latta and McDowell Prairie offer large areas of grasslands. Charlotte is known for its abundance of trees. Add many creeks and brushy understory, and it is easy to find great places to bird.

For more detailed information about birding in the Charlotte area click here.

Join this chapter:

For more information or to join the Mecklenburg Audubon chapter serving the Charlotte area see our membership page or visit the chapter on Facebook.

Mecklenburg Audubon supports a listserv to keep members informed of bird sightings, send meeting notices and other pertinent information. Occasionally there will be a contest of the last Hummingbird seen or the sharing of poetry just for fun. Click here to join our listserv.

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