From colorful cardinals to majestic eagles to scavenging vultures, there are nearly 20,000 species of birds throughout the world—and The National Audubon Society cares about them all! As Pete, Pam, Holly, Ricky, and Sue Hollister learn in The Happy Hollisters and The Ghost Horse Mystery, the Audubon Society is an organization committed to the study and protection of birds.

The Audubon Society was founded in 1905, initially with a focus on the protection of waterbirds like egrets and herons. The group is named after John James Audubon, a naturalist and painter who lived from 1785 to 1851. Audubon was also a passionate ornithologist, or someone who studies birds. Throughout the years, the Audubon Society has raised public awareness about birds of all kinds and worked to pass legislation that protects birds and their natural habitats. For example, the Audubon Society successfully lobbied for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, which limits the killing, selling, and transporting of certain bird species. The Audubon Society also played a role in the founding of sanctuaries and nature centers around the United States, including the country’s first wildlife refuge.

Dyed Seagulls Ghost HorseIn The Happy Hollisters and the Ghost Horse Mystery, the children learn more about the Audubon Society when they encounter an unusual pink seagull on their way to Wicket-ee-nock Island. They learn from their local chapter of the Audubon Society (or the “odd bons” as little Sue refers to them!) that the bird is pink because it was painted red, using a bird-safe paint, to track the seagulls in hopes of finding a way to prevent them from being sucked into the engines of airplanes. After a while, the paint faded and gave the bird a unique pink hue! Author Andrew Svenson, who wrote The Happy Hollisters series under the pseudonym Jerry West, was evidently inspired to write this scene—which kicks off another exciting adventure for the Hollisters—after reading an article about how a branch of the Audubon Society in New England “painted” gulls to study and track them.


Along with tracking, studying, and sometimes painting birds, the Audubon Society does many exciting bird-related projects around the world. Their projects range from protecting flamingo habitats in the Bahamas to building a watchlist of endangered and threatened bird species. They also educate the public on the steps they can take to make their homes and communities safer to birds, like how to make nectar for hummingbirds or how to make lawns and gardens friendlier and safer for birds.

Birds share their pretty songs and vibrant colors with us every day, and through their various projects, the Audubon Society gives back to nature and helps make sure that birds have safe places to live, nest, and fly! Like Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue do in The Happy Hollisters and the Ghost Horse Mystery, take some time to learn how you can help your feathered friends by learning about the Audubon Society.

by Libby Svenson Kennedy


Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust