Building Bird-Friendly Communities

Audubon North Carolina has an amazing staff across the state dedicating their time and expertise to protecting birds and their habitats, and engaging others to support bird conservation efforts. In this blog series, we will introduce you, our supporters, to the names and faces behind Audubon NC. 

As part of the Bird-Friendly Communities program, Kim is engaging citizens across North Carolina to take actions that help birds thrive where we all live, in cities and towns.

Describe your job with Audubon NC?

My job is to empower people to take actions that help birds thrive alongside people, in cities and towns across North Carolina. I work with an amazing team of volunteers who represent dozens of partner organizations across the state, from Audubon chapters to the NC Birding Trail to NC Interfaith Power & Light. I do a lot of listening to figure out what resources people need in order to solve problems for birds – for example, addressing the limited availability of native plants – and working with our Bird-Friendly Communities team and Audubon NC to develop and deploy resources that work.

What inspired you to pursue a career in conservation?

My first inkling that I needed to work in conservation came when I did sea-turtle beach patrols early in the morning before heading to my job at an advertising agency. After being on the beach with sea turtle nests, Black Skimmers, Willets and other shorebirds, I didn’t want to go to work! Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. My commitment to conservation comes from my heart.

What brought you to work with Audubon NC for the benefit of birds?

I started out as a volunteer for my home chapter, Forsyth Audubon Society in Winston-Salem, and through my work with our Lights Out program I got to know the state staff. Curtis Smalling, our Director of Land Bird Conservation, asked me to help him create and co-lead our Bird-Friendly Communities team in early 2013, which I did as a volunteer until grant funding allowed me to join as staff in November 2013.

Why do you feel it’s important to protect and conserve birds in North Carolina and globally?

Birds matter for many practical reasons – because they eat insects, pollinate crops and plant forests – but for me the most important reason to protect and conserve birds here is that our beautiful state would not be worth living in without our birds. All we have to do is look out our window or step outside and listen for birds to give us joy.

Globally, planet Earth would be no fun at all without healthy bird populations! If we act to make sure that bird populations are healthy, we’ve also ensured that humans have what they need – natural areas, clean air and clean water.

How is your work with Audubon specifically helping to protect birds in NC? What particular birds does your work help protect.

My work with the Brown-headed Nuthatch nest box project – working toward our goal of distributing 10,000 nest boxes across North Carolina – helps ensure that Brown-headed Nuthatches will have places to nest, even in urban and suburban areas where leaving dead trees standing (their natural preference) is not a common practice.

My work with native plants for birds means that more native plants are getting put in the ground, and that’s good for our year-round birds like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and for migratory birds like the Wood Thrush and Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Our Lights Out program in three cities – Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem – helps those migratory birds, too, by reducing window collisions, which are a major source of bird mortality.

What is your favorite bird? Why?

My favorite bird is the tiny, adorable Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. It’s one of the first birds I learned to identify by ear. My mentor and thesis advisor Glen Woolfenden taught me the call, a quiet, sweet “pzee…pzee,” at Archbold Biological Station in Florida. Once I learned it, I realized that gnatcatchers were everywhere – all over my neighborhood and pretty much everywhere I went. 

Opening my ears to the sound of birds gave me, forever, a ready source of joy. For me, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a symbol of the beauty that is all around us, all the time, if only we open our eyes and ears and hearts to let it in. Plus, the gnatcatcher is busy flitting about all the time, with sudden bursts of energy, and I identify with that.

What is the most exciting bird you’ve ever spotted? What happened?

The most exciting bird I’ve ever spotted is the Black-faced Solitaire in the rain forest of Panama. I was enchanted by its song echoing through the trees – not unlike our lovely Wood Thrush’s song – but did not see the bird at all. Then, suddenly, it appeared in all its silvery glory, just for a moment, and I got one good look. It was a magical moment!

What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming involved with bird conservation efforts?

Get busy! Now, more than ever before, it’s easy to become involved with bird conservation through eBird and other citizen science portals. Your local Audubon chapter, if you’re lucky enough to have one, will be delighted to have your help with everything from bird counts to nest boxes to specialized surveys of birds like Chimney Swifts or Nightjars. There is so much work that needs to be done, and anyone with an interest in birds can contribute in meaningful ways.

What would you like people to know about birds that they may not already know?

Every day, you can do something that truly helps birds, whether it’s drinking bird-friendly shade-grown coffee, or digging up some grass in your yard and replacing it with a couple of spicebushes or other native plants, that provide the food birds need.

Kim earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Florida. She earned her MS in Zoology from the University of South Florida. She has served on the board of trustees of Audubon North Carolina and as vice president and secretary of the Forsyth Audubon Society.

Kim’s Awards and Recognitions

  • Audubon Toyota TogetherGreen Fellow – 2013-2014
  • Volunteer of the Year Audubon North Carolina – 2013
  • Helen G. and Allan D. Cruickshank Award Florida Ornithological Society – 2000

Kim’s Publications

  • “Breeding bird community of a suburban habitat island: Historic Bethabara Park, Winston-Salem, NC,” co-authored with Katherine K. Thorington, Southeastern Naturalist – 2014.
  • "Body mass variation in breeding Florida Scrub-Jays," co-authored with R. Bowman, Journal of Field
  • Ornithology – 2012

Want to learn more about the team members of Audubon North Carolina? Click here to continue our staff profile series.