Marcia Fowle Takes Flight

Marcia Fowle at her weekend retreat in the Berkshires. Photo: Lisa Sheble


This article appears in the Spring 2023 issue of The Urban Audubon.

By Lauren Klingsberg, Publications Committee Co-Chair

When Marcia Fowle announced that she was stepping away from NYC Bird Alliance and moving out of New York City, my first reaction was that I could not imagine NYC Bird Alliance without her. When I walked into NYC Bird Alliance’s office in 1998 to offer to work on its newsletter, I met a cheerful, personable woman who made the prospect of volunteering with NYC Bird Alliance sound both substantive and fun (both of which have proved to be true). Marcia was at that point the first and only employee of a fledgling organization.

In 1992, when she interviewed to be NYC Bird Alliance’s first executive director, she was looking to put her recently earned degree in city planning to use. She described herself then as “not a birder”; but over her 30-plus-year career working and volunteering for NYC Bird Alliance, she has made a remarkable and indelible difference for the City and its birds. Marcia served as executive director for six years: a time that saw the emergence of Project Safe Flight, now one of NYC Bird Alliance’s signature projects; the Jamaica Bay Restoration Project; and a comprehensive nesting survey of Central Park.

As she segued from the role of executive director to that of volunteer, she maintained the ethos of NYC Bird Alliance, which she describes as “not casual volunteerism.” As a volunteer, she has served continuously on the NYC Bird Alliance board of directors or advisory council, serving for many years as the council’s co-chair. And for nearly 25 years, she and I have co-edited The Urban Audubon and served as co-chairs of the publications committee. Marcia has steered the newsletter through multiple major redesigns (see below) and many years of growth. It’s been quite a run.

Marcia has accomplished much more, however. She authored, along with past Harbor Herons Nesting Survey Coordinator Paul Kerlinger, The NYC Bird Alliance Society Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area, making accessible important and then extremely hard-to-find information on how to go about engaging in a burgeoning pastime. She edited Bird-Safe Building Design, NYC Bird Alliance’s signature and first-of-its-kind document that provides architects and builders with invaluable guidance on the construction of buildings less lethal to the City’s bird population. And she has served on countless Fall Roost committees, growing NYC Bird Alliance’s annual fundraising event to the gala benefit it is today.

These are just a few of Marcia’s many accomplishments, which are too long to list here in total. But it is her warmth and wit that I will miss the most—along with her pragmatic, can-do attitude and the stories she tells of the organization’s history and of her passionate and colorful fellow volunteers and staff. In no small part due to her tenacity and drive, NYC Bird Alliance has grown to better represent the City and to better protect its birds. We will miss her dearly.

Though Marcia is moving this summer to Vermont with her husband, bird-friendly architect and longtime NYC Bird Alliance supporter Bruce Fowle, we are happy to report that she will remain on NYC Bird Alliance’s advisory council. We look forward to a continuing relationship and wish both Marcia and Bruce well in their new habitat.

Marcia Fowle’s tenure as NYC Bird Alliance executive director, president of the board, co-chair of the advisory council, and co-editor of The Urban Audubon has seen the organization through great change and growth. Cover photo/illustration, left to right: Arthur Morris, Alan Messer,  Rik Davis, Elizabeth Craig, Don Riepe, David Speiser. Banner Art: Muriel Henriques, Leslie Watkins. Logo: Roger Whitehouse, reitdesign