The Royal Australian Ornithologist’s Union (RAOU), also called Birds Australia, is the oldest and the largest non-profit and non-government bird preservation organisation in Australia. It aims to preserve and protect bird species in the country as well as in nearby regions. It applied its trade name, Birds Australia, in 1996 for public purposes, but still maintains the name, RAOU for legal matters. RAOU members were motivated by their slogan, “Conservation through Knowledge”.
On July 1, 1901, RAOU was officially established under the name Australasian Ornithologists Union in Melbourne, Victoria after a series of meetings by a group of ornithologists in 1896. Through the effort of Archibald J. Campbell, the organisation, which started with 137 founding members, was formed. Colonel William Vincent Legge of Tasmania was designated the first union president with Dudley Le Souef as the secretary, Robert Hall as the treasurer, and Henry Kendall and Archibald J. Campbell as the auditors. The union has special interest groups tasked to monitor and to provide for the special needs of a few types of birds.
The first major conservation project of RAOU was the Atlas of Australian Birds that focused on fieldworks and lasted for over five years, from 1977-1981. Along with this project, the organisation established bird observatories that serve as field research and recreation facilities such as Eyre (1976), Rotamah Island (1979), Barren Grounds (1982), and Broome (1988). The union purchased vast properties to serve as habitat conservations for birds. Gluepot Reserve (1997) and Newhaven Reserve (2000) were built on those purchased properties. It also published its own journals such as the ‘Scientific Journal’, the ‘Emu’ and the quarterly magazine, ‘Wingspan’.