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The mission of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) is to advance the scientific understanding of birds, to enrich ornithology as a profession, and to promote a rigorous scientific basis for the conservation of birds. The AOU provides a professional home for ornithologists and supports members at every career stage, from undergraduate years through retirement.

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The AOU was founded in 1883 by William Brewster, Elliott Coues and Joel Allen out of concern for bird conservation and interest in developing the field of ornithology in North America. Early AOU efforts led to formation of the National Audubon Society and the Biological Survey (now known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Today, the AOU is the largest ornithological society in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest organizations in the world devoted to the scientific study and conservation of birds.

The AOU publishes The Auk: Ornithological Advances, which has one of the highest Journal Impact Factors among ornithological journals worldwide. The Auk is an international journal that advances fundamental scientific knowledge in two ways: increase in the basic knowledge of bird species, both living and extinct; and increase in the knowledge of broad biological and conservation concepts through studies of bird species.

The AOU Checklist is the accepted authority for scientific nomenclature and English names of birds in North and Middle America. The AOU has recently completed a complementary checklist for South American birds. The AOU also sponsors The Birds of North America Online, in partnership with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

The AOU sponsors an annual professional meeting, now held in collaboration with other ornithological societies, fostering an international exchange of ideas and promoting the field of ornithology. Our meetings are exciting and often transformative events. Students, from undergraduates to postdoctoral fellows, are especially welcomed at meetings and are encouraged to attend. The AOU offers many student awards and activities, including student membership grants, travel grants, presentation awards, and special events designed to provide professional development opportunities, training in emerging science, and networking opportunities with ornithologists across North America. The AOU has recently begun to sponsor smaller, regional outreach meetings in an effort to bring together scientists, educators, students, and life long learners to share the latest scientific knowledge about birds and bird conservation.

Each year, the AOU recognizes outstanding contributions to ornithological science by bestowing five prestigious awards upon its members. These include three senior research awards (the William Brewster Award, Elliott Coues Award, and the Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award), one young investigator award (Ned K. Johnson Young Investigator Award), and one service award (Marion Jenkinson Service Award). As dedicated stewards of the field of ornithology, the AOU provides research grants for students and postdoctoral fellows. Individual career progress is recognized via selection of Elective Members and Fellows, and the AOU honors outstanding ornithologists outside North America through election of Honorary Fellows.

Much of the work of the AOU is done by volunteers serving on committees. You can find descriptions of the various committees and contact information on this website.

The Officers, Council, and Committee Chairs of the AOU welcome your input and suggestions. Please join us!

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