Note: This page is about the history of AOS. For resources about the history of ornithology in general, visit the History Committee page.

The American Ornithologists’ Union (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). Before merging with the Cooper Ornithological Society to form the American Ornithological Society in 2016 (see below), the AOU was 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 archives are housed at the Smithsonian Institution, and a history of the society’s first century was published in 2016.

The Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) commemorated an early western naturalist, Dr. James G. Cooper, and grew from a small band of naturalists in 1893 to an internationally recognized scientific society. The COS was committed to advancing the conservation and management of bird species by applying high-quality science, grounded in natural history, to our understanding of avian biology. The COS archives are housed at several institutions:

Effective 11 October 2016, these two societies merged to form the American Ornithological Society, now the world’s largest professional organization for ornithologists. Join us today!

From the field

Plenty of studies, especially in “birdy” places like shade-grown coffee farms, have shown that birds can provide an economically valuable service to farmers by eating pest insects. But what about in the huge swathes of farmland that cover much of the U.S.? To find out, the researchers behind a recent study in The Condor set up mesh “exclosures” over corn and soybean plants to see how keeping out birds but not insects would affect crops' success. They found that birds had a positive effect on corn crop yield, but a negative effect on soybean crop yield in the adjacent field. For the many farmers that use a corn-corn-soybean rotation schedule, this may suggest economic gain in the long run. Learn more at the blog post linked in our profile! Photos by Daryl Coldren and Megan Garfinkel. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #ecology #conservation #science #agriculture #midwestThe sunbirds are a group of nectar-eating songbirds from Africa and Asia that are a sort of Old World counterpart of hummingbirds. A recent paper in The Condor offered a new reason to prioritize sunbird conservation beyond just At Michigan State I teach two courses, Ecology and Tropical Biology. Each fall during the Tropical Biology course we have a “Tropical Thanksgiving.” Each group of students is assigned a plant family with a distribution primarily in the tropics, and students need to uncover a species in the plant family that humans eat. Then they bring in a dish prepared with that species, like pineapple upside down cake, brownies, or banana cream pie. Our Tropical Thanksgivings tend to be heavy on desserts! #ecology #tropicalecology #tropicalbiology #ethnobotany #botany #plantbiology #thanksgiving
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[Thanks, Catherine! If YOU are an AOS member and would like to be featured here for a week, please get in touch.]We have worked in Panama and Costa Rica in areas undergoing forest restoration. Birds play vital roles in restoration systems by consuming insects that can damage young trees. They also disperse seeds of plants and provide pollination services. Tropical birds are also just cool! Photo credits include Sean Williams. #ornithology #wildlife #science #birds #ecology #conservation #restoration #neotropicalbirds
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We have investigated a number of tactics to deter pest birds in orchards. Inflatable tube-men appear effective in some contexts, if farmers move them around and use enough of them. We have had mixed results with drones; some models and some flight trajectories are likely to be more effective than others in deterring crop-eating birds. Photo credits include Shayna Wiefrich and Ben Hawes. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #agriculture #orchards #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We recently investigated the roles American Kestrels can play in pest management in fruit-production systems. Working with famers in Michigan, we built and installed kestrel nest boxes in sweet cherry orchards. While kestrels nest in the boxes, they provision their young with arthropods, mammals, and birds that consume the cherries. Kestrels also reduce fruit-eating bird activity in the orchards with their presence. Photo credits include Amanda LaFay and Craig Sklarczyk. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #raptors #kestrels #orchards #ecology #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]Hi, I’m Catherine Lindell, #AOSMember and Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications! I'll be taking over the AOS Instagram account this week. I’m an associate professor at Michigan State University in the Integrative Biology Department and the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations. My students and I investigate the roles birds play in managed ecosystems like agroecosystems and areas undergoing restoration. Photos by Sean Williams and Steve Roels. #ornithology #science #ecology #birds #restoration #biology #womeninstem
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