The AOS Committee on Bird Collections provides information on resources and support for collection management, data access, and specimen-based research. The committee also advocates broadly for the value of collections in research and conservation. Committee members are active in the collections community, engage with other societies and organizations on issues affecting collections, and work closely with the Ornithological Council on permitting regulations.

For more information on Collections Committee activities, contact

Basic Collection Facts

Who uses collections?

Collections are used by academic and non-academic scientists, educators, students, environmental consultants, wildlife managers, and law enforcement agents (e.g., state and federal agencies). Scientific uses of collections include taxonomy, evolutionary biology, ecology, behavioral ecology, conservation biology, parasitology, zooarchaeology, paleontology, and epidemiology.

What is in collections?

Collections housing bird specimens contain a wide variety of materials, including study skins, spread wings, skeletons, eggs and nests, genetic resources, constructed objects, audio and video recordings, photographs, field notes, correspondence, and other archival documents.

Where do you find collections?

Institutions housing collections vary from large public museums to public and private universities, local museums and non-profit organizations, small teaching colleges, field stations, and wildlife refuges. Digitized collection holdings are accessed through data portals served by institutional collection management systems and broader data aggregators.

When were specimens obtained in collections?

Bird collections have specimens from the 18th century to the present, and represent important temporal snapsots of species at particular places in time.

How are specimens obtained?

Specimens are obtained through a variety of sources, including active collecting for scientific research, salvage of dead birds (e.g., window kills, road kills, solar farms, windmills, cats, etc.), wildlife rehabilitation centers, monitoring programs (e.g., bird banding networks), airport control programs, and zoos. Collections require that specimens are legally acquired through the necessary local, state, federal, and/or international permits.


AVECOL is a discussion group devoted to topics of interest to the ornithological collections-based community. Its primary purpose is to improve communication among those interested in curatorial practices and specimen-based research. It is not to be used to broadcast requests for loans or detailed information requests (for queries about specimens in collections, search collection data sources).

To join AVECOL, you first need to be registered for Ornithology Exchange. Once registered, email the moderator Carla Cicero (ccicero[at] with your login name (subject: request to join AVECOL) and ask to be added to the group. In order to maximize the benefit of AVECOL, select “Follow” on the landing page for the group to receive content when new notifications are posted.

Upcoming Events

June 13, 2020: Digital Data 2020: Harnessing the Data Revolution and Amplifying Collections with Biodiversity Information Science

From the field

Congratulations to all of the recipients of this year's AOS awards! Our annual awards honor members for their research and volunteer work. The work of the 2020 awardees spans a diversity of ornithological disciplines from genetics to landscape ecology in a range of habitats around the world, as well as invaluable service to AOS and ornithology. This year’s slate of awardees represents just a small sample of the broad diversity of our members and the contributions they are making to the scientific study and conservation of birds. Learn more about all of them at the link in our profile! #ornithology #science #biologyThe charismatic Euphonia and Chlorophonia finches are small, colorful birds that inhabit forests and woodlands from Mexico to Brazil as well as much of the Caribbean, and how exactly they fit into the songbird family tree has been debated for 20 years. The researchers behind a paper recently published in The Auk used tissue specimens and study skins from every species in this group to generate 40 *billion* base pairs of sequence data, including nearly 5,000 loci from the nuclear genome and near-complete mitochondrial genomes for every species. This amazing dataset shows has helped resolve their relationships once and for all. It also suggests that this group likely dispersed from South America into the Caribbean and North America multiple times between 2 and 4 million years ago, lending support to a younger geological timeframe for the formation of the Isthmus of Panama than argued by some other recent studies. Photos by Daniel J. Field (University of Cambridge) and Tyler Imfeld. #ornithology #science #birds #wildlife #neotropicalbirds #taxonomy #biology #finchesOne final #NationalVolunteerWeek post! Meet Rebecca Kimball, longtime AOS volunteer and Treasurer of the society since 2015, one of the leaders helping shape AOS's future. We hope you've enjoyed celebrating Volunteer Week with us!Today for #NationalVolunteerWeek we're featuring Brian Peer, who's given his time to chair the AOS Research Awards Committee for the past eight years, leading the group that evaluates applications for Student Research Awards. Thank you, Brian!AOS is celebrating #NationalVolunteerWeek! Today, meet Kyle Horton, who volunteered his time to judge student presentations at last summer's AOS meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.Today for #NationalVolunteerWeek, meet Lori Hargrove! Lori works at the San Diego Natural History Museum and is a regular reviewer for AOS journal The Condor. Scholarly journals can't function without reviewers like Lori, who volunteer their time to read and assess the papers that are submitted.We're celebrating #NationalVolunteerWeek! AOS couldn't function without the many members who volunteer their time to assist with our meetings, publications, awards, and other programs, and we'll be introducing you to one of those volunteers every day this week. Today, meet Juita Martinez, a PhD student who helped staff the registration desk at last year's annual AOS meeting in Anchorage, Alaska!
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