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. View more information on the history of bird collections.

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.

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