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, and engage with other societies and organizations on issues affecting collections such as permitting, specimen preservation techniques, and curatorial practices.

Researchers benefit from museum collections by using specimens and associated data in different kinds of studies. Conversely, museums benefit from researchers using their collections to justify continued support from funding organizations and institutional administrations. Science itself benefits from improved replicability and data aggregation and use. More broadly, this mutual relationship benefits society by providing a scientific basis for studying, managing, and conserving biodiversity on a global scale. 

The use of museum specimens and/or data requires proper acknowledgement of provenance. The committee has developed basic guidelines for acknowledging and citing use of museum specimens and/or data in publications, presentations, and data repositories.

Read about the history of bird collections.

Contact the committee:

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.

Featured Events

Kick-off Webinar & Discussion on the Need for a Specimen Management Plan Requirement
Tuesday, 7 February 2023, 2:00 PM – 3:00 p.m. ET
Please join representatives from the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) and the U.S. Culture Collection Network (USCCN) for a joint webinar discussion on the need for a Specimen Management Plan requirement in research proposals that generate living or preserved specimens. Recommended by the National Academies’ report on biological collections in 2020, this requirement is now supported by the recently enacted CHIPS and Science Act. Join us for a discussion about the elements of a specimen management plan and its benefits to various stakeholder communities.

Webinar Series: Envisioning an Action Center on Biological Collections
7, 14, and 21 March 2023, 1:00 p.m. ET
iDigBio is organizing a 3-part webinar series focused on Envisioning a Biological Collections Action Center as proposed in the 2020 National Academies’ report on biological collections and as supported by the CHIPS and Science Act.  
The first two webinars on March 7 and 14 will feature co-authors of the Academies’ report, including Pam Soltis, Andy Bentley, Joe Cook, Scott Edwards, Talia Karim, Shirley Pomponi, and Barbara Thiers, sharing their personal visions for the Action Center.  The third webinar  on March 21 will feature Scott Miller (Smithsonian Institution), Kevin Hackett (USDA), and Diane DiEuliis (National Defense University) from the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC), Jyotsna Pandey (American Institute of Biological Sciences), and Breda Zimkus (Biodiversity Collections Network, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology). 

Funding Opportunities for Scientific Collections at NSF
On 4 October 2021,the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA), the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), and the U.S. Cultural Collections Network hosted a webinar with program directors from the National Science Foundation (NSF) about recent structural changes to collections-related funding opportunities at the agency.

Forward-Thinking Discussion of Biological Collections
On 14 January 2021, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), in partnership with the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA) and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) organized a joint discussion between the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on the future of biological collections. Representatives from the NASEM panel that authored the report, Biological Collections: Ensuring Critical Research and Education for the 21st Century, and the Extended Specimen Network report writing committee, discussed and leveraged the common themes and associated recommendations from these reports to kick off discussions on the short-, medium-, and long-term implementation plan goals and identify the path forward.

Making Bird Specimen Data More Consistent, Accessible, and Informative
Co-chairs of the AOS Bird Collections Committee and collaborators organized a workshop in February 2021 involving the standardization of bird data fields for improved consistency, accessibility, and discovery. The workshop was well-attended by over 40 curators and collection managers representing a range of museum collections (small and large, public and private, University and free-standing). The primary goal of this workshop was to standardize data values and develop best practices for biodiversity collection databases, thus making it easier for users to query and find data through collection management systems and data aggregators (e.g., Global Biodiversity Information Facility and VertNet). A presentation on the workshop and its outcomes was given at the 2021 virtual AOS meeting.