AOU Committee on Bird Collections

Who Are We?

The Committee on Bird Collections is one of many committees of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), the oldest and largest North American society for the scientific study of birds. This committee represents both traditional and non-traditional collections, including skins, skeletons, fluid-preserved material, eggs and nests, genetic resources, and sound or video holdings. Participation on the committee is voluntary. The Chair is appointed annually by the President of the AOU, and membership is determined by the President in consultation with the Chair.


To monitor the status of scientific collections of preserved avian material.

To disseminate knowledge of standards, permits, and techniques relative to the acquisition, maintenance, data management, and use of avian specimens and collections.

To make this information known to curators, managers, and users of collections, and to administrators of institutions owning or entrusted with collections.

To periodically conduct and publish inventories of collections holdings.

To maintain a liaison with related organizations.

Current Members

John Bates Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL
Kim Bostwick, co-Chair Museum of Vertebrates, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Carla Cicero Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Patricia Escalante Pliego Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, México City, MX
A. Townsend Peterson, co-Chair Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center, Kansas University, Lawrence, KS
Paul Sweet American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
Ildiko Szabo Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
Kevin Winker University of Alaska Museum, Fairbanks, AK
Natalie Wright Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida (Graduate Student), Gainesville, FL

Activities and Information

Committee members work on a variety of issues, including permits for scientific research and the importance of collecting voucher specimens. Members also are involved in specific projects relating to biodiversity informatics and collection surveys. All of these efforts are intended to benefit the scientific museum community in ornithology (curators, collection managers, researchers).

AOU Policy Statement on Collecting

The AOU regards responsible collecting of birds as an essential research method for studying the biology, ecology, systematics, and genetics of wild birds. As in laboratory research, methods of collecting used by field workers follow humane guidelines. Specimen collection plays an essential role in documenting the biodiversity of poorly known regions. Collecting specimens from populations known to be endangered or in precipitous decline also has important scientific value, but should be exercised with extreme caution and careful documentation that removal of the proposed number of animals will not adversely affect the population's projected trajectory in size and genetic diversity. The AOU recognizes the difficulty of making these judgments. The AOU is working to develop explicit procedures and criteria for projecting population effects of collecting and evaluating them relative to its benefits. (Policy statement passed by the AOU Council at the 125th stated meeting, Laramie, Wyoming, 8-11 Aug 2007).

News Highlights

The results of a National Science Foundation survey on Scientific Collections have been published. Click here for a brief overview of the findings.

Past News Highlights