American Ornithological Society

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) is an ornithological organization based in the United States. The society was formed in October 2016 by the merger of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) and the Cooper Ornithological Society.[1] Its members are primarily professional ornithologists although membership is open to anyone with an interest in birds. The AOS is a member of the Ornithological Council[2] and Ornithological Societies of North America (OSNA).[3] The society publishes the two scholarly journals The Auk and The Condor as well as the AOS Checklist of North American Birds.

In 2013, the American Ornithologists' Union announced a close partnership with the Cooper Ornithological Society, including joint meetings, a centralized publishing office, and a refocusing of their respective journals to increase efficiency of research.[4] In October 2016 the AOU announced that it was ceasing to operate as an independent union; it was merging with the Cooper Ornithological Society to create the American Ornithological Society.[5]

American Ornithological Society
drawing of a large flightless bird The Great Auk
Symbol of American Ornithologists' Union, the extinct great auk
PredecessorAmerican Ornithologists' Union
FormationSeptember 26, 1883
Legal statuscombined into AOS (October 2016)
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
  • 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Coordinates41°51′59″N 87°37′01″W / 41.866269°N 87.616997°WCoordinates: 41°51′59″N 87°37′01″W / 41.866269°N 87.616997°W
Region served
Western Hemisphere
Steve Beissinger
University of California Berkeley
Kathy L. Martin
University of British Columbia
Andrew W. Jones
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Rebecca T. Kimball
University of Florida
Main organ
AffiliationsOrnithological Council
Ornithological Societies of NA


Participants of the 13th Congress of the AOU
AOU Letter 1 Aug 1883
Original letter to AOU founders, dated August 1, 1883

The American Ornithologists' Union was founded in 1883. Three members of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Elliott Coues, J. A. Allen, and William Brewster, sent letters to 48 prominent ornithologists inviting them "to attend a Convention of American Ornithologists, to be held in New York City, beginning on September 26, 1883, for the purpose of founding an American Ornithologists' Union, upon a basis similar to that of the "British Ornithologists' Union." The addressees were selected mainly because of their "scientific standing, but somewhat with regard to geographical representation, it being desirable to make the gathering as catholic and non-sectional as possible." Twenty-five responded to the letter and 21 were present at the first meeting.[6] The founding convention was held in the library of the American Museum of Natural History on September 26, 1883. Founding members of the AOU include those present at the inaugural convention, listed below. In addition, the members of the new Union unanimously enrolled two others as founding members: Professor S. Baird, who was unable to attend due to his duties at the Smithsonian, and J. A. Allen, who could not attend due to physical disability.[6]

Presidents of the AOU


Regular membership in the AOS is open to any dues paying person with an interest in birds. Student rates are available for full-time students. Student Membership Awards of a no-cost membership are available to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who wish to pursue a career in ornithology.[8] There are three higher classes of membership, Elective Member, Honorary Fellow and Fellow.[9]

Elective Members are selected "for significant contributions to ornithology and/or service to the Union." When elected, they must reside in the Western Hemisphere. A proposed Elective Member must be nominated by three Fellows or Elective Members and more than half of the Fellows and Elective Members must vote for the proposed member to be declared elected.[9]

Honorary Fellows are limited to 100 and are "chosen for exceptional ornithological eminence and must at the time of their election be residents of a country other than the United States of America or Canada." Nominations for Honorary Fellow are by a special committee appointed by the president or any three Fellows. A vote of the majority of the Fellows present at an annual meeting is required for election. Each Fellow may vote affirmatively for as many as there are vacancies.[9]

Fellows are chosen "for exceptional and sustained contributions to ornithology and/or service to the Union" and must be residents or citizens of the Western Hemisphere when elected. Candidates must be an Honorary Fellow or Elective Member in good standing. A vote of two thirds of the Fellows at an annual meeting is required for election as a Fellow.[9]


The quarterly journal, The Auk, has been published since January 1884. The weekly journal The Condor, has been published since 1899. Other significant publications include the AOS Checklist of North American Birds, which is the standard reference work for the field, and a monograph series, Ornithological Monographs.


The AOS presents annual awards to recognize achievements and service, support research, and encourage student participation.

Scientific Awards

The AOS recognizes members' outstanding contributions to ornithological science through four senior professional awards and three early professional awards:

  • The William Brewster Memorial Award "is given annually to the author or co-authors (not previously so honored) of an exceptional body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere" and consists of a medal and honorarium. The first Brewster Medal was awarded in 1921.[10]
  • The Elliott Coues Award has been presented annually since 1972 to recognize outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research without limitation as to geographic area, sub-discipline(s) of ornithology, or when the work was done. It consists of a medal and an honorarium.[11]
  • The Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, awarded annually since 1993, recognizes lifetime achievement in ornithological research.[12]
  • The Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award honors extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, or preservation of birds and/or their habitats by an individual or team. The award has been presented since 2005 and consists of a certificate and honorarium.[13]
  • Two James G. Cooper Young Professional Awards and one Ned K. Johnson Young Investigator Award are presented annually to recognize outstanding and promising work by researchers early in their careers in any field of ornithology. Each award includes an honorarium, an invitation to give a plenary at the annual meeting, gratis registration, and a travel stipend to the annual meeting up to $1000.[14]

Student Awards

A decline in student membership in the AOU and other ornithological societies prompted creation of a Student Affairs Committee in 2003. Several awards for students were created starting in 2005 as well as activities for students at annual meetings.

  • The Student Membership Award provides one year of full AOS membership benefits for qualified undergraduate or graduate students interested in pursuing a career in ornithology. Students must apply each year during the fall semester from September through December with a resume or curriculum vitae describing their degree program, the expected completion date, their academic or work experience, and interests in ornithology. A note of support from the student's academic advisor is also required. Membership in the AOS is required to compete for travel, research and presentation awards.[8]
  • The AOS Student and Postdoctoral Travel Awards are competitive awards that defray travel expenses to annual meetings of the society for student members. Application procedures are distributed to eligible members each year.[15]
  • A student can compete for one of several AOS Student Presentation Awards when presenting a poster or oral paper at an annual meeting. The Robert B. Berry Student Award is given for the best oral presentation on a topic pertaining to avian conservation. The Mark E. Hauber Award is given for the best oral presentation on avian behavior. Four additional awards are given for the best presentation on any topic in ornithology. Applications are distributed to eligible AOS members.[16]


Much of the AOS's work is accomplished by its thirty-three standing committees. Many of these are common for any organization such as Bylaws, History and Membership. Other committees are of special importance to ornithology.[17]

  • The Committee on Bird Collections is charged with monitoring the status of avian material collections, maintaining liaison with organizations holding collections and conducting and publishing inventories of collections. Its work on permits for the possession and transport of specimens is especially important to museums and researchers.[18]
  • The Committee on Classification and Nomenclature - South America, better known as the South American Classification Committee (SACC) deals with creating a standard classification, with English names, for the bird species of South America.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "AOU History". American Ornithological Society. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Ornithological Council". National Museum of National History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  3. ^ "Ornithological Societies of North America". Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  4. ^ Hagner, Chuck (August 15, 2013). "American Ornithologists' Union plots new course in Chicago". BirdWatching.
  5. ^ "News Release: American Ornithological Society (AOS) Takes Flight". Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  6. ^ a b "The American Ornithologists' Union", Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, VIII (4): 221–226, October 1883
  7. ^ "American Ornithologists' Union: Officers, Elective Councilors, and Editors" (PDF). American Ornithological Society. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "AOS Student Membership Awards". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d "Bylaws of the American Ornithologists' Union" (PDF). October 2006. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  10. ^ "AOS Brewster Award". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  11. ^ "AOS Coues Award". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  12. ^ "AOS Miller Award". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  13. ^ "AOS Schreiber Award". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  14. ^ "AOS Early Professional Awards". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ "AOS Student and Postdoctoral Travel Awards". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  16. ^ "AOS Student Presentation Awards". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  17. ^ "AOS Committees". Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  18. ^ "AOU Committee on Bird Collections". Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  19. ^ "A classification of the bird species of South America". Archived from the original on March 2, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2012.

External links

AOS Checklist of North American Birds

The AOS Checklist of North American Birds is a checklist of the bird species found in North and Middle America which is now maintained by the American Ornithological Society (AOS). The checklist was originally published by the AOS's predecessor, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). The Union merged with the Cooper Ornithological Society in 2016 to form the American Ornithological Society. The checklist was first published in 1886; the seventh edition of the checklist was published in 1998 and is now updated every year by an open-access article published in the Ibis. Seven editions and 54 supplements (minor updates) have been published in the last 127 years. According to Joel Asaph Allen, the Codes of Nomenclature set out in the first edition of the Checklist "later became the basis of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, framed on essentially the same lines and departing from it in no essential respect, except in point of brevity, through omission of adequate illustrations of the rules, and thereby rendering necessary the issuance of official 'Opinions' to clear up obscure points."The current version of the checklist is available online from the website of the American Ornithological Society. The list is updated regularly by the AOS's North American Classification Committee (NACC), which considers proposals related to classification and nomenclature.

Andean ibis

The Andean ibis (Theristicus branickii) is a species of bird in the family Threskiornithidae. It is found in grassland and fields in western South America. This species was considered a subspecies of the black-faced ibis, and some taxonomic authorities (including the American Ornithological Society) still consider it so.


Baeolophus is a genus of birds in the family Paridae. Its members are commonly known as titmice. All the species are native to North America. In the past, most authorities retained Baeolophus as a subgenus within the genus Parus, but treatment as a distinct genus, initiated by the American Ornithological Society, is now widely accepted.

Black-faced ibis

The black-faced ibis (Theristicus melanopis) is a species of bird in the family Threskiornithidae. It is found in grassland and fields in southern and western South America. It has been included as a subspecies of the similar buff-necked ibis, but today all major authorities accept the split. The black-faced ibis also includes the Andean ibis (T. branickii) as a subspecies. Some taxonomic authorities (including the American Ornithological Society) still do so.

Booted racket-tail

The booted racket-tails, a small group of hummingbirds in the genus Ocreatus that was long considered to have only one species, O. underwoodii; field research by Karl-L. Schuchmann published in 2016 found notable differences between some populations traditionally assigned to O. underwoodii, however, and recommended that the taxa annae, addae, and peruanus be raised to species level. The research results have been mostly accepted by the IOC, with more data required for the species status of Anna's racket-tail. The American Ornithological Society has yet to recognize the split.

Peruvian racket-tail (Ocreatus peruanus)

Rufous-booted racket-tail (Ocreatus addae)

White-booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii)

Cardinal (bird)

Cardinals, in the family Cardinalidae, are passerine birds found in North and South America. They are also known as cardinal-grosbeaks and cardinal-buntings.

The South American cardinals in the genus Paroaria are placed in the Tanager family Thraupidae. Contrariwise, DNA analysis of the genera Piranga (which includes the scarlet tanager, summer tanager, and western tanager), Chlorothraupis, and Habia showed their closer relationship to the cardinal family. They have been reassigned to that family by the American Ornithological Society.

Cooper Ornithological Society

The Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), formerly the Cooper Ornithological Club, was an American ornithological society. It was founded in 1893 in California and operated until 2016. Its name commemorated James Graham Cooper, an early California biologist. It published the ornithological journal The Condor and the monograph series Studies in Avian Biology (formerly Pacific Coast Avifauna). It presented the annual Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, which is given for lifetime achievement in ornithological research and was a member of the Ornithological Council.

The aims of the Cooper Ornithological Society were the scientific study of birds, the dissemination of ornithological knowledge, the encouragement and spread of interest in the study of birds, and the conservation of birds and wildlife in general.

In October 2016 the Cooper Ornithological Society ceased to function as an independent body; it was merged with the American Ornithologists' Union. The new combined organization was named the American Ornithological Society, based in Chicago, Illinois. The combined society continues to present the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award.

Glaucous-blue grosbeak

The glaucous-blue grosbeak (Cyanoloxia glaucocaerulea), also known as the indigo grosbeak, is a species of bird in the family Cardinalidae. The IOC considers it to be the only member of the genus Cyanoloxia. However, the South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithological Society assigns three more species to Cyanoloxia which the IOC place in genus Cyanocomsa.It is found in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.

Hairy woodpecker

The hairy woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) is a medium-sized woodpecker, averaging approximately 250 mm (9.8 in) in length with a 380 mm (15 in) wingspan. With an estimated population in 2003 of over nine million individuals, the hairy woodpecker is listed by the IUCN as a species of least concern in North America. Some taxonomic authorities, including the American Ornithological Society, continue to place this species in the genus Picoides, while others place it in Dryobates.

Ladder-backed woodpecker

The ladder-backed woodpecker (Dryobates scalaris) is a North American woodpecker. Some taxonomic authorities, including the American Ornithological Society, continue to place this species in the genus Picoides.

Loye and Alden Miller Research Award

The Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, now known as the AOS Miller Award, was established in 1993 by the Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) to recognize lifetime achievement in ornithological research. The namesakes were Loye H. Miller and his son Alden H. Miller, both of whom focused largely on ornithology.Since the merger of the Cooper Ornithological Society with the American Ornithologists' Union to form the American Ornithological Society in 2016 the award has been presented by the latter.


The Mitrospingidae is a family of passerine birds. It consists of three genera and four species. The family is found in South America and southern Central America. The family was identified in 2013, and consists of birds that have been traditionally been placed in the families Thraupidae. The family was adopted by the American Ornithological Society in their 58th supplement of their checklist in 2017.

Mountain pygmy owl

The mountain pygmy owl (Glaucidium gnoma) is a small owl from Central America. It is considered a distinct species by some authorities, including the International Ornithologists' Union. Others, including the American Ornithological Society, consider to be a subspecies of northern pygmy owl. If considered conspecific, the scientific name G. gnoma is usurped by the northern pygmy owl.


The Passerellidae (New World sparrows or American sparrows) are a large family of seed-eating passerine birds with distinctively finch-like bills. It contains 136 species divided into 28 genera. The American Ornithological Society split the family from Emberizidae (Old World buntings) in 2017.

Ruddy duck

The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a duck from North America and one of the stiff-tailed ducks. The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek oxus, "sharp", and oura, "tail", and jamaicensis is "from Jamaica". The Andean duck was considered a subspecies. In fact, some taxonomists, including the American Ornithological Society, still consider it conspecific.


jamaicensis - North America including West Indies.

andina - central Colombia.

ferruginea - southern Colombia south to Chile.


The tanagers (singular ) comprise the bird family Thraupidae, in the order Passeriformes. The family has an American distribution. The Thraupidae are the second-largest family of birds and represent about 4% of all avian species and 12% of the Neotropical birds.Traditionally, about 240 species of tanagers have been described, but the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux. As more of these birds are studied using modern molecular techniques, some genera are expected to be relocated elsewhere. Already, species in the genera Euphonia and Chlorophonia, which were once considered part of the tanager family, are now treated as members of Fringillidae, in their own subfamily (Euphoniinae). Likewise, the genera Piranga (which includes the scarlet tanager, summer tanager, and western tanager), Chlorothraupis, and Habia appear to be members of the cardinal family, and have been reassigned to that family by the American Ornithological Society.

The Auk

The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal and the official publication of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). It was established in 1884. The journal covers the anatomy, behavior, and distribution of birds. It is named for the great auk, the symbol of the AOU. The journal is published by the American Ornithological Society.

In 2018, the American Ornithology Society announced a partnership with Oxford University Press to publish The Auk: Ornithological Advances and The Condor: Ornithological Applications .

The Condor (journal)

The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed weekly scientific journal covering ornithology. It is an official journal of the American Ornithological Society.

Yellow-breasted chat

The yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens) is a large songbird found in North America, and is the only member of the family Icteriidae. It was once a member of the New World warbler family, but in 2017 the AOS (American Ornithological Society) moved it to its own family. Its placement is not definitely resolved.

Birds (class: Aves)
Fossil birds
Human interaction


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