Welcome to the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History

The Department of Ornithology maintains one of the largest collections of bird specimens in the world. The research collections of the Department number nearly one million specimens; these include skins, skeletons, alcoholic preparations, eggs, nests, and tissue samples for molecular biochemical studies. A large number of type specimens and rare or extinct species are also found in its collections. The specimens represent all continents and oceans and nearly 99 percent of all species. The Department has an ornithology library for research use and maintains laboratories for specimen preparation, skeletal and anatomical analyses and dissections, and a modern molecular laboratory for DNA sequencing (the Cullman Molecular Laboratory).

Research interests include higher level phylogenetics of birds, studies of speciation and species status, and the description of patterns of geographic variation. These investigations are based on skin measurements, plumage color analysis, skeletal measurements and analyses, anatomical dissections, and molecular studies. Additional research involves biogeography of remote areas and life history studies of poorly known taxa. Staff members organize expeditions annually to areas throughout the world; recent expeditions include trips to Bolivia, Africa, and Vietnam.

Collection Information

The Department of Ornithology has a combined collection in excess of one million specimens. The majority of our holdings are in the form of skins (flat and round), supplemented by skeletons, fluid-preserved, egg shells and tissue samples.


This database includes records for Ornithology's entire tissue collection, approximately one-third of their skin collection and subsets of their skeleton and fluid collections.


Listing of staff members of the Museum's Department of Ornithology.


The Frank M. Chapman Memorial Fund of the American Museum of Natural History was set up by Ms. Elsie M. B. Naumburg in memory of Dr. Chapman, a long-term Chairman of the Department of Ornithology at the Museum. Grants for research in several aspects of ornithology are supported by the Fund.

Cullman Molecular Laboratory

The Lewis and Dorothy Cullman Research Facility and the Monell Molecular Laboratory housed in the Department of Ornithology is a state-of-the-art molecular systematics laboratory.