Department of Ornithology

Courtesy of Martin Heigan/Flickr

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 houses 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 Benin, Brazil, and Mexico.