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Ornithology Exchange (brought to you by the Ornithological Council)
  • Do you like ice cream?

    Fern Davies
    • Author: Ellen Paul (who happens to be the Executive Director of the Ornithological Council but here is expressing her personal views)

      Yes? Then join an ornithological society today!

    We’ve all heard the adage, “He won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” But what they never taught us is that if you don’t feed the cow, the cow will die. No milk. Yes, I know that there’s another step in the process, but dead cows can’t do that, either. Sad to say that many people who study birds enjoy free milk but seem not to understand the basic biology of cows. They enjoy the benefits provided by the ornithological societies for free but seem not to realize that the societies, like cows, need to be fed.


    I can hear you thinking, “What is that woman going on about? Here’s the thing. Every day, as co-administrator of OrnithologyExchange, I approve the new registrations and assign the new members to the appropriate categories. Full membership (we call it society membership) is reserved for those who are members of one of our sponsoring societies. Most others are assigned to general membership.


    Though it is no secret that the ornithological societies are shrinking, it is tough to have to see what that looks like, day after day, when I see how few of the new OE members are members of any one of the OE sponsoring societies. Of the 3,200 members, 1,598 are in the society member category.


    Now, OE is international and it stands to reason that OE members from Europe or Asia might not join societies that they perceive to be U.S.-based and that hold most of their meetings in the United States or elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Some of the societies, however, are actively international – particularly the Waterbird Society, the Raptor Research Foundation, and the Association of Field Ornithologists – and all the societies encourage international membership. For regular members, most societies offer discounted rates for many countries outside the U.S.


    And students – especially undergrads – might not be sufficiently committed to pursuing ornithology that they feel a need to join a society. Though that’s a shame, given that at least one society – the Wilson Ornithological Society - focuses on encouraging and mentoring undergraduates and even high school students. Membership in the societies is quite affordable for students, ranging from $15 to $28 per year.


    Some may feel that because they lack graduate degrees or work in fields other than ornithology, there is no place for them in the societies. That is simply not true. Every society welcomes non-professionals and one – the Association of Field Ornithologists – describes itself as a society of professional and amateur ornithologists dedicated to the scientific study of birds…and they really follow through


    When a new OE registrant is not a member of one of the societies, we try to find out who they are so we can prevent spammers from registering. More often than not, we learn that the new OE member is an ornithologist. They publish in the ornithological journals and teach ornithology. Some have been society members in the past, but no longer. Some don’t call themselves ornithologists. They use labels like “avian ecologist” or “avian conservation biologist.” Call it what you will, the study of birds is ornithology. True, you may study other, non-avian species as well, and of course, no one has sufficient funding to join a half-dozen or more societies. However, it costs little – as little as $25 – to join one of the ornithological societies and every one of them is a great value.


    So what is this great valuable milk that so many want to enjoy without feeding the cow?

    · Great journals – true, you can get most of them “free” via your institution’s subscriptions but what happens when you finish school? And what happens when you want to publish, as most will someday? If these societies can’t afford to publish their journals, you will have fewer and fewer places to publish your research.

    · Great meetings – true, you don’t have to be a member to attend meetings but if the societies can’t afford to hold meetings (which can be fairly costly, especially if the society wants to subsidize student travel), the meetings go away. The meetings offer amazing opportunities to meet potential mentors, advisors, and research collaborators. The meetings offer all sorts of special workshops. The Wilson Ornithological Society just held a workshop on mentoring. The American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society offered a workshop on meeting the challenges of parenting while working in the field. At last year’s meeting in Estes Park, they offered a terrific workshop on negotiating skills. Other recent workshops include radar ornithology, introductory and advanced courses in R, scientific writing, and ornithological careers.

    · Support for travel to meetings and research – Every society helps students to defray the cost of traveling to meetings. Many societies also offer research awards to members.

    · OrnithologyExchange – I admit to bias here, as a co-founder and co-administrator of OE, but I think it is a terrific resource for ornithologists. My co-administrator and I are volunteers, so the cost of OE is extremely low but it isn’t free. The costs are covered by the ornithological societies and the Ornithological Council.

    · Ornithological Council – I admit to extreme bias here, as the executive director of the OCC for the past 16 years. You may not realize it, but the OC makes it easier for you to study birds. We deal with permit policies, animal welfare policies, and myriad other international, federal and state/provincial policies (U.S. and Canadian, primarily), and we make sure that your research findings reach those in government and industry, along with private landowners, when they make decisions that affect wild bird populations. We also keep you informed about policy matters pertaining to wild birds. Nearly all our support comes from the ornithological societies.


    Some say they don’t join a society because there are too many of them and they don’t know which one would best meet their needs. Not a problem. Browse the websites, attend a meeting, ask someone – your mentors, your advisor, the people you work with in field jobs. Some have a taxonomic focus (Pacific Seabird Group, Waterbirds, Raptor Research Foundation, North American Crane Working Group) and some are regional (BirdsCaribbean, Neotropical Ornithological Society, CIPAMEX, Society of Canadian Ornithologists/La Sociétè des Ornithologists du Canada). And you can join more than one! More information about each society is presented here, but bottom line is this:




    Join a society. Any society. Lapsed members – renew. Today. Right now. No time like the present. It is so easy. And for the societies you can join/renew through the Ornithological Societies of North America joint membership service, you can also make a small donation to the Ornithological Council at the same time. What more could you want?



    Founded in 1883, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) is the oldest and largest organization in the New World devoted to the scientific study of birds. Although the AOU primarily is a professional organization, its membership includes many amateurs dedicated to the advancement of ornithological science.





    The AOU produces several authoritative publications of scientific information relating to birds. The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a quarterly journal that contains the results of original scientific research and book reviews. Ornithological Monographs provided an outlet for longer research papers, ranging from over 100 to 1,000 pages. The series began in 1964 and ran through 2014, with 80 volumes in total (many now open access). The AOU also publishes the

    Check‑List of North American Birds, the authoritative source of scientific and English names, taxonomic status, and geographic ranges of all known species of birds in North America, Central America, Hawaii, and the West Indies. The AOU South American Classification Committee is publishing a Checklist of South American Birds.


    Birds of North America ‑ The encyclopedic reference series jointly produced with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Monographic series describing, in detail, the life histories of all species of birds that breed in North America. AOU members have access to the online version.





    The Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO)is a society of professional and amateur ornithologists dedicated to the scientific study and dissemination of information about birds in their natural habitats. Founded in1922 as the Northeastern Bird‑banding Association, AFO continues to be especially active in bird‑banding and development of field techniques. Additionally, AFO encourages participation of amateurs in research, and emphasizes conservation biology of birds. The geographic focus is the Western Hemisphere, with contributions to the ornithology of the Neotropics particularly encouraged. The Association's annual meetings and its quarterly Journal of Field Ornithology reflect these goals.



    Founded as the Society of Caribbean Ornithology (later, the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds), the mission of BirdsCaribbean is to promote the scientific study and conservation of Caribbean birds and their habitats, to provide a link among ornithologists and those elsewhere, to provide a written forum for researchers in the region through the publication of the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology (formerly known as El Pitirre), and to provide data and technical assistance to governments and conservation groups in the Caribbean.


    CIPAMEX (Sociedad para el Estudio y Conservación de las Aves en México A.C.)

    CIPAMEX is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organization whose mission is the conservation of birds and their habitats in Mexico. It has its origins in the formation of the Mexican partner of the International Council for Bird Preservation (now BirdLife International). Prominent individuals acted as representatives of the ICBP in Mexico, including Enrique Beltrán, Miguel Álvarez del Toro, and Allan R. Phillips. In the 1980's, Dr. Mario Ramos organized the Mexican Section of ICBP. The Mexican Section was a national committee that met regularly to exchange information about bird conservation inside and outside the country.


    In 1988, CIPAMEX A C. was legally established with eight founders. Today, there are hundreds of members: students, researchers, and amateurs in ornithology. All who have an interest in birds and their conservation are welcome to join CIPAMEX.


    PUBLICATIONS: CIPAMEX publishes a peer-reviewed journal called “Huitzil”, Journal of Mexican Ornithology, recognized by its quality and editorial excellence as one of the Mexican Journals of Science and Technology by CONACyT. It has also published special volumes about avian conservation in Mexico, the AICAS (IBA´s), and about the status and conservation of old-growth forest and endemic birds in the pine-oak zone of the Sierra Madre Occidental.




    The Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) was organized in 1893 and incorporated in 1934. The name of the Society commemorates an early California naturalist, Dr. James G. Cooper. Today the Society numbers over 3000 professional and amateur ornithologists from around the world. The purpose of the organization is to advance our knowledge of birds and their habitat.


    The objectives of the Cooper Ornithological Society are as follows:

    The observation and cooperative study of birds.

    The encouragement and spread of interest in bird study.

    The conservation of birds and wildlife in general.

    The publication of ornithological knowledge.



    The Condor: Ornithological Applications (four issues per year) publishes original research reports and review articles pertaining to the biology of wild species of birds. Studies in Avian Biology, another COS publication, is a series of works too long for publication in The Condor. It contains both monographs and proceedings of symposia of general interest to ornithologists. It is deposited in over 600 institutional libraries.




    The Neotropical Ornithological Society (NOS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the scientific study of birds and their habitats in the Neotropical Region. NOS organizes the Neotropical Ornithological Congress, a scientific conference held every four years. NOS members include researchers, research institutions, and libraries from all over the world.



    NOS disseminates scientific research though its journal Ornitología Neotropical.




    The NACWG is an organization of professional biologists, aviculturists, land managers, and other interested individuals dedicated to the conservation of cranes and their habitats in North America. The NACWG sponsors a North American Crane Workshop every 3-4 years, addresses conservation issues affecting cranes and their habitats, promotes appropriate research on crane conservation and management, and promotes a better understanding and appreciate of cranes among the general public.


    PUBLICATIONS: The NACWG promulgates technical information including a published Proceedings of a North American Crane Workshop and a semi-annual newsletter.




    The Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) is a society of professional seabird researchers and managers dedicated to the study and conservation of seabirds. PSG was formed in 1972 out of a need for increased communication among academic and government seabird researchers. The principal goals of PSG are (1) to increase the quality and quantity of seabird research through facilitating exchange of information and (2) to identify and assess the importance of threats to seabird populations and provide government agencies and others with expert advice on managing the threats and populations. PSG members include biologists, wildlife managers, students and conservationists from the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and 12 other countries.



    Marine Ornithology is published biannually on behalf of a consortium of seabird groups: including the African Seabird Group, the Pacific Seabird Group, the Australasian Seabird Group, the Seabird Group (U.K.), the Dutch Seabird Group, and the Japan Seabird Group.. The journal is overseen by a steering committee appointed by the supporting seabird societies. Marine Ornithology is published both in hard copy and in electronic form at this, the Marine Ornithology website. For those browsing the electronic version of the journal, papers are available in Portable Document Format (PDF) so that they can be captured as exact facsimile of the printed version for reading or printing. There is no charge for viewing or downloading papers posted by Marine Ornithology.


    Symposia Proceedings: At irregular intervals PSG holds symposia at its annual meetings. Specialized symposia on specific problems are organized to facilitate the exchange of information. Symposia proceedings are often published. Pacific Seabird Group Symposia are initiated by one or more persons with interest in a particular topic area, resulting in a collection of papers usually resented at an annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group. Some symposia are further refined and then published as a Symposium of the Pacific Seabird Group. Past symposia include Seabird Enhancement through Predator and Vegetation Management, Impact of the El Nino of Seabird Biology, The Effects of Human Disturbances on Seabird Colonies. Tropical Seabird Biology, and Rare Alcids. Most of the Symposia are still in print and available for purchase. Titles of the published PSG Proceedings of Symposia as listed.


    Technical Publications: Manuscripts, too long for publication in Marine Ornithology, dealing with any aspect of the biology or conservation of marine birds or their environment will be considered for publication. The first number in this series was recently published ‑ Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project Final Report, of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Seabird Restoration Workshop.




    The Raptor Research Foundation (RRF) is a non‑profit scientific society whose primary goal is the accumulation and dissemination of scientific information about raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons and owls). This information is used to inform the public (both scientific and lay) about the role of raptors in nature, and to promote the conservation of raptors whose populations are threatened by human activities. The RRF's membership consists of academic researchers, government agency employees, and others interested in birds of prey. RRF was organized in 1966 and started publishing a scholarly journal in 1967. The number of members has grown to more than 1200 and, even though based in the United States, it is an international organization including members in some 50 countries.


    The RRF achieves its goals primarily through publication of research reports in The Journal of Raptor Research, but also holds an annual meeting at which research results are presented.


    The RRF cooperates with similar societies in other countries, and with universities, state, and federal natural resource conservation agencies to accomplish its goals of education and

    conservation. Such collaborations have led to scientific meetings in other countries, international cooperation in conservation efforts, and the publication of special reports on threatened raptors.



    The Journal of Raptor Research is a quarterly, referred journal that publishes papers on any aspect of raptor biology, and book reports.




    The Society of Canadian Ornithologists/La Société des Ornithologistes du Canada (SCO/SOC) was established in 1980, when several ornithologists felt that it was appropriate and timely to have a national ornithological society in Canada. The SCO/SOC is now active in several aspects of Canadian ornithology, its major purpose being to contribute to the progress of knowledge on Canadian birds and their conservation. The primary role of the Society is to encourage the study of birds as an important step toward the conservation and public appreciation of birds. The SCO/SOC advocates communication among those who study birds and those who wish to know more about them through a biannual newsletter - Picoides - and annual meetings. The Society issued its first special publication, entitled Biology and Conservation of Forest Birds in the fall of 1999. Currently the SCO has roughly 245 individual members. Most are studying birds professionally, employed by provincial, federal or territorial governments or by universities, or as graduate students. A few are private consultants. A significant number, however, (roughly 15%) are "amateurs;" some of these list their affiliations as bird or naturalist clubs, while some do not give an affiliation.



    Together with Bird Studies Canada, SCO/SOC publishes Avian Conservation and Ecology, an open-access, online journal that focuses on the conservation, ecology, and status of birds.




    The Waterbird Society, an international scientific organization, was established officially following the North American Wading Bird Conference held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1976 and named the Colonial Waterbird Group. The organization changed its name to the Colonial Waterbird Society in 1986. In 1989, the name was changed again to The Waterbird Society. The society is dedicated to the study and conservation of colonial waterbirds and works to establish better communication and coordination among those studying and monitoring colonially‑nesting aquatic birds. Reflecting its international scope and membership, Waterbirds has held its annual meeting in many countries including Mexico, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, and Canada.


    The Society is composed of biologists, researchers, conservationists, students, and others interested in the behavior, ecology, and conservation of colonial waterbirds.



    Waterbirds: the International Journal of Waterbird Biology is published quarterly.




    The Wilson Ornithological Society, founded in 1888, is a world‑wide organization of nearly 2500 people who share a curiosity about birds. Named in honor of Alexander Wilson, the Father of American Ornithology, the Society publishes a quarterly journal of ornithology, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, and holds annual meetings, sometimes jointly meeting with the Association of Field Ornithologists or other ornithological societies.


    Perhaps more than any other biological science, ornithology has been advanced by the contributions of persons in other chosen professions. The WOS recognizes the unique role of the serious amateur in ornithology. Fundamental to its mission, the Society has distinguished itself with a long tradition of promoting a strong working relationship among all who study birds. Each year the WOS awards a number of small grants for ornithological research.




    The Wilson Journal of Ornithology (formerly the Wilson Bulletin) - For more than a century, the WOS has published a scholarly journal with form and content readily accessible to both professional and amateur ornithologists. The journal is a quarterly publication consisting of major articles based on original studies of birds and short communications that describe observations of particular interest. Each issue also includes reviews of new books on birds and related subjects, as well as ornithological news. Through an endowment from the late George Miksch Sutton, each issue of the Bulletin includes a full color frontispiece. The principal focus of the journal is the study of living birds, their behavior, ecology, adaptive physiology and conservation. Although most articles originate from work conducted in the western hemisphere, the geographic coverage of the journal is global.

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