The CUMV Bird Collection contain a record of the development of ornithology at Cornell from the earliest days of Arthur A. Allen and Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Dr. Arthur A. Allen, on the faculty at Cornell from 1915–1953, made the name Cornell nearly synonymous with ornithology in the United States. Allen contributed many birds to the collection, and possibly even more importantly, attracted a very large number of students interested in birds. His numerous students contributed specimens from their research and travels all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other parts of the world. The CU collection contain many specimens collected by of Cornell faculty such as George M. Sutton, Charles Sibley, William Dilger, and Tom Cade, but also contains student specimens of Dean Amadon, Walter Bock, F. Graham Cooch, John Emlen, Herbert Friedmann, Ludlow Griscom, Harry Hann, Robert Mengel, Eugene Morton, Ralph Palmer, Kenneth Parkes, Olin S. Pettingill, Alan Phillips, Austin Rand, James Rising, Lester Short, Stanley Temple, Harrison Tordoff, David Wingate, as well as many others.
The CUMV Bird Collection currently consists of approximately 38,300 round skins, 700 flat skins, 1,000 spread wings, 5,500 skeletons, 1,400 fluid-preserved specimens, 3,200 egg sets, 590 nests, and 1,000 uncataloged mounts. Approximately 350 of the skeletons have an associated flatskin, and approximately 150 round skins have a separate spread wing. The collection has a world-wide coverage, with approximately half the species of the world's birds (Wood et al. 1982) represented, as well as a number of recently extinct species (such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon). All families (Wetmore 1960) are represented except the Atrichornithidae. Specimens are present from all continents and more than 134 different countries. The collection is particularly strong in North American material; very few species that breed or regularly occur north of Mexico are missing as skins. Strongest holdings within this area are New York, Nebraska, Texas, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Florida, South Dakota, Colorado, Manitoba, and Alaska, but all 50 US states and 10 of the Canadian provinces and territories are represented. The area of next greatest representation is Mexico, especially the states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Tamalipas, Puebla, Nuevo Leon, and Oaxaca. The collection contains much topotypical material, but no type specimens are currently kept in the collection.
Data for specimens and tissues contained in the CUMV Bird Collection can be searched via ORNIS.
Another important bird collection at Cornell is the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. MLNS is the largest collection of its kind in the world, with recordings of over 5,000 species of birds. The Lab of Ornithology is a membership institute dedicated to the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. The Lab fosters understanding about nature and contributes to efforts to protect biological diversity through programs of research, education, and citizen science.