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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Birds

Labrador Duck
Labrador Duck
Christina Gebhard © Smithsonian Institution
Collage of Tanagers
Christina Gebhard © Smithsonian Institution

The National Collections are maintained as a resource to promote ornithological research, and as such, are irreplaceable. Between 200 and 400 scientists from around the world visit the collections each year to conduct research in the biogeography, evolution, systematics, taxonomy, paleontology, and ecology of birds. Our staff in the Division of Birds includes two full time curators, two emeritus curators, and two other researchers. We also have two research associates using our collections regularly. The Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration utilizes our specimens to identify the remains of bird/aircraft strikes. All of these researchers are supported by the four collection management staff members who also work in the Division. They help make the collections available to scientists unable to visit the museum by loaning specimens each year to institutions worldwide. Our researchers also borrow specimens from other museums each year to support their research programs.

The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is affiliated with the Division of Birds through a formal partnership with the National Museum of Natural History continuously since 1889. One full time curator is stationed in the museum, conducting research primarily with birds from North and South America.