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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, one emeritus curator, and four other researchers, all using the collections on a daily basis. We also have five research associates using our collections regularly. Even the U. S. Air Force utilizes our specimens to identify the remains of bird/plane 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 1,500-2,000 specimens each year to institutions worldwide. Our researchers also borrow about double that number of 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. Two full time curators, one emeritus curator, and two support staff are stationed in the museum, conducting research and assisting with collections management activities, primarily with birds from North and South America.