The American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) is an ornithological organisation in the United States. It is the largest and oldest organisation in the New World dedicated to the scientific analysis of birds. Though AOU is primarily a professional organisation, many among its members of about 4,000 are amateurs who are devoted to the progress of ornithological science. Membership benefits include participation in the scientific ornithological association of the New World, free access to The Birds of North America (BNA) on-line and participation in the yearly scientific meetings. Other benefits include eligibility for travel and research awards, and access to a host of ethnological resources.
The organisation was established in September 1883 by American ornithologists, Elliott Coues, William Brewster and Joel Asaph Allen. AOU’s quarterly journal and official publication, The AUK, has been distributed since January 1884. The journal is named after the Great AUK, a bird that became extinct in the middle of the 19th century. The Great AUK is also the symbol of the organisation. The journal contains articles concerning scientific studies of the anatomy, behaviour, and distribution of birds. Other important publications of the organisation include the ‘AOU Checklist of North American Birds’, the accepted reference composition for ornithology, and the ‘Ornithological Monographs’, a monograph series.
The official committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the South American Classification Committee (SACC), is tasked to create a standard classification, with English names, for the species of birds in South America. This standard classification is subject to constant revision by the proposal system in order to permit incorporation of new data.