AFO History

December 2013 Newsletter: Special Issue on AFO History (download PDF)



A Look Back at AFO’s First 75 Years (1922-1997)
From Bird Banding in New England to International Field Ornithology

The following abstract is reprinted with permission from:
Davis, W. E. 2000. History of the Association of Field Ornithologists (Northeastern Bird-banding Association). In: Contributions to the history of North American ornithology, volume II (W. E. Davis, Jr. and J. A. Jackson, eds.), pp. 263—309. Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, MA.

To download the full chapter, visit The entire volume is available for sale at Buteo Books.

The New England Bird Banding Association (later Northeastern Bird-Banding Association) was formed in 1922. This was a response to a growing need for regional organizations stemming from the federalization of bird banding in North America and a rapidly growing interest in bird banding. During its formative years the organization was run by established Massachusetts ornithologists, including Edward H. Forbush, Charles Wendell Townsend, Alfred O. Gross, Francis H. Allen, John C. Phillips, and Arthur Cleveland Bent. Against strong opposition the Association began publication of a journal (Bulletin of the Northeastern Bird-Banding Association) in 1925. In 1930 it became the national journal Bird-Banding. The financial survival of the Association and its journal in these early years was largely the result of patronage of a few prominent members. The Recent Literature section of Bird-Banding became an internationally recognized feature of an increasingly prominent ornithological journal under the leadership of Margaret Morse Nice. Through the 1970s the organization retained a parochial northeastern identity while Bird-Banding matured into a journal of international significance. The constant financial problems associated with increasing journal production costs were balanced by revenues from mist net sales under the direction of E. Alexander Bergstrom and Brian Harrington. During the 1980s the organization metamorphosed into a national organization with the journal renamed Journal of Field Ornithology, the organization becoming the Association of Field Ornithologists and accepted as a member of the Ornithological Societies of North America (OSNA). During the 1990s increased membership and an inheritance from Charles Blake have produced a strong financial base for the organization. A focus on Latin America, together with a journal that emphasizes field ornithology, have produced a niche for the organization as it prepares to enter the 21st century.