Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

What is OSNA? (Ornithological Societies of North America)

Last Updated on

A kingfisher bird

OSNA stands for the Ornithological Societies of North America. It was created in 1979 by a collection of smaller societies dedicated to studying, protecting, and conserving all species of birds. Most organizations allow scientists and laypeople to join, and membership costs are low enough to be affordable to most.

hummingbird divider

OSNA Make-Up

Here are the organizations that make up the OSNA.

American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU)

The AOU is empowered professionals working to advance the scientific study and conservation of birds. It’s the world’s largest international ornithological society, formed in 2016 when the American Ornithologists Union, and the Cooper Ornithological Society, both founded in the late 1800s, merged into one. Regular memberships are $90.

Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO)

The AFO began in 1922 as the New England Bird Banding Association. Dedicated to the scientific study of birds in their natural habitat, it encourages amateurs’ participation in the research. It also works to produce high-quality mist nets and other research equipment. Membership ranges from $20 for students up to $70 for supporting members.

Cooper Ornithological Society (COS)

The Cooper Ornithological Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 2000 members. It began in 1893 as a small group in California. It works to encourage and support birds’ scientific study and spreads interest in conservation and protection. Membership rates are not listed.

Raptor Research Foundation (RRF)

The Raptor Research Foundation is a nonprofit society dedicated to accumulating scientific information about hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls to inform the public of their role in nature and promote their conservation. A regular membership to the RRF is $43.

Waterbird Society (WS)

The Waterbird Society is for those interested in the behavior, ecology, and conservation of waterbirds. It also occasionally awards grants for conservation and scientific research. It’s a nonprofit organization created to help improve the sharing of information between scientists. The standard membership is $50.

Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS)

The WOS is an international society of members who share a curiosity about birds. It’s committed to mentoring professional and amateur ornithologists through sponsorship programs where the student learns about research, conservation, and teaching. Membership rates are not listed.

hummingbird divider

What does the OSNA do?

The OSNA acts as a central hub for the above societies. It allows you to join multiple organizations from one location, and it helps keep you updated on the newsletters, billings, and other events occurring in each society. The OSNA newsletter keeps you updated about any requests for the assistance required by any of the organizations on its roster, professional positions available, and other opportunities that may interest you.

hummingbird divider

Should I join the OSNA?

If you are an avid bird watcher, joining an ornithological society can help you learn more about the birds you see. It can teach you more about the behavior you witness in the field and give you tips on how you can get better photos and find elusive species. These organizations are comprised of real, interactive people who are knowledgeable and happy to answer your questions. You may also learn how to spot threats to animals so you can alert the proper authorities in time. You will get near-daily news about the species you love, and it will help keep you motivated to get out in the field.

If you are an activist or a conservationist, joining can keep you up to date on the dangers facing these animals, and many times, you’ll get real work you can do to help fix the problem. The societies regularly share information, so there are few other places you can feel more like a critical part of a large community.

In either case, the newsletters are fun to read and extremely informative. The information you’re reading is breaking news, and you’ll hear it before anyone outside the field. The membership cards are fairly low, and most give an added discount for a longer-term agreement.

hummingbird divider


We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide to OSNA and have decided to give it a try. As a professional scientist, you can make real advancements by becoming part of a large organization with similar interests. An amateur bird watcher can learn more from reading the newsletters, then they can learn from the many books they may purchase, and the information is fresher. Having a community that can answer your questions and guide you to your goals is invaluable, and you won’t just be getting answers to your questions. You’ll be learning new things as well.

You might also like:

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.