Animal Welfare Resources

The Ornithological Council believes strongly that birds, both wild and captive-bred, should be treated humanely, both in the laboratory and in research conducted in the wild. We also believe strongly that research has intrinsic value, especially when that research will benefit the species being studied – as is the case in ornithological research. Unlike research that uses animals as test subjects for a purpose that will not benefit those animals (e.g., animal models used in biomedical research), ornithological research is conducted for the purpose of understanding bird biology and ecology. To help achieve the goal of humane treatment of all birds, the OC publishes a variety of resources for researchers, animal care and use committees, and others.  

 Recent Policy Changes

In Feb. 2023, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services released a final rule regarding the regulation of birds-not-bred-for-research under the Animal Welfare Act. Read more on the Ornithology Exchange here and review the OC Fact sheet regarding the regulations of birds under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.

 OC Publications

Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research: This foundational publication provides an in-depth guide to the animal welfare considerations when performing research involving wild birds, including ethical considerations and the legal framework that must be followed by researchers. Topics include: investigator impact generally, collecting and trapping, marking, transport, housing and captive breeding, minor and major manipulative procedures, and euthanasia. 

Chart of guidance related housing of wild birds, based on the Guidelines.

Model Wildlife Protocol: Working with the  American Society of Mammalogists, the Ornithological Council developed a protocol form designed specifically for wildlife research conducted either in the field or in captivity, to be used by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. 

Animal Welfare Policy: Implementation in the Context of Wildlife Research—Policy Review and Discussion of Fundamental Issues: Also known as the “wildlife FAQ,” this paper was originally “commissioned” by the Animal Subjects Committee of the Federal Demonstration Partnership, an association of federal agencies, academic research institutions with administrative, faculty and technical representation, and research policy organizations that work to streamline the administration of federally sponsored research. It was published in the journal of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Welfare of the National Research Council (of the National Academy of Sciences) and serves as a touchstone for researchers, IACUC members, and Institutional Officials as well as for funding and oversight agencies.

Other Resources

Webinar: Wildlife Research Permits: What IACUCs Need to Know [external link to OLAW]

IACUC Central [external link to the website]

Animal Welfare Assurances” issue of the NIH’s All About Grants podcast [external link to NIH]