Young Great Horned Owl by Gerrit Vyn.

Annual Report


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“Your support is truly changing our world, and the birds’ world, for the better.”—Linda Macaulay, Chair, Cornell Lab Administrative Board

Key Themes

Harnessing Big Data for Big Impact

For decades, the Cornell Lab has deployed science and technology to enhance the understanding of birds and the world we share. The Lab supports the largest repository of biological data in the world, as well as the scientists committed to mine this resource to support the work of researchers, educators, birders, and conservationists around the globe.

Highlight: In 2018, researchers published a new assessment of Sarus Crane populations in Uttar Pradesh, India—one of over two dozen Indian ornithology papers that have used eBird data since 2016. Since 2014, eBirders in India have submitted 10 million observations of more than 1,300 species. Worldwide, eBirders set a new record by submitting 1.25 million checklists and 20 million observations in just the month of May, 2019.

Sparking Conservation Action

The loss of one out of every four birds in North America over the past 50 years is another reminder of the urgent need to find solutions to challenges facing our planet. The Lab is dedicated to using our best-in-class science to inspire conservation action and inform decision-makers and individuals all around the world.

Highlights: Amanda Rodewald, director of conservation science, testified before Congress in June about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In September, the 2019 State of the Birds report urged investment in state wildlife agencies to help restore wildlife populations (inset).

Amanda Rodewald, State of the Birds 2019Photo by Cornell Lab.

Empowering the Next Scientific Leaders

One of the world’s premier institutes for the study of birds, the Cornell Lab educates students and researchers at all levels. Our vibrant community of scholars benefits from Cornell’s world-class specimen collections; audio, visual, and media archives housed in the Macaulay Library; and the world’s largest biodiversity database, eBird. Studying these digital and physical specimens in concert provides researchers with new insight into the biology of organisms, facilitating breakthrough discoveries.

Highlight: This year the Lab acquired the digital rights to the Handbook of the Birds of the World, which will soon allow the Lab to offer an unprecedented amount of academic research, data, and media for every bird species around the world. The Lab is working with Lynx Edicions, publisher of the original 17-volume Handbook, to create Birds of the World, an online resource that will build on existing information in the handbook to create unparalleled services for students, teachers, and bird lovers worldwide.

Uniting a Broader Audience Through Birds

People from all backgrounds, all around the world, must come together if we are to understand and protect birds and their habitats. The Cornell Lab is collaborating with students, researchers, faculty, staff, and supporters from diverse organizations and diverse backgrounds to further science and conservation, creating programs that address the specific needs of communities and birds worldwide.

Highlight: Twenty birders from across India gathered in the city of Dehradun in April for the Macaulay Library’s first-ever Sound Recording Workshop in South Asia. Workshop attendees learned the fundamentals of natural sound recording, as well as new recording techniques. Participants added over 100 new recordings from India to the Macaulay Library during the workshop, and have since added hundreds more as they continue their recording efforts.

sound workshop in south asiaImage by Cornell Lab.

Inspiring Nature Enthusiasts of Every Age

Nearly 50 million people in North America engage in some form of bird watching, making birds a powerful force for individuals to connect with the natural world, and to care about conserving it. Our thriving citizen-science programs, print and web publications, and online educational offerings enable us to reach and inspire a wide range of bird enthusiasts.

Highlight: This year the Cornell Lab K–12 program launched eBird Explorers, which provides teachers with hands-on, lessons for students to make careful observations, conduct bird surveys, and analyze data to explore trends and patterns of bird occurrence. With this series of teacher-tested, standards-based activities, students become scientists across the grade levels.

4th Graders conduct an eBird count. Photo by Robin KovalPhoto by Robin Koval.


Revenues and Expenditures

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology continues to thrive, thanks to our supporters. Thousands of members and donors provided more than 60% of our annual revenue during fiscal year 2019, a total of $20.2 million that expands our capacity to effect change for the birds.

As an organization, the Cornell Lab uses our strength as a mission-driven nonprofit that is also part of a large research institution to better leverage our resources, and link our conservation work to the latest ornithological research and technological developments. In the past 10 years, the Cornell Lab has bolstered existing programs and launched new ones, created dozens of additional positions, and broadened our scope so we can tackle issues on a global level.

All of this was made possible thanks to members like you, whose generosity has helped fuel the steady growth illustrated in the bar chart below. Thank you. We’re pleased to include a downloadable list of our leadership supporters here.

Financials 2019

10-Year Trend

The bar chart depicts healthy growth over the past 10 years with revenues exceeding expenditures, allowing the Lab to continually expand and strengthen our vital research, education, and conservation efforts.

Download the Full 2019 Annual Report

Download previous annual reports here:
2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Annual Operating Revenue and Expenditures 2010-2019

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