The earliest stages of the Wilson Ornithological Society’s development began with the formation of the “Young Ornithologists’ Association,” initiated in 1886 under the leadership of L. O. Pindar and J. B. Richards. They began as a corresponding group of naturalists interested in birds, with notes published in The Oölogist.

Soon after, the Society acquired a constitution and established itself in December 1888 as the Wilson Ornithological Chapter of the Agassiz Association. The fledgling group was named in honor of Alexander Wilson, considered the Father of American Ornithology. Its original purpose was “the study of birds, their nests, and eggs.”

Over the subsequent decades, the group—eventually becoming known as the Wilson Ornithological Club—published its proceedings and articles under a series of diverse titles, culminating in The Wilson Bulletin after 1894 and, most recently, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. The Club adopted its Constitution and Bylaws in 1930 and became the Wilson Ornithological Society in 1955.