Captive breeding is often touted as a way to preserve species disappearing in the wild. Zoos and related institutions have limited space for animals, however, and use of what space exists may be restricted by conflicting demands of entertainment, education, and propagation. Curators of US bird collections sponsored an analysis of space available for long-term captive management. Seventy-three collections responded to a survey, providing data on 3,174 exhibits and holding areas under their control. The most optimistic analysis indicates room for fewer than 141 long-term management programs. To use space resources optimally for conservation, there is a strong need to develop priorities within management groups. New models and strategies for using captive propagation as a short-term tool to bolster wild populations should be created. Immediate attention should be paid to the most effective and efficient ways of improving husbandry and management techniques for birds. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.