We have about 123,000 bird specimens and other items, comprising mainly skins and egg sets, and fewer skeletons and spirit specimens, giving a broad representation of species from around the world.

Bird skins

Bird skins (c.68,000) are mainly from Britain and the rest of the western Palaearctic. This collection includes around 100 type specimens, which are the specimens on which scientific names are based. Important historical collections include E.V. Baxter & L.J. Rintoul, P.A. Clancey, W.E. Clarke, L. Dufresne, H.W. Feilden & J.A. Harvie-Brown, Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, W. Serle, F.W. Smalley, J.H. Stenhouse, R.G. Wardlaw-Ramsay, H. Whistler, J.I.S. Whitaker and the Zoological Society of London. There are good series of seabirds from oil spills, e.g. Esso Bernicia, Braer and Sea Empress.

Holotype and paratype of Negros Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba keayiClarke

Above: Holotype and paratype of Negros Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba keayi Clarke.

Birds’ eggs

We have about 47,000 clutches of birds’ eggs, which are mainly from Britain and the rest of the western Palaearctic. These date from the 1790s to the present day. Important collections include H.M.S. Blair, W.D.H. Brown & D.A. Humphrey, R.J.B. Christian, R.J. Connor, J.J. Dalgleish, P.R.K. Davis, G. Douglas, L. Dufresne, H.W. Feilden & J.A. Harvie-Brown, G.H.M. Franklin, F. Grant, E. Griffith, K.C. Jacob, O.A.J. Lee, J. Little, J.H. McNeile, R. Nichols, J. Piers Dutton, D.A. Ratcliffe, Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, W. Serle and R. Waddell. The McNeile collection is exceptional for the quality of its associated archive as well as its wide geographical coverage of the western Palaearctic.

We also receive modern specimens, principally infertile eggs from raptor groups in Scotland, and have an extensive collection of egg shells from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (now Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), which were collected originally to test for pesticides and other chemical residues

 Piers Dutton Eggs

Above: Clutches of Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio.

Bird skeletons

We have approximately 6,000 complete and partial bird skeletons from both wild and captive birds. Important series of aged and sexed skeletons have been acquired as a result of oil spills, e.g. Braer and Sea Empress, or natural casualties, e.g. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.

 Bird Skeleton

Above: Wing and skeleton preparation of Great Northern Diver Gavia immer.

Nests

We have a small collection of nests.

Spirit specimens

We also have a small, mainly historical, collection of birds preserved in alcohol.

Back to top

We’re reopening our museums

After nearly five months of closure, we have started to welcome visitors back to our museums with a phased reopening.

Find out more