Bob McGowan is Senior Curator of Vertebrates and specialises in birds.

He has a BSc Hons in zoology from the University of Edinburgh and joined the bird section at National Museums Scotland in 1978.

Access to the museum’s comprehensive skin collection led to an on-going appointment as museum consultant to Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) in 1990. He was a member of the British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) from 2001 to 2010, and BOURC Chairman for the last four. He was an editor and author for The Birds of Scotland (2007). His interest in historical ornithology and documentation related to his appointment to the Archives sub-committee of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club Library in 2008.

His main interests lie in the history of collections, bird egg collections and the comprehensive archives of the Scottish naturalist J. A. Harvie-Brown (1844-1916), which are held in the National Museums Scotland Library.

The bird section has been involved in preserving specimens of several hundred seabird casualties from three oil spill incidents (Esso Bernicia,Braer and Sea Empress) that have boosted the museum’s contemporary holdings of a number of species. Current collection interest centres on the use of new techniques (DNA and stable isotopes) to help answer questions on taxonomy and faunistics. He currently collaborates with Dr Chris McInerny (University of Glasgow) in compiling the annual SBRC report on rare birds in Scotland, and Dr Martin Collinson (University of Aberdeen) onad hoc genetics-related projects.  

Ten selected publications

  1. McGowan, R.Y. & McInerny, C.J. 2015. Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland, 2013. Scottish Birds 35 (2): 105-125.
  2. McGowan, R.Y., McInerny, C.J, & Scott, M.S. 2014. Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland, 2012. Scottish Birds 34: 3-20.
  3. Collinson, J.M., McGowan, R.Y. & Irestedt, M. on behalf of the British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee. 2014. First British records of ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ Subalpine Warblers. British Birds 107: 282-285.
  4. Shannon, T.J., McGowan, R.Y., Zonfrillo, B., Piertney, S. and Collinson, J.M. 2014. A genetic screen of the island races of Wren Troglodytes troglodytes in the North-east Atlantic. Bird Study 1-8. DOI:10.1080/00063657.2014.894493.
  5. McGowan, R.Y., Floody, Z. & Collinson, J.M. 2013. Sex determination of Brünnich’s Guillemots from Scotland. Scottish Birds 33: 229-232.
  6. Collinson, J.M., Smith, A., Waite, S. & McGowan, R.Y. 2013. British records of ‘Eastern Yellow Wagtail’. British Birds 106: 36-41.
  7. McGowan, R.Y. 2012. Hebridean Song Thrush: a centenary review of mainland occurrences. Scottish Birds 32: 211-216.
  8. McGowan, R.Y. and Stenhouse, I.J. 2010. “An outstanding man among Scottish ornithologists”: Surgeon Rear-Admiral John Hutton Stenhouse (1865–1931). Archives of natural history 37: 227-234.
  9. McGowan, B. [R.Y.] 2009. The decline of the Scottish Ospreys – who was to blame? Scottish Birds 29: 55-58.
  10. McGowan, R. Y.  & Pritchard, J. S. 1990. Notes on Philippine birds, 15. First record of the Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva for the Philippines. Bulletin of the British Ornthologists’ Club 110: 6-7.

For further publications see: National Museums Scotland Research Repository.

Back to top

Discover the story of Scottish pop music as we take you on a musical journey from the 1950s to the present day in our new exhibition.

Members go free!

Book now