Bird Department

The bird collection consists of approximately 67,000 study skins, 9,000 skeletons, and 36,000 clutches of eggs. We also maintain a small tissue collection containing samples from eastern North American taxa.  The collection, worldwide in scope, has especially strong collections of Philippine and Central and South American birds. The holdings represent about 4,000 bird species. About 140 taxa are in the type collection. Extinct species are also represented. Formation of the collection began when the Museum was founded in 1957. Among the collections that can be found here are those of George Miksch Sutton, Allan R. Phillips, Olin S. Pettingill, T.D. Burleigh, D.S. Rabor, M. Hachisuka - D.S. Ripley, Vivien Hewitt, and Sibley’s Yale-Peabody Expedition.  We also maintain an archive that contains field notes and other documentation from some of these collectors.

The skeleton and skin collections are fully databased and can be searched at the ORNIS2 portal or the GBIF portal.  The egg and tissue collections are not yet databased.  Further information about the collection and requests for data or loans should be directed to Curator of Birds Jean Woods, Ph.D., at jwoods [at]  Researchers requesting destructive samples should review our Destructive Sampling Policy [PDF] for instructions on how to request samples and conditions that apply.

The Bird Department staff is also responsible for the mammal collection.  We do not have collections of reptiles, amphibians, or fishes.

Jean L. Woods, Ph.D., Curator of Birds, is active in a number of research projects:

  • Spring shorebird migration through Delaware Bay – an amazing ½ to 1 million shorebirds visit the Delaware Bay each May to feast on horseshoe crab eggs so that they can complete their migration to the Arctic tundra.  Dr. Woods works closely with the Delaware Shorebird Project, led by the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife to study these shorebirds, particularly the threatened Red Knot. 

  • Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas II – This ambitious five-year project aims to document the distribution of all breeding birds in the state.  Results will be compared to the first atlas, completed from 1983-1987, to better understand the status of birds in Delaware and which species need conservation.  Field work for this project is now complete and work is proceeding on analyzing and writing up the results.

  • Dr. Woods also conducts research on bird songs and how differences in song among populations and species arise. She has researched song dialects in bobolink populations in Michigan and the development of song in the brood-parasitic indigobirds of Africa. Her work of late has focused on looking into the songs of two races of the Yellow-throated Warbler. In addition to collecting some basic information about song in this species, she is interested in how the songs of the two local races of this species (sycamore nesting and pine nesting) differ.

Jean Woods, Ph.D.
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
P.O. Box 3937
Wilmington, DE 19807-0937
302-658-9111, ext. 314

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