The DMNH bird collection includes more than 113,000 specimens representing about 4,000 species from around the world, with especially strong collections of Philippine and Central and South American birds.
There are several different types of specimens: study skins, skeletons, spread wings and eggs. We also maintain a small tissue collection available for studying DNA containing samples from eastern North American taxa. About 140 taxa are in the type collection. Extinct species are also represented.
66,250 Study Skins
Study skins like this Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis) encompass the largest part of the collection. Scientists use them to learn about distribution, evolution, and ecology.
This skeleton is from a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).
2,640 Spread Wings
DMNH Bird 78558, an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), came to DMNH through Tri-State Bird Rescue in 1991. This bird’s skeletonis also in the collection.
36,000 clutches of eggs
Now illegal, egg collecting was a popular hobby in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Many eggs in the DMNH collection are more than 100 years old.
The skeleton, skin, and tissue collections are fully databased and can be searched online. The egg collections is not yet databased.
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, 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.
Further information about the collection and requests for data or loans should be directed to Curator of Birds Jean Woods, Ph.D., 302-658-9111, ext. 314. Researchers requesting destructive samples should review our Destructive Sampling Policy 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.
News from the Bird Department
The Bird Collection has benefited greatly from National Science Foundation grants for the purchase of specimen cabinets, assistance with collections digitization, and making collections data available online. The collections database software the museum uses was also developed using NSF funding.