Bird Department

The bird collection consists of approximately 67,000 study skins, 11,000 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, 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, skin, and tissue collections are fully databased and can be searched online. The egg collections is 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 or 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.

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. 

Jean Woods, Ph.D.
Jean Woods, Ph.D.Director of Collections and Curator of Birds

News from the Bird Department

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, natural history-related items including taxidermy birds and animals were popular displays, protected under glass in curiosity cabinets or under domes. The Museum has several in its [...]

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