Bird collection

Bird collection

The bird skin collection includes many examples of endangered or extinct birds, such as a New Caledonian Nightjar, which is only known from one other specimen in a museum in Italy.

Part of the zoology collection

Study (cabinet) skins

The bird skin collection numbers about 44,300 specimens and dates from about 1760. It includes many examples of endangered or extinct birds, such as a New Caledonian Nightjar, which is only known from one other specimen in a museum in Italy.

The birds in the 13th Earl of Derby's foundation collection were much enhanced by the purchase of Canon H.B. Tristram's collection in 1896 and many specimens have been added since. It is the second largest bird collection in Britain after that of the Natural History Museum's outstation at Tring in Hertfordshire and now includes over 700 type specimens. 

Highlights of the Lord Derby Collection include:

  • The Spotted Green Pigeon (often known as 'The Liverpool Pigeon') which is thought to be the only one of its species ever known. It is perhaps related to the Nicobar Pigeon of the Indian and Pacific Ocean islands. The pigeon is about 200 years old as it was described by English GP John Latham in 1783.
  • The oldest specimen of the Australian Night Parrot, collected before 1847 and obtained through the famous explorer Charles Sturt. Thought to be extinct, it was recently rediscovered in the arid centre of Australia by three museum curators.
  • The holotype of the Kiwi.

John Gilbert’s bird collection form part of these collections. It includes extremely rare and important Australian material, many of which are type specimens. Most of Gilbert’s collection came to Liverpool as part of the 13th Earl of Derby’s collection in 1851, but a few of his specimens are in the Canon H.B. Tristram Collection (acquired in 1896) and five in a collection which was passed to us from Blackburn Museum in 1999. Explore the John Gilbert bird collection online now 

Bird osteology

This collection consists of 70 bird skulls and skeletons including examples of extinct species such as the Dodo and Great Auk. Our Dodo toe bones were much admired until they were found to have been carved from wood. Our collection of British bird skeletons are often used to help identify birds in archaeological excavations in the north-west and the Isle of Man.

Mounted birds

Vertebrate zoology houses nearly 4,000 mounted birds. Particularly important specimens include individuals from the 13th Earl of Derby's collections, such as several Pheasant - Chicken crosses which Lord Derby bred as an experiment in his Aviary at Knowsley Hall in the 1840s. Three of these are presently on display in the History Detectives gallery in the Museum of Liverpool.

The collections have good coverage of British species, including unusual records for our region such as a Glossy Ibis, shot in the Ormskirk area in the 18th century, which is the oldest record of this bird for the north-west. Glossy Ibises are very rarely seen in Britain.

Our mounted Lord Derby's Swamphen, named after the 13th Earl of Derby, is not only from an extinct species but only one other specimen is known (in a museum in Vienna). Both specimens are about 200 years old, and were probably collected on Lord Howe Island, off the east coast of Australia.

Lord Derby's collection also contains the first Budgie chick ever to have been bred in Britain, at Knowsley Park in 1848.

The mounted collection also includes several glass-fronted cases of high-quality taxidermy, including one which contains individuals of all known Falkland Island birds.

Bird's eggs

The bird's egg collection numbers around 16,700 clutches, mainly from British birds. Our egg of the Great Auk, a north Atlantic bird which once bred on the British coast but has been extinct since 1844, is considered to be the most beautifully marked in existence.

Bird's eggs are doubly important as they represent breeding records, often of birds which no longer exist in Britain or which are now rare, and the locality data from our clutches is often used by conservationists.