Birds research

The Museum’s ornithology section is involved in an exciting range of research in bird behaviour, distribution and taxonomy.

Museum staff, Honorary Research Associates, volunteers and students use the highly valued ornithology collection, the Museum’s Australian Biological Tissue Collection and other museum collections across Australia and the world. Field-based observations and targeted collections are also a major part of the Museum’s research.


Current research projects in the ornithology section include:

  • an inventory of type specimens in the Museum’s ornithology collection

The Museum is collaborating with the American Natural History Museum which houses the Matthew’s collection — one of the biggest collections of Australian birds in the world.


  • breeding biology of the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)

Hundreds of hours of field work observing nesting behaviour and family dynamics has uncovered previously unknown heron behaviours.


Morphological and molecular techniques are being used in combination with field observations to correct past mis-identifications of this grasswren group.


  • collation of the bird section in the Census of South Australian Vertebrates

Taxonomic lists and maps of where bird species occur in South Australia are being developed in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Water.


  • the history of ornithology at the Museum

From its inception in 1856 through to 1938, the history of ornithology at the Museum is being researched for a new book chapter. The chapter will form part of a three volume collection on the history of ornithology in Australasia to be published by the The Nuttall Ornithological Club.

Researchers and students from other institutions and universities in Australia and New Zealand regularly use the Museum’s ornithology collection in their research.  

Coming up next


Up next:

Evolutionary biology research