The ornithology collection at the South Australia Museum contains materials derived from birds. The collection consists of approximately 62,000 specimens including dry bird skins (the biggest and most-used component), mounted animals, skeletons and whole animals preserved in concentrated alcohol. Nests and clutches of blown eggs are also included in the collection.
The ornithology collection is highly valued, comprising the biggest and best quality, global collection of the birds of South Australia. Most species of birds from other parts of Australia, and some Antarctic and international specimens are also represented.
The collection includes approximately 350 type specimens — this means they formed the original examples on which the descriptions of new bird species and subspecies were based. Such specimens have enormous historical and scientific value and are irreplaceable.
The collection of birds for the Museum commenced in the mid 19th century, driven by then-curator Frederick George Waterhouse. Unfortunately, not many of those original South Australian animals are still stored in the Museum as Waterhouse sent many specimens overseas in exchange for popular exotic species such as hummingbirds.
The strong focus on South Australian bird collecting was most evident from the late 19th and early 20th century. The collection incorporates a number of significant private collections donated to the Museum, including those of White, MacGillivray, Parsons, Morton/Oakley and Eckert.
Specimens are still being added to the ornithology collection, and include deceased animals found by national parks rangers, the general public and through licensed targeted collections.
Staff in the ornithology section encourage the public to bring in birds that have been killed on the road, washed up on beaches or died from other means for examination and identification.
To find out more about our collections the data can be accessed via the Online Zoological Collections in Australian Museums (OZCAM). OZCAM is the key repository for fauna collections from Australian collections institutions. The same data can also be found at the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) site, where a wide range of biological data from museums, herbaria and even microbiology collections are available online.