Museums and extinct species

Natural science museum collections contain some of the huge biodiversity that we share our home planet with. A particular jewel of museum collections that curators are keen to shout about are specimens of extinct species. Despite the promises of technological advances, once species have become extinct, we will never again share our planet with them….

A bird in the hand… – Photographing the Leeds Bird Skins Collection

Patterns and plumage – photographing the bird skin collection Our bird skin collection has all been fully rehomed and documented. Now that the Skin Deep project has finished, the bird skins are all arranged in drawers, so are much more accessible to view and handle than their previous home in boxes. My work this morning…

The Passenger Pigeon – 100 Years On

September 1st 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), a stark reminder of the destruction humanity can inflict on the natural world. It is estimated that when Europeans first arrived on the coasts of North America, the Passenger Pigeon was the most abundant land bird in the country,…

A mountain of bird eggs: Unpacking the collection

I dedicated much of my year as a Biology Curatorial Trainee working on the bird egg collection at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre after it had been left packed up following the move from the old store. You can read an introduction to this project in my previous post. My first task was to unpack the…

Hummingbirds and the Greenish Puffleg

As a volunteer involved in the Skin Deep project, I have had the opportunity to handle rare, sometimes even extinct birds from the collection. As volunteers and interns, it is our task to catalogue the mounted bird and bird skin collection.Each drawer contains a range of specimens. Some of the drawers I have catalogued contained…

Red-billed Oxpecker: The rhino’s guard

​I’ve been working as an intern with the bird collection for the past six weeks. I was quite excited to find in the collection a Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus). Unfortunately, the specimen (see image left) looks rather drab as it has lost its magnificent yellow and red eye. The colour has also faded from its…

The anniversary of an extinction – The Passenger Pigeon

  Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius)  Above is an example of a Passenger Pigeon that we hold in our collection but the Passenger Pigeon has a sad tale to tell. It used to be one of the most abundant birds on earth and when their populations were estimated in the early 1800’s there was thought…

Welcome our new acquisition of a Hawfinch!

     Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)  Today we acquired a new specimen! Pictured above it is the skin of a Hawfinch and one of their most notable features is their large powerful beak which is used to eat hard seeds and stones of fruit such as cherries, plums and olives. Hawfinches are shy…

Rear-side view of Black-headed Gull.

 Rear view of Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)  For some reason we often have Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) tapping on the skylights so I thought I would use this opportunity to take a rear-side view. Black-headed Gulls do not actually have black heads, it is more a dark chocolate brown which they only have in the summer around breeding time;…