Museum Study Skins & Mounted Specimens

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Subject: Museum Study Skins & Mounted Specimens
From: "Allan Morris" <>
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2000 22:20:47 +1100
Hi Birders,
I was interested in the note from Victoria Quinton and the question posed by her child " Why did they kill all the birds?" and the fact that she did not tell us how she answered her child. Gone are the days (for the most part) when those wicked Museum curators went out and shot them!
While I cannot answer for the past, I can say that currently most specimens that are used as study skins in Natural History Museums come from road kills, birds that the cat brought it, from organisations such as WIRES (who are often the receipients of dead and dying birds, and those that expire become study skins), from seabird wrecks, and from birds that die as a result of urban and industrial developments and get killed as habitat gets cleared etc. Here in NSW, Museum staff make regular trips to NPWS country offices where specimens have been deposited by interested staff & members of the public, WIREs co-ordinators and interested members of the public and collect the specimens from their freezers! These specimens become valuable additions to the Museum and can be used as study skins, or skeleton specimens or can be swaped with Museums overseas. Often the stomach contents are intact so that vaulable data can be obtained on their food habits as well. Even today in my freezer is a Bar-tailed Godwit that had been taken by a falcon but the bird was disturbed by a maintenance crew and did not come back for its prize, and a Brown-cuckoo Dove that flew into a window and killed itself! I am waiting for the next pick-up!
Alan Morris
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