Collecting birds

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Collecting birds
From: "Frank O'Connor" <>
Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2003 14:45:56 +0800
At 12:26 29/07/2003 +0930, Tony Russell wrote:
Enquiries revealed that the person concerned holds a permit from the Department of the Environment and Heritage in SA to actually do this. The SA Museum can no longer afford to maintain a bird display and all skins are put away in drawers, inaccessible to the public, and this new skin has just joined the collection.

They are not inaccessible to the public.  In WA, it is easy to contact the museum and they will show you through their specimens, provided you have a reason.  e.g. trying to identify a bird I saw; comparing a species from different parts of the state; comparing similar species; etc; etc.  I have done so on many occasions.

Given the existence of a permit to shoot protected species there appears to be no question of prosecution of the person concerned but surely questions of morality and conservation need to be raised.  I know the museum people like to do skeletal and other detailed analysis but surely nowadays a photo or some video footage would have sufficed ?  And even if this had proved inconclusive, so what? Isn't this better than the bird being killed?  Science can't be that important.  Knowledge cannot ever be construed as being more important than life.
I would like to enquire as to whether such permits are still issued for this purpose in other states and what acceptable(?) rationale motivates such a barbaric activity.  The story here is that rare birds can be taken like this for "scientific" purposes.

Birds are still collected in WA, but I understand not very often.  The last that I heard of was to compare the birds of the Kimberley Islands with the mainland, and between islands.  This knowledge will contribute to the conservation status of these islands.

Most new specimens for the museum come from people who find dead birds in reasonable condition, or birds that die in care.  e.g. seabirds, road kills, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, etc.  I have taken quite a few specimens to the museum, and I encourage others to do this, no matter how common the species.  There has been previous discussions in depth on this mailing list about what you should do, so lets not revisit this.

Does this mean it would have been acceptable for other rarities, like the Short-billed Dowitcher, the Hudsonian Godwit, the Arctic Tern, the Lesser Yellowlegs, the Oriental Pratincoles and Northern Shoveler at Werribee , the Blue Rock Thrush at Noosa, the Blue Flycatcher near Broome, to name some of our more recent rarities, to be similarly shot for museum collections ?

This doesn't happen, so this is irrelevant.

This is not a black and white issue.  It must be judged on a case by case basis.  This is why permits are needed.  The collection of bird specimens does happen.  Everyone should be aware that it happens.  This will ensure that they do not overstep the mark.  Without details of this SA case, it is impossible to judge.

Museum specimens are very valuable.  They last for centuries, and are regularly used for field guides, DNA analysis, taxonomic analysis, research papers, etc etc.

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
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