Spirit collection

A vast collection of around 17,000 fluid-preserved specimens, the avian spirit collection represents about 38% of the world's species.

The collection is one of the five largest of its kind in the world. Specimens range from whole adult birds and chicks, to embryos, eggs and dissected body parts, and also associated material, such as stomach contents. 

Many specimens in the spirit collection have connections to other parts of our collections, with material from the same individual bird also preserved in the skin or skeleton collection.

  • Investigating a chick under a low power microscope.
    Who uses the spirit collection?

    Researchers use our collections to study the anatomical morphology, growth and development of birds. Find out about the range of research focuses and techniques used to examine our specimens.

  • Spirit collection shelving at Tring.

    Spirit collection specimens are vulnerable to damage and exposure through time. Learn more about the ongoing curation required to ensure our collections remain in good condition.

  • Unique Fiji bar-winged rail specimen preserved in spirit.
    Rare specimens

    Discover some of our rare or unusual specimens, including material from endangered or extinct species.

  • Aptenodytes forsteri, emperor penguin eggs.
    Expedition specimens

    Find out about Antarctic and oceanic expeditions represented in the bird group spirit collections.