Who uses the collection?

Researchers come from all over the world to use the Museum’s bird skin collection.  

The specimens and their associated data provide a crucial resource for an array of research interests, including:

  • determining the taxonomic limits of species and subspecies
  • describing new species
  • studying systematic relationships between different taxa
  • clarifying identification of species in the field
  • studying geographic, age and seasonal differences
  • mapping global distribution patterns.
Skin projects

Researchers also examine molecular information derived from tiny samples of skin or feather. In addition to DNA studies, Museum bird skins are used in innovative research projects such as looking at the build-up of heavy metals in the environment.

Other projects include using isotopes to track the geographic origin and life histories of a bird, and calibrating the trophic level at which seabirds are feeding.

Our bird skins are also often used as references for illustration artwork, such as for field guides and for commercial filming for science and nature documentaries.


Taking samples from bird skins is inevitably destructive so we ask interested researchers to provide a research proposal containing a full explanation of their intended work and past experience. These applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by at least two curators.