I am a senior curator of the avian anatomical collections, including both the avian osteological and spirit collections, some 35000 specimens in total. I am responsible for the ongoing development of these collections, including the preparation and curation of skeletal and spirit specimens. As I see it, my role is to curate the collections in order to inform the present, understand the past and anticipate the future.
After nearly 20 years working on the skeleton collection in particular, I have become an internationally recognised authority in avian osteology and have particular experience and expertise in the taxonomic identification of bird bones. This leads into my research interests in the environmental and archaeological interpretation of fossil bird assemblages. I am presently working on a fascinating Late Pleistocene bird assemblage from the Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco and also maintain an interest in the fossil birds of the New Zealand region.
I am also keenly interested in the history of the bird collections, and am currently investigating Charles Darwin’s domestic birds, Captain Fitzroy’s bird collection from the famous 1831-36 voyage of HMS Beagle and John Gould’s collection of hummingbird cases. A common theme is that these were all well-recognised collections in their day but subsequently fell into obscurity. I’m intrigued by the stories these specimens have to tell of the history of scientific ideas and am hoping to re-establish them in modern natural history culture.
In addition to more academic work, I also like to pursue the odd creative project. Over the past few years, this has been the ‘Secret Life of the Beetle Colonies’ time-lapse films produced with Brian McClave of Site-Eye Time-Lapse Films. Parts of the anatomical collections date back to the mid-1700s, but I find there’s always a new way to look at these ever-growing natural archives…
- MA Archaeological Illustration, Swindon College & University of Bath, United Kingdom, 2006 - 2007
- PhD, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom, 1995 - 1999
- BSc Hons. Geography & Geology, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom, 1992 - 1995
- Senior curator, avian anatomical collections, Natural History Museum, Department of Life Sciences, United Kingdom, 2013 - ongoing
- Curator, avian anatomical collections, Natural History Museum, Department of Zoology, United Kingdom, 2007 - 2013
- Curator, avian osteological collection, Natural History Museum, Department of Zoology, United Kingdom, 2001 - 2006
Cooper J, Stewart JR, Serjeantson D (2022) The birds of ancient Britain: first recommendations for Category F of the British List. Ibis, 164 (3) : 911 - 923. doi: 10.1111/ibi.13066
Miskelly CM, Cooper JH (2020) Macquarie Island shags (Leucocarbo purpurascens) at the Auckland Islands - an addition to the New Zealand list. NOTORNIS, 67 (1) : 419 - 426.
Cooper J (2019) The Late Pleistocene avian assemblages from Sectors 8 and 10, In: Cemeteries and Sedentism in the Later Stone Age of NW Africa: Excavations at Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco, Barton RNE, Bouzouggar A, Colcutt SN, Humphrey LT (Eds). Romisch-Germanische Zentralmuseum : Mainz. 313 - 329.
Varley Z, Cooper JH, Prys-Jones RP (2016) Rediscovery of a long misattributed and misidentified Darwin Beagle bird specimen. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 136 : 69 - 72.
Tennyson AJD, Cooper JH, Shepherd LD (2015) A new species of extinct Pterodroma petrel (Procellariiformes: Procellariidae) from the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, 135 (3) : 267 - 277.
Jarvis CE, Cooper JH (2014) Maidstone's woodpecker – an unexpected bird specimen in the herbarium of Sir Hans Sloane. Archives of Natural History, 41 (2) : 230 - 239. doi: 10.3366/anh.2014.0244
Thomas R, Sadler P, Cooper J (2016) Developmental Osteology of Cross-bred Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus L. 1758) and the Implications for Ageing Chickens from Archaeological Sites. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 26 (1) : 176 - 188. doi: 10.1002/oa.2417
(2014) Pigeon post: contributions from India to Charles Darwin's domestic bird research. Ray R, Chattopadhyay D (Eds). Darwin and Human Evolution: Origin of Species Revisited The Asiatic Society : Kolkata. 13 - 22.
COOPER JH (2013) John Gould’s glittering gems: the 1851 hummingbird cases at the Natural History Museum. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 133 :
COOPER JH, Armitage PL (2013) A parrot of the Caribbean? A remarkable find from a 17th century Spanish shipwreck. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, 133 : 52 - 58.
COOPER JH (2012) The late Pleistocene avifauna of Vanguard Cave, In: Neanderthals in Context: a report of the 1995-1998 excavations at Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves, Gibraltar, Barton RNE, Stringer CB, Finlayson JC (Eds). Oxford School of Archaeology: Monograph : 227 - 235.
COOPER JH (2012) The late Pleistocene avifauna of Gorham’s Cave and its environmental correlates, In: Neanderthals in Context: a report of the 1995-1998 excavations at Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves, Gibraltar, Barton RNE, Stringer CB, Finlayson JC (Eds). Oxford School of Archaeology: Monograph :
Scofield RP, Cooper JH, Turvey ST (2012) A naturalist of the very first order? Percy William Earl (1811-1846) in New Zealand. Records of the Canterbury Museum, 26 : 1 - 19.
COOPER JH (2010) Charles Darwin, the bird curator. Journal of Afrotropical Zoology – Special Issue, 23 - 29.
Stronach P, COOPER J (2010) Snowy Owl pellet containing Eurasian Teal.. British Birds, 103 : 360 - 361.
Shepherd LD, COOPER J, Haile J, Scofield P, Tennyson AJD, Worthy TH (2009) Selection of a neotype for Apteryx mantelli Bartlett, 1852, with the support of genetic data. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 129 : 195 - 197.
Turvey ST, COOPER JH (2009) The past is another country: is evidence for prehistoric, historical and present-day extinctions really comparable?, In: Holocene Extinctions, Turvey ST (Eds). Oxford University Press : 193 - 212.
COOPER J (2008) Fancy that: pigeons, finches, chickens and the Origin of Species. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 128 : 217 - 218.
COOPER JH, Tennyson AJD (2008) Wrecks and residents: the fossil gadfly petrels (Pterodroma spp.) of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Oryctos, 7 : 227 - 248.
STEWART JR, Cooper J, Yalden D, Dudley S, McGowan N (2007) The use of the Quaternary fossil and Archaeological Avifauna in establishing native status for British Birds. INQUA 2007 Abstracts. Quaternary International,
COOPER J (2006) Excavation at the Late Pleistocene site, Taforalt Cave, Morocco. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 126 :
COOPER JH (2005) Pigeons and pelagics: Interpreting the Late Pleistocene avifaunas of the continental ‘Island’ of Gibraltar. In: Alcover, J. A. Bover, P. (eds), Proceedings of the International Symposium ‘Insular vertebrate Evolution: the Palaeontological Approach.. Monografies de la Societat d’Historia Natural de les Balears, 12 : 101 - 112.
COOPER J (2005) Rothschild’s 1905 red list. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 125 : 242 - 243.
COOPER J (2005) A tomb wader exposed - x-raying the birds of the gods. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 125 : 161 - 162.
COOPER JH, ADAMS MP (2005) Extinct and endangered bird collections: managing the risk. Zoologische Mededelingen (Leiden), 79 : 123 - 130.
Tennyson AJD, Cooper JH (null) New evidence on the life and death of Hawkins' rail (Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi): Moriori accounts recorded by Sigvard Dannefaerd and Alexander Shand. Notornis, 51 : 212 - 216.
Cook A, COOPER J (2004) Avian remains in the stomach of Great Cormorant. British Birds, 97 : 472 - 473.
Steinheimer FD, Cooper JH (null) Sir Hans Sloane's Rhinoceros Hornbill skull: an avian remnant from the founding period of the British Museum. Archives of Natural History, 30 : 166 - 167.
ADAMS MP, COOPER JH, COLLAR NJ (2003) Extinct and endangered (‘E&E’) birds: a proposed list for collection catalogues. Why Museums Matter: Avian Archives in an Age of Extinction. (eds Collar, N. J., Fisher, C. T. and Feare, C. J.). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 123A : 338 - 354.
COOPER JH (2003) Book review: The comparative osteology of European corvids (Aves: Corvidae), with a key to the identification of their skeletal elements by T. Tomek & Z. M. Bochenski. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 123 : 5 - 6.
COOPER JH (2003) Book Review: The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric Life of New Zealand by T. H. Worthy & R. N. Holdaway. Ibis, 145 : 523 - 524.
COOPER JH (2003) A right royal mix-up: the describing of the Emperor Penguin. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, 123 : 139 - 140.
COOPER JH, PARRY SJ, COLLAR NJ (2003) Museum collections need your salvaged specimens. 6th World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls, Abstracts,
COOPER JH, STEINHEIMER FD (2003) Why museums matter: report from the workshops 14-15 November 1999 “Increased cooperation between bird collections. Collar NJ, Fisher CT, Feare CJ (Eds). Why Museums Matter: Avian Archives in an Age of Extinction, Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 123A(Supplement). 1-360 pp : 355 - 360.
Dyke GJ, Cooper JH (2000) A new psittaciform bird from the London Clay (Lower Eocene) of England. Palaeontology, 43 (2) : 271 - 285. doi: 10.1111/1475-4983.00126
COOPER JH (null) First fossil record of Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus in Europe. Ibis, 142 (1) : 150 - 151. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919x.2000.tb07698.x