Skip directly to: Navigation for this section | Main page content
yellow-billed magpie graphic

Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology / Birds

   Education and Conservation through Preservation
fish collection room

Great Kiskadees from southern Texas in the MWFB bird collection.

Bird Collection

The bird collection remains one of our primary strengths.  The museum houses nearly 13,000 specimens with a principal emphasis in California and Western North America. To date we have material representing 32 bird orders and 131 families with approximately 10,000 study skins, 1,500 freeze dried specimens, 1,000 osteological specimens, several hundred egg sets and some nests. We house no holotypes.  In addition to internal expansion, our bird collection benefited from the acquisition of five orphaned collections: the UC Davis Zoology Collection, the University of California, Irvine Museum of Systematic Biology holdings, the Mills College collection, osteology collection from Point Reyes Bird Observatory and rare avian materials from American River Community College, Sacramento, California.  As a result, our collections date back to the late 1800's with particular emphasis on modern material dating from 1972 to present.  We are growing at a rate of 800 – 1,000 specimens per year.  In 2005 the MWFB instituted frozen tissue archives for cryo-storage in an ultracold freezer.  Since then we have amassed approximately 4,000 bird tissue samples, primarily from California.

The avian collection has many strengths but it is most noted for its waterfowl and seabird collections.  The MWFB houses one of the most complete collections of waterfowl in the Western United States (including the first specimen of Anser rossii blue morph).  All North American species are represented and most have known-age birds from hatchling to adult. Fifty percent of the world’s 160 species are currently represented. With the contributions of Dr. Daniel W. Anderson and Larry Spear, our Pacific Seabird holdings (albatrosses, petrels, storm-petrels, diving petrels, tropicbirds, frigatebirds, boobies, and alcids) is also well developed, including one of the finest known-age collection of gulls from Western North America.

We have recently completed curation of a seabird osteology collection numbering approximately 500 specimens spanning the Pacific from the Antarctic to the Arctic and Australasia to North America.  These were donated to the MWFB from biologists at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Although our strength lies in California, our holdings from the Eastern United States and the desert Southwest is growing and comprehensive.  Alaska and Hawaii are well represented as well with considerable material from the North Slope (Alaska) and water and land birds from Hawaii. Our international holdings include synoptic collections from Panama, Chile, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico.

To query the bird collection electronic database click here or go to