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Where do the museum's birds come from?
B.7399 side

British museum collections largely grew up from the early 19th century onwards, coinciding with the time of exploration. Trade with the British Empire (including America and much of Canada at that time, India, parts of Africa, Australia and New Zealand amongst others) meant that large previously unexplored (by British) areas were opened up for the first time. Specimens were sent back to Britain to be studied by experts, who worked out which species they belong to, and the distribution of different species. Many of these birds would have been shot specially, but many were picked up in markets.

British Museums are, without exception, interested in the conservation and protection of species, and museums play a vital role in this work. Museum specimens can help unlock secrets about the birds: museum collections were vital in demonstrating that DDT and other pesticides caused egg-shells to break in Peregrine Falcon eggs. Museum specimens are important sources of DNA, particularly with extinct species.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of species are now only found in collections, as they become extinct in the wild, so it is important to preserve them for the future. British Museums no longer specially kill birds for their collections, but collect birds found dead from other causes: road casualties, cats and windows kill millions of birds in Britain every year. If you find a dead bird in the Manchester area, please contact The Manchester Museum.

If you have any comments, or would like to contribute your own information to this narrative, please use our feedback form.

The copyright in these data and images is property of The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester. Data and images are supplied for personal and research use only.

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