There are about 1,070 bird specimens in the collections, some in cases, others un-cased. The oldest specimen is a guillemot Uria aalge HMCMS:CRH1947.13, which was shot by James Edward, second Earl of Malmesbury, under the Needles Cliffs, Totland, Isle of Wight in the summer of 1810. Many mammals were collected by the Crowley family, who had close links with the Curtis Museum.
The best specimens are those collected and preserved by Edward Hart of Christchurch, Dorset, William Chalkley of Winchester, Peter Spicer of Leamington Spa, Rowland Ward of London and John Gould of London.
There are about 160 birds that have been prepared as a skin rather than as a mount. One advantage of this is that the specimens take up less space than the more common mounts. Study skins are useful for researchers as the skins hold useful information such as where and when found and measurements such as bill length, wing span etc can still be taken.
The collections contain a small number of bird specimens preserved in an alcohol. As the entire bird is preserved rather than just the skin, this method is useful for research purposes. This area of the collections is still being developed.
There are approximately 250 bird skulls and skeletal remains in the collections and are used for comparative purposes. The oldest skeletal remains come from two extinct birds, the Dodo and the Moa:
There are 2470 clutches of birds eggs in our collections, representing 266 species of mainly British birds. Eggs are useful for comparing variation of colour and size within a species and have been used for looking at the effects of chemicals (such as DDT) which causes the thinning of egg shells. Eggs also provide evidence for breeding. We can only accept new donations of birds eggs if it can be proved that they were collected before the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 which made egg collecting illegal.