Bird Collection

The Bird Collection at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien dates back to the Imperial Collection of FRANZ I. of Austria (1793) and represents the only scientific institution in Austria devoted exclusively to systematic, taxonomic and biogeographic research in birds. The scientifically invaluable material is of considerable importance worldwide and contains many rare or extinct species as well as unique historical records.

Biodiversity in birds is the main scope of the permanent display (Room 29 - 32) exhibiting more than 2.500 species in the public galleries. Beautifully mounted specimens demonstrate the intrinsic value of natural objects as well as changes in the taxidermist's skill over more than 200 years.The arrangement follows current zoological systematics reflecting the present knowledge on phylogenetic relationship.

Our concept to present global bird biodiversity offers the visitor a unique chance for an individualistic approach to different biological problems or simply a walk among thousands of birds, enjoying a world of glossy colours and bizarre shapes.


the scientific bird collection

The scientific collection, visited by many scientists from all over the world and engaged in international research projects holds >130.000 Objects. To facilitate scientific research covering different topics of museum ornithology the collection is subdivided in the following units:

skin collection

To allow for accurate scientific measurements as well as from simply technical reasons birds are usually no longer "mounted". Whereas mounted specimens are still of invaluable importance for display, scientific material (so called "study skins", resembling in general appearance a dead bird) is stored permanently in drawers to save room.
Correctly labelled skins contain a still indispensable amount of scientific information not to be got by photographs, sound records, films or tissue samples. Study skins are the basis for drawings in field guides as well as for adequate scientific identification, the so called "types" representing standards for all aspects of taxonomic work (i.e. basically applying a correct name to a given specimen). Scientific biological research as well as applied aspects like the use of biological resources and even nature conservation projects are impossible or create permanent errors when based on misidentified objects.
The collection presently holds >95.000 study skins from all over the world. The Palaearctic, parts of Africa, Middle East, South East Asia,  New Zealand and Brazil are covered best but most of the hitherto known extant bird species worldwide are represented by smaller series or single specimens. The collection increases by about 500 new specimens every year.
Due to more than 1.000 type specimens, many extinct species, historic records and fairly good label data the collection is of considerable international importance.

bird mounts

More than 10.000 mounted birds, many of them extremely valuable historic records (e.g. extinct, types), form part of the systematic collection. About 25% are permanently on display in the public galleries, offering a unique opportunity for the interested visitor to explore biodiversity in birds.

bird skeletons

More than 11.000 bird skeletons, identified and sexed originally, form a very valuable part of the scientific collection. Complete label information for all complete and body skeletons is also available from the data base of the bird collection.

egg collection

About 10.000 clutches of eggs are documented, a fairly poor number in international comparison but nevertheless highly valuable for specific projects.

tissue collection

Of all newly arrived bird material tissues are collected and stored. Currently this collection holds >2500 samples.

Smaller collections are devoted to bird's nests, feathers and other items of a more specialised interest.