Research and curation

The Museum's Bird Group is housed at the Natural History Museum, Tring. The ornithological collection and libraries are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

Ornithological collection

The outstanding ornithological collection represents about 95 per cent of known bird species. There are up to 700,000 skins, over 15,000 skeletons, over 17,000 specimens in spirit, about 4,000 nests and some 400,000 sets of eggs. Specimens range in age from before the founding of the British Museum in 1753 to the present day.

Ornithological libraries

The ornithological libraries are some of the world's most prestigious, housing over 75,000 volumes. The volumes in the Rothschild Library generally date back to before 1938 and include ornithological and general natural history monographs (for example books by John Gould and Edward Lear) , together with travel books, including unpublished manuscripts, field notebooks and paintings.

The modern Ornithology Library moved to Tring from South Kensington in the early 1970s along with the bird collections, and its monographs and serials are constantly updated.

Access to the collections

The collections and library are an invaluable research resource for Museum scientists. They are not generally open to the public, but people involved in original research or in the production of scientific or reference artwork intended for publication (either amateur or professional) may apply to visit by prior appointment.

The Ornithology Library is open from 9.30am to 3.30 pm Monday to Thursday (by appointment only). Outside these hours please telephone the Library Enquiry Desk on +44 (0)20 7942 5460.

Charges are made for commercial use of the collections and for photography and photocopying.

Useful resources