Natural history collections serve as ‘libraries of life’ that are vital to the process of describing Earth’s biological richness, understanding its evolutionary origins, and ensuring its preservation for future generations. The UMMZ bird collections are the 5th largest in North America and the 2nd largest at a University. These collections include a diverse array of specimen preparation types that in conjunction with emerging analytical technologies are used to examine a broad range of fundamental concepts in avian biology.
Taxonomic representation: Of 237 families of living birds, 229 are represented. Of approximately 2057 genera of birds, we have 1780. The collection contains about 6,387 species and 40 hybrids. Particular strengths are in the grebes (Podicipediformes), shorebirds and alcids (Charadriiformes), African waxbills (Estrildidae) and viduine finches (Viduinae) in both skin and skeletal collections.
Study skins: consists of approximately 164,194 specimens. The 6th largest collection in North America; about 2/3 of the species of the world. In addition to study skins, the collection also includes other special preparations such as 1,500 flat pelts and 1,050 spread wings and tails.The skin collection contains 319 holotypes and 2 lectotypes.
Skeletons: contains approximately 24,300 specimens of 4,460 species (4th largest in the world in number of specimens, 2nd in species diversity after the U.S. National Museum), representing over 95% of avian families. About one half of the skeleton specimens are from the United States. Other geographic areas for which we have larger collections include: Argentina (830), Australia (485), Canada (435), Costa Rica (1000), Egypt (1000), Ghana (490), Mexico (650), New Caledonia (140), Paraguay (1160), Philippines (340), Surinam (370), and Tanzania (340).
Fluid collection: 4,655 specimens and 1,260 fluid-preserved syrinxes. Also maintained are collections of stomach contents and avian ecto- and endoparasites.
Frozen tissues: Samples from about 6,200 individuals stored in a liquid nitrogen cryogenics facility. These are listed in VertNet.
Eggs and Nests: specimens consist of 4,250 egg sets and 540 nests, of 700 species.