This exhibit is no longer on display at the Burke Museum. Current exhibits | Traveling Exhibit Itinerary

Burke Ornithology

What is ornithology?
Ornithology is the branch of zoology that studies birds. The field of ornithology is dedicated to studying every aspect of bird life, including bird behavior, the evolution of birds, how birds live and reproduce, and how birds respond to changes in their environment.

What is the ornithology collection at the Burke Museum?
The Burke ornithology collection includes: 41,000 study skins, 26,000 spread wings, 17,700 bird skeletons, 3,100 egg sets, and 26,000 avian tissues. The spread wing collection is the largest in the world while the bird tissue collection is among the largest in the world.

Many of the bird specimens in the collection are from the Pacific Northwest, while others are from elsewhere in North America and other parts of the world. Specimens are acquired through donations and active field collecting. The Burke collection is relatively modern, with more than 85% of the collection built in the past 20 years.

How does the ornithology collection get used?
The Burke Museum provides access to information from the bird collection via on-site visits, bird specimen loans, exhibits, educational outreach, and a Web-searchable database. Researchers use the Burke ornithology collection to help identify birds, track bird distribution, and study bird adaptations, among other things.

In addition, the museum is committed to providing hands-on training for students in the natural sciences through specialized classes, collection-based research opportunities, and participation in local and international expeditions.

Burke staff leads a tour of the ornithology collection. Photo by Andrew Waits.
Burke staff lead a tour of the ornithology collection.
Photo by Andrew Waits