The Collection

The complete birds database has 206,325 records of specimens that have been catalogued into the collection since the inception of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. However, more than 15,000 of these specimens have been exchanged over the years to other institutions to fill in gaps in our collection, and an additional number have been given away to the museum's programming department or other educational institutions. A few were discarded. As a result, we currently house roughly 189,000 specimens.

The birds in the collection have a number of preparation types or styles and each was catalogued separately into the collection. The majority are standard study skins with roughly 154,000 of this type of specimen representing around 5,700 different species. The second largest component is the skeleton collection with approximately 15,600 specimens, of which 5,500 have an accompanying dried spread wing with some also having a dried spread tail. The third largest subset is the oology collection which has about 9,930 egg sets. Rounding out the collection are 6,700 fluid-preserved specimens, 1,300 taxidermy mounts, and a few nests.

The greatest geographical strengths of the collection are in New World birds. Carnegie Museum holds major collections from nearly every part of North America and one of the largest in the world from the eastern Arctic. Most areas of Central and South America are well represented, with collections of major importance from Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Isle of Pines, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, Amazonian Brazil, Bolivia, and northern Argentina. Our most important Old World collections are from former Yugoslavia, New Zealand, the Philippine Islands, and the equatorial African countries of Cameroon, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

Type Collections

The collection houses 519 holotypes, 40 syntypes, 25 paralectotypes, and an additional 131 paratypes. In the early years of the museum an attempt was made to gather topotypes, and close to 700 birds are designated as such in the database.


The collection has been completely databased since the mid-1980s and is currently maintained in a Microsoft Access format. Data from the collection can only be obtained by contact with the collection manager, either by hard copy letter on institutional stationary or by email. Please send a brief abstract of the study the data would be used for. Data are for one-time use and are not to be re-posted in another format.


Carnegie birds collection records are available on VertNet.


Carnegie birds collection records are available on iDigBio.


Carnegie birds collection records are available on GBIF.