Ornithology Collections

The specimens in the ornithology collection provide an irreplaceable geographic and temporal record of biodiversity in the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains region and abroad.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science bird collection contains approximately 53,000 specimens from around the world (1842 to the present), with a focus on the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions. The collection is worldwide in scope (six out of seven continents represented) with excellent taxonomic coverage of class Aves (205 out of ~224 families represented). Ordinal representation is excellent; however, more than half of the birds in the collection belong to Passeriformes. The collection includes study skins, skeletal material (~5,000, most with associated skin), taxidermy mounts, frozen tissue samples (~9,000), and associated parasites (ecto- and endoparasites). Growth of the collection continues primarily through salvage activities.

The 7,000 egg sets/nests are curated separately. This collection is also global in scope with a focus on North America and Europe.

Specimens are available for loan. Loan requests are subject to approval and should be directed to the appropriate to the curator of ornithology (Garth Spellman, PhD). Loan requests should include a brief description of the project and proposed use of the requested material. Requests for loans by graduate students or postdocs must be cosigned by the major advisor.

Significant specimens in the collection include eight holotypes

  • sharp-tailed grouse (Pedioecetes [Tympanuchus] phasianellus jamesi)
  • northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus taylori)
  • Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus)
  • piculet (Picumnus arileucus)
  • veery (Catharus fuscescens levyi)
  • saffron finch (Sicalis pelzelni danisa)
  • savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis bradburyi)
  • house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus smithi)

and two lectotypes

  • the long-tailed ground dove (Uropelia campestris figginsi)
  • house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus sayi)

Twenty paratype specimens associated with the species/subspecies above are also housed in the collection.

Other important specimens include those of 12 extinct taxa

  • the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius)
  • Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis)
  • dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigriscens)
  • Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis)
  • San Benedicto Island rock wren (Salpinctes obsoletus exsul)
  • Guadalupe Island ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula obscurus)
  • heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido)
  • huia (Heteralocha acutirostris)
  • ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)
  • imperial woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis)
  • Bachman’s warbler (Vermivora Bachmanii)
  • and eggs from the elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus)


Garth M. Spellman, PhD

Associate Curator of Ornithology

Andrew Doll, MS

Zoology Assistant Collections Manager

Courtney J. Scheskie, MA

Business Support Specialist III

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