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The Bird Collection

Bildet kan inneholde: fjær, fugl.

The Bird Collection is a scientific collection of birds, or bird parts, and comprises over a third of the world's approximately 11,072 species (ref. IOC World Bird List version 11.2). A major part of the collection consists of bird skins mounted in natural poses (mounts) or prepared as so-called study skins. It is no longer customary to sample whole animals for such collections in Norway. Consequently, most of our scientific objects are 100–200 years old and current acquisition to this part of the collection is limited. 

Another important part of the collection consists of blood, tissue and DNA samples. These thereby also belong to the NHMO DNA Bank. This is the most active part of the Bird Collection and has grown steadily since its establishment in the 1990's. The majority of the objects are blood samples collected from wild-caught birds that were released after having contributed to the cause of science. DNA can be extracted from blood and tissue samples and thereby used in genetic studies. 

A unique part of the Bird Collection are sperm cell samples from over 750 species of birds, mainly song birds (order Passerifomers). The collection has been built by the Sex and Evolution Research Group over the course of the last 15–20 years and is globally unique. 

The egg collection comprises over 10,000 sets (clutches or single eggs) and nearly all Norwegian breeding species are represented. Other smaller parts of the collection consists of skeletons and birds preserved in ethanol.

The Bird Collection is mostly used for scientific purposes and is available for researchers worldwide. Some objects are also on display in the public exhibitions

Key numbers

Accessions 106,223
Single objects 157,424
Geography Global
Time period Ca. 1820–
Taxonomy 4,029 of 11,072 species globally (36 %)

Search the collection

Relevant links

The DNA Bank of the Natural History Museum

Sex and Evolution Research Group

Scientific access to the collections

Photos from the collection

Click the images to see more 


Highlights from the collection

  • Great auk Pinguinus impennis (extinct)
  • Carl Lumholtz' collections from Australia (1880–84) and Borneo (1913–16)
  • Knut Dahl's collections from South-Africa (1893–94) and Australia (1894–96)
  • Objects from Fridtjof Nansen (1882–1896), Otto Sverdrup (1900–1902) and Roald Amundsen (1904–1925)
  • Objects from the Tristan da Cunha expedition (1937–38)
  • Objects from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica

Publications about the collection

Lifjeld, J.T. (2019) The avian sperm collection in the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo. Alauda, 87, 93-101. PDF

Type specimens

Objects 30
Ref. original publication




Ref. current taxonomy






Collection staff

Scientific curator: Jan T. Lifjeld
Technical curator: Lars Erik Johannessen
Taxidermist: Bjørn Aksel Bjerke

Contact info

The Bird Collection

co/Jan T. Lifjeld
Natural History Museum
University of Oslo
Post box 1172 Blindern
NO-0318 Oslo