Flights of fancy
The size, appearance, behaviour and abundance of birds make them one of the most studied and popular groups of animals alive today. Having evolved from feathered dinosaurs, their adaptation for flight has enabled them to exploit new ecological niches and migrate across all continents.
This has also made them popular with collectors and RAMM has a collection of about 8,500 specimens. The collections at RAMM are made up of many different birds from across the world. Bird specimens have been preserved in various ways for both aesthetic and scientific purposes.
Taxidermy specimens have been mounted in life-like positions to represent behaviour and study skins are prepared so that they can be easily stored in cabinets and organised taxonomically.
The study of birds is called ornithology and has given us many insights into processes underlying evolution and sensory ecology, especially sexual selection. The iridescent plumage of male birds, such as peacocks, has been the subject of much research and is also what makes bird specimens such attractive objects for display.
There is also an extensive egg collection which illustrates how birds’ eggs differ in shape, texture and colour. Birds’ eggs can also give us an insight into the complex patterns of natural selection, for example cuckoo’s eggs have evolved to look like the eggs of the species that they parasitise.