The Booth Museum was founded as a way for E. T. Booth to capture the form and nature of the birds he loved.

It is no surprise that birds fascinated Booth. Their ability to fly has inspired mankind for eons, and their variety means that birdwatchers or taxidermists can work for their entire life and not come into contact with every bird species. Even Mr Booth, despite collecting more than 400 species of bird, was unable to achieve his aim of collecting one of every species of bird on the British List (the official list of native and migrant birds in the UK).

Postcard showing Booth Museum of Natural History, 1906

Biodiversity of Birds

Birds are a very diverse group of vertebrates. There are approximately 10,000 bird species known to science but it is estimated the true number is more than double that figure. Since the start of 2018 six new species have been discovered, including the Western square-tailed drongo from West Africa, the Whenua Hou diving petrel from New Zealand and the Cordillera Azul antbird from Peru.

Birds are also a lot more obvious to humans than other vertebrate groups. Even though there are around 11000 species of reptile, 8000 species of amphibian and over 30,000 species of fish, humans only come into everyday contact with a few domesticated or very common species. A bird’s ability to fly away from danger means that they are always seen above and around us, even if fleetingly. More recent research has also revealed that birds are evolved from the theropod line of dinosaurs (which includes the Tyranosaurus and velociraptor), bringing a new element to their interpretation.

Avian Research at the Booth

The Booth Museum is helping to advance avian science in our role as a repository for both historical and modern biological material. In recent years the museum has provided the specimens and data to help in many avian research papers including providing DNA samples for determining the genetic background for the Peregrine falcons currently present in Southern England, the location of white storks in Britain prior to their extermination from the UK and the effects of climate change on songbird egg laying.

More information

To arrange access to our collections for your research please see our research pages