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Brilliant British birds take centre stage at Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

a texidermied swift set in a sweeping flight

Swift © University of Cambridge

At the Museum of Zoology at Cambridge University a stunning new display of fine native, stuffed specimens celebrates the diversity of British birds

If you’re not a birdwatcher, you might be surprised by the sheer diversity of bird species that we share our islands with.

Species like the white-tailed sea eagle, the bittern and the lesser spotted woodpecker might be a rarer sight than the sparrow, magpie, starling or crow but they are just a handful of the 620-plus species that are now established in a natural state in the British Isles.

At the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge they are celebrating this surprising diversity with a brand-new gallery, devoted to birds found in the UK via thirteen highly diverse British habitats, many of which are near to Cambridge.

Well over 200 taxidermy birds from the Museum’s outstanding collections have gone on display in the new gallery and their stories highlight the conservation work currently underway to protect the UK’s incredible bird species.

a photo of a case filled with stuffed birds

British bird gallery © University of Cambridge

a photo of a taxidermy bird diving into reeds

Common snipe © University of Cambridge

The bird-filled habitats include Wicken Fen near Ely, which was the first nature reserve owned by the National Trust. A unique remnant of undrained fen and a wetland habitat that once covered the lowlands of East Anglia it is home to over 9000 species, including rare orchids, cuckoos and bitterns.

Also featured is the Cambridge University Botanic Garden – which encourages a great diversity of wildlife with its sustainable approach to horticulture – and the Museum’s own building, the David Attenborough Building, which has nest boxes to encourage swifts and bats to roost there in the centre of the City.

The gallery not only highlights some of the birds currently at risk in the UK due to habitat loss, pollution and climate change, but also conservation success stories such as the red kite and the white-tailed sea eagle. With a wingspan of nearly 2.5 metres, sea eagles are the largest birds-of-prey in the UK, but were once extinct here. Both of these species are happily growing in numbers after recent reintroductions.

a photo of a large taxidermy eagle on a plinth

White-tailed sea-eagle © University of Cambridge

photo of a stuffed bird with long legs

Bittern © University of Cambridge

Alongside what most non-birders might consider to be ‘exotic’ species you will also encounter sparrows, pigeons, blue tits, starlings, magpies, crows and the other common birds we encounter in the garden, town or whilst ploughing up and down a motorway.

“The Museum is dedicated to sharing the wonders of biodiversity, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors to our new British bird gallery,” says The Museum’s Director, Professor Rebecca Kilner. “The new displays showcase the vital conservation work taking place across the UK – and here in Cambridgeshire – to protect birds and the places where they live”.

The University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge is one of the largest and most important natural history collections in the UK and boasts an extraordinarily rich history dating back to 1814.

In 2018 the Museum reopened after a five-year, £4.1million redevelopment – including nearly £2 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund – to reveal thousands of incredible specimens from across the animal kingdom, including whales, elephants, a giraffe, giant ground sloth, insects, corals as well as items collected by Charles Darwin.

This new gallery is the latest addition to that project.

a photo of a group of common British birds taxidermied and displayed in acase with a concrete office building behind them

British birds at David Attenborough Building © University of Cambridge

a gallery of cases with taxidermy birds

New British Bird Gallery landscape © University of Cambridge

The New British Bird Gallery is open now. Entry to the Museum is free.


Museum of Zoology

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

The Museum of Zoology, part of Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology, is home to a huge variety of recent and fossil animals. The Museum of Zoology is now open after a major refurbishment. The Museum has new displays, a café, shop and an impressive new glass entrance hall housing our…

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