Our bird collection has over 15,000 specimens from over 650 species. The specimens were collected from across every continent in the world and most of them date from the Victorian period up until the first half of the 20th century. The collection is comprised of nests, eggs, birds and their cases. The oldest bird case in the collection dates back to 1838, displaying a male and female Great Bustard (Otis tarda), caught in Dersingham, Norfolk, England.
The Colonel John French (Newdigate) collection has 183 bird species mainly from Surrey, England, with a few from Galway, Ireland. They were collected between 1924 and 1929. They were prepared by taxidermists T.E. Gunn, F. Ernest Gunn and Rowland Ward Ltd and preserved in Edwardian style cases.
The Great Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in the world, with some males weighing up to 20kg. It is famed for its elaborate mating display where the adult males contort to display their white underside. Great Bustards became extinct in Britain in the 19th century largely due to hunting and habitat change.
The birds depicted here are believed to be some of the last native bustards collected in England. The Great Bustard remains a globally endangered species, but attempts have been made to reintroduce the birds to the south west of England.