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Hidden treasures and the reorganization of the Bird Collection in the Hungarian Natural History Museum

Fuisz, T.I., Vas, Z. and Rácz, R. 2010.

Hidden treasures and the reorganization of the Bird Collection in the Hungarian Natural History Museum.

Journal of Afrotropical Zoology, Special Issue, pp. 37-43.


The history of the Bird Collection of the Hungarian Natural History Museum can be divided into 2 main epochs: pre- and post-1956. We compare the pre- and post-1956 numbers of inventoried specimens, types and geographical representation and give an account on surviving specimens dating before 1956. The Bird Collection grew to a considerably large, significant Central European ornithological collection until it was completely destroyed in 1956. The whole scientific collection, containing skins and eggs and the exhibition material (in two separate buildings) perished. It had contained 36 000 mounted and skin specimens, and 22 000 eggs. Fortunately, the card indexes of the specimens partly survived; hence the main collecting data of specimens is available. From the foreign material the most significant were the hummingbirds (Trochilidae) with 3000 specimens. The collection contained two then-already-extinct species: the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius (Linnaeus, 1766) and Carolina Parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis (Linnaeus, 1758). During the approximately 1.5-century establishment of the HNHM, between 1802-1956, 133 type specimens were recorded in the inventories, but not all of these taxa were considered valid by 1956. A handful of mounted specimens and few skins from that era survived. Since 1956, foreign donations and intense collection activities have restored to some extent the Hungarian material, but at present no type specimens are held, and the foreign material is poor compared to the state prior 1956. The reorganization of the Bird Collection started in 2007. Dickinson’s (2003) nomenclature and taxonomical arrangement is the base for the arrangement of the egg, skin, mounted specimen and bone collections. The present skin collection contains 11 487 specimens; it mainly represents the Carpathian Basin, but significant materials are stored from Brazil, Argentina, the Near East, North Africa and Australia. The mounted specimen collection consists of around 2220 specimens, but only 958 are registered in the inventories. The oological collection consists of approximately 2000 clutches and we store 200 nests. The latter represent foremost the Hungarian avifauna.

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