Royal Alberta Museum
visitors since 1967

Ornithology: Collections

<p>The Northern Flicker (<em>Colaptes auratus</em>,one of our more common woodpecker, spends much time on the ground looking for its favorite prey, ants and their larvae. The species exists in North America as two highly differentiated forms, the yellow-shafted and red-shafter flickers, that differ in many aspects of plumage coloration: the coloration of the underside of flight feathers and of the feather rachises (hence their common names), also the coloration of the crown, cheeks, throat and mustache (red or black), and in the presence or not of a red patch on the nape. Where the two forms meet along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in western Alberta, they do not appear to discriminate on the basis of these colour differences and interbreed freely. This results in hybrid individuals that display either intermediate characteristics or new combinations of the characteristics of the parental forms. This variation is documented in our collections and forms the basis of ongoing studies into the physiological basis of the colour differences.</p><p>The flickers in the tray that are without bills were prepared as skin-skeletons, and the bill (along with the skull) went in the skeleton collection</p><p><em>Source: Royal Alberta Museum</em></p>

The ornithology program aims at documenting and interpreting the distribution, diversity, individual and geographic variation, systematics, and secondarily the ecology and behavior, of the birds of Alberta. The Royal Alberta Museum maintains the only public bird collection dealing with the birds of the province, and is the single most important collection of avian material in Alberta.

The ornithological collections consist of several research collections, a teaching collection for use by universities, community colleges, wildlife artists and the general public, and an interpretative collection for public programming. The Royal Alberta Museum currently holds approximately 35,000 avian artifacts and 9,000 slides documenting the birds of the province. A breakdown of the collection is:

  Total From Alberta
Skins 10,000 7,000
Skeletons 7,300 4,500
Tissues 2,400 2,000
Eggs 14,000 1,300
Mounts 2,500 1,300
Slides 8,400 4,200

For more information or to arrange access to the Collections, please contact the Curator, Ornithology.