Bird Curatorial Manual | Organization of the Collection
Organization of Specimens
Skins in the MVZ bird collection are organized in the following hierarchy:
- Taxonomic down to species or subspecies (if polytypic)
- Geographic within the lowest taxonomic unit to the level of states/counties
- Geographic within a state/county from north to south and west to east
- Elevationally from low to high within an identical specific locality
- Chronologically within the same locality (including elevation) by day and month regardless of year
- Numerically by collector or MVZ catalog number if the locality and date are identical for a given taxon
The geographic arrangement is intended to allow curators and researchers to see how phenotypes (e.g., size, color, pattern) change in different geographic areas and associated environments. The chronological arrangement within a locality provides organization of skins by annual cycle (e.g., breeding, molting, wintering).
For more detail, see the section on skins under Installing Birds.
Refer to the following documents for guidance:
- Arrangement of Bird Families
- MVZ Bird Taxonomic Checklist (goes to subspecies level)
- Geographic Order for Skins
The arrangement of bird families in the MVZ collection in based primarily on the American Ornithological Society Check-list of North American Birds, Clements Checklist, and IOC World Bird List. In cases where there was conflict, MVZ Curators made an executive decision based on the best available evidence.
To view the MVZ’s arrangement of bird families and subfamilies, click Arrangement of Bird Families. This document is updated in realtime to reflect yearly taxonomic updates.
Geographic Order for Bird Skins
Bird skins are arranged geographically within the lowest taxonomic unit that was identified (e.g., species or subspecies). Use the following guidelines for the higher geographic order of skins (country, state, count). See “Installing Birds” for more detail on how to arrange skins in the collection.
Organization of California Counties
San Luis Obispo
San Miguel Island
Santa Rosa Island
Santa Cruz Island
San Nicolas Island
Santa Barbara Island
Santa Catalina Island
San Clemente Island
At least once per year the supplement or updated pages of the American Ornithological Society, Clements Checklist, and the IOC World Bird List should be consulted to determine what changes should be made to the MVZ bird collection. The MVZ Bird Taxonomic Checklist also must be updated with any changes made to Arctos and the physical collection.
For North American birds, updates are based on the latest annual supplement to the AOS Checklist. The other sources are best for non-North American species.
The first step is to determine what updates need to be made in the collections. Changes published in the supplements may include species splits or lumps, changes at higher taxonomic levels (e.g., moving species to a different genus, moving genera to a different family, changes to subfamily or order, etc.), changes in linear sequence, distributional changes, and changes to English and French names. We are primarily concerned with species splits/lumps and higher level taxonomic changes that involve moving species to a different genus, subfamily/family, or order.
Changes in linear sequence are important but can be more difficult to implement, especially if the changes involve moving large chunks of specimens. Some changes in linear sequence may result from higher level taxonomic changes such as elimination of subfamilies within a family; these higher taxonomic changes also are important to know about, but may not be implemented in the collection if they involve large-scale moving of specimens.
To track the changes that need to be made, create a Google doc spreadsheet which has the taxonomic change and columns for the number of specimens or observations in MVZ that are affected by the change. Counts for specimens should be broken up by skin, skeleton, egg/nest, and fluid. Use Arctos to determine counts for specimens and observations affected by a particular change.
UPDATING THE COLLECTION
All changes to specimen labels/tags and physical placement should be done for each update before moving on to the next update. New drawer and case labels can be printed all at once, when all changes are completed, for efficiency and to save label paper!
Skins, Skeletons, Eggs, and Nests: The process for updating the scientific names on skin tags and box labels (skeletons, eggs, nests) is the same. Using a #4H pencil, place the old name in brackets. If only the species or subspecies identification has changed, place the brackets around that part of the name.
- Genus name change: [Oceanodroma] matsudairae
- Species name change: Oceanodroma [matsudairae]
- Genus species name change: [Oceanodroma matsudairae]
Write the new identification directly above (preferably) or below the bracketed obsolete name. Press down hard to ensure that the identification is legible and visible.
For large numbers of specimens that need to be changed for a given taxon, it is acceptable to place a note in the drawer stating that all specimens of Taxon A are now recognized as Taxon B (instead of updating every label/tag). Consult with the Staff Curator if you are unsure about whether it is ok to do that in specific cases.
NOTE: Use brackets only when a species is being split or lumped, to denote that the name is a synonym. That is different from a correction to an identification (i.e., a mis-identified specimen), where a line is drawn through the name (in pencil or ink, for dry or wet specimens respectively) and the correct name is written above.
Fluids: To update fluid tags, the process is the same as above but you must use a 01 or 02 archival micron pen instead of a pencil. For fluid tags and labels, remove the item from the jar and blot the tag dry with paper towel before attempting to update the tag. If all specimens in a jar are being updated, then it is best to write a new jar label with the current name to replace the old one. If specimens in the jar are being split into different taxa, then move the specimens to be changed into a different jar with the appropriate label. See the fluid section of “Installing Birds” for how to write jar labels.
Updating Taxonomy in Arctos
- To the right of the Search button on the main search page is See results as followed by a drop-down menu. From the menu, select Specimen Summary.
- A new drop-down menu will appear called Group by. Scroll down the menu and click the box next to Scientific Name.
- Within Identifiers you can select a Collection to search. Click the small arrows to expand the menu, then click the check box(es) next to the collection(s) needed for your task: Bird specimens (MVZ:Bird), Bird eggs/nests (MVZ:Egg), and/or Bird observations (MVZObs:Bird).
- Within Identification and Taxonomy, type Hydrobatidae into the Family field. Click Search. You may need to click “Show More Options” in the upper right of this section to expand the list of fields you can see.
- The search results page will display a list of all scientific names in which records for family Hydrobatidae exist. Click on any of the blue specimens links next to a scientific name to generate a new page containing those specimen records.