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Online Resource: Bird Skulls at

March 7, 2018

As with feathers, we frequently find bird skulls and other bones on the ground. A moderately-experienced birder should be able to figure out what phylogenetic order or family of birds it belongs to, but getting down to species can be tough, or impossible, without a big collection of bones to which you can refer.

Here’s where steps in.

With over 1600 species of birds on display, you’ll have a chance of identifying that skull, assuming you don’t get distracted by all the other interesting things they offer, such as the Order & Family Overview and How to Clean a Skull (essential information in today’s hurly-burly world).

Even if you’re not trying to identify a particular skull, the site is easy to navigate, informative and fun.

There’s a small selection (more to come!)  of 3-D views of complete skeletons. These you can rotate through 360°.

Two views of Parrot Crossbill (Loxia pytyopsittacus) skeleton

There’s another small selection of 3-D skulls.

Coragyps atratus (Black Vulture)

These can be rotated to any angle (not just 360°) and zoomed in. The view below is downward from above the vulture’s left eye socket. You can download these skulls onto your 3-D printer (What! You don’t have one? Maybe your local school does.) to create your very own plastic skull replica.

Zoomed-in view from above Black Vulture’s left eye socket.

Skull searches can be done in various ways: common or scientific name, bill length (7 options), bill type (10 options), or by narrowing down through the phylogeny tree.

This last option may be the easiest for most people if they’re looking for a particular species. For example, you get to to American Crow via Passerformes > Corviidae, then scroll down to Corvus brachyrhynchos (American Crow). Each intermediate step lists all or most of the kinds of birds one might find. Click on the bird’s name and a secondary page appears with additional information such as dimensions), links and views of the skull(s) from different angles.

Corvus brachyrhynchos (American Crow) three views of the skull

One caveat: the museum is located in the Netherlands, so they are certainly not biased towards birds found only in North America.

I’ll leave you with one more skull view set, this time of the Sora (Porzana carolina) such as the one we spotted during our Malibu Lagoon bird walk in February. I hope you check out the site, which is an ever-growing work-in-progress, and enjoy what you see.  [Chuck Almdale]

Porzana carolina (Sora) skull views


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