Ornithology Collections


The Ornithology Sub-Section currently consists of two permanent staff (Curator and Collections Manager) and a large, diverse ornithological research collection. The Bird Collection represents the largest assemblage of bird and bird-related specimens at any research institution in South Africa, and is also the fourth biggest museum bird collection in the Southern Hemisphere. The collection consists of 50 535 specimens including 33 527 study (flat) skins, 4836 skeletons, 3741 fluid-preserved specimens, 9221 egg clutches and >250 nests of more than 2040 bird species from over 8000 localities in 60 different countries. Most of our specimens originate from South Africa (e.g. 59.4% of study skins), with good representative material from Botswana and Namibia. Our specimens have been used for hundreds of scientific papers and many ornithological books (e.g. Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa (2005); SASOL Fieldguide to the Birds of Southern Africa (1993)).


The Bird or Ornithology Section has had a fluctuating history as the structure of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History has altered over the decades. Until the Second World War, the Bird Collections were curated within a larger “Higher Vertebrates Department” under the curatorship of Austin Roberts. During his 38-year-long career at the Museum Roberts established the museum’s bird collection as the finest on the African continent. Aside from many scientific papers, Roberts’s crowning achievement was the publication of “Birds of South Africa” (1940). A substantial proportion of the skin material in the Bird Collection is due to collecting by Roberts, who undertook expeditions to augment the collection to, inter alia, the Western Cape (1917), Zululand (1928, 1929, 1933), Botswana (1930) and Namibia (1937, 1941). Since Roberts’s time various other distinguished ornithologists have worked at the Museum, foremost being Dr Alan Kemp who arrived in 1970. During his tenure, Alan Kemp specialized in hornbills and raptors, especially concentrating on elucidating the field biology of these birds. The staff in the Bird Section have been responsible for a multitude of scientific papers and also numerous important bird books including: Birds of South Africa (Roberts, 1940), The Hornbills (Kemp, 1995), Shrikes of Southern Africa (Harris, 1988), Birds of Prey of Africa and its islands (Kemp & Kemp, 1998), Birds of Transvaal (Tarboton, Kemp & Kemp, 1987), and Owls of Southern Africa (Calburn & Kemp, 1987).


Greg Davies




Mailing address:
Bird Section, Vertebrate Dept, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, PO Box 413, Pretoria, South Africa, 0001 Tamar Cassidy

Collections Manager Email: tamar@ditsong.org.za

Phone: Phone:

Mailing address:
Bird Section, Vertebrate Dept, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, PO Box 413, Pretoria, South Africa, 0001

Street address:
Bird Section, Vertebrate Dept, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, Paul Kruger Street (corner of Visagie Street), Pretoria, South Africa

Loan information

Study (flat) skins, alcohol (fluid) specimens and skeletons are available for loan to bona fide scientists and ornithologists. We do not unfortunately loan out eggs due to their fragile nature.

Loan queries should be directed to Tamar Cassidy (tamar@ditsong.org.za), outlining the research being undertaken and what material or species you are interested in. Loans are typically of six months’ duration, but may be extended.

Database queries may also be directed to Tamar Cassidy or Greg Davies.


Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural HistoryThe Ditsong National Museum of Natural History formerly known as the Transvaal Museum was founded as the Staatsmuseum of the ZAR on the 1st of December 1892.

And it has, since then acted as custodian and documentation centre of South Africa’s natural heritage.The Museum’s collections and exhibits include hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples [the nickname attributed to a fossil skull believed to represent a distant relative of all humankind]; fossils, skeletons, skins and mounted specimens of amphibians, fish, invertebrates, reptiles and mammals. On these collections are based the Museum’s educational programmes, research is done and information is communicated to all people of South Africa as well as to the international community.

The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum in Gauteng and one of the largest in South Africa. It is unique in that it is the only institute in South Africa that offers the local, national and international community the opportunity to view its collections including original fossil material usually denied the public.


Educational Programmes

A comprehensive series of programmes and conducted tours is offered to schools, students and tourists in various South African languages. All education programmes are aligned to CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement). Booking is essential to participate in these activities. Please use e-mail to contact us while our phone system is being upgraded – bongi@ditsong.org.za.

Discovery Centre

A hands-on activity centre, where the five human senses are used to discover the wonders of nature, offering an invaluable educational adventure. It affords easy access for wheelchairs and display texts are also transcribed in Braille. This centre is ideal for younger learners that are eager to explore with their hands.

Public Programmes

Throughout the year talks are held at the Museum by various established researchers and scientists. Please check back regularly with the “Upcoming events” page or contact the Public Programmes Department.

Museum View


The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History researchers, as well as scientists from other institutions doing research can submit scientific papers to the annals. The major publications are the Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History and the Monograph series.

The Museum has exchange agreements with a large number of scientific institutions, both abroad and in South Africa and 342 copies of the Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History and 280 copies of the Monographs of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History are distributed annually. Up to 2010 the annals were known as the Annals of the Transvaal Museum. For quality control of documents, articles, news releases and reports, please contact: Dr Martin Krüger at kruger@ditsong.org.za

 Admission Fees

Prices for Adults, Learners, Senior Citizens and Discovery Centre


R40.00 p/p
Children (Accompanied by parents)
R20.00 p/p
SA Senior Citizens
R20.00 p/p
Students (guided tour)
Students (own tour)
R25.00 p/p
R20.00 p/p
Free Entry for Educator: per group of 30 learners
R20.00 p/p
Free Entry for Educator: per group of 30 learners
R20.00 p/p
Discovery Centre
R25.00 p/p
Behind the scenes tour
R50.00 p/p
Night tour
R150.00 p/p
Discovery + Museum
R40.00 p/p
Guided tour
Additional R5 to approporiate tariff

Contact Information

Physical Address:
432 Paul Kruger Street Pretoria 0001

GPS Coordinates:
S 25° 45’ 11.2” E 28° 11’ 21.6”

Contact numbers:
012 492 1358
012 492 5708 – from March 2018
Admission: Daily:
08:00 – 16:00
(Except Christmas Day and Good Friday)

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