Collection Fact Sheet
An invaluable record of Mexico's bird diversity in the heart of Los Angeles
The MLZ’s collection of birds and mammals contains 62,382 bird and 2,158 mammal specimens, placing it among the world’s largest research natural history collections. The collection is primarily Neotropical, reflecting Robert T. Moore’s particular interest in New World avifauna. Moore's Mexican bird specimens formed the working material for The Distributional Check-list of Mexican Birds (1950 and 1957). All specimens were originally housed in Moore’s private home in Pasadena before being moved, along with Moore’s personal library, to the Occidental College in 1951.
Chester C. Lamb worked for Moore from July 1933 through June 1955, a period of 22 years, and during that time Lamb collected 40,000 bird specimens, all from Mexico. Lamb's contribution to our knowledge of Mexican bird diversity is unparalleled. Other important professional collectors whose specimens reside in the Moore Lab include the Olalla brothers (and sons), the del Toro Aviles brothers (Mario and Sergio), C. F. Underwood, W. W. Brown, and J. T. Wright. Moore made collecting expeditions to Ecuador in 1929 and 1931, and along with specimens purchased from the Olalla family, amassed nearly 6,000 specimens from Ecuador.
Of the 62,382 bird specimens, the vast majority are whole study skins (61,156), with small collections of skeletons (1,246), liquid preserved specimens (285), and nests and eggs (582 sets). The collection also contains important artwork by Allan Brooks and Louis Agassiz Fuertes, as well as copies of Lamb’s field catalogues and notes (1933 – 1955). There are 81 bird holotypes (i.e., the original specimens upon which a new species or subspecies was described), most collected by Lamb and described by Robert T. Moore. These species new to science include the spectacular Tufted Jay of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The collection is especially strong in hummingbirds (6,957 specimens), as Moore made special effort to obtain exemplars from nearly every species.
The specimen catalog can be searched via with Arctos and Ornis2 database portals.
Previous Curators: Joe T. Marshall, Don Medina, Patrick J. Gould, Raymond M. Selle, John W. (Bill) Hardy, Luis F. Baptista, Martin L. Morton, Walter D. Koenig and John C. Hafner.