The MZUSP Bird Collection is currently the largest and most complete collection of Brazilian birds in the world, also covering the largest number of locations in the country. It has approximately 115,000 specimens kept in dry (skins), of which approximately 160 are type specimens, plus approximately 20,000 tissue samples, 3,500 skeletons, 2,000 nests, 3,000 eggs, and more than 2,500 specimens kept in wet. It has a vocalization bank that already counts more than 800 species of birds from Brazil and other countries. All collections have been computerized to enable their better management and service to the external public. It receives, annually, more than 40 visitors from Brazil and abroad.
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Its genesis goes back to the first collections of the old Museu Paulista. The first recorded specimens date from the late 19th century and were collected by H. Pinder. During this first stage of the collection, whose curator was Hermann von Ihering, fundamental expeditions were carried out to learn about the Brazilian avifauna’s diversity. The traveling naturalist Ernst Garbe traveled through remote areas, such as the Juruá river still in 1902, as well as other areas in practically all Brazilian biomes, collecting an expressive amount of material. After Dr. Ihering’s departure in 1916, the bird collection decreased its field activities, counting on a more modest number of expeditions, few of them outside the State of São Paulo. Only from 1929, with the entry of Dr. Olivério Pinto, the activities in the Birds section took a greater boost, with extensive collections being made in all Brazilian regions, covering a huge number of locations. Benefiting from the activities of Ecuadorian collector A. Martins Olalla, the MZUSP bird collection quickly became the largest and most complete in Brazil. During the period under Dr. O. Pinto’s administration, important works were published, such as the Brazilian bird catalogs and the work “Ornitologia brasiliense”, unfortunately unfinished. Curators like Eurico Camargo and Hélio Camargo continued the tradition of describing and documenting the diversity of Brazilian birds in the MZUSP Bird section. The collection went through a period of stagnation again from 1981 onwards, with the retirement of Prof. Hélio Camargo, and the collection and cataloguing activities only resumed from 2003 onwards. Since then, about 35,000 new specimens have entered the collection.
The MZUSP Bird Collection is traditionally selected by researchers to be the deposit place of new species’ type specimens. In addition, it receives testimonial material from several researchers who see in the MZUSP Birds collection the ideal place to deposit their specimens. The collection is also one of the most accessible in Brazil, quickly making available material and information about the specimens deposited there to any interested researcher. The information present in the collection specimens has been widely used in programs such as BIOTA FAPESP and in the elaboration of Brazil and São Paulo’s red lists.