If you find a dead bird

If you come across a dead bird, you may:

  1. leave it where it is, or dispose appropriately
  2. pass the body to the The Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC) for possible inclusion in their collection (see below)
  3. if the bird has a band, report the band and the circumstances in which it was found (see below).


A note of caution! It is technically illegal to have dead birds in your possession but generally the wildlife authorities should not become too concerned if they are told the specimens are going to an authorised State or Federal museum. The decision is yours as to whether you are prepared to take the risk. The ANWC does have licences covering the acquisition and holding of specimens.


Giving a bird to the ANWC

Birds found dead have potential value as scientific specimens.  The Australian National Wildlife Collection (CSIRO at Crace in Canberra) may be interested in receiving birds for the collection.

The ANWC is the Federal Government’s official vertebrate museum collection (except fish) and contains specimens preserved as skins, skeleton and in spirit of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.   The ANWC is a research museum and as such is not open to the public except on special occasions.

Very common species are unlikely to be needed by ANWC although it may be worth enquiring, especially if they are in very good condition.

1. Package and store the bird

If it is in a good condition, try and put some tissue or cotton wool into its throat – this is to stop any blood or gut ooze from leaking on to the feathers. If it is possible try and take some notes on the colour of the iris, bill, legs, toes and claws and things such as facial skin, e.g. Blue-faced Honeyeater, wattles, e.g. as on a Red Wattlebird, or an eye ring, e.g. White-naped Honeyeater. Then wrap the bird in some tissue or toilet paper, or if it is a biggish specimen, in newspaper.  Wrap this again in a plastic bag and place it in a freezer as soon as possible.

2. Include notes on the found circumstances

At the same time you are wrapping the bird PLEASE take notes on the following:

  • the date on which you found the bird,
  • the locality as precisely as possible as to where you found the bird,
  • the habitat that you found the bird,
  • what you think is the cause of death e.g. found as road kill, hit window, beach washed, etc, and
  • your name and contact details as the finder.

Place all this information in the packet with the bird in such a way that it will not get lost as it may be some time before it is processed by staff at the ANWC.

3. Contact

Having done all that you can then contact any of the following to arrange for the bird to either be picked up or if you are so inclined, to deliver the bird to the ANWC:

  • Alex Drew, ANWC Research Officer (w) 02 62421552; or
  • Dr Leo Joseph, Director of the ANWC (w) 02 62421689.



If a dead bird has an identifying band

Follow the instructions at Australian Bird and Bat banding Scheme  (ABBS email is abbbs@environment.gov.au)  to pass on the band details and circumstances in which the bird was found.  Alternatively, or for more information, contact any of the Canberra bird banders.