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image X158

Australian bird's nest, mud, attached to a short branch

Height (overall): 13cm
Height (inside nest): 7cm
Diameter (nest): 20.5cm
Thickness (mud wall): 3.5cm, maximum
Thickness (mud wall): 2.5cm, minimum
Length (branch): 33.5cm

Museum number: X158

Curatorial note

This nest probably belongs to one of the only two members of an endemic family of Australian mud-nesters, the Corcoracidae (medium-to-large 'perching' birds that forage on the ground and share the unusual habit of framing their cup-shaped nests with mud), the white-winged chough or the apostle bird. This 'Soane museum' nest matches very well with an identified white winged chough nest in the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire, making this the most likely candidate.

Soane's collections contain a small and tantilising group of items from New Zealand, Australia and the South Seas which must have been collected on one of James Cook's voyages: a maori spear (M607), an asbestos cloth from the Sandwich Islands (X273) and this nest. The spear appears in the inventory of the Museum in 1837 but without any provenance information. The nest and cloth do not appear in the inventory but seem likely to have been in Soane's collection - there is no record of either entering the collection later and none of the Museum's Curators had any reason to acquire such items for what is a closed collection.

We are very grateful to Dr Douglas G. D. Russell, Curator: Bird Group at the Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire, for his identiifcation of this nest.

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk