Historical information

The White-necked Heron (also known as the Pacific Heron) is commonly found throughout mainland Australia. It resides mainly in locations with freshwater and in tidal areas. These birds are carnivores and mainly eat fish, crustaceans, amphibians and insects. They are also known to feed on young freshwater rats, young ducklings and lizards.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

The White-Necked Heron has been stylised in a standing position on a wooden platform. It is facing forwards but looking over its left shoulder. The eyes of this specimen are made from yellow glass. The bird has long black legs and a long white neck with black spots decorating the front of the neck. The head is also white and the bill black. The front torso of the bird is cream mixed with brown plumage and the back. The rear and wings are a dark brown.