Historical information

The Eastern Spinebill is found along the eastern coast of Australia, from Queensland to South Australia. It lives in wooded areas. It is an insectivore and also eats nectar, which is why its beak is a long slender shape. Females and males have slight aesthetic differences; the males have more distinct markings on the head. The female birds build nests and incubate eggs, but both parent birds will feed the young.

The Eastern Spinebill has a bright rust coloured belly and throat, with black wings, crown and tail. Its back is light brown. There is a white stripe on its chest which stretches up underneath its eyes. The eyes are red. This taxidermy specimen is not a good representation of the live bird because it is considerably faded and their feathers are very ruffled.

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

There are two birds on a wooden stand. One has its beak in the air and the catalogue tag attached to its foot (main bird). It has some minor pest damage around its eye. The opposite bird looks straight ahead. The birds are placed next to each other, facing opposite directions. They are faded and have some ruffled feathers.

Inscriptions & markings

60a/ Spine Bill / See catalogue, page 18