Historical information

The Yellow-billed Spoonbill is a waterbird which can be commonly seen wading through shallow waters. This particular variety of Spoonbill is found across Australia, mostly in the northern and well-watered inland areas. It resides in freshwater wetlands, dams, lagoons and swamps. The species feeds on mainly aquatic insects and larvae. The bill has vibration detectors called papillae inside the spoon which enables the bird to feel the vibrations of its prey in murky water. These birds nest in the colonies of other birds like the Ibises and Royal Spoonbills. They live in high forks of trees over water or in reed beds.

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 Yellow-billed Spoonbill specimen is a large taxidermy of mainly white colouring. The bill is a large and unique spoon shape and is yellow. The long gangly legs and the skin on the face are also yellow. The eyes are made from a black and yellow glass and the bird is stylized standing on a square wooden platform. A paper identification tag is tied to the bird's upper left leg.

Inscriptions & markings

6c. / [illegible] / Spoonbill /