Moluccan starling (bird)


This bird skin is said to have once belonged to Ipplepen taxidermist Charles Garside (1881–1981). We are not sure how he came by it. This is quite a special specimen.

The label reads, ‘Collected by A. R. Wallace 1861. Calornis mysolensis G.R.G. Salawatte’. On the reverse, very faintly in pencil, ‘eyes dark brown’.

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was a British naturalist, geographer and explorer. Most significantly he co-discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection, but it is usually Charles Darwin who receives the credit.

Wallace spent eight years (1854 to 1862) travelling around the Malay Archipelago – an area including Indonesia, Singapore and New Guinea. He studied the animals that lived there but birds and beetles were his particular passion. In 1869 Wallace published ‘The Malay Archipelago, the land of the orang-utan and the bird of paradise : a narrative of travel, with studies of man and and nature’.

Charles Martin Allen travelled with Wallace from Britain as his assistant. He was 14 years old and the son of a carpenter. They travelled separately to collect and in early 1861 Allen sailed from Ternate to Salawati, an island Wallace never visited. So it was Allen who collected the specimen at RAMM, not Wallace himself. Allen collected many of the most spectacular specimens Wallace describes in his book, including birds of paradise. His contribution is often overlooked.

The London natural history dealer Samuel Stevens handled all Wallace’s sales. In 1863 the scientific journal ‘The Ibis’ included an advert from Stevens for his remaining stock of Wallace’s birds. Number 57 from New Guinea and the surrounding area is ‘Calorinis [sic] mysolensis. G.R. G. 6s. Moluccan Starling Aplonis mysolensis (G. R. Gray, 1862)’. A match to the RAMM specimen. It is therefore plausible that Stevens sold the specimen to an individual.

This object is not on display.

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