Focus on 34 bird species whose type specimens are kept in Tervuren

In the new book The bird species from the type collection, ornithologist Michel Louette presents the bird species whose type specimens are kept at the AfricaMuseum. Illustrated with magnificent photos and original artwork, this book presents a rich and varied collection of birds, most of which have seldom been spotted.


Male Lufira Masked Weaver (Ploceus ruweti) shown weaving the nest. Photo and © Michel Hasson

Type specimen?

Type specimens are the specimens that were used to describe a species. They are of great scientific value and therefore serve as a reference for anyone wishing to study a species.

‘When describing a new species, a scientist chooses one or more individuals representative of the species and designates them as type specimens,’ explains Michel Louette.

Now retired, Michel Louette was curator of the bird collection at the AfricaMuseum from 1974 to 2012. He is the author of more than 200 scientific articles and has himself described five new bird species.

What is true today may not be true tomorrow

Taxonomy is the science that describes and classifies species. Like any branch of science, it is not static and revisions are commonplace. Scientists discover new species on a daily basis. But sometimes, the situation is more complex.

‘Sometimes we discover that two species considered to be different are in fact one and the same species,’ explains Michel Louette. ‘Conversely, subspecies can change their status and become species in their own right.’

‘Although birds are among the best-known animals in the world, some groups are still subject to debate within the scientific community and revisions remain frequent.’

‘The AfricaMuseum is home to the type specimens of 25 bird species.’

The type collection in Tervuren

In 2010, Michel Louette and several colleagues published Type Specimens of Birds in the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren. This publication contains an inventory of the 988 type specimens of birds kept in Tervuren.

‘However, some species that were considered distinct in 2010 have since become synonymous; for others, the opposite has happened,’ says Michel Louette. ‘I therefore compared the World Bird List of the International Ornithological Congress with the data in the 2010 inventory. This enabled me to determine that the AfricaMuseum is home to the type specimens of 25 bird species.’

In addition to these 25 species, the book also presents six birds for which the types are in Tervuren, but which are not yet recognised as species by the International Ornithological Union. Finally, the book presents three birds that were previously considered to be species, but which in fact appear to be part of already known species.

Spotlight on the birds themselves

While the 2010 publication focused on specimens, the new book The bird species from the type collection focuses more on the birds themselves.

Most of these birds are rare and have a limited range. This makes them difficult to observe. But thanks to the help of some of the world's best wildlife photographers, we are able to publish recent photos of many of these birds in their natural environment. For the others, we have used original works of art’, says Michel Louette.


The book The bird species from the type collection (€25) was published on 20 March 2023 by the AfricaMuseum in the series "Collections of the RMCA". It is published in three version: in English, in Dutch and in French.


Order the book

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