Friday mystery object #163

I have another bird skull for you to identify this week – sorry if all the bird skulls are getting repetitive, but that’s what I’ve been working on!

This specimen had no identification and had me stumped for a little while, but I now think I’ve worked out what it might be and I’d appreciate your input to see if you agree:

As usual, you can put comments, questions and suggestions below and I’ll do my best to respond. Enjoy!

Friday mystery object #161 answer

On Friday I gave you this bird skull to identify:

Most of you managed to identify it pretty easily – Robin suggested something in the right family, while Ric Morris, henstridgesj, Matthew King and Jake all managed to work it out to species. This is the skull of a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #161

Another bird skull for you to identify this week:

As usual I will do my best to respond to questions, comments and suggestions – please try to be cryptic if you think you know what it is, so other people can enjoy the challenge. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #160 answer

On Friday I gave you this distinctive looking bird skull to identify:

On Twitter and Facebook there were incorrect suggestions of Toucan and Flamingo, but in the comments here Ric Morris dropped a heavy hint at the correct species identification within 6 minutes of the mystery object being posted, with hestridgesj and 23thorns also getting the right species a little later.

This skull was listed in the Horniman’s 1934 Natural History register as Corvultur abyssinicus, a species name that to the best of my knowledge has never been scientifically recognised. But the name suggests a vulture-like corvid from Abyssinia – or what is now called Egypt. This information plus the distinctive size and shape of the skull and bill led me to surmise that the specimen is from a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #157 answer

Apologies for a late and rather short answer to last week’s mystery object, I was in Scotland for the wedding of a very good friend this weekend and haven’t had much time for writing.

On Friday I gave you this skull to identify:

It’s pretty distinctive and I wasn’t surprised to see the correct identification popping up in short order. The big scars above the eye sockets indicate that this bird had large glands for extracting excess salt, which means it was a marine bird. The shape of the bill, particularly the mandible, is also quite characteristic and the wide triangular pterygoid bones of the palate are a give-away for this group.

Pterygoid region highlighted

Pterygoid bones highlighted

Ian managed to get the correct species identification within the first hour with Barbara Powell and Robin reaching the same conclusion after some comparison at the very useful Seabird Osteology website. This is the skull of a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #157

Over the last week or so I’ve been going through some of the bird skulls in the Horniman’s collection. Here’s a nice one that you might enjoy identifying:

As usual you can put your suggestions, comments and questions below and I’ll do my best to answer. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #155 answer

On Friday I gave you this mystery skull to identify:

It’s not particularly complete, but the bill is very distinctive so most of you got the correct identification. Well done to Ric Morris, Barbara Powell, Jake, biologycurator, henstridgesj and Robin for spotting that this is the skull of a  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #145

Once again I have a genuine mystery object for you to identify this Friday. I have been going through some of the material from the old King’s College Collection in an effort to identify some material with no data that would be suitable for the Horniman’s handling collection.

I found this bird skull that I think would be ideal – I think I know what it is, but I need to make sure that I’m not mistaken and that it isn’t an important or rare species. I will check the identification myself and I will see if you all come to the same conclusions as me about what this is:

Please leave your comments and suggestions below and let’s see what we come up with!

Friday mystery object #114 answer

Apologies for the rather late answer to last Friday’s mystery object – it’s been a hectic few days!

I asked you to identify this skull

which you managed to do very quickly.

The first suggestion of a Vulture by Rosa Rubicondior was along completely the right lines, while KK and Steven D. Garber, PhD suggested a Turkey Vulture – which isn’t quite right, but it’s in the same genus – Cathartes.

From there, Julie Doyle and Jake managed to get the correct species identification of   Continue reading

Friday mystery object #113 answer

On Friday I gave you this object to identify:

Rather unusually no-one managed to identify it. It’s not native to the UK and looks similar to quite a large variety of other species, because it’s a member of the Passeriformes (the perching birds), which is a hugely diverse and numerous group of birds. These factors make identifying the bird tricky, but without the plumage there to provide clues it was a very difficult task.

The plumage would have been a big help here, since the name of this bird is taken largely from a description of the plumage.

As you can probably work out from the photo above, it’s a Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus (Statius Muller, 1776).

These tropical African birds are similar in diet and habits to the European Starling that we see more commonly – they just look a lot prettier.


Friday mystery object #112 answer

Below is Rachel’s follow-up guest post answer to last Friday’s challenging mystery object. Many thanks Rachel – it was a good one!

Well, I seem to have led you all a merry dance this week! Admittedly, it was sneaky to not include a scale bar or provide you with another view of the skull, but if I’d put the top view in I think it would have been game over in about five minutes…

As cromercrox so rightly pointed out, it is a bird skull. Many of the guesses tended towards water birds, with suggestions including goose, gull, and rail.

Manabu Sakamoto was the first to suggest a ratite, and later tentatively guessed ostrich, while Matt King went for a rhea.

Paolo and I actually thought it might be a rhea to start with, but after comparing it to an identified rhea skull in the collections and the ratite images on Skullsite, we decided that it is in fact an  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #106 answer

On Friday I gave you this specimen to identify:

I thought that it might prove a difficult one, but it seems I should have had more faith in the identification skills of my readers (you talented bunch), since the correct answer was delivered with little ado.

The long legs suggested that it was a wading bird to curatorialtrainee and Harry then tentatively suggested what turned out to be the correct answer, which was consolidated by the observations of henstridgesj and the input of David. Jake also spotted what bird this was by comparing the skull to the images on the very useful  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #106

Last week’s bird was so popular I thought I’d give you another to identify this week. It’s a bit harder than last week’s Kookaburra and I’ll be very impressed indeed if anyone gets it to species, but I’m sure many of you will manage to identify it to family level.

I will  be teaching young folk about skulls and mermaids at Camp Quest in Somerset this Friday, so I might not get a chance to respond to comments, although I’ll do my best.

Good luck!

Friday mystery object #105 answer

I was a bit taken aback by the response to the second anniversary mystery object last Friday. There were a huge number of comments and unfortunately I was tied up all day and was unable to respond – my sincere apologies!

To give you a change from the usual mammal skulls I gave you this bird to identify:

It’s quite a characteristic bird, so I decided to make it more of a challenge by leaving out the usual scale bar – if you’re interested the head of this specimen is about 10cm long.

Obviously the comparatively large head and massive bill were key features that were picked up on, giving the following answers:

I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of you managed to get the correct identification; it is indeed the skeleton of a Kookaburra, more specifically the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann, 1783).

Laughing Kookaburra perched in a eucalypt tree. Taken in December 2008 in Victoria, Australia by Fir0002

Laughing Kookaburra perched in a eucalypt tree. Taken in December 2008 in Victoria, Australia by Fir0002

These large antipodean kingfishers have a very distinctive call, which sounds to me like the laugh of a clown from a nightmare. In fact, I expect these birds are a bit of a nightmare for any small critters that live in their vicinity. That big robust bill is powerful and they use it to eat a wide range of animals including worms, snakes, rats and even some fairly decent sized birds.

They aren’t subtle about their hunting either. They simply grab their prey in their bill and smash it on the ground, on a branch or on a rock then swallow it whole. Often they keep smashing it for quite a while – after all, swallowing a live snake or rat probably isn’t a great idea.

If you look at the skull you might notice a deep groove around the back and a deep indentation on the lower jaw or mandible:

Kookaburra skull

These are muscle scars and it’s quite unusual to find such impressive areas for muscle attachment in bird skulls, but then most birds don’t rely quite as much on brute force to catch and subdue their prey. Kookaburras mean business.

Friday mystery object #105

Well, it’s the second anniversary of the Friday Mystery Object – how time flies! Speaking of flying, I’ve decided to give you a bird skeleton to identify this week. Any idea what this is:

Comments below as usual – I’m sure that some of you will work it out straight-away, so please drop hints rather than give-away the answer to those less familiar with the anatomy of our feathered friends.

Best of luck!

Friday mystery object #81 answer

On Friday I gave you this object to identify:

I thought it would prove quite straightforward for my astute audience and I was not disappointed. As usual Jake was the first to comment and he was spot on when he said:

I think it is some sort of big bird, it’s the braincase and […] the ear

The big bird Jake suggested was an Emu, which was slightly off as was CopilasDenis‘ suggestion of Cassowary and Cromercrox‘ suggestion of Rhea (although they all correctly spotted that this piece of skull was from a ratite). But Dave Godfrey finally picked the last remaining living ratite and the correct answer when he suggested it was  Continue reading