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The specimen pictured belonged to John Gilbert and was collected in Port Essington and is a red-backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius), a species first described by Gould himself in 1841.

The specimen pictured belonged to John Gilbert and was collected in Port Essington and is a red-backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius), a species first described by Gould himself in 1841.

John Gilbert (c1810-1845)

John Gilbert and John Gould

John Gilbert was an English naturalist and explorer. Whilst working as a taxidermist for the Zoological Society of London he met the bird expert John Gould. Gould was planning a collecting trip to Australia to gather material for a book called Birds of Australia. Later, in 1838, he employed Gilbert to accompany him.

Leichhardt Expedition

They traveled widely in Australia and also on to Singapore and Timor. In 1844 Gilbert joined Ludwig Leichhardt’s expedition at Port Essington in Australia’s Northern Territory. A flying spear killed Gilbert near the Gulf of Carpentaria

Bird specimens at RAMM

RAMM has some of the birds Gilbert collected during the Leichhardt Expedition. In 1944, one hundred years after they were collected, a Mrs Fox donated 20 birds to the Museum. How she came by them remains a mystery and the original labels are also missing.

However, Clemency Fisher (Curator of vertebrate zoology at World Museum Liverpool) has undertaken considerable research on the travels of Gilbert and Gould. Clemency used Gilbert’s manuscript diary from the expedition to reunite the specimens with their collection data. Gilbert’s diary even includes weather information for when he collected them.

View the specimens and a summary of Clemency’s research is available on Collections Explorer.

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