Welcome back , you are logged in

World Cultures Galleries are closed for redevelopment
Gallery 20 will be closed on Weds 21 Mar until 12 noon Thurs 22
Featured Video Play Icon

Curator Holly Morgenroth with Peter at Exminster Marshes

Rare bird comes to RAMM

1 September 2017

An unusual North American joins RAMM’s collections. Underweight but with no sign of predation, this sora rail (Porzana carolina) was found on RSPB’s Exminster Marsh on a cold morning in October 2016. The little bird was dead: a sad end for the second recorded sora rail to visit Devon. It is 20th recorded sighting for the UK.

Finding the sora rail

The sora rail was found by RSPB’s Exe Estuary Site Manager, Peter Otley, during a regular high-tide bird count. There are 5 species of rail living in the UK: coots and moorhens are very common, the corncrake, spotted crake and water rail are all less common, secretive and elusive. Assistant Warden, Aaron Boughtflower, confirmed its identification: “The sora rail is most similar to the spotted crake. This is a first-winter sora which lacks the distinctive black lores of the adult [the region between the eye and bill on the side of a bird’s head]. It is plain brown on its breast rather than well-marked spots of the spotted crake and has a pronounced central crown stripe and plain tertial [flight] feathers. It is most likely to have been forced off its normal north-south migration route between northern and central America by westerly weather systems bringing it to Devon.”

Preparing for display

Ethical taxidermist Jazmine Miles-Long prepared the specimen for display and discovered that the bird is female. Jazmine only works with animals that have died from natural causes. See the video of Jazmine making the mount: the laborious process of washing and drying the skin, making the body, assembling the mount, preening and painting is condensed to just 4 minutes.

RSPB Exminster and Powderham Marshes

Just five miles from Exeter city centre, Exminster and Powderham Marshes are great places to see birds all year-round. Big flocks of geese, ducks and waders come on their migration and to spend the winter. It is also one of the last places in south-west England where lapwings and redshanks still nest.

See the sora rail

Peter Otley said: “It has been an amazing opportunity to see the specimen come back to its former beauty. When we realised the importance of the bird, only the second time it has been recorded in Devon, the amazing displays that RAMM arranges immediately sprang to mind and we made contact with them to see if they would like to add it to their collection. We’re really looking forward to seeing it on display.”

The specimen will be on display in Viewpoint from 1 September to 1 October.

The bird collection at RAMM

RAMM already had 15 sora rail specimens from their usual home in North America, where the bird is common on freshwater marshes, but this is RAMM’s first UK specimen. There are just 3 other specimens of sora rail found in UK museum collections.

RAMM has nearly 13,000 bird skins, mounts, skeletons, eggs and nests in its collection. The In Fine Feather gallery displays a selection that shows their immense diversity and global distribution. The fifth-largest collection outside Britain’s national museums, it includes many of the UK’s resident species and a selection of rarer visitors, like the only known UK record of the greater black-headed gull and the first European sighting of a yellow-rumped warbler found in Newton St Cyres.

Keep up to date

Sign up to RAMM’s electronic newsletter to keep up to date with news, exhibitions and events.

RAMM is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Closed Mondays and bank holidays. Admission free.

Reset MyRAMM password

Sorry, there was a problem resetting your password, please try again.

Your password, has been successfully reset, please close this popup and login.

Terms & Conditions

These terms and conditions (Terms) apply to the entire contents of this website. Please read these Terms carefully before using this website. Using this website indicates that you accept these Terms. If you do not accept these Terms, please do not use this website.
  1. These Terms shall constitute an agreement between you and us and shall set out the conditions upon which you may access the information available on this website
  2. We reserve the right to change these Terms, at any time and to notify you by posting an updated version of these Terms on this website, at which point they will become immediately effective
  3. Your continued use of this website after any changes referred to in clause 2 shall constitute your consent to such changes
  4. Access to this website may be suspended temporarily and without notice in the case of system failure, maintenance or repair, or for reasons beyond our control
  5. We reserve the right to, without notice, withdraw the availability of this website or any of its content and/or any of its functions, information or services
  6. We cannot guarantee uninterrupted and/or reliable access to this website and we make no guarantees whatsoever as to its operation, functionality or otherwise
  7. You are allowed to view, download and print out content from this website for personal use only in accordance with these Terms. All other copying whether electronic, hard copy or other format is prohibited and all other rights are reserved
  8. You shall only use this website in a manner that is consistent with these Terms and in such a way as to comply with all applicable laws and regulations and in particular, that you shall not (or not attempt to):
    • seek unauthorised access to our network or computer system
    • insert or knowingly or recklessly transmit or distribute a virus into our network and computer systems
  9. All copyright and all other intellectual property rights existing in this website (including, but not limited to, all design, text, graphics and the selection or arrangement thereof) are and remain our property
  10. The expression 'copyright' shall include the entire copyright, design right, rental right, right to authorise or prohibit lending and data right subsisting now or created at any time
  11. While we endeavour to ensure that the information contained on this website is accurate, complete and up-to-date, we make no representations or warranties, whether express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of such information
  12. We make no representations or warranties, whether express or implied, that this website or any software of any nature available on, downloaded or otherwise obtained from it, will be free from defects or viruses. Your use of this website is at your own risk
  13. We make no representations or warranties as to whether the information available on this website complies with the regulatory regime of countries from which the pages of this website may be accessed
  14. We may log your IP address (which indicates the location of your computer on the Internet) for the purpose of systems administration and troubleshooting.
  15. If you provide your e-mail address in order to submit an enquiry, comment or request for further information, we may contact you regarding your enquiry, comment or request. We may also send e-mails to you about the services that we offer.
  16. From time to time we may provide your information to our marketing or IT departments for research and analysis purposes so that we can monitor and improve the services we provide. We may occasionally contact you by post, email or telephone to ask you for your feedback and comments on our services.
  17. The failure by us to insist on any occasion upon performance of these Terms shall not thereby act as a waiver of such a breach or an acceptance of any variation of these Terms
  18. A person who is not a party to these Terms may not enforce any of its terms or conditions under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999
  19. These Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in all respects in accordance with the Laws of England