Sunday, October 27, 2013

Western Ground Parrots at Audley End House

A few years ago, Simon Nevill who is very knowledgeable about Australian birds, visited Audley End Museum and to his surprise saw three mounted Ground Parrots.

Audley End House, Essex, England, is a palace in all but name. The collections there include many birds from Australia.

Simon brought back a copy of some documentation about the consignment that included the Ground Parrots. It was sent from “Freemantle Swan River” on the Unicorn. The accompanying list and letter is dated 10 December 1845. (Note that the British Swan River colony was only established in 1829.) All of the specimens were from Western Australia, so the Ground Parrots are definitely Western Ground Parrots.

The recipient was Richard Cornwallis Neville, 4th Lord Braybrooke, an avid collector of natural history and archeology, whose home was Audley End House.

We have not been able to determine who the sender was, but he describes occupying himself during a period of sickness when he was unable to read, with making a large collection of fauna from different parts of Western Australia and skinning, preserving and stuffing them.

The collection sent to Lord Braybrooke was indeed large comprising at least 95 birds including an Emu, at least 19 quadrupeds including Rock Wallabies, a dingo and a pair of Dalgytes (Bilbies), and 6 reptiles.

A little of the handwritten text is reproduced below. The Ground Parrots are most likely numbers 8 and 9 although the native name there is that which appears in Serventy and Whittell (1967) Birds of Western Australia for the Elegant Parrot which is at number 12 on the list. Below the handwritten text is much of the accompanying letter, transcribed by the museum. The photo of Audley End House is from Wikipedia.

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