Victorian case of Central American birds

Victorian case of Central American birds

The case includes... Resplendent Quetzels, which truly live up to their name

This stunning collection of birds was collected by Frank Oates over a period of six months during 1872 during his travels in Central America, principally Guatemala. The specimens were shipped to England for taxidermy, then presented in a splendid Victorian glass display case designed for the purpose.

Frank Oates was brought up in the large family home in Meanwoodside, Leeds. He always had an interest in natural sciences, particularly birds. He started studying Natural Science at Christ Church College, Oxford in 1860, but never completed his studies because of serious ill-health. 

Rather extraordinarily, he set off to the Americas in 1871 – partly to recover his health. He travelled in Central America and the southern part of North America for approximately one year, spending most of the time in Guatemala and California. It was from these travels that this splendid collection arose.

The case includes some glorious specimens, including some Resplendent Quetzels, which truly live up to their name, and a Scarlet Macaw – both birds venerated in Guatemala since the time of the ancient Aztecs and Maya.

Quick Facts

  • Collected by Frank Oates
  • Collected in 1872
  • Collected from Central America, principally Guatemala


  • Frank Oates was a Victorian explorer, born 1840, into a wealthy family able to trace their ancestry back to the time of William the Conqueror. 
  • Frank’s brother was William Oates, father to Lawrence Oates – later Captain Lawrence Oates of the Scott Antarctic Expedition. Captain Oates sadly never met his Uncle Frank, being born five years after Frank’s early death.
  • The Victorian case of Central American birds collected by Frank Oates contains a number of species - Keel-biller Toucan, Collared Arcari, Scarlet Macaw, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Resplendent Quetzal, Western Kingbird, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Emerald Toucanet, Blue Grosbeak, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Montezuma Orpendula, Yellow-breasted Grosbeak, Green Jay, Yellow-naped Parrot, Blue Grosbeak, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Lesser Roadrunner.
  • The specimens were last conserved, in situ, at Gilbert White’s House & Garden and The Oates Collection, Selborne, in 2011.

Did you know?

The Resplendent Quetzel is the national bird of Guatemala.


Victorian case of Central American birds

Fact Sheets

Things to Do

  • Looking at the birds in this fabulously colourful case – or just by studying the list of some of the birds displayed, see if you can create a ‘rainbow of birds’ – finding a bird to match each of the seven colours we see in a rainbow.

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