The bird collection was started as early as 1840 at the Raffles Museum. As in the case of mammals the collection then depended mainly on donations and purchases. Later, some of the collection was acquired through collaborative research work and also by exchanges with other institutions. The most important exchange was made in 1926 when the then Director of the Federated Malay States Museums, H. C. Robinson sent the bird and mammal collection of the Selangor Museum for the insect collection of the Raffles Museum.
The greater part of the collection was acquired between 1903 to 1940 from expeditions conducted to various parts of Southeast Asia. Led by Robinson, Kloss, Chasen and Gibson-Hill, these expeditions have contributed fine collections of birds from the Sumatran localities of Mount Kerinci, Mount Leuser, and the Mentawi Islands, as well as from Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo, Vietnam, Cambodia and adjacent islands. Other individuals have contributed to building the bird collection. They include C. Hose, J. C. Moulton and Tom Harisson, E. Jacobson and H. J. V. Sody, E. Banks, K. G. Gairdner, E. Jacobson, H. N. Ridley, C. J. Aagaard, Dato Loke Wan Tho and J. Delacour. There is also a flycatcher caught from Malacca donated by Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-father of modern evolutionary theory.
The LKCNHM now has approximately 1060 species and some 31,000 specimens of birds, including a fine collection of eggs and nests. Even with legal constraints on bird collecting, a few good specimens are still donated by members of the public nowadays. These are usually fatal casualties of migration. The LKCNHM is one of the finest reference museums for the birds of the Southeast Asian region.
Major publications based on LKCNHM material include:
• Chasen, F. N., 1935. A handlist of Malaysian birds. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 11: xx+389 pp.
• Gibson-Hill, C. A., 1949. An annotated checklist of the birds of Malaya. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 20: 1-299.
• Gibson-Hill, C. A., 1950. A checklist of the birds of the Singapore Island. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 21: 132-183.
• Medway, L. & D. R. Wells, 1976. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. H. F. & Witherby & University of Malaya Press, Kuala Lumpur.
• Robinson, H. C. & C. Boden Kloss, 1921-24. The Birds of Southweast and Peninsular Siam. Journal of the Natural History Society of Siam, 5 (1921): 1-88, 1923: 89-218, 1924: 219-398.
• Morioka, H. & C. M. Yang, 1996. A catalogue of the bird specimens in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Part 1. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement No. 4. 141 pp.