These 12 tools help solve avian mysteries

At a Smithsonian lab, forensic ornithologists analyze feathers, aiding airfield staff in reducing bird strikes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY REBECCA HALE

For more than 20 years Carla Dove has run the Feather Identification Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Her team of forensic ornithologists receives more than 10,000 avian remains a year from aircraft collisions—bird strikes—and matches them to specimens in the museum’s collections, using morphology and DNA analysis. An example: After the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency landing in 2009, Dove’s lab ID’d the birds involved as Canada geese. By knowing what species are struck most, airfield staff can deter birds and reduce the number of damaging strikes.

Read This Next

These are the best compact cameras for travelers in 2022
Dramatic photos show La Palma volcano’s ongoing eruption
How to have a COVID-safe Thanksgiving gathering

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet