Forensic ornithology is a specialised branch of forensic zoology. It involves bird species identification through the examination of feathers, feather fragments and bird skeleton bones that are the end products of aircraft bird strikes, wind turbine bird strikes, power line bird collisions, communication tower bird collisions and tall building bird collisions.
Forensic ornithology is also used for bird identification by customs authorities through the examination of bird feathers, eggs, egg fragments (bird egg identification), bird specimens and nests confiscated at airports and seaports.
When birds strike aircraft they can inflict massive damage to the aircraft and, occasionally, cause the loss of human life. Therefore, Ambecol designs, implements and monitors the efficiency of bird hazard management plans at airports to help reduce the incidents of bird strikes. We also design and implement similar plans for wind farms to help reduce the incidence of strikes between wind turbines and birds.Feathers are among the most uniquely designed, beautiful structures in nature and have evolved to serve a variety of functions (e.g. protection, recognition, attraction, aerodynamics, insulation). While there are many different types of feathers on a single bird’s body (e.g., contour, semiplume, down, bristle, filoplume), the contour (body, wing and tail) feathers are the most diagnostic to the casual observer. Recognizing the plumage (a collective term for all of the feathers that cover the bird’s body) is one of the most common ways that we identify the many different species of birds. The individual feathers (which together make up the plumage) also vary among and within species, and even exhibit differences on a single bird’s body. For example, examination of the plumage of a male Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) reveals different colors, shapes, textures, sizes, and patterns on most every part of the body. In addition, each contour feather is generally made up of different types of barbs – 1) Pennaceous barbs are stiff and make up the feather vanes which give color, pattern and texture to the whole feather, 2) Plumulaceous (downy) barbs are fluffy, soft barbs located at the base of most contour feathers and are thought to aid in insulation. Although these two types of barbs have homologous structures, they appear very different from each other when viewed with light microscopy. The reasons for these morphological differences are not truly known but could be due to functional constraints on each part of the feather (e.g. flight vs insulation).