Ornithology Services and Policies

As the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Burke Museum offers the following services through ornithology. If you don’t find a service or policy you’re looking for, contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

Specimen Loans

Objects from the Ornithology Collections may be loaned to qualified researchers. For more information, contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

Visiting the Collections

The Ornithology Collection is open by appointment only. For more information, contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

Feather Identification

Identifying feathers is often surprisingly difficult. Each species has many types, shapes and sometimes colors of feathers, and there are hundreds of species in Washington, so identifying a single feather may take hours even with the resource of our Spread Wing Collection. Thus, we usually do not have sufficient staff time to accommodate these requests. Please see the resources below for other ways you might identify your specimen.


  • Field guides, such as the National Geographic Guide to the Birds of North America or the Sibley Guide to Birds, publishing by the National Audubon Society
  • The Feather Atlas from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service covers flight feathers of North American Birds
Specimen Donation

Salvaging birds you find dead can make an important contribution to the Ornithology Collection. Salvaged birds are prepared as scientific or teaching specimens used by students and researchers around the world. Each year the Burke Museum takes in hundreds of birds from wildlife rehabilitation clinics and members of the public. Most were hit by cars, died from hitting windows, were killed by cats, or were victims of natural or man-made disasters. Salvaged birds form an important part of the Burke's extensive research collections, and are the core of the Burke's Teaching Collection—used in both K–12 and University education programs.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act gives federal protection to all but a handful of birds, including some game birds and invasive, introduced species, such as the European Starling Sturnus vulgaris, House Sparrow Passer domesticus, and Rock Dove Columba livia (Pigeon). It is illegal—and a federal crime—to possess or transport most birds (or bird parts) without a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In practice, however, the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife allow the public to possess birds for the time needed to deliver them to an approved educational institution such as the Burke Museum. Thus, if you call one of these offices having found a dead bird, they will likely refer you to Burke Ornithology.

If you cannot immediately bring the bird to the Burke Museum, you should contact Rob Faucett (on the People and Contact page). You should not consider keeping the material for your own use.

Volunteer Opportunities

For information about current ornithology volunteer opportunities, visit the volunteering at the Burke page.

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