Search the Collection
Approximately 100,000 individual records from the collections are accessible through the collections database. Note that most records refer to multiple specimen types from the same individual.
Specimen types include study skins, spread wings, bird skeletons, egg sets, nests and frozen tissue samples.
Eggs and Nests
Led by Curator John Klicka
Klicka Lab research involves using DNA sequences to reconstruct phylogenetic hypotheses of bird relationships. Such phylogenies provide a necessary framework for studying the evolution of various avian traits, including behaviors (such as migration), morphological traits (such as size, osteological characters, or plumage coloration), or distributions through time and space (biogeography). The latter is the focus of much of the research done in the Klicka lab, where we begin by identifying the units of biodiversity and then attempt to understand the origin and maintenance of this diversity in an ecological and biogeographic context.
Curator John Klicka’s research revolves around DNA labwork and phylogenetic analyses but it begins with fieldwork. Within the Burke Museum ornithology group, specimen-based research is emphasized. Birds collected and prepared as specimens during field expeditions contribute not only to our own research programs, but they also provide a valuable resource that is available to the general ornithological community.
Behavioral Ecophysics Lab
Led by Curator Alejandro Rico-Guevara
The Behavioral Ecophysics Lab focuses on the study of organismal mechanisms (e.g., physiology, biomechanics) in light of biotic and abiotic interactions, with the goal of establishing explicit links between physical laws and ‘rules of life’, at an organismal and ecological scale.
A central challenge of biological studies is to describe functional links between underlying architecture (e.g., genotype, phenotype) and emergent phenomena (e.g., performance, ecological patterns). To meet this challenge, it is necessary to identify and quantify casual relationships between variation in traits, such as wing and bill shape, and corresponding capabilities, such as cost of flight and feeding, of their possessors.
Having this information allows us to unveil the connections between these capabilities and realized patterns (e.g., resource use, competition strategies), and thus their ecological and evolutionary implications. In this sense, nectar-feeding birds stand out as ideal study organisms because scientists have studied the details of their biology, ecology, and evolution for many years. The way in which they find, access, and intake nectar (their efficiency, preferences, and limits) will determine their peaks and ranges of maximal performance on several environmental axes.
For this reason, increasing our knowledge of aspects such as: nectarivore physiological requirements, nectar feeding mechanics, and energetics of floral visitation, will have profound implications for understanding and predicting foraging behaviors and ecophysical responses, as testable biological rules.
Questions & Answers
We’ve pulled together some common questions and answers related to the Burke Museum Ornithology Collection. Do you have question that isn’t answered in the list below? Contact us.
Can I visit the collection?
Can you help me identify a feather?
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.
We typically cannot accommodate identification requests and recommend the resources below to help you identify your specimen:
I found a dead bird. Can I donate it to the Burke?
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 us. You should not keep the material for your own use.
We've compiled several online resources from outside of the Burke Museum that may also be of interest.
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