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
Our 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.
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.
Do you loan specimens for research?
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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