Avigail Ben-Dov Segal and Dr. Roi Dor

The Feather Identification Lab’s main goal is to identify feather remains, mainly from air strikes, to the lowest possible taxonomic level, preferably to the species level. As the only Feather Identification Lab in the region we have been successfully identifying feathers remains for the Israeli Air Force, the Israel Airports Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Feather identification is crucial in order to minimize air strikes, the corresponding risk of casualties and damage to airplanes. In addition, feather identification is also used as forensic evidence against poachers. We receive feathers or part of feathers collected on/around airplanes from military bases, international and domestic airports, as well as feathers collected by Israel Nature and Parks Authority rangers from suspected poachers. 

Feather identification is conducted through preparation of histological slides for microscopic identification as well as through morphological identification of feathers. We use specific features of the microstructure of feathers that are like fingerprints that assist in identification of feather remains. We have a comprehensive comparative collection of histological slides of many Palearctic bird species that is very helpful for microscopic identification, as well as a large comparative feather collection. The lab also makes use of the largest regional collection of bird specimens (> 18,000) at The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, which provides an invaluable resource for feather identification.

The molecular lab at the museum now routinely provides genetic identifications from bird remains. This additional information complements our microscopic and morphological identification. It is particularly important when damage was caused to an aircraft and in cases where the remains do not allow species level microscopic identification.