Teaching Resources - Forensic Science of Bird Strikes

Feather Identification

Feathers from an airplane bird strike are compared to museum bird specimens to figure out what species collided with the plane. Photo by Carla Dove, Smithsonian. 

STEM Subject: Forensic Science of Bird Strikes 

National Middle School Science Standards Earth Science, Life Science, Engineering 

Key Terms: ornithology, forensic science, bird ecology, feather identification, DNA barcoding, airplane strike, snarge 

Key Concepts: 

  • Analysis of bird feathers and snarge 
  • Identifying bird and other animal remains 
  • Value of reference collections in museums
  • Impacts of human activities on ecology 
  • Technology used by forensic ornithologists

Resource Types: 


♠ Resource is aligned with the Bird Strike Whodunit? School Field Trip Program. Learn more about all of our School Field Trip Programs here.

Webcast (video) and Podcast (audio) Shows

Webcast about forensic ornithology with Smithsonian ornithologist Carla Dove on Smithsonian Science How

Printable Lessons 

Forensic Ornithology Lesson Carla Dove

Online Activities 

All About Feathers Cornell University Lab of Ornithology 

Science Literacy Resources

Middle School Level

High School Level 

♠ Fighting the Perils of Bird- Plane Collisions Smithsonian Magazine

Gifted Readers

Posters and Worksheets


From DNA to Genomics Q?rius Topic Page



The Forensic Science of Bird Strikes teaching resources support students in meeting the following middle school NGSS Performance Expectations.

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

MS-ETS-1 Engineering Design

  • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.









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