Forensic Identification of Aviation Bird Strikes in Australia


The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of forensic DNA-based techniques in identifying species involved in Australian aviation bird strikes. Experimental bird tissues were subjected to severely damaging conditions to determine if DNA could be extracted from these samples. In addition, DNA and feather microscopy databanks were created from the species classified as being the highest risk for strikes to provide reference data to compare against unknown samples. Finally, a DNA sampling kit was created and distributed widely to aerodromes across Australia for collection of material from unknown strikes for DNA analysis. Results of experimental bird tissue experiments showed the most detrimental conditions for DNA were to leave a sample at room temperature for 7+ days. DNA was successfully extracted from all strike samples collected with sampling kits then returned to the laboratory and positive identifications were able to be made to species level in the majority of cases. Interestingly, it was found that attempts at visual species identification were often incorrect and that the putative high risk species were only responsible for 27 per cent of the unidentified strikes. In general, we found DNA identification of strike species to be a reliable method for identifying the species involved in collisions and conclude that it would be a useful addition to the methods already employed to identify wildlife strikes at civilian aerodromes.

Type: Research and Analysis Report
Author(s): Dr Leslie Christidis, Dr Janette A. Norman, Dr Rebecca N. Johnson, Ms Sue Lindsay
Publication date: 30 June 2006
ISBN: 1 921092 75 0
Related: Bird Strikes
Last update 07 April 2014
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