Fingerprints from feathers of birds of prey

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  • Published: Jan 14, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: Fingerprints from feathers of birds of prey

Scientists in Scotland have succeeded in recovering fingerprints from feathers and eggs for the first time using fluorescence spectroscopy, which will help the police in their investigations into the illegal taking of birds of prey.

Writing in Science and Justice, they explained how dusting the feathers with red and green fluorescent powders, or eggs with a black magnetic powder, revealed the latent fingerprints under irradiation. "Now, if the police examine a discarded bird of prey for fingerprints following our guidelines, any fingermarks that have been left there will become visible," explained corresponding author Derek Gentiles. "If a finger mark shows up, it is proof that the bird has been handled, and suggests that it was discarded on someone else’s land as the perpetrator tried to get rid of the carcass."  

The cause of death of wild birds is relatively easy to establish but this new procedure will help to lead the authorities to the perpetrators. Even if the prints are not clear, they point to an area on the feather or egg where DNA swabbing should be directed.

The team examined the feathers of six species of birds of prey: kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, red kite, golden eagle and white-tailed eagle and the eggs of seven species: kestrel, sparrowhawk, golden eagle, goshawk, tawny owl, barn owl and long-eared owl.

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