A 'feather-trap' for collecting DNA samples from birds.

Golo Maurer, N Beck, MC Double

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic analyses of birds are usually based on DNA extracted from a blood sample. For some species, however, obtaining blood samples is difficult because they are sensitive to handling, pose a conservation or animal welfare concern, or evade capture. In such cases, feathers obtained from live birds in the wild can provide an alternative source of DNA. Here, we provide the first description and evaluation of a 'feather-trap', consisting of small strips of double-sided adhesive tape placed close to a nest with chicks, as a simple, inexpensive and minimally invasive method to collect feathers. The feather-trap was tested in tropical conditions on the Australian pheasant coucal (Centropus phasianinus). None of the 12 pairs of coucals on which the feather-trap was used abandoned the nest, and feeding rates did not differ from those of birds not exposed to a feather-trap. On average, 4.2 feathers were collected per trap over 2-5 days and, despite exposure to monsoonal rain, DNA was extracted from 71.4% of samples, albeit at low concentrations. The amount of genomic DNA extracted from each feather was sufficient to reliably genotype individuals at up to five microsatellite loci for parentage analysis. We show that a feather-trap can provide a reliable alternative for obtaining DNA in species where taking blood is difficult. It may also prove useful for collecting feather samples for other purposes, e.g. stable-isotope analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-34
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular ecology resources
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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