Chicago is a major stop for thousands of birds on their way to and from their breeding / wintering grounds every year. With an abundance of tall, lighted buildings, cities provide numerous obstacles for birds to collide into. 

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) is an all-volunteer project dedicated to the protection of migratory birds. During spring and fall migration, volunteers have daily routes looking for birds that are stunned from flying into windows.  Injured birds are rescued and sent to a local wildlife rehabilitation center, where they are cared for until they can be released back to the wild.

Deceased birds are donated to the Field Museum where they become preserved specimens for a salvage research program.

First, valuable data is recorded. This includes things like: weight, wing/tail/body measurements, date and location found, name of collector, any parasites found get collected, and it gets assigned a number. Once all of this information is in the books, the bird is frozen until it can then be preserved.

Preservation methods vary (from skeletons to study skins to pickles) depending on the condition of the bird and specific research needs. During preparation, measurements of reproductive organs are recorded and a DNA sample is taken. 

Specimens give us invaluable information about the current state of the environment and its biodiversity. Every bird in our collection is a little unique. It has specific collection data, its own DNA, and its own distinctive traits - some have longer wings, differences in plumage, maybe this guy is a little fatter than his buddy, you get the point. By having more than one specimen of a given species, we can begin to make comparisons and track variation – within a species, a timeframe, or a geographic range. The world around us is continually changing, now at a faster rate than ever before, and these specimens (and others including mammals, insects, plants, rocks, etc.) are all environmental indicators helping scientists track the state of the natural world and put forth conservation efforts.

If you find an injured bird, call CBCM (If you’re not in Chicago, find a local wildlife rehab)!
If you find a dead bird – pick it up, record when and where you found it (be as specific as possible), and get the little booger frozen until you can drop it off at your local Natural History museum.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Field Museum’s bird collection… click here!