On the diet side, we have reconstructed diets for a number of birds for clients. We’ve looked at what insects and plants prairie chickens eat. We’ve quantified the plants that geese in Alaska eat. We’ve looked at the insects and other invertebrates that shorebirds and songbirds eat.

We had never tried to sequence the diet of raptors, though. A client recently sent us “hawk chalk” to sequence. The fecal material was collected from a number of different species. We were asked to determine what vertebrates the raptors were eating as well as the identity of the raptors themselves.

The details are not ours to divulge, but it turns out sequencing the fecals for vertebrate DNA worked pretty well. We were able to identify species such as red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and goshawks. And we identified the rodents, lagomorphs and other birds they were eating.

Another potential opportunity to open the black box on wildlife diet!