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Current Methods and Future Directions in Avian Diet Analysis

Hoenig, BD; Snider, AM; Forsman, AM; Hobson, KA; Latta, SC; Miller, ET; Polito, MJ; Powell, LL; Rogers, SL; Sherry, TW; Toews, DPL; Welch, AJ; Taylor, SS; Porter, BA

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BD Hoenig

AM Snider

AM Forsman

KA Hobson

SC Latta

ET Miller

MJ Polito

LL Powell

SL Rogers

TW Sherry

DPL Toews

SS Taylor

BA Porter


Identifying the composition of avian diets is a critical step in characterizing the roles of birds within ecosystems. However, because birds are a diverse taxonomic group with equally diverse dietary habits, gaining an accurate and thorough understanding of avian diet can be difficult. In addition to overcoming the inherent difficulties of studying birds, the field is advancing rapidly, and researchers are challenged with a myriad of methods to study avian diet, a task that has only become more difficult with the introduction of laboratory techniques to dietary studies. Because methodology drives inference, it is important that researchers are aware of the capabilities and limitations of each method to ensure the results of their study are interpreted correctly. However, few reviews exist which detail each of the traditional and laboratory techniques used in dietary studies, with even fewer framing these methods through a bird-specific lens. Here, we discuss the strengths and limitations of morphological prey identification, DNA-based techniques, stable isotope analysis and the tracing of dietary biomolecules throughout food webs. We identify areas of improvement for each method, provide instances in which the combination of techniques can yield the most comprehensive findings, introduce potential avenues for combining results from each technique within a unified framework, and present recommendations for the future focus of avian dietary research.


Hoenig, B., Snider, A., Forsman, A., Hobson, K., Latta, S., Miller, E., …Porter, B. (2022). Current Methods and Future Directions in Avian Diet Analysis. Ornithology, 139(1), Article ukab077.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 3, 2021
Publication Date Jan 11, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 5, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 3, 2022
Journal Ornithology
Print ISSN 0004-8038
Electronic ISSN 2732-4613
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 139
Issue 1
Article Number ukab077


Accepted Journal Article (2.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Ornithology following peer review. The version of record: Hoenig, BD, Snider, AM, Forsman, AM, Hobson, KA Latta, SC Miller, ET Polito, MJ Powell, LL , Rogers, SL Sherry, TW, Toews, DPL Welch, AJ , Taylor, SS & Porter, BA (2022). Current Methods and Future Directions in Avian Diet Analysis. Ornithology 139(1): ukab077. is available online at:

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