Researchers report on the unambiguous identification of protected avian species from as little as one barb of a feather. Many avian species are protected by international agreements and national legislation, yet they are traded illegally because of their high value. Two sections of the avian mitochondrial genome were chosen to identify bird species, being a 561-bp section of ND2 gene and a 921-bp section of the ND5 gene. Two different DNA extraction methods were compared for their ability to reliably isolate sufficient DNA to be detected in a subsequent PCR. Using a commercial kit supplied by QIAGEN, a complete sequence was obtained from one barb for the ND2 gene, whereas two barbs were required to reliably sequence the 921-bp section of the ND5 gene. The process worked on all species tested using feathers from archival museum specimens, resulted in minimal damage to the specimen and can readily be adopted by a forensic science laboratory. Abstract published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.