Laybourne, Roxie Collie Simpson

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Biographical History

Roxie C. Laybourne was a forensic ornithologist. She was born September 15, 1910 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She was the eldest of 15 children, her childhood was spent in Farmville, North Carolina. She earned her bachelor's degree from Meredith College in 1932 in mathematics and general science. Laybourne completed her master's degree in botany at George Washington University in 1950. After graduating, Laybourne returned to North Carolina and worked at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural History in Raleigh as a taxidermist and collector. She also worked at the National Fisheries Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina before being encouraged to return to Washington, D.C. by Smithsonian Secretary and ornithologist, Alexander Wetmore. Laybourne began working at the Smithsonian Institution in 1944 in US Fish and Wildlife Service Bird and Mammal Laboratory. She was a pioneering forensic ornithologist at the Smithsonian where she worked for over 40 years. Known as “Feather Lady,” her major contributions include the technique of using microscopic structures of plumulaceous (downy) feather barbules to identify bird species. She also spent a large portion of her career identifying avian remains from thousands of aircraft-bird collisions, which helped government agencies and jet engine manufacturers take safety measures to keep birds away from aircraft. In 1988 she officially retired from the Smithsonian although she continued her feather identification work as a Research Associate until her death. In her later years, she also served as a consultant to the division of law enforcement of the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, and taught biology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia as an adjunct professor. Laybourne died on August 7, 2003 at her home in Manassas, Virginia.


Department of Vertebrate Zoology Division of Birds. Roxie C. Laybourne (1910-2003). Division of Birds website. Retrieved May 2012 from

Related entities

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service : She worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service Birds and Mammal Lab.

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  • Animals
  • Birds


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