Bird taxidermy requires great skill and patience. The birds fall into three groups, waterfowl, game birds and turkey. The wood duck provides a good starting point. Basic techniques used in wood duck taxidermy apply to most other waterfowl and game birds. Turkey taxidermy requires greater expertise and technique. To learn the basics of bird taxidermy, follow these steps.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Measuring tape
- Latex gloves
- Sharpened spoon
- Dishwashing liquid
- Blow dryer
- Heavy wire
- Small log
- Fine wire
- Masking tape
- Super glue
- Insect pins
- Liquid crystal
Record details of the bird's death and take measurements of your entire bird to aid in reconstruction. Taxidermy law requires this process.
Make an incision with a scalpel in the bird's breast below the neck, cutting slowly down the center to the posterior. Peel back its skin, which holds the bird's feathers together much like human hair roots into our skin. Detach its skin from its wings and legs, using your latex-gloved hands.
Remove all flesh and fat from its skin using a sharpened spoon. Make sure you keep the feather tracts, the roots into the outer skin, intact. Save the wing and leg bones.
Wash and de-grease the bird using dishwashing liquid diluted with water to prepare attachment to its tail, legs, wings and head. After washing the bird's skin, place it in a washing machine on spin cycle if it's too moist. Dry the feathers, using a blow dryer on medium heat.
Run heavy wire down its legs and wings, being sure to bind tightly where there are muscles missing. Then attach the legs and wings to the bird's body. Sew up the skin with a needle and thin but sturdy twine and place it on a base.
Realign its feathers in their natural position and replace any damaged feathers. Take time with this step; otherwise, your end result doesn't appear realistic.
Arrange the bird in a natural pose, using your previous measurements to create a life-like model. Mount the bird on a small log or rock. Once you've set your mount into its pose, secure the feathering with wire until the skin sets which takes up to two weeks.
Tips and warnings
- Spray your hard wire with WD40 if you have difficulty inserting it into the bird's leg bones.
- Shake the bird vigorously before and while you mount it. This helps feathers fall into their natural pose.
- If you want to shape the tail or wing spread, try using a fine wire with masking tape on each end to hold them into place until the bird's skin dries entirely.
- Repair broken primary or tail feathers using super glue with insect pins to put them back together.
- Apply a light amount of liquid crystal to the bird's eyes for a glossy, realistic look.