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Bird skinning for fun and profit

December 22, 2008
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You may think that bird-skinning as a rather esoteric pursuit. You might be right, it’s not really anything than any individual with an interest in birds needs to take up to further that interest. I admit getting underneath the skin of a few bird species has given me a broader understanding and respect for the physiological attributes of certain birds, and that’s certainly interesting, but I wouldn’t consider such an action necessary for the average birder unless they wanted to go out of their way to do it. However, there is a certain little aspect of bird skinning that has had more practical implications that I’m thankful for.

I’d like to consider myself fairly handy. Not by choice or interest particularly, but by necessity. I like to make the things I buy last a long time, even if their inherent craftsmanship makes that unlikely. I hate throwing things away if there a chance I can fix it. Clothing is particularly frustrating to this end. Is it just me or do clothes seem to hold up more poorly these days than they used to? I realize I’m probably too young to have a really far-reaching perspective on this, but even in my relative youth it’s clear. I really hate it when particularly comfortable pair of jeans gets to the point where they can no longer be worn for one reason or another. I’m the one who patches and stitches to the point where the original denim is almost completely gone. Here’s where the birds come in.

One of the last steps in preparing a bird skin (detailed here) is sewing up the body. I figured myself for a pretty good seamstress (seamster if it’s a dude?) but sewing up dead birds regularly has introduced me to some new things and refined my technique. Below is an American Crow I was working on a couple weeks ago. it’s hard to see the white string against the stuffing but you get the picture.

I have a pair of jeans that were getting really worn on the back pocket where I carry my wallet to the point where a big hole was developing. I hate holey jeans (though I’d be willing to check out holy jeans), so I took my new found stitching skills and sewed it up, with a neat surgeon’s knot on the inside (that’s the mark of a pro). We’ll see if they survive the wash but I’ve got a good feeling about this.

Now, who out there is gonna say museum work isn’t applicable to real life, huh?

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