Identifying the sex of a bird can be both easy and difficult – this greatly depends on the species of the bird which you have just caught. The best way of doing this is to have guide or handbook ready that contains illustrations which will let you identify the species. As a side note, you should find out whether the animal is an adult or a youth. But the next most important classification is to discover if the bird is a male or female. If you’re looking at a mammal then this is easy to identify. But for birds how should this be done?
It is easy to tell the difference between some species such as pheasants because the males and females look completely different. The plumages and sizes will be of vastly different colors. So to identify the differences you simple need a photo or illustration to tell the sex of the bird. See the photos below for a comparison.
But with other birds such as blue tits, the male and female can appear to be almost exactly the same. This is also true of young birds which has not yet fully matured and developed their own sex specific plumage. See the photos below for comparison.
So what should one do when they come across a bird such as a blue tit in which the males and females appear very similar?
Whilst this may not be a pleasant thing to do, you have to identify the testicles or ovaries if you are to discover the sex of a bird. The location of these is almost always in the belly near the small of the back. To add further complications to the problem, the sex organs can change in size depending on the period of the year. During the breeding seasons these can be very easy to identify but during the winter months, such organs may require magnification for them to be discovered.
For the purposes of taxidermy, the correct solution to these problems requires a minor surgery of the bird. Take a pair of sharp and strong scissors or a scalpel. Use these tools to cut through the lower ribs of the bird towards the anus. Once the cut has been made use the scalpel to move the intestines towards one side so that the sex organs can be seen – these should be in front of the kidneys. Both the male and female sex organs are connected to the bowels of the bird via a white colored string like tube. Look out for this so that the sex organs are not confused with the kidneys which can also sometimes appear as white shaped balls.
To identify the male bird testicles, look for two small white and sphereical shaped balls next to each other. To identify the female look for two small white irregular shaped balls which are usually flat – these are the ovaries. Understanding the difference between these two is the key to determining the sex of a bird.
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Previously I talked about the best method of hunting an animal for the purposes of taxidermy. This article will look at the best ways of carrying that specimen back home after it has been killed. It is important to read this article as a lot of unnesscessary damage can be created if the animal is not carried back properly after the hunt.
With the animal killed it is useful to bring some cotton along with you so that it can be placed into wound holes that have been created. You need to do this otherwise the blood can stain the hide. The animal can then be wrapped in paper and this can be used as padding when placing the animal in the bag. For most small animals a leather bag with a strap is the best way of carrying a specimen back home to your hunting lodge.
Because of their size, the carrying of a bird back from a hunt tends to be fairly easy. First place a piece of cotton in to the throat of the bird. You can use a small twig to help this insertion. This helps to stop any juices following out of the bird which can damage the plumage. Also, because birds are much more delicate than land creatures you need to handle them with more care. If this is a small bird such as a pigeon then one simple solution is to use a large paper magazine. This can then be rolled up around the bird to protect when it is placed in a bag. String can then be used to tie the rolled up magazine together and then paper can be stuffed down both ends to stop the bird from falling out.
However, for larger animals such as deer this can be much more difficult. Here are some of the best solutions, in order of easiest first:
- The easiest way is to drive a truck as near to the deer as possible and then to load the deer on it. This will often require you to hack away at the undergrowth so bring a saw or machete with you.
- The next easiest option is to bring along a small trailer or sledge to carry the game by hand back to your truck or lodge.
- The next easiest option requires you to have a friend present and for you to carry a pole. Bind the animals feet with some rope at both ends and sling the pole through it. Then each person can lift either end of the pole and carry the deer back on foot.
- If you have brought some rope along then tie the rope around antlers of the deer and use this to drag the carcass.
- Finally the least recommended solution. Drag the deer along the ground by holding it’s antlers. However this last two methods are the least preferred because of the damage they usually inflict to the taxidermy specimen.
Did you find this article useful? Please check out Taxidermy Made Easy which covers everything you need to know about the art of taxidermy.
The use of a hunting rifle is the most effective way of killing an animal for the use in taxidermy. A much easier way of collecting a taxidermy specimen is to simply buy what is required. However, buying a specimen costs money and since many taxidermists are also hunters, it is a good idea to follow a few pointers when hunting for the specific purposes of taxidermy.
Firstly when aiming for an animal, the shots should be fired at its chest or main body. It is this part of the animal which can most easily take the damage of the bullet without being distorted. Try not to aim for the head as otherwise you may have created a lot of work for yourself later on when trying to fix the damage.
Take into consideration the power of the rifle or weapon being used. Some rifles can be simply too power and leave a too large bullet wound when they exit through the other side of the creature.
You must learn how to kill a wounded animal quickly so as to put an end to its suffering. Large game such as deer can usually be killed off with another shot or two to the animals main body – however this can damage the hide. Alternatively a hunting knife can be used to kill the animal but this shouldn’t be done unless it has been demonstrated to you beforehand and you really know what you are doing.
Birds up to the size of a small eagle can be quickly killed by compressing the lungs with your thumbs and forefingers. The advantage of this method is that it does not harm the quality of the taxidermy specimen. If it is a larger bird then it can be killed by plunging a hunting knife underneath the left wing of the bird aiming for its heart. Be careful when handling larger wounded birds as their talons can be quite vicious.
Some hunters like to bring their dogs along with them when they are hunting. However, most dogs, especially if they are not well trained are definitely not fit for this purpose. Spaniels tend to be one of the best breeds for this however, generally it is not recommended to bring a dog along when hunting. The main use tends to be if you are hunting small animals and have difficulty finding the creatures after they have been shot. Dogs such as spaniels can sniff out the kill and can retrieve it for you, and with proper training – without damaging the animal.
If you found this article useful I recommend you click here to read about how you should carry back an animal after it has been hunted. It is important to know this as a lot of unnecessary damage occurs to taxidermy specimens when they are carried back from a hunt.
This article will discuss the use of artificial eyes in birds for the purposes of taxidermy. This is not something that should be done until the later stages of creating a bird. Also, this should be done well after the bird has been fleshed and dried because otherwise it could easily damage the birds feathers.
When doing this with a dried bird, try to maintain the roundness of the eyelids and then carefully take a piece of cotton. This should only be a small piece of this cotton and it should be placed into each eyelid and used to fill in behind eye but not totally. You may wish to use a metal tool to help force this through.
The reason the cotton is used to partially fill the hole is because you should now take a piece of wet cotton and place into the eyelid. This can then be left for 20-30 minutes and once you have returned you should find that the eyelids have greatly softened and are not malleable. This means they are ready for shaping. The wet cotton can then be removed.
Next, measure the length of the eyelid. Next take an eye from your glass eye collection which matches that length, the colours of which will usually be brown. It is useful for a taxidermist to have purchased a collection of eyes so that they can mix and match the correct sizes. To get the correct color refer to the details of the specimens records which should have been made when you first caught or bought the animal.
When choosing the correct eye to match the measurements taken of the eyelids, you should choose an eye which is slightly larger than the measurement of the eyelid. This is because the glass eye will be placed behind the eyelid and therefore need to be of a larger size for them to fit in the socket.
Once the eye has been placed in to the correct position, use a small piece of glue or putty to hold the eye. The putty should be of the type that can be molded so it can be placed into any remaining gaps to hold the eye into place.
To do this, first make sure the eyelid has been wetted and is therefore easy to move as mentioned before. With the glass eyes now in position take some tweezers and place small pieces of the putty into the eyelids. This should be done until all the gaps have been filled in. Then take a needle and use this to push the eyelid back so that the eye fully emerges and also use the needle to remove and pieces of putty present. The last step is to simply clean and tidy up any of the remaining dirt around the eye.
If you found this article useful then check out Taxidermy Made Easy which goes into more detail on topics such as inserting glass eyes into birds.
The following process is detailed below for using a lobster for taxidermy.
- Firstly and most obviously the animal should be dead and a specimen which has not been eaten and therefore does not have any cracked shells. If the animal is alive it can be easily killed by placing it in a large pot of water that is already boiling. Within 5 minutes you can take the animal out as after this time it will definitely have died. The lobster can then be placed in a cold jug of water so it can be soon handled.
- The back of the lobster known as the carapax can be cut away using some strong metal tools by leveraging the edges. The flesh can then be removed or eaten. Keep this shell for later use.
- The same process should be applied to the abdomen.
- Next is the goal of fleshing out the legs, which can be fairly fiddly. You will need to have a wire with you. This wire should then be inserted into the legs, which can be done by placing it between the joints of the legs or the claws. The lobster flesh should then be thoroughly scraped out using this wire. A syringe should then be used to clean out the remains of the flesh from the legs.
- The same process should be done with both of the large claws. This should be much easier to do after you have operated on the small legs.
- The lobster should then be placed in taxidermy preserving chemicals for a period of time.
- Another wire (not the scraping wire but a modelling wire) should now be inserted back into the legs and the claws so that the animal can be moved and modelled. This should stop the animals from becoming loose. These wires can be inserted and exited from beneath the lobster.
- Bend the wires until the desired shape or pose of the lobster is made.
- Then pour plaster of Paris into the holes of the lobster and wait for it to harden.
- Place the lobsters shell which was earlier removed back onto the lobster and glue it into place.
- Glue any of the remaining parts which are still loose and position the claws using the wires again if necessary.
- If mounting on a base or stand then you may also wish to wire the claws and body of the lobster down by wiring the underside.
- Finally and optionally, find another lobster specimen and use this as a guide for colouring and painting in the taxidermied lobster that you have just created.
If you found this helpful and are interested in other types of taxidermy then check out the latest book on taxidermy called: Taxidermy Made Easy – Click here to find out more!
Taxidermists are just people and I can tell you that people are afraid of snakes! In fact, there are several taxidermists who won’t even go near the animal, no matter the sum of money involved! Whether this is because of the fear of the animal, or because of the difficultly involved in the process, one can never be sure. However, done properly, a snake can be a beautiful addition to a taxidermists collection
If you live in certain areas of Australia, America or Africa then encountering a snake is quite a common experience and therefore a specimen can be easily obtained if you are prepared to kill the creature. This is most easily done by hitting the animal with a large stick. However, I do not recommend you hunt for your own specimen as many snakes can be poisonous and dangerous, therefore it’s easier to buy a recently killed specimen. So don’t try to kill a snake on your own, buy a specimen instead.
It’s relatively easy to skin a snake compared to most animals used in taxidermy. When doing so, you will find that snake skins are easier to remove on recently killed animals.
Keep in mind that snakes shed their skins naturally by having a break in their old skin around the area of the neck and then crawling out of this location. But when you skin a snake, a different process should be applied.
A long slit through the entire underside length of the snake should be cut (from the tail end up to be base of the skull). From this, the snakes skin can then be pulled out, removing the bones and flesh found in the process. This method is much more preferable than to skin the snake in the same way that it itself in nature i.e. cutting round the neck and dragging down – as doing so usually involves the damaging of scales.
The remaining bones and skulls inside the head can be removed by using tweezers and small metal tools. With the skin removed, it should then be placed in taxidermy preserving chemicals.
Mounting the snake
I will now discuss an unconventional method of mounting a snake skin. To find a more conventional approach check out book Taxidermy Made Easy by clicking here.
After the snake has been dried from the preserving chemicals, fill the insides of it with sand or preferably sawdust. This should be started from the tail and then sewn using a fine thread and needle that matches the color of the skin.
This method requires you to compact the sand or sawdust every couple of inches or so. This process of sewing is continued so that the shape of the snake is firm but is not bloated past its original size. Also, keep in mind when using this method that you should position the snake in the final position you want it laid in, as it can become more difficult to move and mold the snake after this process is complete.
Alternatively before applying the compacted sawdust, a wire can be placed inside the snake and extended to the whole length. This allows it to be modelled and positioned more easily later on and can also allow for some upright poses.
To find out more details on how to easily mount a snake then check out the latest book: Taxidermy Made Easy – available now!
If you are performing taxidermy on a fish and it requires painting then one of the most useful things a taxidermist can do is obtain an original photograph of the fish. This is usually easy to do if you have been given the fish by someone else as they usually will have taken a photo of their prize catch. However, if no such photo exists then the next best solution is to obtain another fish of the same pieces so it can be used as a comparison when colouring the fish it.
The reason why it is so important to have another specimen or photograph to look at is because a fish must be thoroughly dried if taxidermy on it is to be performed. Unfortunatley this drying process, whilst it helps to preserve the animal, usually ends up fading away any of the color left on the skin, although some colors may still be present. Also, you should paint the fish soon after the rest of the taxidermy process has been complete as otherwise the colors will soon fade even further.
As a rule, the colors of fish are always much darker on their topside which has their back to the light, compared with the underside of the belly which is usually lightly coloured. The reasons for this coloration is because it helps to camouflage the animals.
The first layer of paint should be applied quite thinly so that the any mistakes with the color can be easily corrected. After this have been applied and you are satisfied with the coloring another more heavily layer can be applied on the top and sides of the fish. If mistakes are made and the paint is applied too heavily then to remedy this solution then take a fine brush and reapply the colors of the previously present scales.
Looking at the photographs taken (or another specimen), the next stage is to apply the details and spots of the fish. This may include any unique markings and stripes that may have been lost during the drying process. If you have found during this process that the head of the fish is too bumpy then a small application of wax should be placed on the head before any paints are applied.
Once you are satisfied with the result you may have to wait for a day or so before the paint has fully dried. This may be especially true if you are using oil paints for the coloring. However, once the paint is fully dry then a layer of varnish should be placed onto the fish to ensure its preservation. This also adds a wet look to the fish, as if it has just been caught out of the water.
Did you find this article useful? Then find more useful taxidermy information available in Taxidermy Made Easy – available now!
Small mammals are good for a taxidermist to practice upon because they are so readily available. The skill level for doing taxidermy with a small mammal is also quite low and you don’t need many tools or materials, just patience to achieve some quality results.
Because of this it only really rests on the persistence of the taxidermist as to whether or not you’ll be able to achieve the desired goal. If you’re just starting taxidermy then you should attempt to take on smaller mammals such as squirrels before you aim for larger mammals such as deers.
If you’ve just bought or hunted an animal then it is a good idea to record some of the following:
- The name of the type of specimen.
- The location is was caught or bought.
- The date this was done.
- What sex the animal is.
- The colour and size of the animal’s eyes.
- The colour of the animals lips and feet plus any other unique features.
The next most important thing to do when performing this type of taxidermy is to take the correct measurements of the creature:
- First you’ll want to measure the length of the mammal. This measurement should be from the nose to the end of the tail if it has one or the behind if it does not. This should be done whilst the animals head is stretched back.
- You should also measure the length of the tail to the rear of the animal.
- The hind foot should be measured by bending it at a right angle and measuring to the end of the toenail.
- The length of the arms can be measured by holding an animal by its back as if it were on all four legs. A measurement from the shoulder to the foot of the ground can then be made.
- Finally a recording of the animal’s weight is also useful.
Once you’ve copied done this and copied all the details listed it is a good idea to number and file this away or type it up onto a computer system for later retrieval. A beginner taxidermist may think this is a bit excessive and that they can easily remember the details for later. Whilst this may be true right now, the problem is that taxidermy is often not performed right now.
Animals are usually freeze dried for use at a later date. This can be left in the freezer sometimes for a month, 6 months or maybe even a year or two later. So whilst you may be able to remember all the details right now, a year or so later you won’t. Especially if you are really enjoying your new hobby and have several animals on the go.
These are some of the beginner steps to preparing a small mammal for taxidermy. If you would like to what some of the next steps are then check out the latest book on Taxidermy called “Taxidermy Made Easy” – Click here to find out more!