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Working with Birds

By Ildiko Szabo

Museum

Beaty Biodiversity Museum Honorary Assistant Curator Ildiko Szabo presents a how-to guide for novices needing instruction on how to prepare spread wings, avian round study skins, skeletons, and collect tissue DNA samples. The downloadable manual provides step-by-step instruction on how to prepare spread wings, avian round study skins, skeletons, and collect tissue DNA samples. This is the first comprehensive avian preparation manual web-published in colour photo-essay format. The series is designed to help novices who have never prepared a bird study skin and for people looking for a refresher course.
The Working with Birds website is a how-to guide for novices needing to prepare voucher specimens to complement their DNA studies, or needing to prepare round study skins in the field or the lab. Each of the PowerPoint presentations can be downloaded on any electronic device or printed as a handbook.

Researchers not intending to collect specimens may encounter birds killed by natural causes. Photographing and measuring external and internal morphology of these dead bird results in data not previously available. This online reference manual shows how to use gonads to sex a bird, determine if a female has previously laid eggs, categorize fat levels, record gut contents, and estimate the extent of skull pneumatisation. Preforming a quick necropsy can yield valuable insights on the breeding or migratory condition of a bird.

This downloadable bird preparation manual on the University of British Columbia Beaty Biodiversity Museum website provides step-by-step instruction on how to prepare spread wings, avian round study skins, skeletons, and collect tissue DNA samples. This is the first comprehensive avian preparation manual web-published in colour photo-essay format. The series is designed to help novices who have never prepared a bird study skin and for people looking for a refresher course.

Preparing Bird Specimens
  • Intro The look of the bird and a few things to look for
  • Part 1 Spread wings, a good place to start
  • Part 2 Skinning your first bird
  • Part 3 Other skinning methods
  • Part 4 Stuffing your first bird
  • Part 5 Other stuffing and pinning methods & Bird parts
  • Part 6 Sexing birds using gonads (includes 2 quizzes with answer sheets)
  • Part 7 Determining skull pneumatization & Skeleton preparations
  • Part 8 DNA sampling & Gut analysis
  • Part 9 Washing birds for ectoparasites & Drying washed skins
  • Part 10 Recording fat levels & Cleaning fatty and stinky skins
  • Part 11 Flat skins, shmoos, and other types of study skins
  • Part 12 Labelling: The most important step
Resources

Although there are only a few basic methods on how to prepare bird skins, almost every large museum has a unique signature on how they prepare specimens. Collected here are various videos, websites, and documents showing alternate ways to prepare birds. Label guidelines, and other information of interest to people contributing to avian collections are included.

Videos

Field Museum: A Way to Call Home: David Willard
Field Museum: Skeleton Preparation - Fallen birds get a second life
Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science: Specimen Preparation
Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Roadrunner - part 1
Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Roadrunner - part 2
Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Roadrunner - part 3


Websites

University of Alberta-Calagary: List of Feather Mites and Their Hosts
Federmilben, Denmark: Feather Mites and Their Hosts I, Quill Mites and Their Hosts II, click on the ♀ and ♂ to view pictures of European ectoparasite species.
Michel Klemann - Feathers: Flight Feathers of European Birds
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Dermestarium
University of Puget Sound: Wing Image Collection
U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab: The Feather Atlas: Flight Feathers of North American Birds


Documents

American Museum Of Natural History: Sweet, P. R. 2007. Proceedings of the 5th International Meeting of European Bird Curators.Collection building through salvage (PDF)
Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science: Label Guidelines (DOC)
Peregrine Fund: Kiff, L. F. 1989. 107th American Ornithology Meeting Bird Specimen Preparation Workshop Notes. Techniques for preparing eggs and nests. (PDF)
University of Alaska-Anchorage: Field Catalog (PDF )
University of Alaska-Anchorage: Prep Manual (PDF)
University of Alaska-Fairbanks: Winker, K. 2000. J of Field Ornithology Paper on Specimen Preparation (PDF)
University of Puget Sound: Bird Skinning (PDF)


For more information about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, visit their website.

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