Dead Birds: Part 1

I was always fascinated by dead animals, especially birds and fish, as they usually cannot be handled easily and examined while alive. I have seen many dead birds throughout my life and took a few pictures to document the more interesting cases. Below are a few images of what I managed to find, near to where I live.

Bird 1: Likely a lark
This specimen was found still alive by my family near Manchester, UK. It was weak and unable to fly so they decided to take it to the vet, but it died on the way there. I believe it was a lark, most likely a skylark, or a meadow pipit, although skylark is more likely due to its size and shape. These birds can be found everywhere in UK, but mostly live in the countryside and farmland. They are not very easy to spot where this one was found, so it was interesting to see. 

As seen on the picture, the bird has angular wings, which are long in proportion to the rest of its body, enabling them to fly and hover smoothly. If it was alive, it could likely sing, as larks are known to be talented songbirds, able to produce complex and variable songs. The cause of this one's death is unknown, as no injuries were seen on it and there were no visible signs of sickness. It is possible it got hit by a car and suffered some unseen internal injuries, or simply died of old age. We may never know, but it will always be remembered (at least by me and my family) as a very interesting bird.

Bird 2: Taxidermy Owls
Depicted here are taxidermy snowy owls, seen in a museum in Bristol, UK, where I currently live. These birds are mostly common in the north Arctic circle though, so they are highly unlikely to be seen alive in European countries, such as the UK. Snowy owls are relatively big compared to other owls, reaching wingspans of up to about 70 cm. Their food mostly consists of lemmings, but sometimes they also eat rabbits, birds and fish. The owls are often able to swallow their prey whole, provided it is small enough. The flesh gets digested in their stomach by means of stomach acid, while the indigestible bits, including bones, feathers, teeth etc are combined into a pellet and spat out approximately 1 day after consumption. Each female bird can typically hatch 3-11 eggs at a time.

The above snowy owls had been preserved by the process of taxidermy, in this case most likely the traditional skin-mount method, which involves removing the skin from the animal, before conserving it with appropriate chemicals or tanning, and then mounting it on a manequin. As actual eyes have to be removed from the specimen due to natural decay, glass eyes are installed as a replacement.

The link below shows a short Youtube video of the demonstration of the process involved in skinning an owl for taxidermy. It is quite amazing what the bird looks like without its skin and feathers on. It appears much smaller than when alive and whole.
The next video shows the process of filling the skin of a duck and mounting it, as I could not find a video of an owl, but the process should be similar in the cases of all birds.
There will be more written about taxidermy in future posts, so keep checking my blog, if intetested in the topic.

Bird 3: Blackbird
This bird was found as seen, in Bristol, UK. It was very easy to identify as a blackbird, a very popular species in UK and other European countries. Blackbirds also have good singing voices, and they can typically be heard from January to mid-July each year. The photographed bird appeared to have died peacefully and its time of death seemed recent as there was no visible insect activity on it. It looked as if someone put a flower next to it as a decoration, or perhaps a way of saying a final goodbye to the previously living being.

The biggest killer of blackbirds living close to humans is the domestic cat and younger birds are in most danger. Cars are obviously another significant cause. Parasite infections are very common in blackbirds, mostly due to consumption of infected food from the ground. For example, there exists a trichomonad parasite, which lives in the upper digestive tract of the bird, progressively blocking the throat and making it unable to swallow food, thus causing death by starvation. Another common disease of feeding birds is Salmonella, which causes death within 1-3 days after the bird showing initial symptoms.

While it is again unclear how the life of the bird in the above picture ended, it is possible that either of the above causes might have been the case, although a cat attack would have been the least likely, as the bird does not appear to have been chewed-up. Also, although signs of parasitic infections, such as wet, matted feathers around the face and beak, are not very significant, it cannot be dismissed as a possible cause of the bird's death. It is important to highlight here that dead birds should never be touched with bare hands, and rubber gloves or another protective plastic layer should be worn when disposing of them, due to the above risk of infections, which may be transmitted to humans. Their carcasses should also be kept away from pets.


Popular posts from this blog

Taxidermy at the Manchester Museum


Electric Chair