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What's The Best Way To Process A Tiny Bird Body For Articulation?

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Roratus, Jul 6, 2020.

  1. Roratus

    Roratus New Member

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    Hello! I’m new to this and want to process a couple small bird bodies (budgies) I have in my freezer. I’ve done some research, but I still have a lot of questions, so this post is a little long.

    I was originally planning on macerating the bodies, but I recently learned that parrots are one of the groups where the skulls can completely come apart during maceration. With such a tiny bird I think I would have trouble articulating the skull as a beginner (I have done dissections of a few different animal species and worked with bones before, just never outside of a lab setting until now). So I’m not really sure how to proceed. I’ve thought about dermestids but I know they only eat fresh flesh and some of these birds have been in the freezer for more than a year. Does long-term freezing damage the bones at all? Would dermestids be completely uninterested in frozen-thawed meat? I’m also a little worried about maceration as I don’t know how I’ll react to the smell. Does anyone have experience with the ammonia/oxidation method? I’ve heard it’s a less-stinky process. And on that note, do ligamentary skeletons have a smell since there’s still tissue on the bone? Can they get as white as with other methods?

    I want to take out the flight feathers and re-attach them to the finished skeleton, but I’m not sure if I should pluck them or just cut them off. If I pluck them, since the feathers are attached to the bone, is there a chance the bone could break? And if I cut them, will the remaining keratin attached to the bone break down during maceration?

    I was originally planning on removing the beak sheaths once they were soft, then reattaching them after, but I don’t know the best way to make sure the beak sheaths aren’t smelly since I'm not sure where to get 9% formalin. Does drying them with borax then soaking them in alcohol work to remove the smell completely? Is there bone all the way through to the tip of the beak or is it mostly hard keratin? If I decide not to preserve the beak sheaths, would the birds look like they don’t have a beak or are sheaths usually only preserved to add some colour to the skeleton?

    Despite my dissection experience, I’ve never had to skin or de-flesh anything before, so that’s the part I’m most nervous about, especially since the birds are so small, I’m worried I’ll damage the bones. I’ve read that for maceration, it’s suggested to separate the left leg and wing from the right ones in fine mesh bags as well as the body and head (so you don’t lose any tiny bones), but how do you pull the limbs out of their sockets without breaking them?

    What do you recommend in this situation? Should I stick with maceration and see how it goes? Is it worth getting dermestids for one project? Should I try the ammonia method since it’s such a small bird? Sorry this is so long! I just really want to do it right. Thanks!
     
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    For something so small and delicate, your only real choice is dermestids. Not sure where you read that they only eat fresh flesh because that is not true. Remove all skin and internal organs. Carefully trim away as much flesh as possible. Cover the beak and claws with a heavy layer of nail polish (several coats). Set the carcass in front of a fan for a day or so to dry out the flesh. Put it in it's own container and hand pick smaller larva to clean it. That way, larger larva do not damage it before it is clean. You will need to monitor the progress and remove it before they have separated the bones. You should be able to make a nice ligament mount this way. When you soak it in acetone to remove grease and oils, the nail polish will dissolve.

    With maceration you need to do it the right way and yes, it's going to smell. You still need to skin and deflesh the skeleton. You are going to have a fair number of insanely small bones that might be next to impossible to articulate when you are done.
     

  3. Roratus

    Roratus New Member

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    Thanks for the response! I think it was "Jake's bones" that said they only work for fresh flesh, so I'm glad to hear that's not true! Where do people usually get dermestids? Is it hard to start up a colony? Dermestids only eat the soft tissue right? So should I pluck out all the flight and tail feathers that are attached directly to the bones?
    Do the beak and claw sheaths come off during the acetone soak or do you only have to worry about them when macerating? Do I have to put more nail polish or anything on them afterwards? Should I still soak it in hydrogen peroxide after the acetone stage? If the bones stay together in a ligamentary skeleton, how do you pose it?
     
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Jake has a great site and is a member on here as well. You can even pick off wild dermestids from old road kill carcasses that have dried out. The commercial type work a lot better though and you can get a fair amount of them in an order to start with. They will start with the flesh but, if you don't watch them and the progress, they will start chewing on the tendons and harder parts once they run out of flesh to eat. Pull out any feathers you want to save. You can lay them on paper/cardboard and keep them in order to restore later if you want. Beak and claws will not come off in acetone. Acetone doesn't react with the bones or soften anything, including ligaments. The only thing it will do is remove oils from the remaining bones and the nail polish you put on the beak and claws to protect them from being chewed on. Once everything seems grease free, you can soak it carefully in peroxide to whiten everything. As long as you don't soak it too long, the tendons will soften but not come apart. You can prop up the skeleton, pose it and pin everything in place. Make adjustments as it dries and it will be self supporting depending on how you pose it.
     
    Roratus likes this.
  5. Roratus

    Roratus New Member

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    This has been very helpful! Thank you!