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How Does Decomposition Affect Bird Bones?

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by ratmore, Feb 16, 2021.

  1. ratmore

    ratmore New Member

    Firstly thanks to the admins for accepting me into the forum! I've been working as an ecologist in the Netherlands for just under 2 years now and much to my girlfriend's dismay I've started taking my work home with me. So far I've cleaned the skulls of a peregrine falcon, Egyptian goose and a greater scaup that I found during my fieldwork. Those skulls were already pretty clean to begin with (I know some were just predated by a fox), and didn't take much work.

    A few days ago, I found a fresh graylag goose in a small lake that must've died that same day. It's too fresh for me to macerate it (even after butchering. I live in an apartment with no garden, so it would just become too smelly I reckon). I've been thinking about burying it and digging it up later when it's a bit cleaner. I'm even thinking about reconstructing the entire skeleton after cleaning it, since it's completely intact and died a natural death. I'm wondering if anyone is familiar with the effects (and general duration) of underground decomposition on bird bones. Bird bones are hollow and generally softer than that of a mammal. One could assume the bones themselves would degrade quite easily if left to decompose for too long. Is there a maximum time after which I should check on the bones to see how far decomposition has progressed?

  2. Kendall

    Kendall Active Member

    If your goal is to reconstruct the skeleton then I would advise against burying the carcass- you will never recover all the bones and it will be a pile of bones when done (and possible stained). The best method would be with the use of beetles. When the carcass is prepared properly there is little to no smell and could be done in an apartment. You could monitor the progress and have an easier project.
    ElephasMaximus likes this.

  3. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    As Kendall stated above. If you can not macerate the bones, possibly ask around and find someone with a beetle colony to clean it for you. In the meantime, keep it in the freezer. You could also set up a small colony inside and clean your own. I have a small colony in a glass aquarium tank that I use for birds, reptiles, fish and other delicate things.
  4. Pre-clean from muscles and dry the carcass (no salting since beetles don't like it). Be careful with rear ribs, they're very fragile. Separate legs, wings and head from body. Eyes & tongue have bones inside so don't throw them away if you want a really complete skeleton.