Introduction: Duck Taxidermy

Picture of Duck Taxidermy

Hi This is my first instructable! I am Going to (or try to) Show you how to well... Stuff a Duck! I have stuffed quite a few animals before so i might have some more taxidermy instructables later. But for now all i have is a duck, so lets get to it.

I am stuffing a Merganser right now, its a hen too. They are pretty fatty birds, so your bird might look different on the inside...

Also this is a note for people who are COMPLETELY against this. There is some blood and gore in this! Now if you dont like the idea of killing and cutting apart animals DONT KEEP READING! This is your warning here. And also dont post mean comments or comments on how wrong you thing this is. Honestly i think if you really dont like this, dont waste your time commenting about it.

I am not responsible for anything stupid you do. Make sure you have a license and stamp before you shoot any animal. Better to know then to find out the hard way.

If you have any questions, comments, or pictures please post! Thank you Canida VERY VERY MUCH! I saw your mouse taxidermy instructable, and well now i cant stop stuffing things! Make sure you check out Canidas instructables. They are awesome!

Step 1: Important Stuff

Picture of Important Stuff

What you will need
-A Duck
-Sharp knife (careful)
-fake eyes for your bird (note the color and size of the eyes)
-Paint (also note the color of the feet, beak, and mouth if you want your ducks mouth open)
-rubber gloves (optional but reccomended)
-Thread and needle
-Thick wire (Or stiff coathanger wire)
-Screwdriver of pick tool
-Flat cardboard box

Step 2: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

Alright Now we'll get started. Ok the first step is to flip the bird belly up. Be careful not to break or bend ANY feathers. All the feathers are important. Now carefully move the feathers on a straight line over the breastbone. move them so you can see the skin.

Now we can start cutting. Just cut a straight line through the skin over the chest area. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CUT INTO THE GUTS!!! Yeah you dont want to have to smell that.... Now slowly seperate the skin from the meat as much as you can. Depending on when you got your bird and what type it is, there will be a difference in the amount of fat on the skin. you should be able to see the birds legs and wings now.

Step 3: Chop Chop

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Now we get to do some cutting! seperate the skin from the flesh in the neck area. Make sure you have completely seperated it from the skin. Now you use your knife and carefully cut the meaty part of the neck all the way to the bone. If you get lucky you can just cut right between vertebrae, but if you can't, get your wire cutters and cut the bone.

Once you have done that the jugular (typo) will be gushing blood. Now is the time to take your bird to a sink and wash the blood out of the feathers and everywhere else. Also try to drain the blodd from the meat.

Step 4: Down the Back

Picture of Down the Back

Now we will focus on the back and wings. You should be able to easily separate the skin on the upper back from the meat with your knife now. Try to do the same thing you did with the neck for the wings. Just separate the skin around them and cut the wing meat right next to the shoulder with a knife. Now cut the bone with the wire cutters.

Do the same thing for the other wing and continue skinning the back. Be careful as you get to the lower back. The skin is much more thin and fragile. Work until you get a little past the legs. you might need to wash the blood off your bird again.

Step 5: Drumstick Time

Picture of Drumstick Time

Now For the legs. Finally we will chop them off Just like the wings. Except we will cut them at the knee joint. Once both of the legs are off carefully cut down to the vent. Cut around the vent and down just a little bit.

Now you can cut the tail off. Be careful not to cut too high because you will cut into the intestines. If you cut too low the tailfeathers will fall out. It takes a little skill and practice.

Step 6: Making Your Dummy

Picture of Making Your Dummy

In order to stuff the duck, we need a new body for it. Now is the time to get out your stuffing and some thread. What you want to do is clump a bunch of stuffing together and make it the length of the body.

Keep adding stuffing clumps and keep wrapping it to make it the right size and shape of your birds body. It will take a while, and a lot of thread, but you'll get it. It won't be perfect, so dont stress over it. Once you finish the body cut two pieces of your wire about 6 inches long. Stick one end of the wire into where the legs used to be attached on the FAKE BODY.

Step 7: Final Duck Cleaning

Picture of Final Duck Cleaning

Now we have to clean our bag of duck. First of all take off some of the large pieces of fat. Don't rip too hard or fast, you could rip the skin. Now find the ducks neck. Start to pull on it and watch the skin go inside out around it. Keep pulling CAREFULLY. you may need your knife to get past any tough spots.Get all the way up to the head if you can. If you have a BIG headed duck you will need to make a cut on the back of the neck to get the head out. Now cut the neck off right next to the head, as close as you can get. Now you have to make a little hole in the back of its head. A knife or a drill would work. Now use a pick and get ALL of the brains out. These will rot BADLY if they are not removed. Dont forget to cut out the tongue! Make sure you get rid of the windpipe completely before you Turn the skin back.

You also have to cut the meat off of the legs on the duck. Only cut off the meat on the drumstick. Do this for both legs. Now you must remove the tendons in the feet. To do this cut the bottom foots skin right above the part where all the toes come together. Now take a pin and run it straight throught the cut. YOu will need to get all the way down to the bone. Then pull up on the pin. You will see white "strings" Over the pin. They will be like a loop. Now take your screwdriver and put it under the tendon loops. Now pull up hard. The tendons will break and come out. You can cut the tendons off now.

Step 8: Boraxination

Picture of Boraxination

Now we get dirty. Get out your Borax and start pouring it in the duck skin. Rub it around and apply tons of it. Make sure it gets everything fleshy, meaning the tail part, the legs, and the wing part. Make sure you get it in the neck, brain cavity, and eyeholes.

Before i forget, if your ducks head was smashed when you shot it or got the brains out, fill it with clay or stuffing. When the skin dries it will shrink. It would look really bad if the head was sunken in.
Try to make it look natural too.

Dont worry if you get borax on the feathers and cant get it out. You can blow it off when it dries.

Step 9: You Want Some Stuffing?

Picture of You Want Some Stuffing?

Now you have to make a fake neck. Cut a pice of wire about an inch or two longer than the birds neck. Now wrap the wire in stuffing and thread just like the body. Make sure the neck is the right size and is very smooth.

Try to jam a little bit of the wire in the head. Be careful not to cut the skin. Once you have the neck in the duck cut the wire to a size that will allow you to stick the end into fake body.

Now take your piece of wire out of your fake body. Put it right next to the leg bone that you stripped of meat and start wrapping string around it. Make it tight before you tie the string. Do this for both legs.

Once that is done shove a little stuffing where the leg meat used to be around the bone. Make it look natural. Now you can cut the wires so that they can go into the fake body, like the neck.

Now you can take two extra pieces of wire and stick them in the wing meat. Try not to rip through the skin. Just like the legs you need to put a little stuffing in the wing area around the wire.

Also stick a wire in the tail meat.

Step 10: Like a Surgeon

Picture of Like a Surgeon

Now we can finally fatten up our duck! You can take your fake body and jam the neck wire into it. Then slowly set it into the skin and then jam in the wing wires. Now you can jam in the leg wires, Finally the tail wire.

Make sure that it looks good and dont worry if it isnt sturdy. Now comes the fun part. Its time to sew it up. Start off by sewing up any BIG holes you may have cut in the skin. Sew with the feathers and sew slowly so you can get the feathers out of the way. Make sure none of the feathers are trapped under the thread!

Now you can sew up the body. Start on the neck and go with the feathers. Once again be careful so that no feathers get trapped under the thread. Also pull tight, but not too tight. Also dont sew too close to the edge of the skin. It will take a while if you do it right.

When you finish straighten all the feathers out nicely, and also cover the stitches with the feathers.

Step 11: My What Beautiful Eyes You Have

Picture of My What Beautiful Eyes You Have

Now we need to add the eyes. This part is actually really tricky. First take out one of your eyes. No Not YOUR eye, the fake eye. Now stick it in the birds eye socket. Lift up the eyelids and make it look pretty. Now take it out.

Now dip the back of the eye in glue. Now put it back in just like before. now get a pin and get a tiny bit of glue on the end of it. Lift up the ducks eyelid and put that dip of glue on the eye where the eyelid will be. Then put the eyelid back. Do that for both eyelids and both eyes. Voila! Your eyes are ready!

Step 12: Put a Pin in It

Picture of Put a Pin in It

Now we have to model the duck. IF the duck is going to look like it flies stay on this step. If it is to be swimming or standing, go on to the next step.

To keep the wings open you will need to pin them to the cardboard box. Pin straight through the meat in several places. Do this for both wings and make sure the feathers are looking good on the wings. I pinned mine belly up.

If the ducks mouth is to be open, pin it open now. Pin on all sides of the head and in between the jaws. Just make sure the tongue was cut out.

Now we need to pin up the feet. Pin all the toes together naturally. Now take another pin and put it through the webbing right into the ducks body. Put another pin up closer to the end of the toes to keep them down. Put another pin throught the skin below the knee to keep the leg steady. Do this for both the feet so that they look natural. If you want your ducks feet to hang down you will have to pin open the webbing on a small pice of cardboard and prop them up.

Now the tail. Just pin the feathers open so they look nice. Make sure you dont actually break the tail feathers though.

Step 13: Alternate Stuffs

I didnt mount my bird standing, but i know how to. For swimming mounts wrap string around the wings to hold them in. Just prop up the neck in the right position (you can also bend the neck wire) and set the duck on something flat. Thats it.

If your duck is to be standing you will have to pin the feet open and to your cardboard box. Prop up the body at the correct height so the legs stand straight up. You may want to put some really stiff wire right behind the legs when you mount it so that the legs stand up better.

Also make sure you spread the tail feathers, explained in step 12.

Step 14: Gaze in Triumph

Picture of Gaze in Triumph

Now stand back and enjoy its awesomeness. But wait, youre not quite done yet!

Leave the duck in a dry place for a week, or atleast until it dries. Check on it daily and adjust feathers if they shift.

Once it is dry you will notice that the beak and feet lost their color. Now you have to paint them. mix the paint until you get the original foot color. Paint the foot lightly. Also paint the beak and mouth. Now you can make and add a fake tongue to your duck if its mouth is open.

For hanging it you can sew both ends of a string onto to balance points and then use the string as a hanger. Im sure you can find a better way, but thats my suggestion.

Well I hope you enjoyed this instructable. Feel free to comment or ask questions about your duck. I havent finished this duck, but when i do i'll add pictures of it here. Have a great day and i hope you enjoyed stuffing a duck!


Ravenx1 (author)2016-06-25

Tdph03 where do you live. I am looking a kid to teach. No good taking the knowledge with me lol

Ravenx1 (author)2016-06-25

Well how's it smelling now lol I'm sure it's ripe. Listen guys clean the flesh scrap the skin wash it in good soapy water to degrease the skin rinse it in cold water alway turn a skin while it's wet. Then dry it with a hair dryer then borax it. If you don't over the years the oil in the feathers will get thick with dust and be useless. Besides the smell.

Tdph03 (author)2015-09-30

Hi I have been wanting to start taxidermy for a long time for scouts but I haven't done it. What should I get and can I get animals from anything else besides hunting because I can't get a liscense I think im to young

Ravenx1 (author)2015-03-01

I did not see the bit where you said scrap the skin in the direction of the quills taking every bit of flesh from it degrease and wash then dry the skin, in fact there's a lot I missed if it's there. I think you will have a smelly mess in the house. Been doing this for 45 years. You have to do it right or just let the poor duck live. Just my opinion.

squidcraft (author)2014-12-07

you should see a wild merganser mating dance it is very pretty nasty to eat tho

Triston Tidwell (author)2014-01-22

Can u send all this to me

ThatKnottyguy (author)2012-03-30

I will try this again next season.

ThatKnottyguy (author)2011-11-13

Is it going to look like the last picture with the pins for the mount. btw this instructable is the best one i've seen on this site.

Yes, there may be a small amount of change in the shape if the skin shrinks just a bit, but it's usually hardly noticeable, at least from the bird's I have stuffed. That would definitely be the time to get all the fine tuned positions for the mount. Thank you very much, it means a lot! Good luck with any mounts you pursue, and any more questions, please, feel free to ask!

minermineman (author)2011-07-07

Hey just wanted to say thanks, great instructable I didn't do a duck though i did a small bird that looked real nice, it hit the living room window and broke it's neck so i thought id mount it, it looks real good but i think ill stick to skinning furry animals but who knows, also i used the eyes from a stuffed toy animal worked real good

Well I'm glad you like the instructable! It's good to hear you're into animal taxidermy as well, I personally prefer it, but birds are nice too. And I too love the stuffed toy eyes, there's a lot of variety in both color, shape, and sizes available and can therefore fill many different needs for mounting.

dinozombie (author)2011-07-09

How long do I leave the duck with the borax?.
please reply

MerganserMan (author)dinozombie2011-08-07

Sorry it's taken so long for me to reply, i have been away from home for most of the summer. I would say no more than 24 hours. You really only need enough time for it to absorb, and 24 hours is plenty. You can add a little water to the borax for a first coat to help the hide absorb it better. After that just use straight borax. Also, keep it in a cool, and not humid place for best results. Hope this helps!

Legoman200119 (author)2011-01-28

Nice Instructable, im just getting into duck hunting (first year). I've got a couple of frozen coot, rudy, and spoonies that i want to practice on before i shot a decent duck. If you have any tips or sugestions they would be appreciated.


I'm glad your joining the sport! Coots are good to start on, but they're too greasy to stuff or even eat. I did successfully stuff a coot a year or two back, it just took a little extra degreasing, which can be performed with detergents or even gasoline (lead free). If you have any questions just ask!

Well the season ended =( but my dad shot a pintail and a gadwall on the last day and he wants me to try to turn them into full body land decoys for next season... i'll post pics when im done.

Well that's good to hear. Decoys are a good idea, and definately a great way to start duck taxidermy. I can't wait to see the pics!

Where do you buy the fake eyes???

You can find them just about anywhere. Online is a good place for very high quality ones, but the ones I used in this Instructable I believe were purchased at Jo-ann fabrics. I'm sure they'd have some at a Michael's or Hobby Lobby too.

MerganserMan (author)2010-08-10

It's ok. Everyone has there own opinion and point of view, and I would hope so, otherwise we'd all be robots!

smithn (author)2010-04-07

to help keep the blood at a min, once youve skinned from the feet up to the wings tie the lower half by the legs at working hight  and pull down as far down the  neck as posible. then instead of cutting the neck cut at the base of the skull. this helps in removing the brain and keeps the blood off of the pelt

MerganserMan (author)smithn2010-04-07

 Thanks for the tip! I'll use this on any nice birds I get this fall.

MerganserMan (author)2010-03-29

 I'm sorry that offended you. It's just that hunting has been in my family for a while, and after all it is a regulated sport. On the plus side, I used every part of the bird, the meat, the feathers, etc.

krelnius (author)2010-02-19

Hi I was reading this and saw the Borax. I cant seem to find any on E-bay, can you tell me where you got yours and if there is a special type specifically for taxidermy? I am looking to make some necklaces from bird feet with a stone held in the claws.

You look like the guy to ask about it for sure. Also do you have any tips for me at all? Oh, and do you have any idea on how to get the feet to hold a stone or how to attach the necklace cord/chain to the top of the leg?

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-02-19

I'm glad you asked! Borax should be available in pretty much any store, and is usually sold as a laundry aid for drying and sanitizing clothes, and works surprisingly well for taxidermy. There is no special kind made for taxidermy, so I would suggest checking Kmart, Walmart, or Target. Just check where they sell detergent. 

I like the project you are working on and would be glad to help. Depending on what feet you are using and what type of bird, posing them will vary. The first thing would be to make a slit in the middle of the underside of the foot and use a pair of pliers to pull out the tendons, I think I have that in one of the steps. Taking those out allows you more freedom to pose them. You could probably put wires in the feet if they are somewhat large, but if you can't just set them up and pose them with pins until they dry. If you have polyurotheyn (I just murdered the spelling of that word) you should probably spray that on the dried feet to make them even more sturdy and give them a nice shine too.

If you need anything else or have any other questions, please ask. Oh, and when you finish the product could you please send me a picture of it? It sounds like it would be pretty cool looking.


krelnius (author)MerganserMan2010-02-20

actually I have a picture of them right here but as you can see I havnt done anything yet.

Theyre between 4 and 5 inches long I think. As for the polyurethane (had to look up spelling) does it just come in a spray can? Also does it hurt the feathers at all? Like should I just spray some in a cup and paint it into the bare leg parts with a brush to keep it off the feathers?

I'm also having trouble coming up with a way to attach a cord/chain without having to just drill a hole through the top of the leg which I'd live to avoid if possible. You seem resourceful, any ideas?

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-02-20

 Polyurethane (thanks for the correction :) does come in spray cans and sometimes in buckets, but for your situation I would just get a can of it. You can either only spray the feet or cover the feathers and only spray the feet (The spray won't ruin the feathers completely, but it may make them stick together and harden) If you just want to brush it on I would test it on something else first, because you will want to use a very fine brush so it goes on smooth and without grains.

As far as attaching the feet to a cord if you are handy with wood you could cut a small piece, drill 2 holes to put the ends of the feet in it, glue it, and then drill a third hole to string the cord through it. If you can't use wood you could shape a piece of clay and then bake it (possibly paint it too), you could also wrap colored wire (or any wire) and secure it with glue.

I hope these ideas help, and those are some cool feet, very long talons too.


krelnius (author)MerganserMan2010-03-04

OK, I am finally about to start on these and I read about how I'm supposed to take out the tendons but what about the leg bones above the feet, do I need to do anything with those at all or can they stay? Also do you think I need to strip anything else off the 2 I have or did I get them cut far enough below the meat so that theyre OK as is?

krelnius (author)krelnius2010-03-04

Also how do you hide the cut where you pull out the tendons and how large do you think the incision needs to be? Sorry if I'm asking too many questions I just dont want to botch it.

krelnius (author)krelnius2010-03-04

Another question, I cant quite tell exactly where you cut the legs to take out the tendons, did you do it on the inside of the foot or the outter back saide of the leg or where?

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-03-04

 The cut should be on the bottom of the foot underneath the leg bone right where all the toes meet. You should be able to expose all the tendons from there. (I'll try to add a caption to the step where I show that, so after you read this just check that)
If you have any more questions I would be more than happy to answer them.


krelnius (author)MerganserMan2010-03-08

Ok ya another question

At walmart in spray cans they have 3 Polyurethane cans, 1 is Clear Gloss, the next is Clear Semi-Gloss then Clear Satin. Which one do you think I should use?

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-03-04

 If you make only a small cut you can pin the skin back together so it dries without a hole and then paint over the feet (which you'll probably have to do anyways) but if the holes are very large you can use some strong glue and put it between the skin and the bone. you'll need to put pins in it to get it to hold until it dries though.

krelnius (author)MerganserMan2010-03-05

I managed to get a long tendon out of each foot, it looked kinda like stiff floss. I didnt know I'd need to paint them, what kind of pain do I use and how do you keep them from looking fake after being painted?

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-03-06

 If you have an airbrush handy that would probably work the best.  Since I myself didn't have one at the time I just used acrylic paints, they can also be found at craft stores like Michael's or maybe even Jo-ann fabrics (If you're lucky)  You'll need to blend colors to get a right match, and you'll need to use a fine bristle brush or even a sponge brush so there are no textured lines from brushing.  Once you have actually given them the right color they may look very bland and dry depending on the paint, so a coat of Polyurethane should make them look much better.  Before you start to paint the feet test out the paint on a sheet of paper or cardboard, and also give the test a little poly spray so that you know what it will look like.  If you don't want to paint them you can test your luck and see if they retain their natural color, but if they don't you'll either have to  take it apart to paint it or of course, just leave it as it is.

MerganserMan (author)krelnius2010-03-04

 The only things you must remove are the tendons and the meat. You can leave the bones if you would like (I recommend using those to help set a structure for the filling where the meat was) or you can replace them with wire, which can be difficult to do.

gargoyle661 (author)2010-02-24

Thank You for the Article. I have always been interested in taxidermy since I was a child. Thanks to the internet and people like yourself . I can learn this trade at 40 years old. I live out in the Mojave desert. I have come across some cool looking corpses out here. from reptiles to mammals.. I hated pasing them up. I tried putting a barn owl on my roof for about a year and it dried very nicely. It damaged and dropped the feathers about 3 years later. I guess this is as close as I have gotten. But thanks to you . I can keep an eye out for ather animals that have fallen dead to street drivers out here. Man if I knew about this i could of had a nice lion pelt. Oh well live and learn.

Kaiven (author)2009-10-07

Can you cook the duck meat? It sounds like it might be tasty...

MerganserMan (author)Kaiven2009-10-07

 Actually you can. We got a lot of mergansers last year, but they were all females. We put them in a slow cooker and made some gravy for them. They are pretty greasy birds, you can tell from the look of the skin. Overall, they are pretty good, but you will need to find a recipe that you like.

Kaiven (author)MerganserMan2009-10-08

I learned ducks/geese are greasy from this episode of the office :P

"Dwight: He was already dead and we Schrutes use every part of the goose. The meat has a delicious, smokey, rich flavor. Plus you can use the molten goose grease and save it in the refrigerator thus saving you a trip to the store for an expensive can of goose grease.

Jim: Wow. Win-win."

student.mckinney (author)Kaiven2009-11-06

Last time I had merganser it tasted like fish and spoiled milk. I don't think i cooked it right.

not all ducks taste greasy just the ones that eat fish like merganser 

 Right, it really depends on where they live most of the time or what they have been eating. These mergansers were big Canadian birds that just flew in, and it appeared they were eating well. Mallards and wood ducks, going along with what you said, are much better to eat than most mergansers.

Yeah, I had assumed it is all dependent on their diet, as is any game. Still, I learned my lesson, and I'm sticking to woodies and goldeneyes, which is mostly what I see anyhow.

Go maith (author)2009-06-28

I just joined the site yesterday an am really looking forward to getting my first shotgun for the hunting season here and practicing taxidermy an hopfully getting some decent looking trophies,but i have one question, what is borax an where do i get it

MerganserMan (author)Go maith2009-06-28

Welcome to instructables! To answer your questions, borax is a laundry aid, i'm not sure what the specific use is for, because it has many. It is used mostly to dry things and can be found in a laundry aisle at most stores.

EmzEffect (author)2009-06-15

as already said, this has got to be the most useful tutorial i have seen - thanks so much! i just want to make sure though.....if i leave the actual meat in the will just dry out without rotting and smelling? i tried my first pheasant today, and ended up cutting the wings to pieces to get out all of the meat :/ its in quite a mess, to be honest.... im not using borax, instead im using liqua-cure - you just wash the skin in that and it does everything apparently, you can mount it after it has been rinsed ( think)...but do you think it would be a good idea to put borax on the wings and legs anyway? and one last question: ive still got tons of fat left on the skin, what can i use to remove it without scraping it off? some of the feather tracts make the skin all bumpy and its impossibly to get all the fat out without cutting the feathers....i think it may all have been because i didnt let it completely defrost after i got it out of the freezer, but maybe you have an idea? again, thank you so much :)

MerganserMan (author)EmzEffect2009-06-16

Thank you very much! For the wing meat, it depends on how you prepare it. If you leave 100% of the meat in it, it will probably turn out badly, but if you remove some or most of it, it will be fine. I also recommend borax on the meat to help it stay, how should i put this... Fresh. That liqua-cure sounds very interesting, i could use some of that! You should put atleast some borax to help it cure faster. For fat, the only really good way to get it off is by scraping, but that is incredibly difficult because of the feathers. You could salt it, but i am not sure how that would turn out as far as flexibility for mounting. Some people use metal wire brushes and gently brush it off, but they probably have lots of experience with that method. I hope this helps, and good luck!

EmzEffect (author)MerganserMan2009-06-17

ah i see...well i pulled out most of the flesh, and scraped off as much fat as possible with a seems ok but ill leave it to dry and see how it turns out :) since its my first practice one, i wont be too bothered if it isnt perfect; thanks for the advice ill remember it when i do my next one :)

a.steidl (author)2009-04-27

I live on a large private lake that has a population of about 30-40 large, fat Muscovy ducks. Would they be a lot different to stuff? I do know the Muscovies are great eating, but my last one came out tough.

Wikipedia says that "The Muscovy drake's distinctive facial characteristics are unlike those of any other duck." Will this affect the process any when it comes to cleaning and processing the head of the duck? Also, I am unable to shoot the ducks here to kill them/it (municipal area) To kill them, I need to bleed them. I assume a jugular cut can be sewn up.

Anyway, thank you very much for the instructable. I appreciate the time you and work you put into it. I will hopefully put the knowledge to good use sometime. :)

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