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Native peoples have been preserving the body parts of a wide variety of animals for many thousands of years. One way to do it with bird parts is easy and produces nice results.

All the birds I've used have been found already dead. No animals were harmed. The unneeded parts were returned to the Earth with respect.

At the time of this instructable, I have no dead birds to work on, so I will post drawings along with photos of the finished results.

Birds can be carriers of salmonella and various parasites, so please wear gloves for your safety, and wash your hands and all tools thoroughly afterwards.

Step 1: FAQ

***NOTE: Hi folks, I just want to add a note before continuing with this instructable:

Since I published this I have been receiving a lot of questions regarding your own preservations. I'm noticing that many recent questions are ones that can be answered by reading some of my replies to others, so to avoid typing out the same answers over and over I am putting a FAQ here. If you are sure these do not answer your question please proceed to ask me. If I do not answer it within a couple days you can presume the answer to your question is in fact in the FAQ.

Q: I found a bird that has some insects/maggots. Will it still preserve properly?

A: No. Even if you manage to get all the insects off, they more than likely have laid eggs that can still hatch and continue to destroy the parts, even after they're dried. Additionally, their digestive enzymes will contribute to a bad odour and the continued breakdown of the flesh.

Q My bird parts have no bugs but they do have a bad or rotting smell. Will it ever go away?

A: No, not even after preservation. The acids and gases of decomposition, once allowed to form, will never leave. The smell may lessen slightly over time, but the parts will always smell unpleasant. Before, during and after preservation it is normal for your parts to smell like warm (but fresh) raw poultry, but they should not smell like they are rotting. Ideally, found carcasses should be no more than a day old.

Q: My parts have been in the box for a few days but now there is a bad odor coming from the box.

A: At no time should any smell be coming from the box. If this is happening, something has gone wrong and the part is not preserving properly. In this case I recommend discarding the part.

Q: How do I know when the parts arefully preserved?

A: They should feel dry and completely stiff. The severing points should be completely dry and hard, and not sticky or moist. If they do not meet these criteria, bury them again for another month. As a rule, legs and wings take at least a month. Heads can take longer, two or more.

Q: I just want feathers, not the parts they're attached to. How do I get them off and clean them?

A: You can simply pluck them. Use your hands as any tools may damage the quills. It will take a lot of time, so be patient. To clean feathers, place them in a bath of 5 parts warm water, 1 part vinegar and 1 part witch hazel. Let them soak for 24 hours. The astringents will help sanitize the feathers and kill any possible feather mites. Remove and spread out flat on a towel to dry.  You can use a blow dryer to help speed this up.

Q: I've found an owl, hawk, eagle, or other bird of prey.

A: Before you claim it, first be sure that it is legal in your country or territory of residence to do so. In the US and Canada, it is illegal to possess parts or feathers from birds of prey or migratory birds without a special permit, even if you've just found a single feather in the woods. Being caught with feathers or parts carries a heavy fine or even jail time.

Q: What's the best climate to preserve my parts at?

A: Parts should be stored indoors, at room temperature, in a dry location. Do not preserve outdoors as changing humidity levels and extreme temperatures can add too much moisture, or freeze the parts.

Q: Does the species of bird I have affect how it will preserve?

A: No, the method to preserve it is exactly the same for all birds.

Q: I want to preserve a wing or foot to pose in a certain position. Can I do this?

A: Yes, but in order to do this you will need to nail the part down on a thin piece of plywood or particle board, which then must be placed in the box along with the cornmeal. Otherwise, simply placing it in the shape you want before covering it up will not work, since the muscles and tissues will contract naturally as the part dries.

Q: Can I use something other than cornmeal?

A: Borax and rock salt will also work to preserve, but Borax tends to form a crust on the severed ends and it is near impossible to completely brush out of feathers due to its dustiness. Salt has the potential to cause some mineral staining on the feathers.

Q: I have an already dry part that I want to pluck the feathers off of. Can I do this?

A: Removing feathers from dry pieces is nearly impossible without damaging them. As the skin shrinks and dries, it essentially cements the feather quills into it.You can re-soak the part to restore moisture to the skin; however, this will permanently damage it and should not be re-dried.

Q: Will this method work on rodents or other small animals?

A: Yes, however, fur doesn't have the same coverage as feathers do, so the finished product may look a bit emaciated and patchy whereas feathers do not.

Now back to the instructable!
I found an entire body of a deceased baby turtle.<br>I would like to preserve it just the way that it is, as it's completely intact. <br><br>Do you think it can be done, and if so could you please tell me how I could do it?
Thank You! :-)
<p>hi i would like a wing that isn't stuck in one position. Is that possible? I know that it will rot if i don't do something like what you've been writing about here, but i also know it will be stiff. I would like to know if you got any idea how to get a bird wing that isn't stuck in one position?</p>
May i add a correction? <br>If the bird is covered in maggots, ants, flies, or what have you, you can still save it. Rubbing alcohol will kill literally everything.
Interesting ...will a vinegar bath for two weeks and wood ashes, do the sane (2 weeks)(fully submerged. .
The stuff I used...I was going to just do lye ashes and seas am in a plastic bag and bury it, but I think.this is safest ...based on research here... guess the vinegar cooks it...and I'll be able to figure out some proper steps in 24 hours...if I should just salt it or borax it...in any case bugs shoukd be dead if any existed....I'd try alcohol but I'm trying not to kill the feathers luster....ADVICE !! I used a shovel and haven't touched anything it's staying outside weighted by rocks
Vinegar bottles times 2...I think....maggots were only on the chest because I found the while bird submerged in a 68 gallon vat of rank rain water....so just the chest center was exposed...the water didn't smell dead...I figure it's two days old tops.....
Steps in reverse... 2 huge gallons of vinegar fir ten minutes/then added one equal part lukewarm rain water....ten minutes then added salt and lye mixture.....I think.ill do this for two weeks...not sure?
Below....and three brillo...pads for soap benefits
Okay I found a dead RAVEN IN SOME RANK RAIN WATER...I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG IT WAS SUBMERGED BECAUSE I WAS IN VACATION FOR THREE WEEKS AND NOTICED IT YESTERDAY...I thought it was a black plastic bag....anywho, today I saw it's eye...so I'm trying to kill maggots on its chest part...the only exposed area by submerging in 2 gallons of vinegar, one gallon warm water....8 OZ OF ashes.(LYE)..from my wood stove mixed with 8 Oz of REAL SEA SALT. THE IDEA IS TO KILL EVERYTHING FOR TWO WEEKS WET SUBMERGED....THEN CUT PARTS/WINGS/HEAD/TAIL/*TALONS ?/***(I'LL PUT IT IN PURE BORAX AFTER THIS NINE VINEGAR BATH....FREEZE IT FIRST, BEFORE BORAX...JUST TO BE CERTAIN NOTHING GETS INTO IT/OR STAYS IN IT....I GUESS....I'VE LOOKED AT SEVERAL METHODS BUT DUE TO BRACKISH BUT PURE RAIN WATER...I'VE AM TRYING THIS....I weighted down with rocks. Any suggestions? ***oddly I found a raven feather today before this all happened. ...and so I think it's a sign.... I have many folks that make NTV, REGALIA SELF INCLUDED....SO HERE GOES.....
I have a baby crow who just died. I want to preserve its wings, but they have poop on the feathers. What is the best way to clean them? She is in my freezer right now, until I am prepared to preserve her. Thanks for the help.
I made this from roadkill its a hawk wing
<p>That is a beautiful piece! Great work!</p><p>How did you attach the leather to the wing? I purchased some bird wings that I'd like to decorate and make smudging fans with, but I'm having trouble locating a how-to or instructable on how to do that. Would you possibly be able to post an instructable about this yourself? Are there any links you could share with me? Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.</p>
did you ever get instructions?i would love to know as well!
<p>Gorgeous... </p>
hi!<br>i sadly found a hawk along the roadside last year and i put it in a box with salt for months..thought it was treated/preserved but the wing is disintegrating at the bottom of feathers...looks like it may have mites...i was told to put it in my freezer in a bag..but not sure if this fixed issue..<br>any advice?<br>many thanks!!
<p>Hi. I followed your instructions to preserve a black Ani I found on the path here in Ecuador. It preserved well in the month, but I found the wings are now very closed - a shame as they are quite iridescent fanned out. A pity I didn't read other comments... before </p>
Did you remove its innards?
Yes, I severed all the parts from the body and buried the body. I am just asking about a way to fan out the wings, but it's probably too late?
I found a dead humming bird in my garage a few days ago. There are no bugs and it it's slightly dry, I have placed it in a jar in a dry place and i would like to preserve it. I think the garage may have slightly mummified it. There is a slight decomp smell but it is not overwhelming.<br>Is there anyway I can wet preserve it or should I try to preserve it whole with or without removing it's innards?<br>I don't want to lose its color though.
<p>Continued: is there any way to spread them again now? Seems not.</p>
<p>HI our beautiful black cockrell died this morning/over night - how long have i till i need to remove wings to preserve? as I have no cornmeal the house &amp; I don't want to miss the opportunity to save them. Ia m however plucking the rest of the bird this afternoon. look forward to your comments</p>
<p>Hi, I found a dead swan on the beach. It has either been eaten or lying there for a long time, the whole body is gone, only ribcage left, and it's pretty dry.. Is it possible to conserve the wings? Feels like there might still be some meat in there..</p><p>Thankyou..!</p><p>Kiki from Denmark</p>
Hi I was just reading about how to dry animal bones. It also read that you can use rock salt, what kind of rock salt do you use.<br>
Hi there I was wondering if I can use this method to preserve a raccoon heart and hands?
<p>My cornmeal treatment grew mold and now there is a little bit of mold on the edge of the bird wings and feet. Is there a way to safely remove the mold and still preserve the parts? Thanks.</p>
My talon has been frozen for 10 years...do i thaw if before putting into cornmeal? Thanks for all this help, its wonderful!
I got ahold of some dead bats and theve been sitting outside to dry. They dont really smell anymore and theyre all very stiff. Is there anything i should do to them? I want to put them in shadowbox frames
<p>I froze mine birds. so how do go from here</p>
I salted them when I first got them roadkill and they had no mites or bugs at the time what am I doing wrong
I salted them when I first got them roadkill and they had no mites or bugs at the time what am I doing wrong
I am trying to dry out a little wings and they keep condensating there in a dry environment but they have no bugs I don't know if they have mites how do I make sure they dry so that I can adorn them
<p>Hi I picked up a road kill today, very sad how many animals are killed on the roads! I only want to preserve wings or feather &amp; bird feet / claws it did smell and have maggots is it still possible to preserve just these parts or should I dispose of it? I want to use them as shamanic decoration</p><p>Many thanks</p>
<p>Thank You so much! Very useful info. I found a dead Wild Turkey on the side of the road. I used your instructions to pluck most of it. I am attempting to preserve one of the wings complete. Hope it works!</p>
<p>I just did this..Today I un-boxed the wing, which had sat for 2 months pinned to cardboard, and covered with Borax. It's my 2 ed wing ...Unfortunately some rot must have begone before I got it,,it may have sat for 1 day, I thought it was fresh..Iam so disappointed!. It has a very sight odor, but is otherwise BEAUTIFUL.. good luck on yours :)</p>
<p>Hey is there anyway at all that i could do preserve the wings of a pheasant and a pigeon in about 2 weeks, i am really desperate as i need the parts for an art project and i don't want them to smell bad while doing the project. They have been sat in my garage for about a month now, there is no bad small or bugs/maggots in or around them, I thought that hey would be &quot;air cured&quot; by now but they are still slightly soft. I really need help, is there anything i could do in such a short time period?</p>
<p>ok</p>
<p>Hello. I have a question. I cut the wing of a falcon i founded on the highway. But i dont know exactly where to cut it exactly? Now i have a part of the umerus going out of the wing with flesh... should i have to cut the umerus (until where?) or let it like that ?</p><p>Thank you so much</p>
Well depending on where you are and your laws you might wanna discard it. If in the U.S.A. then you just posted that you are committing a federal felony. And I'd say at the shoulder joint if it's legal where you are.
<p>u said that this could work on rodents and my cats kill a lot of baby bunnies (so sad) do u think this would work on them, would I have to remove the guts and stuff or could I just preserve it whole? </p>
<p>ya u should take out the guts or it will rot try to stuff it with cotton balls it you want the entire thing</p>
<p>hi every one i want to preserve the dead body of my peacock no medical or forensic background p need some guidance in preserving the body .... </p>
<p>Hi, I`m from Philippines and it`s my first time to preserve any kind of animals since it`s our project. I put a lot of rock salt and borax on the entire body of the crow knowing that there still some flesh on its wings and head and placed it on a large box. I kept them for about 3 days and it doesn't give off even the least bit of odor. Will this process could prevent the occurrence of maggots? Your response would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!</p>
<p>one question regarding this, would it be possible to make a few small incisions into the bird and then gut it, stuff it with corn meal or salt, then put that in the box of corn meal and let it sit for a few months and have the entire bird preserved? obviously it wouldn't be very practical on a large bird, but a mall bird like a robin or a starling</p>
I am processing two turkeys I have raised for thanksgiving this year, they are beautiful animals and want to waste as little as possible. I would like to preserve their heads and necks. The necks as I'm sure you know are very fleshy, will this be a problem or just require more time? Also do I have to worry about the brain and if so what can or should I do?? We have 2 flocks of around 30 birds each so hope to be able to learn proper way of preserving as much as I can they are truly beautiful and feel that it is only proper to waste as little as possible. Thank you for your advise, you have already been incredible helpful
Hello, that should not be a problem. As a rule larger birds take more cornmeal and more time. You can add some borax or rock salt underneath the bottom layer of cornmeal to help draw the moisture out. The largest I've done is a crow head and wings which I gave 2 months and that was enough time. For a turkey I would say 2-3 months. The brain is not a worry, it will liquefy and drain out the beak along with the other body fluids as it dessicates. Their brains are only about the size of a walnut, the fluid loss from the rest of the flesh will be greater than this. Once the wings have dried, fishing shops will often buy them to use for fly tying materials, if you're not looking to keep them.
I see u have a head in there too. I cut the head off, is there anything i should do prep wise before i put it in the cornmeal? Its a mallard drake.
<p>I tried to rescue a fledgling towhee, but was too late. He died, so I am left with an extremely fresh body. I'm curious if this method could work to mummify a whole, very small, bird. If I opened and cleaned out the body cavity, could it work?</p>
<p>Hi, sorry for the late reply. I have tried to mummify a small bird before (a hermit thrush), but it did not work. You could give it a try by stuffing the body cavity with rock salt, where staining from the mineral would not be seen, and surrounding it with cornmeal on the outside. If it developed a smell within a few days though, that would mean it had failed.</p>

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