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Passenger Pigeon Taxidermy Restoration Project


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I got a call from a client a few weeks ago who is a collector of rare and vintage taxidermy pieces.  He had just acquired a mount of an extinct passenger pigeon (more info about the passenger pigeon via wikipedia) and wanted to know if I could clean it up and restore it.  I told him no guarantees, but I would give it a try.  When you deal with mounts that are of this age and nature, the worst is always possible.  When you are dealing with a specimen that is both old and irreplaceable, the pressure is increased substantially!  This specimen is well over 100 years old.  I would place it in the late 1800s as far as a time period it was prepared.  Specimens from this period in time, if they have lasted this long are incredibly frail and prone to damage.  When He arrived with the bird I finally could see the extent of the damage. 




The bird had it's head bent at a strange cant.  The neck and head was almost completely off the body via a crack that split from the ear, down the breast, and up around the other side. 








The tail was in rough shape and missing a good number of feathers as well.



My first task was to remove the bird from the filthy, dingy "rock" base it was on.  The mount was extremely wobbly on this base and it looked horrific.  Time was less kind to the base than the bird.  I gloved up with nitrile gloves and went to work.  The rock was made of some sort of asbestos material and packed full of soil, roots, twigs, etc.  Whatever the taxidermist had on hand to fill out the "shell" of the rock.  Not to mention the bird itself was preserved with arsenic and it's telltale crystalline form was all over the bird and the base. 







After getting the pigeon off of it's original base, I set it aside and began to construct a new base for the bird.  I found a nice piece of driftwood a few months back along the Hudson and sawed off the better end to form a perch.  I screwed this to a piece of wood and then poured a two part urethane foam around the wood and let it rise.  I then sanded and rasped it down and painted it black and covered it with the woodland soil mixture I use for my habitat bases.






I gently cleaned the bird with a number of solvents and a gentle dusting.  These feathers were extremely delicate!  I injected silicone caulk into the crack around the neck and pulled the seam back together.  I sculpted and installed eye rings around the glass eyes to make the bird appear less "bug eyed."  The feet were repainted to their proper reddish color and the beak was touched up with paint as well.  I drilled the driftwood and installed the bird onto it's new perch and glued it tight to prevent any wobbling.  A similar colored and most generous domestic pigeon donated some of his own feathers to help fill out the nearly bald tail area. 






I then created a nice habitat around the bird.  I added mosses and lichen, leaves and bark to fill out the base.  I hand sculpted tiny mushrooms and detailed the base. 







Finally, I put the bird back into the base and cover it with the dome that it originally was in.  It is now ready to return to the client.  He is thrilled with the bird and I couldn't be happier to have had the chance to work on such a rare specimen!





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  • 2 years later...

Good afternoon, I hope you're well.  I am based in Toronto, Ontario and am looking to acquire a (taxidermy mount of a) passenger pigeon.  I am aware of how hard this may be to find however just thought I would ask in case anyone may know of any for sale at any cost.  If anyone has any information please contact me at idstrategy@yahoo.com

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