BIRDS, METHODS OF PRESERVING
BIRDS, METHODS OF PRESERVING. Various methods have been attempted for preserving birds from putrefaction, so as to retain their natural form and position, as well as the beauty of their colours and plumage. A good antiseptic for animal substances has been much inquired after; as, for want of it, many curious animals, and birds particularly, from foreign parts, entirely miscarry, and others of the finest plumage are devoured by insects. The following improved methods by Dr. Lettsom seem to be the least troublesome and the most complete: —" After opening the bird by a longitudinal incision from the breast to the vent, dissecting the fleshy parts from the bones, and removing the entrails, eyes, tongue, and brains (which in large birds may be extracted through the eye-holes with a surgeon's director), the cavities and inside of the skin are to be sprinkled with the powders mentioned below. Glass eyes, which are preferable to wax, are then to be inserted, and the head stuffed with cotton or tow; and a wire is to be passed down the throat through one of the nostrils, and fixed on the breast bone: wires are also to be introduced through the feet, up the legs and thighs, and inserted into the same bone; next fill the body with cotton to its natural size, and sew the skin over it; the attitude is lastly to be attended to, and whatever position the subject is placed in to dry it will be retained afterwards. The drying compound is as follows:
Corrosive sublimate, a quarter of a pound; saltpetre, prepared or burnt, half a pound; alum, burnt, a quarter of a pound; flowers of sulphur, half a pound ; camphor, a quarter of a pound; black pepper, one pound; tobacco, ground coarse, one pound; mix the whole, and keep it in a glass vessel, stopped close. Small birds may be preserved in brandy, rum, arack, or first runnings; though the colour of the plumage is liable to be extracted by the spirit. Large sea-fowl have thick strong skins, and such may be skinned; the tail, claws, head, and feet are carefully to be preserved, and the plumage stained as little as possible with blood. The inside of the skin may be stuffed as above. Kuckahn observes (in the Phil. Trans. vol. lx. p. 319,) that" baking is not only useful in fresh preservations, but will also be of very great service to old ones, destroying the eggs of insects: and it should be a constant practice once in two or three years to bake them over again, and to have the cases fresh washed with camphorated spirit, or the sublimate solution, which would not only preserve collections from decay much longer but also keep them sweet." But Dr. Lettsom remarks, that " baking is apt to crimp and injure the plumage, unless great care be used; and therefore the proper degree of heat should be ascertained by means of a feather, before such subjects are baked." And he prescribes as the best preservative, boxes well glazed; and he adds, " When the subject is to be kept for some time in a hot climate, it should be secured in a box filled with tow, oakum, or tobacco, well sprinkled with the sublimate solution." In Guiana, the number and variety of beautiful birds is so great, that several persons in the colony advantageously employ themselves, with their slaves and dependants, in killing and preserving these animals for the cabinets of naturalists in different parts of Europe.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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