A New and Easier Method of Bird Skinning and Stuffing. A fair specimen being obtained, take common cotton wadding, and with an ordinary paint-brush stick plug the throat, nostrils, and, in large birds, the ears, with it, so that when the skin is turned no juices may flow and spoil the feathers; you must then provide yourself with the following articles: A knife of this kind, which is very common ; a pair of cutting plyers, a pair of strong scissors, of a moderate size; a buttonhook, a marrow spoon, and a hand-vice. With these, a needle and thread, and a sharpener of some kind, to give your knife an occasional touch, you are prepared, so far as implements go. Then provide yourself with annealed iron wire of various sizes; some you may buy ready for use, some not; but you can anneal it yourself by making it red hot in the fire, and letting it cool in the air. Common hemp is the next article, cotton wadding, pounded whitening, and pounded alum, or chloride of lime; as to the poisons which are used, they will be spoken of by and by. You should also have a common bradawl or two, and some pieces of quarter-inch pine whereon to stand the specimens when preserved, if to be placed as walking on a plane; if not, some small pieces of twigs or small branches of trees should be kept ready for use, of various sizes, according to the size of the bird. Cedar, or common laurel cut in December, will be found to answer best, but this must be regulated by fancy and the requirements of the case; oak boughs are sometimes of good shape.
The best time for preserving specimens is in spring, because then the cock birds are in the best feather, and the weather is not too warm. In mild weather three days is a good time to keep a bird, as then the skin will part from the flesh easily.
If a specimen has bled much over the feathers, so as to damage them, wash them carefully but thoroughly with warm water and a sponge, and immediately cover them with pounded whitening, which will adhere to them. Dry it as it hangs upon them slowly before the fire, and then triturating the hardened lumps gently between the fingers, the feathers will come out almost as clean as ever. To test whether the specimen is too decomposed to skin, try the feathers about the auriculars, and just above the tail, and if they do not move you may safely proceed.
Lay the bird on his back, and, parting the feathers from the insertion of the neck to the tail, you will find in most birds a spare space. Cut the skin the whole length of this, and, passing the finger under it on either side, by laying hold of one leg and bending it forward, you will be able to bring the bare knee through the opening you have made; with your scissors cut it through at the joint; pull the shank still adher, ing to the leg till the skin is turned back as far as it will go; denude the bone of flesh and sinew, wrap a piece of hemp round it, steep in a strong solution of the pounded alum, and then pull the leg by the claw, by which means the skin will be brought again to its place.
After having served both legs alike, skin carefully round the back, cutting off and leaving in the tail with that into which the feathers grow, that is, the "Pope's nose." Serve the wing bones the same as the leg, cutting them off close to the body, and turn the skin inside out down to the head. The back of the skull will then appear, and you will now find it of advantage, as soon as you have got the legs and tail free, to tie a piece of string round the body, and hang it up as a butcher skins a sheep. Make in the back of the skull a cut with your knife, which you can turn back like a trap-door, and with the marrow-spoon entirely clear out the brains; Having done this, wash the interior of the skull thoroughly with the alum, and fill it with cotton wadding. The next operation requires care and practice - namely, to get out the eyes. This is done by cutting cautiously until the lids appear, being careful not to cut the eye itself, and you can then, with a forceps, which you will likewise find useful, pull each from its socket; wipe the orifice carefully, wash it with the alum solution, and fill it with cotton wadding. Cut off the neck close to the skull, wash the stump, and the whole of the interior of the skin with the alum, and the skinning is done. Now come3 the stuffing. The ordinary mode used by bird-preservers is a simple one, and answers very well; there is a French method, however, which has its advantages, and will be adverted to hereafter. Take a piece of the wire suitable to the size of the bird (Fig. 11) - that is, as large as the legs will carry - and bend it into the following form, a representing the neck, b, the body, and c, the junction of the tail, allowing sufficient length of neck for the wire to pass gome distance beyond the head, and being sharpened at each end, which may be done by obliquely cutting it with the ply-ers. Wind upon this wire hemp to the size of the bird's body, which you should have lying by you to judge from, and it will present something of the appearance of Fig. 12. You can shape it with the hand, but be careful not to make it the least too large; and, after you have finished it to your satisfaction, you may singe it, as the poulterer would singe a fowl, which will make all neat; but be particular to wind the hemp very tight. Then take the skin, lay it on the table on its back, and pass the wire at the head into the marrow where the neck is cut off, through above the roof of the mouth, and out at one nostril, and draw it up close to the skull; turn the skin back, and draw it down over the hemp body, and pass the wire spike, protruding at the lower end, through the flesh upon which the tail grows, about the centre, and rather below than above. The skin may now be adjusted to the hemp body, and sown up, beginning from the top of the breast, and being particularly careful always to take the stitch from inside, otherwise you will draw in the feathers at every pull. At first sew it very loose, and then, with the button-hook, draw it together by degrees.
With the plyers cut two lengths of wire, long enough to pass up. the legs and into the neck, and leave something over to fasten the bird by to the board or spray upon which it is to be placed. The next operation requires some address and great practice, namely, the passing the wire up the legs. This is done by forcing it into the center of the foot, and up the back of the legs, into the hemp body, through it obliquely, and into the neck, until it is pretty firm. In doing this, you must remember the ordinary position of a bird when alive, and, therefore, instead of passing the wire the whole way within the skin of the leg, when you get to the part whore you have cut off the bone, that is, the knee-joint, pass it through the skin to the outside, and in again, through the skin, from the outside, where the knee would come naturally in the attitude of standing or perching - it makes little difference which. This is essential, because, if the wire be passed the whole way inside the skin, it produces a wrong placing of the legs. Fig. 13 will illustrate this, a representing the line in which the wire should run. The bird is now stuffed, and you may at once place it upon a spray or board, as the case may be. In placing a bird upon a spray, the first joint should be bent almost on a level with the foot; and, in placing a bird on a board, one leg should be placed somewhat behind the other. If the wings are intended to be closed, as is usually the case, bring them into their place, which may be done by putting the fingers under them, and pressing them together over the back; you may then pass a needle, or large pin, of which you should have a good supply by you, through the thick part of the upper wing into the body, and so by the lower wing, and if you allow these to protrude, you may fasten to one of them a piece of thread, and wind it carefully and lightly round the body, which will keep the feathers in their places, and this thread should be kept on for a fortnight or three weeks, until the bird is dry. The tail should be kept in its place, also, for the same time, by a piece of thin wire bent over it.
The only thing now to do is to put in the eyes. The color, of course, depends on the bird, and these you may buy at any fishing-tackle store. If you do not use eyes too large, you will find little difficulty; the juice of the lids will act as a sufficient cement. As to the mounting, I shall say nothing about that now, but shall only advert shortly to a French method of preserving, which is more difficult, but has the advantage of superior firmness. It is this: Measuring from the insertion of the neck to the tail, make a wire frame. Upon this wind hemp for the neck only, and place in the skin in the same way as before directed, only that, instead of one wire being passed through that in which the tail grows, it is a fork that is passed through it. Having formed this frame, fit on to it two legs, and after the frame itself is in the skin, pass these from the inside down each leg, instead of from the outside, and fasten them on to the frame with the plyers, by twisting the ends round the frame. This will make all firm, and you can then fill the body with cut hemp, and sew up. One word as to the other preparations used by bird preservers. These are either corrosive sublimate or regulus of arsenic, which is yellow and of a consistence like butter. As I have said before, in cold weather, when there are no flies about, alum will do perfectly well; in warm weather either of the two others may be used. I should prefer the former - corrosive sublimate - as the other is "messy," and the chief object is to dry up anything which can be attacked by flesh-seeking insects. When you have finished your bird, you can lay the feathers with a large needle - it is as well to have one fixed in a handle and kept for this purpose - and, tying the two mandibles of the bill together with a piece of thread until the whole speci-men has hardened and dried, the work is done.