Should any feathers be disengaged during the mounting, they must be kept, and, when the bird is dry, we can replace them in their proper situations with a pair of forceps, after they have been touched on their shafts with the cement; the feathers around the place in which we intend to insert them, must be held up with the probing-needle.
If any of the feathers are deranged in mounting, and have got a wrong set, the only way to remedy the defect is to pull them out with forceps, and re-insert them with cement.
Of Mounting Birds, Feather by Feather. Rare birds are frequently received from foreign countries, the skins of which are in such a state of decay, that it is impossible to mount them by the ordinary processes above described. The only way in which they can be preserved, is to mount them feather by feather, which, however, is a very tedious method. It is as follows:
Procure a piece of soft pliable wire, such as is used by bell-hangers; or take some of the ordinary wire used, and make it red-hot in the fire, and allow it to cool gradually, when it will become quite pliable. Take five pieces of this, of different lengths, and form them into the skeleton of a body; namely, two for the back, one on each side, and one to represent the breast bone. Imitate the shape of the bird's body, as nearly as possible. The wires must be roughened with a file, at the place where all the wires meet, at the neck and rump; and first wrap the place next the neck round with strong thread or fine brass wire. Two pieces intended for the back must bend gently downwards, and be gradually separated from each other towards the center, and brought together again at the place intended for the rump, where they must intersect each other, and be twisted two or three times, to keep them in their place; they are then spread out as supports for the tail; the side pieces are next formed, so as to represent the natural bulge of a bird's body, and attached to the rump; the piece representing the breast is then formed, joined at the rump, and afterwards continued as long as the other tail-pieces, to support the center of the tail; while at the front extremity a piece is left, for the purpose of forming a neck to which to attach the head. The log-wires are attached to the side-wires, being rolled round them for several turns, making a framework the shape of the bird.
After this body has been properly formed, it must be wrapped round with tow-sliver, and the neck thickened to its required dimensions. When this is accomplished, the head, legs, wings and tail are softened in the usual manner ; the eyes are then fixed in with some cotton introduced into the orbits, with a little of the cement. The wings and tail are now placed on a table, with a flat leaden weight above each, to restore them to their natural shape. The leg-wires are then passed through the legs, commencing at the top, and bringing them out at the soles of the feet, and left with a piece extending beyond the claws.
The tail is now fixed on, by first attaching to it a quantity of cotton with the cement, and, when dry, it is fixed to the part intended as the rump.
The feet of the bird must be fixed into a piece of wood, as a perch, the ends of which must be left some inches beyond the body. The end next the tail is fixed into a table-vice, with the belly upwards, and the head pointing towards the operator. The feathers are now put on, commencing, under the tail, or crissum, with what are termed the under-tail coverts; a coating of cement must be previously laid on, to attach the feathers with. It is proceeded with upwards to the breast, and finally the length of the neck, taking care to put the proper feathers on their respective sides, as the side-feathers have all an inclination to one side. The bird is now turned with the back up, still keeping the head towards the stuffer ; and the wings are fixed on with cement, and pins forced through the beards of the feathers to conceal the heads. When this is done, put on the feathers of the rump, and proceed upwards, as has been done with the belly. After reaching the top of the neck, the head is then fixed on with some cotton immersed in the cement, and allowed to dry before attempting to put on the feathers.
In this mode of mounting a bird there are several things which must be attentively adhered to; these are - first, not to put the feathers too thick, for there is a danger of running short; secondly, all the shafts of the feathers must have a small bit cut off the tip, so as to admit the cement and to give them a firmer hold; and thirdly, that the feathers should all occupy their respective parts; and fourthly, that they should be arranged as they are in nature on these parts, as the disposition of every part of the body is peculiar to itself.
At first, this mode of setting up birds will be found a difficult task, but, by a little practice and experience, it will become familiar and comparatively easy, although it will always be found a tedious process. We have seen some specimens set up in this way, which we could hardly detect from those mounted in the ordinary manner.
Besides what we have already said concerning the stuffing and preparing of birds, there are many details connected with particular species which demand our attention, and which can only be described as regarding that species. It will, however, be impossible for us to enter into all these minutely, but only give a few examples as general guides. We shall take these in systematic succession.
Preservation of Colors. In the preservation of the feathers of birds, little else is required to prevent the dissipation of their colors than to keep them as much as possible from air and light. These two agents, which were indispen-sible to their beauty and perfection in a living state, now exercise their influence as destroyers, and that influence will sooner or later work its ends according to the quality, texture, or color of the object with which it is contending. The feathers are now deprived of two agents, which in a living state contributed to their vigor and their beauty, namely, the internal circulating juices which they received from the body of the animal, and the external application of oil by the bill of the bird, supplied from a gland which is placed over the rump of all birds.
The colors of the rapacious tribes are not so evanescent as those of many others, as they, for the most part, are composed of intense browns and blacks, which are not so easily absorbed by light or air, so that they continue for a very long period without any sensible difference. There are, however, certain other points which are liable to almost immediate change of color after the death of the animals, and these are the cere and skin of the legs and feet, and the naked skin on the heads and necks of vultures and their congeners. We shall treat of these individually.
Now, as all these colors which we have described are liable to change immediately after death, it is evident that considerable nicety will be required to give the preserved specimen the appearance of nature. These must, therefore, be supplied artificially with the varnish colors, which we have particularly described in their proper place, as also the combinations for the formation of compound colors. The reddish-brown color mentioned, of which the fold is composed, must be touched by a mixture of the scarlet varnish, with a little powdered burnt umber, and the blue streaks with which it is traversed, colored above with cobalt blue. All the varnish colors have a tendency to shine, which, it will be evident, is not the character of any part of the skin or earuncle of the bird described. As soon, therefore, as it is thoroughly dry, which will be in about an hour, the whole surface must be gently rubbed with very fine sand-paper, which will completely remove the gloss and give the appeance of nature.
Some nicety will be required in painting betwixt the hairs, but it can be easily managed with a little caution. Sometimes these hairs are liable to become brown, in which case they can be touched with the black varnish.
As these birds are inhabitants of warm climates, some care is requisite after killing them, to prevent decay; the tendons of the legs should be extracted to prevent their being attacked by moths, and their place supplied by some cotton and preservatives. The tendons are extracted by means of a longitudinal incision made behind the tarsus. The edges of this incision can easily be brought together when the bird is under the process of preparation.