Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo O' the Day: Dead Bird Society

My mom just got a nifty new refrigerator. She was cleaning out the freezer portion in preparation for the new appliance arrival when she made the following announcement to my dad: "It is time for the dead birds to go."
Some people keep food, such as meat, ice cream and packaged vegetables in their freezers. My dad keeps dead birds. It's not that different from keeping chickens or game hens in your freezer; these particular specimens don't have much in the way of dietary value however, mostly due to their petite size. They are also not plucked or gutted. A minor difference, in my humble opinion.
I assisted with the freezer clean-out and counted a total of six dead birds, nicely wrapped and packaged. My papa is pretty sneaky; you couldn't really tell they were birds until you unwrapped them. They looked a lot like the other miscellaneous packages of mostly-consumed bread loaves, ice-encrusted chicken legs (see!! dead bird!!), and packages of frozen fruit. In fact, I think I contributed a couple specimens to the collection a while back and I made sure to carefully wrap them and place them in the very depths of the freezer as to not attract immediate attention.

(Wilson's Warbler)

I should add that these birds were collected over a lengthy period of time and frankly, papa can't recall exactly where they all originated. A few were window kills and the rest were probably discovered after succumbing to a particularly harsh nightly temperature drop. I climbed onto the roof to retrieve the Wilson's Warbler after spotting it one frosty morning.
While keeping dead birds in one's freezer is probably unsettling to most, I got over it pretty quickly, thanks to [several] professors in college that routinely pulled over to collect road kill for our museum taxidermy classes. Frankly, dead birds don't faze me much. Neither do dead squirrels, another favorite road kill collectible.
(Golden Crowned Kinglet)
Fortunately, these birds found a higher calling. I trucked them over to the Seattle Audubon Society where they were carefully stored (in a freezer!!!) for later repurposement as educational aids in lectures and school presentations. So, if you happen upon a dead bird in your yard, stuff it in your freezer and call your local
Audubon society. They'll be happy to have it.

I should also note that if you discover a banded dead bird, review this website for additional information about reporting the band number.