A somewhat unusual subject for today: stuffed birds! No, not the kind you serve for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but birds prepared as museum specimens by experts taxidermists.
The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin has some of the best preparators and taxidermists in the world. That’s not bragging, that’s fact, easily proven by the World Champion title one of them, Robert Stein, won in Feburary (and it wasn’t his first either!). Oh, and he won “Best of Show”, too…. and, while I am at it, let me tell you he also won 1st place in the “Master of Master” category, in which only former World Champions can compete. His colleague Jürgen Fiebig this time won a 3rd place.
Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl (Bubo nipalensis)
Excellent work – and this is NOT a winning specimen from the World Championship!
Today, stuffing animals for exhibits is not as important as it was a century ago. We have high-resolution colour photography at our disposal for minimal costs, and HD film, and so on. Keeping animals in zoos has become much easier with increasing knowledge on the animals themselves, on veterinary medicine, with air conditioning and other technical advances. Still, stuffed animals are an important part of Natural history museum exhibits, and I have seen people of all ages spending a long time carefully looking at them – often much more thoroughly than they look at videos. Additionally, you can get really close.
Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus).
What’s really important for museum exhibits is that they must be perfectly life-like. Otherwise, the animals will looks “wrong” and “funny”, instead of awe-inspiring, they become “curiosities” – and that’s not how the public should be taught to think about them. And there are so many ways of doing it wrong – proportions, posture, colours, the eyes…. I don’t even want to think about it, given my clumsy fingers.
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (Bubo lacteus).
note reflection of me trying hard to get a good photo – the glass cabinets are a bit dusty, are covered in fingerprints, and the spotlights reflect everywhere. Sigh!
Blue-cheeked Amazon (Amazona dufresniana).
Scarlet-headed Blackbird (Amblyramphus holosericeus). As you can see, the MfN preparators are not only excellent with big birds.
For the end of this post here’s two views of parts of the Wall of Biodiversity at the MfN.