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Preserving Dead Hummers

September 7 2008 at 6:03 PM

  (Login webjc)
Hummingbird Member 2006

After 7 years of seeing hundreds of hummers in my yard, had a dead one today. Looks like a broken neck window collision. Son found it. Juvenile male. no bands.

I was going to bury it but it is so neat. Can I just put him a jar and it will preserve? no bugs or anything was on it yet, fresh death.

How can I save/preserve it? I see birds in museums all the times. I like the feathers and 2 red gorget feathers. May be illegal, but it was just going to be buried.

Let me know if anyone has any ideas.

John Curran
Manchester, MO

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(Login NLN)
Hummingbird Member 2005

Re: Preserving Dead Hummers

September 7 2008, 6:34 PM 

It is indeed a sad day when we find a hummer dead. However, I use scientific specimens all the time and I have the necessary federal and state permits to salvage dead birds to be used for the sake of increasing our knowledge. Otherwise, it is unlawful to possess and keep even so much as a feather, a fragment of egg shell, or a nest of any protected species.

First, you need to make a cone of plain white paper, typing paper will do nicely. Drop the bird in head first and the body will be held in a somewhat natural position. Place the cone in a heavy duty zip-loc freezer bag and freeze it. Meanwhile, on a plain piece of white paper, write your name, your address, the location the bird was found dead. Your street address will do, but map coordinates may be preferred. Add the date. Write in archival quality ink so that the ink does not run and stain the feathers. Place the slip of paper in the bag with the specimen.

Now, you need to find a natural history museum or college biology collection that will take the specimen, prepare it properly, and make it useful as a learning tool for generations to come. You cannot keep it legally and no licensed taxidermist can legally mount it for you.

I have been fortunate to have the fine facility and staff of the Louisiana State Museum of Natural Science at my disposal. Without their collection of preserved specimens, I could never have learned all that I know and I consider it a privilege to be able to educate others. Some of the specimens I use were prepared as early as 1880. This may be a good opportunity to teach your son about the science of ornithology. I met an 8 year old this morning that knows a lot about the giants in the field. They are never too young to learn.

Nancy L Newfield
Casa Colibrí­
Metairie, Louisiana USA
USDA Zone 9


(Login hhamm)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: Preserving Dead Hummers

September 7 2008, 7:20 PM 

John and Nancy,

Excellent informative post. Thank you for sharing this info.!

Peace and many hummers,

Harley Hamm
Checotah, Okla.

(Login Hummerlover4ever)

Re: Preserving Dead Hummers

September 7 2008, 9:29 PM 

So sad to hear about your hummer. Really John why would you want to do something like that? Seems kinda weird. I would bury it and soon!! Whatever!! Or do what Nancy said..so someone could have a look at it. But I think most people would just bury it.

(Login Hummerlover4ever)

Re: Preserving Dead Hummers

September 7 2008, 10:51 PM 

Hi Nancy...what exactly do you mean by keeping or collecting nests or disgarded eggs. Does this mean all birds? Because if so that seems ridiculous. I have collected old nests (found on the ground) or the last years nest and picked up eggs "found on the ground" and tried to get them to hatch. I have cut down trees and have found a nest or two that I have saved. So are you telling me this is against the law? And if so. WOW


John Curran
(Login webjc)
Hummingbird Member 2006


September 7 2008, 11:49 PM 

Thanks for the info Nancy. I will try that route. There are some nature centers in St. Louis that I think need a Rubythroat on display. They have all the other birds.

I did find a site on birds taxidermy and said to freeze in ziploc so I did that but now just added cone paper.

Is there a need to rush out and get this bird sent out or since it's freezing, there is no urgent deadline?

Thanks again.

John Curran
Manchester, MO


(Login Pennytoo)
Hummingbird Moderator 2005

Re: Preserving Dead Hummers

September 8 2008, 6:53 AM 

I believe that the law pertaining to keeping anything or any part of a bird refers to migratory birds. I don't think it applies to our local birds that live with us year round. Hummers are migratory and are protected by the migratory bird act. It has to be that cut and dried and that specific in order to protect every aspect of the birds in life and in death.

I am sure that Nancy will have much more to add.

Niagara Falls, NY
USDA zone 6a/6b
Heat zone 4
Sunset zone 39

(Login JudyinWestTN)
Hummingbird lover 2007

83% of our native birds are covered under the Act

September 10 2008, 11:45 AM 

Please read this info from the USGS about possession of migratory birds, eggs, nests, etc. It states in part:

The Act covers the great majority (83%) of all native birds found in the U.S. Many of the species not covered by the Act are covered by the Endangered Species Act , other Federal laws, or state laws, many of which are as stringent as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In the lower 48 states, all species except the house sparrow, feral pigeon, common starling, and non-migratory game birds like pheasants, gray partridge, and sage grouse, are protected.

Also see this very interesting USGS page: Birders & US Federal Laws.

The provisions of the Act are nearly absolute; "...except as permitted by regulations ..." is the only exception. Some examples of permitted activities that do not violate the law are legal hunting of specific game birds, legitimate research activities, display in licensed zoological gardens, and bird banding under an appropriate permit.

Just spent the entire weekend repeating this information at the Hummingbird Migration Festival in Holly Springs, MS. Some people will always ask for advice on how to "catch" a Hummingbird.

West Tennessee
USDA Zone 7

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