Skins and Bones

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Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 3:33 am
Location: Winston-Salem, NC

Skins and Bones

Postby Magmatic » Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:47 am

A bit of background about this slideshow. "Lights Out" is a movement in the country to encourage building owners to turn the lights in their buildings off during the spring and fall bird migrations, especially the floodlights. The problem is the birds see the lights, fly down, get disoriented and end up crashing into the buildings, often getting themselves killed. And you find dead birds outside your building the next morning. Large glass windows are especially disorienting.

Some people associated with Lights Out Winston-Salem (North Carolina) have patrolled the city early in the morning looking for the kills. They collect the birds and document the strikes. But what do you do with the birds? You freeze them, and then donate them to a science museum.

So, last Saturday a cooler of birds was delivered to the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. And, especially interesting, we also got to peek behind the curtain at the museum's collection of bird specimens. They are "skins", the skin and feathers, with the body stuffed with cotton.

The skins are used for various kinds of scientific research, and are even a historical record of our vanishing bird life. They are an important, albeit little-known resource. They're also used by artists. Sometimes the skeletons are also preserved.

But first, we went downstairs to the lab and watched the curators inspect their prizes. Then, further down, further in, far below ground, for the tour of the collections. A vast room of rows and rows of white, sealed cabinets, filled with drawers of skins. The museum has 25,000 bird skins. Some of our birds will end up in those drawers.

The show runs about 4 minutes. And OK, it features a lot of dead, but beautiful, stuff.
David Shuford

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