This week in the Taxidermy.Co Workshop, we can see the work of two juvenile specimens. A beautiful Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and a Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
I have not yet had the (unfortunate) pleasure of working with a Cuckoo, so this was a first for me! Reports from the BTO reveal that cuckoo’s have declined in numbers in the UK by a whopping 65%, since 1980. I have personally noticed that decline as it’s getting harder and harder with each spring that passes, to hear their classic call that gives them their onomatopoeic name.
This particular specimen sadly met it’s fate by flying in to a window. Although under unfortunate circumstances, It is great to be able to study such a creature in close up detail that is more often heard than seen. I have noted just how similar they are in overall appearance – what birders would refer to as ‘jizz’, to a bird of prey such as a kestrel or more similarly, a Sparrowhawk.
Pointed, falcon like wings and a barred chest are examples of bird of prey mimicry that work in their favour to scare off nesting birds, briefly enough to allow them to lay their eggs. Cuckoos are known for being a parasitic species and lay their eggs in the nests of other species, more favourably Dunnock, Meadow Pipit and Reed Warbler, who raise the cuckoo’s young as if it was one of their own!
One thing I did notice with this species, is the severe delicacy of it’s skin. I know there are a few birds or particular species that are notorious for being hard to work with within the taxidermy world, I am sure cuckoo’s must be one of them!
I’d definitely put them in the same difficult category as Woodcock , for having very fatty, but tissue paper thin skin. The more you try to remove the fat – a very necessary requirement for the taxidermy process, the more you make holes! Thankfully I was able to repair the ‘whoopsies’ and the feathers were quite forgiving once they were dry, but if any other taxidermists about to embark on such a project in unchartered territory, you have been warned! (use LOTS of borax whilst skinning and take things very slow).