California Dreamin'

You’re not the only one California dreaming! Maybe the Yellow Chevron Parakeet was inspired by The Mamas & The Papas song California Dreamin’? I’m picturing a whole tree full of them swaying back and forth in unison and singing along. The Yellow Chevron Parakeets native range and habitat is mainly South of the Amazon region, from Bolivia and Eastern and Southern Brazil to Paraguay and Northern Argentina.

Yellow Chevron Parakeets came to California after the early seventies like many of us. The Parakeet tends to be associated with the cultivation of Silk Floss trees and Date Palms which are found in urban and suburban areas. Did you know we have these Parakeets right here in Los Angeles? I’ve never seen one of these guys myself in the ten years I’ve lived in LA but now I know to keep my eyes peeled for them! With 508 bird species recorded within its boundaries and offshore waters, Los Angeles County is among the most ornithological diverse regions in North America.

This Parakeet was my sixth bird to Taxidermy. I knew looking at its eyes that this bird was deteriorated beyond my ideal specimen. Since my bad experience with the Budgie I take no chances. I made sure to buy some denatured alcohol to soak this bird in for a couple of minutes before beginning. (You can get the stuff at Home Depot or most home improvement shops.) Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has been irreversibly poisoned so that it can’t be consumed. If you soak your bird in it for a couple of minutes it the alcohol acts as a bacterium will kill any rotten smell and it tightens the skin so that you don’t get feather slippage.

After a couple of minutes I went to lift the Parakeet out of the plastic container of alcohol and noticed a couple of ants floating along the surface. Hmm, nevermind and continue on.. As I was skinning the bird and got to its crop (The crop is a muscular pouch located in a bird’s neck above the top of the chest or sternum. It is simply an enlargement of the esophagus in this location. The crop functions as a storage place for food.) I noticed more ants, ants, ants, and lots of ants! This was the first time I’ve come across so many ants inside an actual bird before. The ants had eaten away at the birds eyes and its skin underneath its beak was gone, ugh. What to do?

I’ve always liked the idea of showing a peaceful return back into nature from which the bird came. I find the moment of death beautiful and want to immortalize it in a piece. Polly Morgan inspired me when I saw her piece below.. 

It never crossed my mind to Taxidermy a bird just to make it look dead until I came across her piece.

Despite all of the ants I found inside the bird and its skin underneath its beak missing I continued on. When it was time to push wire up through the birds feet and into the wood wool body things got tough. This bird must have had a lot of tendons inside its leg joints. I’ve heard you sometimes have to pull tendons out before sticking the wire through the legs. It took me a while but I got the wires through both legs without pulling tendons. Phew.

When it came to the point where I was ready to sew up the bird I realized that the it wasn’t going to be easy. I’d made the mistake of making the bird body too big and I was tugging on the skin struggling to close the stomach of the bird. I think when I was blow drying the birds feathers it had dried the skin a bit and caused some shrinkage as well. Hmm, what’s the solve here?

I know! I’ll finally get to be a little creative now and make this a “return to nature through death” piece. I’m was really excited to try something new and unconventional. I lied the parakeet on its back and groomed it. I decided to position the Parakeets wings around itself like it was covering up with a blanket tucked its head on top of its one wing and off to the side as if nuzzling in for a nap. I left its stomach completely un sewn and went to work in my mind on what this could look like.

I wanted to have plants, moss and “Forget Me Not” flowers growing up and out of its body.

I ended up making a crown of yellow flowers on its little head and gave it a scroll to clutch in its feet tied with a golden bow.