Happy Bird Day

A good friend called me up to ask me if I could come speak about Taxidermy with a little genius named Liv who has a curiosity for science. I said, “Yes!” I would be super excited for my first opportunity to speak and teach about Taxidermy and Ornithology. What better an audience than kids?

We started the day in Pleistocene Gardens at the Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits. I set-up in the outdoor auditorium seating and began our lesson together in the sunshine. You would never guess that Liv is only 6 years-old and still attending Kindergarten. She has a vocabulary and understanding far beyond her age. Liv loves big words! Liv wants to be a Volcanologist when she grows up. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that one before!

I brought with me a whole toolbox of props so Liv could touch, see, play and have fun with what I had planned to teach. We started with the different species of Taxidermied birds I brought with me. We learned about what makes each individual species, where they are endemic to, what they eat, specializations they evolved to have and why. Liv got to touch and explore each bird and she thought they were all “so soft!”. She especially liked the Budgerigar she is holding in the above picture. Liv chimed in to share a story with me about the time when her and a friend found a dead bird and what happened.

Then I brought out the tools and materials of what Taxidermists use to create the preserved bird. Liv got to learn what each tool and material was for and what they were named. We didn’t let her hold the scalpel, don’t worry. We learned about the history and why people Taxidermy animals.

Then we asked her if she was comfortable seeing a real bird carcass and pair of eyes. Live said, “Yes, As long as there’s no blood. But I’ve seen my own blood before!” We assured Liv there would be no blood and I showed her the real bird parts along side a diagram of the anatomy to help explain what each part does. We talked about birds eyes (how they look like blueberries) and why birds see in the ultra-violet spectrum range and what that means compared to humans. Oh, and of course kids want to know where the “poop” hole is, right?! She pointed to the birds top of its rump and asked if that’s where it was. “Close”, but it’s actually underneath its tail and is called “the cloaca”. Now that we got that out-of-the-way on to the next topic.

What makes birds related to dinosaurs? I explained to Live what three things that Theropods have in common with birds. Lopsided eggs, hollow bones (hip structure) and feathers all were present in Theropods and as well as birds of today.

We finished the session with having fun coloring some birds out of a Latin letterpress coloring book I had brought along. Liv asked what all of the information was on the page was she couldn’t read. So we even squeezed in a mini lesson of Language while coloring and learning the Latin and English spelling of Ornithology.

With an hour gone by fast, my lesson was done and we all walked together up to the doors of The Page Museum where Liv would continue her day of learning about fossils with my friend. As we walked and talked Liv spotted a Seagull and exclaimed “Look, if that Seagull dies we could Taxidermy it so people could learn about it!” I explained to Liv that certain species are protected for preservation reasons and only Taxidermists with permits to work on those birds for museums or educational institutions are lawfully able to do so.

What a good time it was teaching such a clever and sweet little girl about Taxidermy, Ornithology and our natural world! My friend snapped this picture of us to send her Mom and asked Liv what the text should say. Liv shouted, “HAPPY BIRD DAY!!”, with a huge smile on her face. Agreed.