Working with Birds

Preparing Bird Specimens

Recognizing the importance of bird skin collections for current and future generations, this webpage was created to provide basic tools on how to prepare bird study skins. The target audience is graduate  students working in the field as well as volunteers and staff at parks, colleges, universities, and museums that have the appropriate permits.

Ildiko Szabo takes full responsibility for any errors in the following PowerPoint presentations. Please contact her at if you have any corrections on wish to contribute images to this educational resource.

Please note: The birds shown in these presentations were salvaged. As these presentations deal with preparing skins from whole dead animals, some images may be considered graphic.

  • Intro The look of the bird and a few things to look for
  • Part 1 Spread wings, a good place to start
  • Part 2 Skinning your first bird
  • Part 3 Other skinning methods
  • Part 4 Stuffing your first bird
  • Part 5 Other stuffing and pinning methods & Bird parts
  • Part 6 Sexing birds using gonads (includes 2 quizzes with answer sheets)
  • Part 7a Determining skull pneumatization
  • Part 7b Skeleton preparations
  • Part 8 DNA sampling & Gut analysis
  • Part 9 Washing birds for arthropod ectosymbionts & Drying washed skins
  • Part 10 Recording fat levels & Cleaning fatty and stinky skins
  • Part 11 Flat skins, shmoos, and other types of study skins
  • Part 13a Determining Cause of Death: Poisons
  • Part 13b Determining Cause of Death: Diseases
  • Part 13c Determining Cause of Death: Trauma wound analysis
  • Part 13d Determining Cause of Death: Collisions with man-made structures
  • Part 14 Labelling: The most important step


Almost every avian museum evolves their own variations on the basic specimen preparation techniques demonstrated in photo essay format in the PowerPoint presentations listed above. Collected below are various videos, websites, and  documents showing alternate ways to prepare birds. Included are label writing guidelines and other information of interest to people contributing to avian collections.