It's Vancouver Bird Week, and the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) has found an unusual way to help people get a bit closer to our feathered friends — bird wing taxidermy workshops.

The Society's Public Outreach and Education Coordinator Celina Starne is leading the hands-on workshops at the Stanley Park Pavilion on May 7 and 8.

"I find that taxidermy is a way to get closer to the animal you're interested in," says Starne.

"You can come observe an animal in its natural habitat...but actually to hold the animal in your hand and understand its anatomy at that level brings people closer to the animals."

All the animals being used in the workshops were found deceased in Stanley Park and have been kept frozen. Specimens include a great horned horned owl, a cormorant, and a variety of songbirds.

Each workshop participant will have a chance to prepare a wingspread, in which a wing is removed from the bird, spread out and left to dry.

During the process, participants must remove the muscles from under the feathers, re-stuff the bird and add a preserving agent.

Taxidermy2

A Great Horned Owl is among the birds used in the taxidermy workshop. This one was found deceased in Stanley Park. (Margaret Gallagher)

Budding taxidermists hoping to keep their handiwork are out of luck — you must have the appropriate wildlife permits in order to possess wild animal parts.

SPES, which does hold the appropriate permits, will keep the finished wingspreads to use in their education programs.

This is the first time the workshop has been offered to the public. It has proven to be so popular the society added an additional date to accommodate interest. 

Starne admits that dissecting a dead bird is not for everyone.

"It's an interesting dichotomy. There's this morbidity to it — it's this dead animal — but then there's this fascination of, 'I've never been so close to this animal before'."

Starne says such intimate contact with dead birds could help workshop participants develop a stronger connection to living birds.

"I hope that having this close-up experience with the animal will give [participants] even more appreciation, and hopefully they'll be even more interested in protecting the environments that these animals count on for their survival."

The bird wing taxidermy workshops cost $17 and participants must preregister at SPES, but space is limited.