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1 September 2013 Freeze-Drying to Preserve Birds for Teaching Collections
Alexandra V. Shoffner, Margaret C. Brittingham
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Collections of bird specimens are an important resource for teaching bird identification, but acquiring suitable specimens can be problematic. Older collections tend to be preserved with a variety of potentially harmful chemicals; additionally, traditional methods for preparing specimens typically require extensive training. Freeze-drying is a method that involves removing water from specimens via sublimation, and may be an acceptable alternative to conventional taxidermy techniques for teaching collections. We freeze-dried 63 birds and 12 bird parts (i.e., talons and wings) of 44 species salvaged from throughout Pennsylvania since January 2008 using a Taxi-Dry Freeze-Dryer (Freeze-dry Specialties, Inc.). To determine the extent of water lost during the freeze-drying process, we measured the masses of birds and parts before and after preservation. Whole birds that were successfully freeze-dried lost 59.4% ± 0.9% (mean ± SE) of their initial mass, and unsuccessfully dried birds lost 46.9% ± 3.5% of their initial mass. Generally, birds with an initial mass >160 g did not lose enough water in the freeze-drying process to be effectively preserved. We conclude that if proper storage and maintenance conditions are met, freeze-drying can be an effective method for preserving small bird specimens for teaching collections.

Alexandra V. Shoffner and Margaret C. Brittingham "Freeze-Drying to Preserve Birds for Teaching Collections," Northeastern Naturalist 20(3), 441-450, (1 September 2013).
Published: 1 September 2013

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