Introduction to the Aesthetics of Birds

By | 1 September 2013

“Repair to the haunts of birds on plains and mountains, forests, swamps, and lakes, and give up your time to examine the economy of the different orders of birds”, Charles Waterton in Capt. Thomas Browne’s The Taxidermist’s Manual 1853

You will situate your troubadour, your lyre-tailed harpist, Menura superba,
central to the exhibit as if he were summoning other orders of birds
by virtue of song. Ignore what you know of silver-white canopies
of feather revealed as the bird dances for its mate. Reveal the fine fern-like
filamentaries framed by lyre plumes, upright and erect.

Your White-faced Heron should appear tentative, neck retracted and settled,
as if contemplating the missed arrival of the tide, the greyness of the day.

The laughing jackass may assume one of two dominant positions: filled
with mirth (beak open, skyward) or in a predatory mood (watchful),
an angled eye observing some reptilian supper just out of view.

Your Satin Bowerbird is best displayed amongst his bower, content
sorting collections of buttons and blue trinkets, anticipating her arrival –

whilst the Riflebird, Ptiloris paradiseus should crown the display
by means of wiring the wings into arcs. In attitude, a toreador waving entry
into the ring, the exact satin flash of blue-green tail erect and graceful.

Parrots, lorikeets, and rosellas will seem chatty and conversational
if arranged together on a suitable branch, or if gathered over seed.

Your Macleay’s Kingfisher, alert, should observe keenly the close-eyed
confusion of the Boobook; use yellow glass with wide circumferences of iris.


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