Bird feathers (fly tying)

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Drew9870

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So let's say a Bluejay, Crow, or Starling 'magically' falls into my front or back yard, how would I come about curing the feathers if necessary? And where should I pluck from?

Can I find any hackle material on birds? It would be kind of a win-win with the Starlings, since they are invasive and have really neat looking feathers.
 
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OnTheFly

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So let's say a Bluejay, Crow, or Starling 'magically' falls into my front or back yard, how would I come about curing the feathers if necessary? And where should I pluck from?

Can I find any hackle material on birds? It would be kind of a win-win with the Starlings, since they are invasive and have really neat looking feathers.
Hey Drew, I can't say that the feathers from those birds are found in fly shops. I suppose one could experiment. Be extra carefull about lice. You'd be into money if you could find peacock or pheasant.:)
 
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mrlindeman

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To cure the skins with feathers intact you need Borax. If you just want the feathers and hackle I would just trim what you need. Not sure if the feathers themselves need anything.
 
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FishFinger

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Drew..... lol welcome to the insanity of gathering fly tying materials.

I haven't "harvested" any indigenous birds personally (aside from some friends hens when I first started out) .but here's a ez way to "stabilize" your collection.

Remove the wings at the upper wing joint, closet to the breast meat. On a chicken it's the "drum-et" part of hot wings. Cut from the vent up through the belly to the it's head. Cut across the top of the head ( along the beak line) and back down to where you started. Pull the skin away, lay it out flat and coat it with a nice layer of rock salt. Roll it all up and store it for a few weeks. Later remove the salt and any remaining fat and do the process again.

The wings too can be allowed to dry out. Spread them out on a board and tack them on fully extended. Some pheasant wings I have were done just this way, and they are decades old now.

Having a complete skin, feathers in tact is a lot easier to deal with than loose feathers.

Water fowl and birds with robust and exotic feathers are usually the norm. Stuff like ducks, goose, turkeys, pheasants, partridge, peacock, ostrich are most common.

You'll need to experiment with feathers that you mentioned above to see if they stay "color fast" and give you the action your looking for. Case in point, I had a yellow napped amazon parrot once. All green. When I tried his feathers they turned a mottled gray when wet and the barbules were really clingy.
Needless to say I didn't skin him. Same went for a cockatiel, not skinned; crappy feathers.

Hackle is exclusive to roosters. they are taken from the back of the neck (cape) and off the back above the tail (saddle). There are different grades or quality available. The best are often used for dry flies down to super tiny 20 & 22. The amount of webbing a feather has dictates grade. Webber stuff is often used for wet flies, and super webby (schlappen) used for jigs.

Hope this helps a bit.

Go visit River City Fly Shop. That will get your head spinning.
 
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fish4life

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Use pointed pellets that fly straiter and penetrate better lol.
 
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Drew9870

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I only use Beeman Wadcutters (flat top), match shooters use wadcutters.

Hope the neighbors chickens don't get too close to my lawn ;). I believe I have seen a Pheasant or two around the field/woods next to my house, hmmm :think::D.
 
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Drew9870

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Remove the wings at the upper wing joint, closet to the breast meat. On a chicken it's the "drum-et" part of hot wings. Cut from the vent up through the belly to the it's head. Cut across the top of the head ( along the beak line) and back down to where you started. Pull the skin away, lay it out flat and coat it with a nice layer of rock salt. Roll it all up and store it for a few weeks. Later remove the salt and any remaining fat and do the process again.

Oh man, this is gonna be tough, but I think I can handle it, it's just like guttin a Trout, lol.

I think I am gonna go 'shooting'.
 
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skunk

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Starling is used in wet flies, the rest I'd be careful of as they are either protected birds, or game birds. The protected birds I'd be careful of using as sometimes the law don't care if you killed it or not. As for my birds, I just freeze the whole bird, kills anything, and then pluck as needed. Or just pluck and freeze the feathers for 2-3 days. Pull the feathers out with a quick tug towards the head along the body. Most will come out very easily. The only thing you have to be careful with are blood quill feathers. These are the new feathers that grow after a bird molts. They usually have some skin, or fat, attached to the base when pulled and they will rot if just stored dry.
 
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FishFinger

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Blood feathers... Are those the feathers that are called "gimp" feathers. I saw video there it called for specifically the gimp feather (a newly developing feather, where I'm not sure) from a Lady Amherst Pheasant.

I'll bet there are better tricks to curing bird skins, the hen hackle I got years ago is still kinda greasy and the feathers are inferior, I keep them cause.. maybe someday i figure out a use for them, and if I threw them away, I'd think of it tomorrow and be missing them.

Typical feather hoarding behavior.
 
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Drew9870

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What about Doves? I also see Squirrels out there, How would I clean the tail? Skin it down along the bottom and run my finger through like its a bloodline, and cover it in rock salt once clean?
 
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Jig'n

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Somebody told me that some of the Starling feathers can be used as imatation Jungle Cock eye's. Jungle Cock eyes are rare and expensive and are used i n a lot of wet flies.
 
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FishFiddle

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I have found that is works well to just salt it down well and place between two pieces of cardboard and then a little weight on top to keep it from rolling as it dries. After a week or two (long enough to be fairly dry) shake off the excess salt and cover with borax and back between the cardboard for another week or two. Thicker skins take longer to cure, but it works for just about anything....fowl, deer, squirrel, calf tail, etc. After it is dry and 'cured' it goes in a ziploc bag. I prefer having whole skins or sections rather than loose feathers, just less mess when using. If the skin gets too brittle you can use a little lexol or any leather treatment oil to soften the hide/skin(I apply with a brush) but do not use very much cause oily feathers or hairs are a mess (from experience). For the curing process, large hides or skins can be stretched and nailed to a piece of ply rather than the cardboard sandwich. Good Luck!
 
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slabjig

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This is directly from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website:

All wild birds (except pigeons, English sparrows and starlings) are protected by federal and state laws. You may not trap, kill or possess protected species without federal and state permits.

Federal regulations provide that no permit is needed to control crows, blackbirds, cowbirds and magpies when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitutea health hazard or other nuisance.

You might notice here, that nowhere is there a mention of any species of jay which means they are protected and if you get caught with flies tied with their feathers.... trouble. You can't even pick up shed feathers and use them.
 
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