Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Birds of a Feather

In an earlier post, while discussing the theft of bird skins from the Ornithology collections at the Natural History Museum, I expressed amazement that specimens that were so incredibly rare and of such scientific value could end up as angler's lures. Of course, I had forgotten about the art of fly-tying, which at its more rarified extremes has very little to do with fishing. Consider this Japanese website, for example. Anyone prepared to pay $65 for 4 Cock of the Rock feathers is unlikely to be chucking them in a river anytime soon. Start googling "fly tying, feathers, exotic" and you come up with some alarming stuff. "There are many exotic birds we get only once or twice in a year. We have established a 'want list' for these skins and notify those on the list if we receive them" says one supplier. I'd become used to thinking about the risks to collections posed by the trade in fossils but the idea of a market for feathers, where a single bird skin might be worth thousands of dollars, was an eye opener....

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