Volume I, Number 6, Spring/Summer 2006


© Copyright 2005


Birds as Artists

The World of Bird Art

The Splay as Art

. . Interest in well framed specimens of avian dejecta is hardly confined to those of an ornithological persuasion. In recent years, the splay has gained increasing attention within the established art community.

Art Critic Oscar Levunchek admiring a Messterpiece

. . Mounted splays both real and artificial, while admittedly still a controversial element of the art scene, are beginning to command high prices. A dual splay of the Blue Winged Teal, dated 1983, was sold recently in a leading Dallas gallery for $6000. Similar prices for top quality compositions have been obtained in London's Cork Street. This trend comes as a surprise to the many who question whether splays can truly be works of art.

Splay Collecting

. . There are over 8,350 species of flying birds and for each of them there are something like 600 possible dietary combinations. Even when ignoring factors such as seasonal fluctuations, new synthetic foods or insecticides ‹ all of which cause excremental variations ‹ a total of 5,000,000 quite distinct types of birdsplay may now be collected on windscreens around the world at any one time.

. . Our windshields are in fact, extremely efficient collecting nets. At just 60 MPH the average windshield sweeps a volume of air equal to 594 cu. ft. per second. On a 60 mile journey, that's the same as spreading a net of some 396,817 sq. ft. Or, to put it another way, 100 hours of driving equates with a gigantic windshield nearly 1.5 miles square miles in area, held aloft for one sixteenth of a second. With such an effective gathering device positioned in front of our eyes, it is easy to see why the growing store of fascinating information about dejecta has led to splay collection becoming a major global pastime.

. . The two most important factors in the capture and preservation of splays are a collection surface enabling the splay to be easily removed, and the proper observance of correct drying times so that the specimen remains intact. Most splay enthusiasts prepare the surface of their windshield by first wiping it down with a damp cloth. A sheet of good quality clear plastic film of the clingy type is then laid over the glass. Provided there is some moisture underneath, the film will remain bubble free and sit firmly in place without the need for additional fixing. Once a splay has formed on the surface, it can be easily removed with the specimen in situ.

. . Splays that strike uncovered windshields may be loosened with a clear high–grade oil such as oleander or witch–hazel. They can then be carefully removed with a flexible blade. However, this should not be attempted until sufficient drying time has allowed the formation of a binding crust or skak. The skak should cover the entire surface of the splay. It is also important to check that the skak is of sufficient consistency to firmly hold larger nucleic particles such as insect debris, seeds, etc. As most drying is achieved by driving which creates an air–flow over the specimen, it is necessary to be constantly alert to the danger of losing these more wind prone pieces and thus significantly lowering the value of the splay.

Anatomy of a Splay

. . A knowledge of the different parts of each splay is essential to fully describe and understand the variations in ornithological dejecta.

. . The diagrams below show all the main areas of a splay as well as the main types of splay that the collector can expect to find.

A. Sub–nucleus
B. Nucleus
C. Solids
D. Envelope
E. Outer Envelope
F. Inner Envelope
G. Lobe
H. Detached lobe
I. Extended lobe
J. Sub–nuclear particles

Multiple extended and detached lobes.
Usually taken at high speeds or results from extended drop height.
Often has disintegrated nucleus.

Varies in size with large extended lobes.
The lower ones may contain sub–nuclear particles and the occasional solid.

Clearly defined envelope and nucleus of roughly equal proportions.
No tendency to lobe.
Usually taken at low speeds or results from short drop height.

Envelope covers greater area than the nucleus which may be almost non–existent.
Little distinction between inner and outer envelopes.

Varies in size.
Typified by a single extended lobe which may contain sub–nuclear particles and occasionally solids.

Museum of Non Primate Art

This is a must see site for lots of images of Animals as Artists and their work.

Check out the Spectacular Exhibit of Bird Art.


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