Photo by Jarren Vink
Here’s how to turn a duck skull into a wall-hanger—or, at least, a rearview mirror-hanger.
Flesh-eating dermestid beetles can clean a duck skull in a matter of days. Many museums and nature centers keep a colony or two of the insects, and a modest contribution—say, $25—can often earn you a spot in their beetle box. You’ll first need to skin the upper legs and cut away most of the muscle, and skin the skull and cut out the tongue, but the bugs will do the rest. Another option: Ask a local taxidermist if you and your buddies can toss a few duck skulls and leg bones in with a load of deer skulls being prepped for European mounts. Tell the taxidermist there’s no need to go through the degreasing process. You will do that yourself in the next step.
Once the bones are back from the beetles, degrease them by soaking them in warm water and Dawn dishwashing detergent for a few hours. Rinse well. Dry in the sun. To further whiten the bones, soak them overnight in hydrogen peroxide and set in the sun to dry. Use small dabs of wood glue to strengthen any loose joints. Brush bleach on stubborn brown spots, or leave it natural. If you want, use yellow acrylic paint to color the bill.
Cross the leg bones and use hot glue to hold them in place. Once it has dried, build up a few layers of glue in the concave underside of the bill for a flat base, then attach the crossed bones to the back of the skull with more glue. Finish the skull with a leather lanyard and, if you’re lucky, a snazzy bird band to bling it up.