What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Fine Feathered Friends

The Royal Alberta Museum is also currently hosting a temporary exhibit on the use of feathers in hat-making (millinery!) and fashion, called Fashioning Feathers. I’m not usually all that into the history of costume and fashion in museums, and so I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting I found this particular exhibit. I think it was the intersection of biology and fashion that was so neat.


There was a wide variety of taxidermied bird specimens showing what species were used for different styles, like in the photo above.

Besides the usual pheasants and roosters, there were some really unusual birds on display, like this Western Crowned Pigeon (Goura cristata).


I was pretty shocked to learn that many brilliantly coloured tropical birds, like birds of paradise, were dyed black for use in hats.  These three parrots are actually dyed Carolina parakeets (Conuropsis carolinensis), which, through a combination of hunting, habitat loss, and the plume trade, went extinct in 1918.

Audubon’s Carolina parakeets, via Wikipedia.

Why not use naturally black or dark-coloured birds? Whatever would possess someone to harvest such colourful birds only to dye them black, when there are SO MANY shiny black birds present in North America? The mind boggles.

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