A box with wings:


A little warning:

This is a rather bloody post, so iffff you are a bit squeamish, please skip this one…..

I am putting it here mainly for all my international students to get an idea, as to how to preserver the Birds wings that you so often see dressed up and used as smudging fans in my shamanic art posts.

Owl wing wand

Owl wing wand

Usually, you – or we drive down the country road – and there, on the side is a traffic victim, a little bloody, but in all rather fresh and you wonder, how you could save its feathers. .

Well, you will have to get a plastic bag and start plucking ….. and then respectfully put the remains aside for brother Fox to find the coming night. But what, if you want to preserve and use the magnificent wings?

Sure you could take your find home and then work on it there…. But so often I hear: ”Yeah, we found a Hawk, but we were on a road trip and we could only take a few feathers instead of the full wings and talons……”

First of all, equip your car with what you will need:

1 sharp poultry shears

2. a hefty end cutter

3. a sharp knife

4. large styrofoam plates – the ones from the meat department of the grocery store or from Styrofoam packing material you have recycled.

5. a box with medium sized safety pins – to pin down wings and talons onto the styrofoam plate- or, if need be, the carpet of your car……

6. some kind of string – to straighten out talons

7. rubber bands – to straighten out talons

8 .assorted sizes of plastic bags – for fresh items – and for feathers

9. bungee cords – to tie something onto the roof or the back bumper

This will become your Bird tool kit and come in handy for other “finds” as well.

On the little trip to Manitoulin Island that I talked about in the previous post,

leaving the Pow Wow and driving south we found first a Sharp Shinned Hawk.

Into a large bag he went and with bungee cords tied to the roof rack. Only minutes later there was another Bird on the road:

A perfectly beautiful Merlin! Only he was dead:(

We bagged him as well.

In the motel I went to work:

Sage and cedar for a fare well and a chant to find home and to come back 7 generations from now, in a little egg in a nest… grow up healthy and strong… far away from any cars and road traffic…..

Then, tears aside, out came the shears and the promise to make something beautiful and honourable from the parts I take……

I cut the wings right at the shoulder joints

plucked from breast and back feathers what I knew I could use,

plucked the tail feathers

cut the legs at the knee joints

took some cedar boughs from outside and drove to the next secluded wood lot to bury the remains facing East

Yes, there was another chant and some more tears…..

Then, back at the motel I went to work.

I washed the blood of wings and feathers and dried them off

We would be on the road for the next few days and so now I needed a secure place, where to pin the wings and where they could stay – undisturbed.

Out of the back hatch came all our stuff. Cars are upholstered these days and there was carpet material in/ on the bottom of the trunk. Into this I pinned my fully stretched out wings using the safety pins = one at the bottom of the first primary and one into the lower back skin, so the wing stretches straight out.

I put some newspaper over the wings and a floor mat on top of that. Then all our luggage and stuff could go on top and would not make any damage.

The talons need stretching.

Pin then into the styrofoam tray. 3 front claws , on back claw. Then attach a string to the upper part of the leg bone and straighten it 90 degrees. with a safety pin peg the string so this position is secured. You also can use rubber bands as I did later with my “wing box”

At home of course you have to retrieve your wings and pin them to styrofoam or stiff cardboard. When I got home I used my pinning box – an old styrofoam ice chest.


Inside the box you see the perfect Merlin wings at the sides and the smaller reddish wings of a female Kestrel, that, sadly,we found the next day. One of her wings is quite damaged and what I will do with it I will see, when all is dry. In the middle all the talons are straightened out using a central chop stick and string as well as rubber bands.

On the outside of the box I pinned the Sharp Shinned Hawk wings.


It will take at least 3 months, until the wings are dried enough to be worked on and inserted into a decorated wooden handle can begin their life as a smudging fan.

The talons may even take a bit longer and may then adorn a Hawk Medicine Staff

The feathers I harvest, I always put into a plastic bag and then they go into the freezer for 48 hours, to kill off any mites and other “critters” that live in feathers. After that they are ready to use.


Hawk Staff

Hawk Staff


10 thoughts on “A box with wings:

  1. Ah – das Geflügelscheren . . . . 😉 I also keep a pair of disposable surgical gloves in the car too. Sometimes you don’t know what they died of and with bird flue about as well as not being able to wash hands when on the road, a pair of gloves can be helpful. Last week I found a sparrow hawk, rather beaten up (flat) and a couple of weeks ago, two crows. 😦 I never want to see them but feel that honouring them is better than just leaving them there. It’s never easy though.

  2. Thank you Mi-Shell. This is very informative. I have read that some people rinse the feathers or iron them flat. Not sure if that works or not. I’m afraid that my first find turned out okay but I lucked out as I didn’t do any of that!

      • I haven’t tried the iron thing – I think it *might* be okay with one single feather, set at a very low setting but that seems counter-intuitive to how the feather lives (and they easily burn!)…? I have my eyebrows raised on that one but might try on a very damaged feathered.

      • Hi Mi-Shell – I went back to find out about that ironing feather thing. It looks like the person is doing it to straighten out the curve on feathers so they can use them in an outfit. It’s probably because they didn’t have access to the feather until after it had set it’s shape.

        Do you have any advice on how to care for shed feathers? Sometimes mine seem to get a little dry or frazzled. And any tips on how to store them for traveling?

  3. Thank you for explaining the steps so clearly, Mi-Shell. I’ve only ever collected loose feathers, so far… A beautiful owl wing fan was given to me, and I feel honoured to have it with me. If ever I happen upon a feathered friend (and, like you, I’d never actively hope to see a bird friend has lost its life), I will be better prepared to deal with its gifts. 🙂

    • I reply now to my own post, reflecting that my words some years ago suggested that, when an opportunity arose to collect precious wings and feathers, I’d be ready. I’m not.

      Well… a few days ago we pulled out from our driveway onto the country road where we live and found a beautiful white Barn Owl, deceased from a vehicle injury, I think. Sadly, we were on a tight schedule, and I couldn’t prepare the beautiful body properly, and only had time to deliver it up to the house and place it where other animals wouldn’t drag it away until we arrived back home.

      It had been on the road a little while already, I think, so it’s beautiful body was on its way to decaying… 😦 … which reminded me to ask you, Mi-Shell… In your discussion above re your travel kit for collecting and laying out wings etc, how do you keep the bird parts from smelling as they are exposed to the air and temperatures? Over here, we have really hot weather, so I think I’d need some way of keeping the bird’s wing cool as it dried, wouldn’t I? The feathers themselves wouldn’t be problematic, but the joints etc would still have flesh attached, wouldn’t they?

      Because the bird had already started to go back to the Earth, so to speak… not quite, but soon… I realised that making use only of the feathers themselves at that point was the best path in any case. I collected many beautiful feathers, which I have put in a plastic bag in the freezer as you recommended.

      I realise that in my original post re my Owl fan, I’d said I’d been gifted an Owl ‘Wing” fan, but it’s actually an Owl ‘Foot’, with wing feathers giving it shape. I’d aways hoped to find additional feathers, because the original feathers had become tatty (not [placed in freezer initially?) Happily, the feathers look to be well matched, species-wise, so I think I can finally, respectfully, resurrect my gifted fan AND gratefully accept the gift that Owl left for me to find.

      Owl has long been incredibly special to me, appearing in my Journeying. She holds lots of meaning as well as offering lots of power, so I feel more blessed than I can describe with this gift from her. I will do my best to do her beauty justice. 🌻❤️🌹🌻🌹❤️🌻

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