22 March 2011

Artistic Expression Utilizes Woodpecker Carcass

A current photographic exhibition in Omaha includes a image which prominently includes the carcass of the Red-headed Woodpecker.

The image - "Red Headed Woodpecker and Cheese" - is among an exhibition of still life perspectives by Vera Mercer at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, which feature various animals including a fish, deer head and a chicken carcass.

In the image, the woodpecker carcass lying on a dinner plate, was obviously in possession of the photographer.

Where did the dead bird carcass came from?

In looking closely at the image shown on the web, and also in a story in an alternative newspaper at Omaha, the specimen seems to be rumpled enough to not be a museum specimen, especially with the material obvious on the beak and the ruffled condition of the feathers atop the head.

It is more plausible that the specimen was found dead - perhaps from a building strike in the Old Market district of downtown Omaha (which is a speculation, though entirely possible as carcasses of this species have been found in the area) - was picked up, kept, and then used as the primary subject of the image.

The photograph may be legal, but the possession of the carcass of a classified wild bird is not legal, so anyone "keeping" the carcass of a wild woodpecker (though dead) violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the many bird species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

According to an official of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the photographer could only "legally" use a specimen from a museum.

Nothing was presented by the photographer to indicate that this woodpecker was a protected species. Their use of the image was something done to promote their artistic efforts with their only interest in the bird being its rich colors and how it could be used as a prop in a picture.