The red grouse is a medium-sized game bird and is an icon of Scottish heather moors.. It has a plump body, a short tail and a lightly hook-tipped bill. It is reddish-brown, with its legs and feet covered in pale feathers. Birds breed in the UK in the uplands of the north and west and are resident all year round, travelling very little in their lives. The population is declining, perhaps linked to diseases and the loss of heather moorland. Indeed, no other bird in the world makes such major use of heather. A red grouse eats it, shelters, nests and rears young in it and typically doesn’t move far from its home heath in its lifetime.
Robert Duncan (1837-1909) of Pilgrim Street, Newcastle specialised in immaculate taxidermy, using a primitive method dating from 18th century practitioners in France. Despite this, his birds are beautifully precise, presented in a plain scientific museum box display, lacking in vegetation (akin to Joseph Cullingford’s) with no decoration to distract from the specimens. Unusually, he normally signed and dated his cases, like an artist as we see here, rather than attach a trade label, and dated cases have been seen from the early 1860s through to the Edwardian period. Few taxidermists had time to shoot their own specimens, but Duncan was know to have both collected and mounted his specimens. John Hancock refers to him in a letter in 1880 as: ‘A good taxidemist, and his father was a good bird stuffer too’.
A spotless museum quality piece with real presence and by probably the greatest ever practitioner in the field. Serious taxidermy.