The staff at Skulls Unlimited get to see some truly incredible skeletal articulations. Like Carol, an activist who lived with the rare disease Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), and whose final wish was to have her skeleton displayed in Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum to help increase FOP awareness. Skulls Unlimited specializes in the cleaning and articulation of all kinds of skulls and skeletons, but it’s always an honor when we can articulate a skeleton that is destined to be an inspirational teaching tool for generations to come.
One such inspiration is Paladin the Peregrine falcon. In life, Paladin was the Education Ambassador for the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center and Mission Wild Bird located in Tavernier, Florida.
Photo by Jordan Budnik
The facility currently provides a home for over 90 non-releasable birds who have suffered injuries that prevent them from flying and performing other natural behaviors. It also houses an avian rehabilitation hospital. Due to a wing injury he had sustained before reaching the rehabilitation center, Paladin was deemed non-releasable and was subsequently given the important task of becoming an Educational Ambassador for the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center and Mission Wild Bird. These bird ambassadors are taken out on community outreach events and serve as a unique educational tool for the public, giving an exclusive up close and personal look at large and sometimes rare birds of prey.
After Paladin passed away, his caretakers at Mission Wild Bird decided that it would be best for him to continue his journey as an ambassador and recruited Skulls Unlimited to help. It was important to the sanctuary’s leadership that Paladin serve as an educational source of interest in death, just as he had in life. After Paladin was cleaned and prepared by the Skulls staff, his articulated skeleton was carefully shipped back to the facility in Florida, where he remains on display today.
“The falcon has been a source of interest for staff and visitors alike -- especially since the injury that rendered him non-releasable is much more visible on the skeleton,” states Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Shylyn Pierce. “It's a wonderful piece to have to show people the permanent, underlying damage that injuries can cause and also how fascinating the skeleton of Peregrine falcons are.”
Executive Director Jordan Budnik says, “Visitors come to this location to learn about the history of our organization, our mission, and about the natural history of different birds. This Peregrine skeleton has inspired awe in many of our visitors. It usually stops people in their tracks. Paladin touches the lives of our guests even to this day and shows our visitors the stunning intricacies of bird anatomy.”
We are incredibly proud to have worked with such an important animal and honored to help further the educational mission of the sanctuary. We’re confident that Ambassador Paladin’s skeleton will continue to spark curiosity in the visitors of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center for decades to come!