How long will it take for Chester to decompose?
September 17, 2010 2:46 AM   Subscribe

How long will it take for Chester to decompose?

Our office has a window that looks out immediately on the eye-level roof next door. A pigeon whom I've lovingly named Chester bit the big one a couple of weeks ago.

Now there's a dead bird on the roof. We live in the desert (Arizona) and it's about 108° right now. But the bird's been chillin' up there for about two or three weeks now and he hasn't really... gone anywhere.

I don't think there's much going on in the way of ants or insects or anything on this concrete roof that might accelerate the process, though we've had some rain, but this is just a sheer academic question of how long we might expect him to remain in his current form?

Will he stay mostly intact indefinitely? Or, at least, on a pretty long time-scale?
posted by disillusioned to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would think Chester may well stay up there a very long time. You say you live in Az? That it has been 108 degrees and I assume not much humidity. That could lead to mummification.
posted by Jaymzifer at 2:57 AM on September 17, 2010

If Chester's in the lee of a wall or fixture or something he may already be totally dessicated but still have all his feathers attached, making him look like he's maintaining 'his current form'. I've stumbled upon many-a dead bird in a Tucson summer, and have found several in this condition. They looked perfectly normal from ten yards away (aside from being sideways on the ground) but when closely inspected revealed little more than a pile of bones and feathers.
posted by carsonb at 4:12 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I came in to say what carsonb said. The feathers will be the last to go, if they go at all. Hope for a large wind to carry his remains (such as they are) off to Birdhalla.
posted by jquinby at 5:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found a dead bird in my front garden one early spring when I was doing clean up. There was just a tiny skull, feathers, and bones left, but it was all intact. And that was with soil around for it to decompose into. Chester may not ever decompose completely.
posted by orange swan at 5:57 AM on September 17, 2010

We found a perfectly preserved hummingbird who had got his beak caught in the porch screen. He had been sitting there for weeks, facing forward, stuck in the screen like a push pin, perfectly intact.

We kept him on the mantle for several years until he got accidentally crushed.

So yeah, he may be there forever.
posted by bondcliff at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Feather and bones don't decompose as quickly as meat.
posted by dfriedman at 6:10 AM on September 17, 2010

I've seen dead pigeons in Chicago stuck in various weird out of the way places like fire escapes. Their corpses sort of mummify and last for years. Completely unscientifically, I'd say physical effects like rain and wind wash away the dried out husks more so than being consumed by fungus or bacteria.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2010

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