Mutton birds

15 Jul 2010

baby muttonbird

About five years ago I made some dolls for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre playgroup. 
Around the same time they asked me if I could make a muttonbird family for them.

Muttonbirds or Short-tailed Shearwater are very important in Tasmanian Aboriginal culture, particularly in the north of the state I think.

They are a traditional food, harvested  mainly on the Furneaux Island group in Bass Strait.
It is the fluffy fat chicks that are eaten, 

I think my little birds are used in  traditional story telling.

A little while ago I was contacted to make some more sets for the playgroups in Hobart and up the north west coast.

So I have been spending my spare time knitting little birds. 
They aren't stitched up yet but I do hope they turn out as cute as the original set.

I did do quite a lot of research to get the dimensions and colours correct. 
The beak is supposed to go down slightly on the end but over time my little birds beaks have started to tip up a little.

I have never eaten muttonbird myself though the older members of my extended family seem to like them coming as they do from the north east of Tasmania, close to the Furneaux group of islands.
I once watched my Uncle Percy eat a muttonbird and the sight of fat dripping down his chin  combined with his strange colour after having some medical procedure which involved having dye put through his system which turned him a ghastly shade of blue made such an impression on my young pysche I have been scarred for life.
You can read more about eating muttonbirds here

It hasn't stopped me, however, from being able to knit muttonbirds. 
That I can handle.

Amelia and the mutton bird family

6 Responses to “Mutton birds”

  1. Amelia looks very comfortable surrounded by all those gorgeous little birdies - very cute pic, and IM sure they are loved just as much as your dolls.

    Nic xxx

  2. I loved this post and the way these little birds have flown into your life. How special to know they are being held, played with and used by children to learn about their culture, their history and their present. Did I mention that they are also super sweet? Just lovely x

  3. How interesting! I'd never heard of them before. Love your knitted versions...very cute! :)

  4. Your mutton birds are fantastic, Jenny! They are so inviting. I'm sure the recipients thoroughly enjoyed them.

  5. It was so wonderful to hear from you Jenny:) Your knitted birds are beautiful:)
    Take care

  6. I grew up on the West Coast, and I can remember people eating mutton birds. They have a very strong smell when they are cooked, usually outside. But as an animal lover, I hate the way they are caught.


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