The bodies of these bird figures were carved from solid blocks of wood into amazingly lifelike representations. Beaks were carved from separate pieces of wood and glued in. The bodies were then decorated. The Wildlife Art Festival will feature this unique American art form in Sacramento on July 14 and July 15. Photo by Susan Laird

Spotlight Columns

Wildlife Art Festival will feature unique American art form

By From page B1 | July 11, 2012

America is famously known as a “melting pot” — where all peoples bring the richness of their culture to the table and the nation embraces those gifts as its own.

However, there is an art form that is unique to the North American continent. And the world has embraced it.

What is this mysterious craft that is indigenous to North America? It is the art of bird carving.

Thousands of years old

For thousands of years, Native American Indians spent countless hours carving figures of birds for use as decoys. These tools were used to catch birds for food and ceremonial purposes.

A cache of Native American decoys was discovered a century ago. Miners discovered some 10,000 artifacts from a cave in northern Nevada. The decoys were individually wrapped and highly detailed. Some even sported feathers for a realistic look. The find was dated to 200 B.C.

European settlers who traded with the Indians also learned hunting skills from them. The settlers also learned how to carve their own decoys.

Uniquely American

“You don’t find decoy carving originating on any other continent,” said Jim Burcio, membership vice president the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association. “When plastics came along after World War II, the art form started to die because people could buy plastic decoys.”

In the early 1970s several organizations were started throughout the United States to save the craft. The purpose was to continue an American heritage that began with the hand-carved decoy.


Today the art of bird carving is practiced throughout the world — and not just for the creation of decoys. Artists create carved birds for display in homes and businesses that are so realistic, one would not be surprised if they moved. Some of the models even boast personalities, they are so life-like.

This is true wildlife art.

Check it out

The Pacific Decoy Association will host its 42nd anniversary Wildfowl Art Classic — the second oldest annual show in the nation — at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento on July 14 and 15. Yes, a bit of a drive, but well worth adding to a weekend “afternoon down the hill” just to check it out.

“We live in the Pacific Flyway, so it was natural that we would have a club doing bird carving,” Burcio said. “People now carve any bird in the world.”

Several categories of bird carvings will be on display at the show: decorative life-size wildfowl carvings, decorative miniature wildfowl carvings, gunning shorebirds, decoys, miniature decoys, game birds and more.

More than 500 carvings will be on display from all over the United States and Canada. Additional features of the show include raffles, a banquet auction, a junior carver event and activities for kids. There will be items available for purchase, as well.

The 42nd annual Wildlife Art Festival will be held on Saturday, July 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday, July 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The DoubleTree Hotel is located at 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento. Admission is $5 for the weekend and children younger than 12 are free. To purchase tickets to the banquet or for more information visit or call (925) 687-2013.

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected].

Susan Laird


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