Applying scissors to paper, wildlife artist Niharika Rajput makes meticulous cuts to produce handfuls of tiny paper feathers for one of her intricate paper bird sculptures. Completing one of these avian creations can take weeks or even months, but the finished products are so lifelike they’ve been mistaken for taxidermy birds.
The 30-year-old artist from New Delhi has always loved nature; as her father was in the military, their family always moved from place to place and often she found herself in the bosom of nature. “I loved collecting fireflies in a jar, watching spiders weave their webs at night, and playing with ladybugs, the vibrant red color always attracted me,” she told The Epoch Times.
But Niharika landed on birds as her main subject matter upon encountering a white-throated kingfisher, whose vibrant colors and unique features captivated her artistic imagination. A subsequent trip to the Himalayas solidified that vocation when she spotted red-billed blue magpies and became enthralled.
As for the artist’s working process, that also went through a process of elimination. In the beginning, she used epoxy and fiber to build the sculpture, but then settled on paper as her medium of choice for its organic look, which she said “replicated the texture of feathers perfectly.”
In order to make her birds as realistic as possible, Niharika spends time researching and uses multiple photographs to get a 360-degree view of the bird, which she then sketches out, identifying the various feather groups and facial features.
She then moves on to building an armature of woven wire and epoxy, which she stuffs with paper while weaving. This base structure is then covered with strips of paper to produce an even surface upon which to paste each individually cut feather. “I start by gluing all the feathers starting with the tail feathers and moving upwards,” she explained.
One of the challenges she had to overcome was giving volume in the wings, but through experimentation, this, too, was achieved. “Once all the feathers are glued onto the body, I paint them using acrylic paints,” she said. Facial features and details such as talons and beaks are rendered in epoxy and affixed.
Each bird can take from two weeks to three months to finish, she said. But the effort pays off. “There have been times people have mistook them for real taxidermy birds,” she said. “I take that as a compliment because that is ultimately my goal.”
Niharika said she has several favorite works among her avian collection. “One is titled ‘The Mating Proposal,’” she said. “It shows a male common kingfisher feeding fish to the female common kingfisher as a gesture to impress the female during the mating ritual.” The male is perched on a piece of faux driftwood, which is also crafted out of paper and wire.
“Another one is called ‘Parenting,’” she added. “It showcases a female tufted coquette hummingbird feeding it’s fledglings and the male.”
A third favorite work includes a male ruby-throated hummingbird sucking nectar from a cone flower. The bird is portrayed suspended in midair, the challenge for the artist being that only his beak attaches to the flower.
Niharika’s love of nature inspired her artistic endeavor—but said her artwork aims to give back by reminding others of the beauty of nature and that it needs our protection. She works alongside wildlife conservation efforts in India and beyond, conducting art workshops with children and local communities. She also hosts bird festivals to engage as many people as possible and raise awareness about endangered wildlife.