Birds of a feather flock to Notebaert Nature Museum

At the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, they’ve gone a little birdbrained. Why else would the museum have two exhibits focused on our fine feathered friends?

“Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution,” a traveling exhibit, examines the fascinating birds that hail from New Guinea. The “immersive” experience includes the sights and sounds of the rainforest, as well as photographs taken on National Geographic expeditions. 

John Bannon, marketing manager at the museum, says that birds of paradise are compelling because their unique traits—bright colors, feather shapes, bird calls and dances—demonstrate how a species evolves. Currently, there are 42 known birds of paradise species, each with its own distinct features.

Inside the exhibit, visitors can use a giant touchscreen to create their own bird, or step into a blind to try to capture a photograph of the quick moves. But Bannon says the favorite is the game of “Dance, Dance Evolution,” where participants have a dance-off that mimics the movements of the birds during mating rituals.

“Every time I walk through, there are groups standing watching and having a ball,” he says. “All ages can get into that.”

Birds of Paradise includes some preserved bird specimens, but no live examples. So Notebaert introduced its own exhibit, The Bird House, which is home to live birds that share traits with birds of paradise. Each day at 11:30 a.m., a biologist introduces a different bird and answers questions about it; this month, the birds are a Blue-headed Macaw and an Ivory-billed Aracari.

Bannon says both exhibits help foster curiosity and wonder about the natural world. He also hopes they encourage visitors to notice the birds that live in their own neighborhoods, even if they’re not quite as exotic as the ones on display. 

Plus, it’s a good excuse to get your kids to do a goofy dance, and what parent can resist that?

If you go:

Birds of Paradise & The Bird House

Through June 17

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago

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